How to Pack a Winter Carry-On


We’ve been back home from Ottawa for a couple of weeks now so I wanted to share some tips on packing a winter carry-on since my bag seemed to work out fairly efficiently on our trip! I always find packing for a winter destination to be challenging since it is almost always warm where we live in South Carolina. If you wear layers frequently, you know first-hand that packing bulkier items forces you to be a bit more strategic in your planning process. I know lots of people are getting ready to head back out of town this holiday season to visit family and friends, so here are my helpful tips for how to pack for a week in just a carry-on bag this winter:

Pick a Great Bag

Over the summer I sold my Osprey Aura locally and traded it for the Cotopaxi Allpa. The Allpa fits my current travel needs much better. After temporarily losing our luggage on the way to Scotland, I swore off checking luggage. Aside from calming my fears of arriving empty handed, it saves time and money on baggage fees to carry luggage onto the plane. I love that the Allpa opens up like a normal suitcase instead of being top-loading like what you might expect from a backpack. It makes it much easier to pack the suitcase and see everything at a glance when you're getting dressed for the day. 

Pick a Color Scheme

My wardrobe has a lot of denim and black staples mixed with burgundy, forest green, and mustard colored pieces. It makes it super easy to mix and match outfits and to layer pieces. I also try not to get too crazy with patterns other than stripes. 

Lay it Out

It helps me to visualize outfit combinations by laying out everything on the bed before I roll it up and pack it in my bag. You can kind of shuffle things around and see how they will layer easily and make sure that your tops match your pants, etc. I know people have very strong opinions on whether to fold or roll your clothes to save space but I am on the fence about it! I think it depends on the item. Sometimes bulky items like sweaters actually do better folded and then compressed instead of rolled.

Utilize Accessories Wisely

The same way that settling on a color scheme can help create a capsule wardrobe with layering options, switching out your accessories can create a totally new outfit! For this trip I picked two blanket scarves, one with green and red accents and the other with black and gold accents so that they would match every top I packed. I actually ended up only wearing the green blanket scarf and I wish I had left the other at home to free up some space. Picking a purse that will match all of your outfits is also a great idea. 

Wear Heavy Items

If you're only bringing a carry-on bag to fly, you'll want to wear your heavier items on the plane. Yes, it's somewhat of a pain going through security, but it will ensure that you have more room to pack a greater variety of items in your bag and keep you from going over the allowable weight! For our trip to Ottawa, I wore my Blundstone boots and my winter coat on the plane. 

What I brought on our six-day trip to Canada:


L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Down Hooded Jacket
Patagonia R3 Fleece Hoody


Cage Back Sweater
Sweater Tunic with Pockets
Swing Waffle-Knit Sweater
Chambray Shirt
Cowl Neck Sweater


Patagonia Centered Tights
Prana Kara Jeans
Old Navy Mid-Rise Rockstar Jeans


2 Blanket Scarves
Turban Ear Warmer
Pom Pom Beanie


Blundstone 510 Chelsea Boot
Clark's Faraway Fell (now the Janey Mae)


1 set of pajamas
Cuddl Duds Softwear LS Crew

Thanks for reading! What is your best tip for packing a winter carry on bag?