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One challenge of light travel is packing for multiple climates.  This can occur if you are going to more than one destination.  Travel during spring or autumn can also be uncertain.  Temperatures can easily swing from freezing to hot within the same day.  Many people assume that they need to pack several sets of outfits to deal with the different environments.  Happily, they are quite wrong.

The key to dealing with temperature variation is layering.  Layering is one of the five principles of light travel.  The layers trap air (and therefore heat) against the body.  Multiple thin layers are actually warmer than one thick layer. Add on a waterproof outer layer, and you are almost guaranteed warmth.

So how do you plan for a trip with a wide variation in temperature?  First off, plan your travel capsule wardrobe based on the warmest temperatures you will find.  Make sure that your clothing choices can be worn alone, but are also thin enough to layer for warmth if needed.  Finally, add in a few light weight “temperature extender” pieces to add extra warmth.  Every woman should consider owning these pieces, as they give flexibility to a capsule wardrobe.  These are:

Silk long underwear shirt

I can’t say enough good things about my silk shirt.  It goes with me on every trip.  The shirt is has a very fine thin weave, which makes it very light.  I can roll it up and put it in a plastic sandwich bag for day hikes.  The thin material also means that the shirt will wash and dry quickly.  My shirt has a deep scoop neckline and 3/4 length sleeves.  This allows me to wear it undetected under street clothes.   It adds a surprising amount of warmth.  If needed, it can double as a sleep shirt or be layered under regular night-clothes.

A silk long underwear shirt is a light and compact way to add warmth.
– A silk long underwear shirt is a light and compact way to add warmth.


Sweaters are an obvious, but often overlooked way of adding warmth. Many people make the mistake of packing a thick, heavy sweater for cold weather. Unfortunately, heavy sweaters can only be used under the coldest of conditions. They are far too warm for mild or chilly weather.  They are also bulky and take up precious room in your carry on bag.  Consider bringing a thin light weight sweater instead.  When combined with other layers, a thin sweater can be worn across a greater range of temperatures.  It will roll up and store easily in your day bag, making it available when you actually need it.  It will also dry more quickly when laundered.  Silk, merino, and cashmere sweaters have the best warmth to weight ratio.  They also don’t hold odors like synthetic sweaters.

All of these sweaters are light and have a fine gauge, making them great for layering. They can be structured and formal or draped and casual. Cardigans and shawl sweaters give better temperature control as they may be worn open or closed.

Tights or Leggings

Tights and leggings are superior to long underwear bottoms because they can be worn with dresses and skirts.  They also allow you to change the look of your outfit.  I usually pack capri-length leggings in spring and autumn.  If it gets really cold I will wear stockings underneath.  I normally reserve tights for mid-winter.  Thermal and ice skating tights are available for outdoors use.  I will often wear them layered under my pants for extra warmth.  Shop around for high quality tights – poor quality ones will bind up and cause clothing to cling.

Tights or leggings can be worn under dresses and skirts. They add warmth to the legs while still looking fashionable. They also may be worn under pants for added warmth.

Pashminas, Sarongs, or Scarves

Almost every women’s packing list mentions a pashmina or sarong, and with good reason.  These are very versatile pieces that can be worn as shawls, neck scarves, head coverings, and even skirts.  I have found that a scarf with a thin, dense weave works best for uncertain temperatures.  Silk is warm under cool conditions, yet also breathes when it starts to get hot out.

Pashmina or sarong? A pashmina is usually made of wool or heavy fabric, and is good for cooler climates. A sarong is usually made of silk or cotton and is great for warm climates. A silk scarf or sarong is the best choice for dual climates.

Camisoles and Tank Tops

I always take at least one tank top with me when I travel.  I can wear it alone for work outs, or layer it under other clothes for warmth.  A casual tank top becomes instantly respectable when layered with a blazer or sweater and cute accessories.

A camisole or tank top may be plain or lacy. Each can be worn alone or under other garments for warmth.

Thin and Light Outer wear

Outer wear is the last defense against temperature.  Like the other pieces, it should be thin and light for greatest versatility.  Warmth is found in layers, not thickness of material.  A blazer will substitute for a jacket on formal trips.  For casual trips, consider a thin fleece or a down/synthetic sweater.  The “sweater” weight pieces are actually lighter and more versatile than the “jacket” weight pieces, and may be worn indoors.  As a last layer, add a thin, light waterproof jacket.  This keeps the wind and rain off while trapping the heat.  There is no need for a thick winter coat – save that for travel during freezing conditions.

Light weight outer wear is critical for controlling temperature. A light fleece, down, or synthetic jacket/sweater/vest may be worn alone or combined with a waterproof jacket.

Layers are the key to controlling temperature

The next time you fly from a freezing place to a tropical destination, leave your winter clothes at home.  Use thin layers to control temperature.  If the weather changes, you can smile knowing that you have prepared for it all.

I have created a pictoral example of layering for temperature in my next post.