How to pack for winter in Switzerland? Packing for a holiday is already a troublesome chore, but when it comes to packing for a WINTER holiday… Boy, it is even more difficult! Especially if you come from a warm, tropical climate like me (I’m from Singapore!) it can be overwhelming thinking about everything you might need.
Considering that winter clothing is twice as bulky.. after packing in just one down coat into the luggage… you pretty much have no space for everything else!
This is why in this blogpost, I am going to share with you my best tips to pack for a winter trip to Switzerland (or any other cold weather countries in general)!
Take it from someone who has made plenty of mistakes with bad dressing and insufficient preparation, suffered but LEARNT invaluable experience after surviving 3 years of cold winter season!
Let’s get packing!
First Things First
Check the Weather
Before I get packing the first thing I like to do is to check the weather of the destination I am heading to, that way I can ensure that I will bring the appropriate clothing. Usuallly, I would either do a quick scan using the weather app on my iPhone or check on the Meteo Swiss website. This is run by the official Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, and in my opinion provides more accurate local weather forecast.
Another great tip if you are planning to head up to the mountains e.g. Jungfraujoch or to Gornergrat for those classic Swiss Alps view: check the live weather camera on their website during the day itself so you can see how windy, snowy or sunny it is gonna be at the mountain top and layer accordingly.
Wear or Carry your Bulkiest Clothing
The surest way to save precious space in your luggage is to wear or carry-on your bulkiest clothing instead. This would typically be your heavy down coat, chunky boots, sweaters.
How to Pack for Winter: The Essentials
1. Thermal Base Layers
For base layers, bring at least two to three sets of thermals for top and bottom and wear under everything, and repeat.
Do not skim on quality here, because a good base layer can make a whole lot of difference to keeping you warm and toasty. For these, I highly swear by Uniqlo’s Heat Tech Ultra Warm leggings and their Warm Crew Neck T-Shirt, they are so light and breathable but they really help to keep you warm.
2. Long Sleeved Pieces
(max 4-5 pieces)
The next thing I pack are my long sleeved layering layers. These could be your sweaters, dry fit zip ups, blouses, hoodies.
The main tip I have is to choose neutral colours. Think black, cream, grey or brown.
I know it is very tempting to pick that bright outfit or patterned top to stand out in yours pictures. BUT the problem is that you already have limited space, so you want to ensure that your clothes are able to pair and match easily with one another so that you can create multiple outfits, instead of being worn for a single time.
Assuming for a 10 day trip, I will suggest packing no more than 5 pieces. Because honestly. Let’s face it. its WINTER you are not gonna be sweating all day. Your clothes won’t stink, you can freshen it up with a fabric freshener spray, or air-dry it in your hotel room before re-wearing it. If you are staying in an Airbnb or chalet that comes with a washing machine, then even better!
Additionally, it is highly likely that you will be doing some shopping during your trip.You have to set aside some space to account for new clothes (which you might also wear already during your trip).
So don’t try to pack one piece of clothing for every single day, there would be absolutely NO SPACE for that! Do the smart thing and repurpose your outfit by mixing and matching each day.
3. Denim and Leather Pants
For pants, I always stick to two options: a pair of classic denim, and another black leather pants. The first option gives a more casual, laid-back feel, whereas a leather pants comes in handy for smarter, chic night-time look.
4. Waterproof Snow Pants
I don’t recommend jeans or leather pants for your winter sports adventures, unless you want to damage your clothing. Instead, pack in a pair of waterproof outdoor/snow pants. This is a must if you are planning to do activities like ski-ing or snowboarding, you WILL land up in the snow and you don’t want your bum to get wet!
4. A Fleece Jacket
A fleece jacket is just a great choice all around, but especially for traveling. It is warm, practically wrinkle-proof, can double up as sleepwear and can even be easily rolled up and stashed as packing material for those fragile items in your luggage (aka precious Swiss wines!!!) They are also great “emergency jackets” to lend to that absent-minded friend or family member of yours who didn’t check the weather predictions as you did!
5. A Waterproof Down Jacket
Get a quality down jacket to protect your upper body and hips from exposure to the elements during those chilly mountain excursions. Try to get one that is windproof and waterproof, so that it traps body heat effectively and also keep out light rain and snow.
6. Sturdy Boots
I have seen so many tourists make the same mistakes over and over again. They wear just sports shoes up…to the mountains! I mean yes…it is possible to wear regular sneakers or sports shoes, assuming you stay fixed on walking paths/ standing platforms…but they are definitely not gonna help with keeping out the cold. And if you were to encounter a snowy day in the mountains, then you are in for trouble. because not only would you find it hard to walk, but your toes are literally gonna freeze! It is also a definite no-no especially if you are thinking of heading in to crystal ice palaces in Jungfraujoch or Titlis, because the paths are extremely slippery and you need something with a good grip.
I know it is not common to buy/wear boots in Singapore and it sounds like a waste of money to just buy for a single trip. But do yourself a favour, and just invest in a good pair that is comfortable, completely waterproof, and with firm traction. It can double up as regular hiking boots in the future. For that matter, Timberland boots will never fail.
7. Sports Shoes/ Sneakers
While sports shoes or sneakers won’t work in the Swiss Alps, they are still generally fine for walking about in the cities or combing through the December Christmas markets. I usually gravitate towards regular white sneakers as they are the easiest to match with the rest of my outfit.
You definitely want to keep your head warm in Switzerland. There is almost NEVER a time I don’t have anything on hat during winter. I usually have two types of hats. The first is a beret, although this is actually this is more for fashion than for practical purposes, but it just adds a nice French vibe to the outfit.
For days when it gets really cold, I will always have a beanie on for maximum worth. They also help cover otherwise my ears, otherwise they get red and really painful.
I once made a mistake of going up to Moléson in Gruyeres without bringing my pair of gloves and I almost got frostbite because of it. A good pair of leather gloves is a 100% MUST during Swiss winter. If you don’t have them, your hands will turn cracked and numb and it’s the worst possible feeling! I have a black lambskin one and it looks really elegant while keeping my hands warm.
For ski-ing or winter sports, you need to get a different one that is larger and waterproof. Take note that if you do go for ski-classes, while they usually provide rental of ski equipment, usually ski gloves are excluded and you need to bring your own.
Bonus if you get those touch screen ones, because then you can use your phone without taking them on and off!
I love accessorising my outfits with scarves because it helps add a pop of colour to my outfit while keeping my neck warm, which is absolute priority during winter. Two of my favourites are a festive green-and-red one gifted by my sister-in-law as a gift for Christmas, and another beautiful red floral scarf from India, also gifted by another friend!
11. Wool Socks
Those thin ankle socks that we wear in summer, those doesn’t work? Chuck those aside… because they won’t block out the wind and cold! For maximum comfort for your feet, you should buy longer, preferably wool socks that covers at least up to your shins for more protection.
You are thinking…what?? Swimming in winter? YES. Did you know that thermal baths are BIG DEAL here in Switzerland? There are plenty of incredible thermal baths you will find around the country. Some of the ones I have been too are the one in Leukerbad and Gruyeres. And trust me, there is nothing better than relaxing in a natural hot thermal pool in full view of the snowy Alps!
You will need a pair of flip-flops when you go to the thermal baths. Also they are just good to wear indoors in your hotel room to keep your feet off the cold floors.
14. Quick dry towels
Micro-fibre, quick dry towels fold up small, don’t take up much space and obviously dry quickly. If you are planning to do some outdoor camping, swim in the pool or when you get caught in the wet rain or snow, this will really come in handy.
15. Hand Cream
Your hands ARE going to crack from the freezing cold, the icy cold waters from the tap, and slathering on a dollop of hand cream will help keep them moisturized throughout the day.
16. Lip Balm
I suffer from dry, chapped lips every winter and it gets super painful. Make sure you bring along a lip balm to hydrate those lips. The one I go to is from Burt’s Bees.
17. Hair Oil
This is especially for ladies with long hair. I don’t think this is commonly mentioned, but the water in Switzerland is VERY HARD. There is a lot of minerals, and if you are coming from Singapore where our water is softer and treated your hair will immediately feel the difference after you take a shower here. It is drier, and its harder to brush. Get those hair oil which comes in capsule form, it’s super handy to bring them along just to moisturise your hair after shower so its not so dry, and it will be easier for you to brush.
18. Sheet Masks or Overnight Mask
Again, due to the cold climate, your face will start feeling dry and it always causes make up to crack easily. I always pack at least 3-5 masks along with me during long trips. I always slab on a sheet mask during my flight. And if I still have the energy after a long day I will also put an overnight intense hydrating sleeping mask before going to bed.
19. Ziplock Bag
A ziplock bag always comes in handy to put items like used garments or small sized toiletries. A good tip is to also bring along a few small packs of sillicon gel.
When you have a stinky wet sock, just place it inside the ziplock bag together with the sillicon gel and seal it up. The sillicon pack will soak up all the moisture and your sock will be dry in no time!
20. Thermal Flasks
Thermal flasks can help to keep your beverages warm. When I go out i like to place a teabag in my flask and add hot water to it, that way i can still enjoy my hot tea during cold weather. Also, why get bottled water in Switzerland when you can simply refill your bottle with fresh mountain water at the drinking fountains and streams?
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Have fun packing!