Packing Travel Tips
for Winter Weather in Asia

Winter in South Korea, © Davies

"Packing Travel Tips for Winter Weather" was last updated on Dec 29, 2012 
All information below is subject to change

So you're going on winter vacation in Japan, South Korea or maybe the utter north of India or Nepal?

When I talk about winter, I mean serious winter with snow and freezing temperatures, not the tropical winter climate.

Whether you're trekking in the high mountains of Himalaya or playing in the snow in the city of Seoul, packing needs to be carefuly planned.

I dare to say that travelers who come from "cold" countries/regions may adapt to the frozen climate in Asia more easily, than those who aren't accustomed to cold climates. A traveler from Florida in the US might freeze easily than a traveler from Sweden.

Either way, this guide should be complete for the traveler who wants to spend some time in the cold :-)

Winter weather in Asia:

North and northeast China, Japan, South Korea: November/December to February/March

North India (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Uttar Predesh, everywhere over 1500 meter): November to February

In India, the climate varies considerably, from sweating fiesta to icecold.

Even if the day temperature is bearable and it's not freezing cold and snowish, the temperatures drop significantly after sunset in north India (ex. Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur). If you're planning on visiting for instance, Varanasi, but not planning to travel further north, it's enough to bring a nice, warm fleece sweater, a scarf and thermal underwear for a warm good night sleep.

Essential Packing Tips:

Dress in layers, © Andrén
  • When you're visiting countries with bizarre cold climate, the trick is to dress in layers. 

I would say 5 layers starting with:1) thermal top, 2) thermal long-sleeved shirt, 3) thin, practical turtle-neck in merino wool, 4) sweater and then 5) jacket.

  • Select tops, shirts and sweaters that can be layered with each other.

Try the layers before you decide to pack them. To save weight, bring clothes that match. For instance: you have 5 t-shirts that rightfully match your choice of three pants.

  • So, how much should your backpack carry? Packing for winter requires a lot more space than packing for a tropical vacation. 50-55 liters should suffice for a cold month in cities and towns of South Korea, Japan and/or north China.

For mountain trekking purposes, I would suggest 60-80 liters. If you're planning on using a fully organized and escorted trek, most of the equipment you need will be provided for by the trekking company.

So, before buying a backpack; research trekking companies, choose a company, find out what they provide in equipment and then buy a backpack.

Before you leave, make sure you and the company have an understanding of who is to provide what equipment.

You can also buy stuff locally and inexpensively (can't expect much of quality though) and then ditch the things when you're done trekking.

For instance in Kathmandu, much of the equipment and clothes can be bought locally. Like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, waterproof windbreaker, thermals, windproof gloves, space blankets etc. If you're picky about international brands, you should buy most stuff at home. Only North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Sherpa are to be found in Kathmandu.

Otherwise much of the equipment are labelled with fake brands, and are produced in Nepal.

  • You shouldn't buy hiking boots locally since you need to break them in before starting your trekking adventure. Wearing completely new hiking boots on your way to say, Everest, is NOT recommended, or you can say hello to soar feet and blisters.

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Packing Travel Tips

Many guesthouses and hotels in Japan, China, South Korea, India and Nepal offer laundry service, so there's no need to bring your entire wardrobe. If your guesthouse don't offer laundry service, locate shops that do or you can wash your clothes yourself - cheaper! :-)

Wool should be washed in a washing machine with the right program, or you can wash it yourself.

Example of a packing list for 3 weeks in the cold (not trekking):

  • A winter jacket 
  • 4 thermal sleeveless tops (maybe a combination of 2 thermal and 2 ordinary tops) 
  • 3 thermal long-sleeved shirts 
  • 2-3 warm sweaters/fleece sweaters 
  • 3 pants/jeans (maybe 2 jeans and 1 cargo pants)
  • 3 thermal underwear 
  • 5-6 wool socks (thick and thin) 
  • Wool scarf 
  • Warm gloves 
  • Wollen hat 
  • 6 underwear/boxers 
  • 3 bras 
  • Warm pyjama

Clothing to consider:

  • Wind parka (mountain trekking) 
  • Wind and waterproof hiking pants 
  • Turtle-neck sweater for trekking (breathable and light, add as a layer on top of thermal long-sleeved shirt) 
  • Hiking socks 
  • Wool thermal underwear for hiking 
  • Windproof gloves

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  • Sun glasses 
  • Belt

Accessories to consider:

  • Bandana made by moisture fabrics (for cold, dust and wind) 
  • Thermal neck warmer (perfect for wearing in sleeping bag or at hostels/tea houses with no heating)

I can swear to neck warmers on an icy cold day; whether you're in the city or hiking. Neck warmers can be bought in different colors and materials.

  • Ear muffs

You can drop the ear muffs if you have a decent wollen hat that covers your ears.

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Packing Travel Tips

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste 
  • Deodorant 
  • 2 in 1 Shampoo and conditioner 
  • Bar soap (much more practical than liquid) 
  • Sun screen/stick for body, face and lips (it may be icy cold, but it can still be sunny especially at the mountains) 
  • Hand sanitizer (preferrably liquid - better for the environment) 
  • Tweezers (if not already included in a Swiss army knife) 
  • Q-tips 
  • Cotton pads 
  • Travel comb/brush 
  • Lip balm (the cold will mess up your lips) 
  • Moisturizer for face and body (cold weather causes dry skin)

Toiletries to consider:

Female and male:

  • Dental floss 
  • Contact lenses, contact lense solution, case 
  • Ordinary glasses/reading glasses, cleaning rug, case 
  • Razor 
  • Razor cream 
  • Facial products


  • Basic make-up 
  • Tampons 
  • Hair ties, head band


  • Aftershave cream 

Guys, rather than bringing your barber shave kit, just locate a barber shop and get shaved at a reasonable price!

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Backpacking First Aid Kit 

Get a ready-made first aid kit and buy extras like:

  • Pain-killers 
  • Aloe vera gel (for sunburns) 
  • Tiger Balm (for soar muscles) 
  • Stomach tablets 
  • Nose spray 
  • Eye drops


  • Anti-histamins (if you're prone to allergies) 
  • Motion-sickness tablets 
  • Medication for altitude sickness, f.ex Diamox 
  • Blister kit, foot tape (for trekking) 
  • Prescribed medicines 
  • Multivitamins 
  • Birth control pills or other 
  • Condoms 
  • Tattoo cream 
  • Eye glass prescription (in case your glasses get broken)

More about packing list, toiletries and medical supplies

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Backpacking Shoes 
Packing Travel Tips

  • Winter boots

Always break in the boots before you leave for Asia. Blisters and excruciating pain are the perfect mood breakers and will make your walking miserable and the adventure less enjoyable - so start walking now!


  • Waterproof hiking boots 
  • Flip-flops (to protect your feet from shared shower floors and potential fungus)

More about packing list and footwear

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Travel essentials 
Packing Travel Tips

  • Rain cover for main backpack and day pack (protects against snow, rain, dust, dirt) 
  • Daypack (for day trips) 
  • 2 Padlocks (for daypack) 
  • 1 Wire padlock (for bus and train) 
  • Ear plugs and eye mask! (crucial for a good night sleep) 
  • Duct tape (repair broken backpack/daypack, mark your backpack, thieves-security: a little duck tape on your camera/mobile phone will make it look "broken" and less attractive for thieves, but don't overdo it, wrap a plastic bag containing your passport/travel documents with duct tape before you put it in a safety box) 
  • Money belt 
  • Travel sewing kit + safety pins 
  • Laundry bag/trash bag (don't want to mix those dirty undies with your new clothes) 
  • Swiss Army multi-functional knife 
  • Flashlight 
  • Cotton/silk travel liner (in case the bedding/sheets are undesirable) 
  • Waterproof pocket for mobile phone/camera, ex. Sea to Summit Accessory Case - used it for my mountain and beach trips, it's damn water proof!
  • 1 roll of toilet paper in your day bag (lack of toilet paper at public toilets in Asia)
  • Notebook and pen 
  • Wrapping tape for bottles to prevent outburst in backpack

Other things to consider:

  • Water bottle (for trekking) 
  • Day pack with hydration pack (Camelbak) - in Nepal, there are water stations in many towns and it's cheap to refill your hydration pack or water bottle 
  • PacSafe Mesh Net (MeshSafe)
  • Head lamp (great for evening/nightly toilet visits when most lights are out, reading a book in the dark) + spare batteries 
  • Laundry soap, clothesline, sink stopper 
  • Quick-dry towel (1 large and 1 medium - must-have for treks) 
  • Trekking poles (for serious mountain trekking, like Annapurna Circuit) 
  • Lightweight utensils and bowl (f not already provided for by the trekking company) 
  • Matches or lighter 
  • Travel guide books 
  • A good book 
  • Energy bars (for trekking) 
  • Extra flashlight batteries 
  • Binoculars (for bird-watching) 
  • Blow-up travel pillow 
  • Playing cards

Don't bring:

  • Tent (go rental) 
  • Sleeping pad (go rental) 
  • Sleeping bag (it's better to go rental or buy it cheap in Asia)

Rental charges in f. ex Nepal are reasonable, but you do need to leave a deposit.

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  • Passport including visas 
  • Foreign currency 
  • Visa card, credit card 
  • Insurance card 
  • Vaccination card 
  • Photocopies of passport (1st page and visa pages), insurance card and vaccination card
  • Print-out of flight ticket, reservations, important numbers
  • Passport photographs


  • Traveler checks 
  • Pictures of your dearests at home

More info on packing list and money and travel documents

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  • Camera 
  • Camera charger 
  • Camera bag 
  • Mobile phone 
  • Mobile phone charger 
  • Universal adapter


  • 1 extra memory card
  • 1 extra battery for camera (cold weather shortens battery life)

More info on packing list and electronics

Need more backpacking tips? Check out our eBooks! :-)

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