The Three Most Essential Winter Travel Items That Are My Saving Grace

By Re

At the start of each winter of my childhood and many of my recent years, just after enough snowflakes had kissed the gravel and grass that’d grown brittle, my phone would ring. While ringtones had changed over time—spanning a gamut of Justin Timberlake songs and, in entering my “adult” life, a default ringer aptly named “Open”—one thing had remained largely the same: My best friend Jessie would call me to “dick the town.” That was our own vernacular for playing outside in the snow (and only sometimes carving out obscene phallic symbols on unplowed streets and too-tempting empty fields)… If she didn’t call me, I’d call her.

I’ve always reveled in winter’s wondrous whiteouts (not always with such artistic indecency). And, now, I often find myself seeking respite from the cabin fever that plagues too many adults who’ve forgotten the fun behind frostbitten toes, rosy cheeks and relentlessly runny noses. But, as an avid traveler, having to pack heavy winter wear is a huge hindrance. Most winter gear and apparel pieces are dense and, therefore, consume valuable space in a backpack. But I’ve found three lightweight winter essentials that have saved me from calling it quits and succumbing to the lackluster life of… grownups.

Winter will always call for three essentials: a pair of boots, a warm coat and a hat. Here are the three I choose.

Le Chameau Giverny Jersey-Lined Low Boot ($129)
I’ll be honest—I’ve never actually stepped foot in a more comfortable boot, let alone a rubber rain boot. Typically, rain boots give me blisters, but I’d always wear them anyway because bleeding ankles are somehow less galling than soggy socks. Then I got a pair of these—equipped with a natural rubber upper, a hard-wearing polyester/cotton Jersey lining and shock-absorbing, dual-density Cross soles with all terrain grip—and I’m never turning back.

They’re inexplicably lightweight (weighing just about three pounds), short and flexible, so they take up virtually no room in my backpack. Their flexibility, paired with the super-soft interior, also protects my ankles from blistering. And they’re so adorable that I find myself wearing them even when it’s not wet outside. Likewise, my friends (all of whom wear sizes bigger than me) are always looking to snatch them—they’ve become the winter boot equivalent of the traveling pants.

REI Co-op Down Jacket ($100)
This is my most practical jacket by a landslide. The warmth-to-weight ratio of the 650-fill-power down is simply unparalleled and, for that reason alone, it’s always my go-to choice. There’s nothing a nomad could want more in a winter coat than for it to be lightweight enough to lug around and warm enough to even want to lug around. This one just so happens to pack into its own left pocket and fits in the palm of your hand, too.

But REI goes even a step further. The jacket’s nylon shell is treated with a durable, water-repellent finish, so it sheds light rain and snow and offers protection from the wind. It’s, ultimately, a magical piece of outwear.

1 Voice Bluetooth Beanie ($69)
My Bluetooth-enabled beanie is equipped with built-in headphones that stream high-quality music and audio from my phone or any device for up to 12 hours before needing a recharge. It’s also made of a machine washable tight, cable knit to keep my ears both titillated and toasty.

I prefer this beanie to my many others because I don’t have to deal with the hassle of tangled wires (or grow frustrated over Apple’s heedless decision to ditch the headphone jack), and I successfully scare off predators who think I’m talking or singing to myself while jamming or taking calls wearing the hat. In short: It’s warm, sensible and safe.