Yes, it’s possible to pack for a ski trip in just one carry-on bag! Obviously, if you are travelling with your own skis or snowboard, you’ll need to check your gear, but if you are renting gear, it isn’t difficult to fit all the clothes you need for a week skiing in one bag. We did so in December on our ski trip to Tignes, France with Alpine Elements.
Here are a few tips to make things easier:
- Wear your bulkiest clothes like your ski jacket and as many warm layers as possible on the plane to save space.
- Use compression bags to squeeze bulky items like ski trousers and fleeces into a small package.
- Pack the rest of your clothes in packing cubes, which also help save space.
- Consider hiring ski clothes at your resort if you don’t own any. I did this and it helped save space. Simon borrowed some from friends and still managed to fit everything he needed in his backpack.
- Choose clothes made from odour-resistant fabrics like merino wool that won’t smell after a few wears.
- Dry ski socks (and gloves) on radiators at the end of the day. If they get too smelly, you can always wash them out in the sink using soap or shampoo.
Check the carry-on luggage restrictions of the airline you are travelling with. Usually, any backpack or suitcase that measures 56 x 36 x 23 cm (22 x 14 x 9 inches) or less will be fine. This is the luggage we used:
- Outbreaker Backpack by Tortuga (Simon) – The perfect carry-on backpack if you want plenty of space. See our carry-on backpack review.
- Osprey Farpoint 40 (S/M) backpack (Erin) – An excellent option if the Tortuga is a little too big. See our review.
- Combination locks – To lock our backpack zips.
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter full and half compression cubes (Erin) – For my clothes. Packing cubes are essential to fit more in your carry-on. I love these as they are ultralight and squeeze my clothes down small. Read how to use packing cubes.
- Eagle Creek Pack-It half packing cube (Erin) – For my underwear and accessories. I’ve travelled with this for over six years and it’s still going strong.
- Compression bag (Simon) – For Simon’s bulkiest clothes like ski trousers and socks.
- Eagle Creek Pack-It full compression cube (Simon) – For Simon’s clothes and underwear.
Clothes On Slopes
For six days of skiing.
- Ski jacket – Wear on plane.
- Ski trousers
- 2 long sleeve base layers – Merino wool like those made by Icebreaker are warm and odour-resistant. Wear one on plane.
- 1–2 long johns (thermal leggings) – Simon didn’t need these as he doesn’t get as cold as me.
- 2 t-shirts – I wore mine over my base layer for an extra layer. Simon had one Ably t-shirt and one Icebreaker Tech Lite, which are both odour resistant.
- 1–2 lightweight fleece or mid layer – An extra warm layer between your base layer and jacket. Simon didn’t need one. Wear on plane.
- 3 thin socks (optional) – We wore ours under our ski socks.
- 2–3 knee-length ski socks
- 7 underwear – ExOfficio are light and quick drying.
- 2 sports bras
- Ski gloves
- Tube scarf
- Sunglasses or goggles
- Helmet – We hired ours at the resort.
Clothes for Evenings
Apres-ski is casual in ski resorts with some people still wearing their ski wear, so there’s no need to dress up.
- 2 jeans or other trousers – Wear one on plane.
- Clever Travel Companion tank top – An extra layer and I wore it on the plane to store my passport and cards in the hidden pockets.
- 3 tops – Wear one on plane.
- 2-3 jumpers (layer as necessary) – Wear one or two on plane.
- 1–2 bras – Wear one on plane.
- 5 socks
- Winter boots – Wear on plane. Simon had his usual Scarpa Margarita GTX hiking shoes instead.
- Woolly hat – Wear on plane.
- Gloves – Wear on plane.
- Scarf – Wear on plane.
- Pyjamas (if needed)
If you are flying, make sure everything is in bottles under 100ml and can fit in one small ziplock bag. For a week ski holiday you won’t need more than 50ml of any toiletry.
- Suncream – Don’t forget to apply this to your face every day. We used Ultrasun once-a-day face SPF 30.
- Lip balm with SPF – Our lips got very dry.
- Lush solid shampoo bar – For hair and body.
- Deodorant – We use Salt of the Earth solid natural deodorant.
- Shaving oil (for men) – Much smaller than shaving foam.
- Hairbrush and hairbands
- Painkillers like Ibuprofen (just in case).
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) – For motion sickness on the transfer to the resort.
- Any prescription medication
- Smartphone – The easiest camera to have on the slopes unless you have a Go-Pro.
- Kindle e-reader
- Tablet or laptop (optional) – For watching films in the evenings.
- Charging cables
- Universal travel adapter with USB
- Passport – Make sure it’s valid for at least six months.
- Flight booking or boarding pass (if you can check in online)
- Travel insurance details – Make sure it covers ski holidays.
- Driving licence
- Debit/credit cards
- Cash – Or just withdraw local cash when you arrive.
We didn’t find we lacked anything on our ski holiday by travelling carry-on only and it was easy to fit everything in our backpacks. We loved saving time at the airport by not needing to check in luggage (especially for a 6am flight!) or wait for it at the baggage carousel. After seven years of travelling carry-on only, we still haven’t found a trip we’ve been unable to pack for with one small backpack.
More Carry-On Packing Resources
If you’d like to learn more about how to travel carry-on only, see my book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, which is now available in paperback or Kindle formats on Amazon US, Amazon UK or your local Amazon store.
You can also see our other posts about packing light:
- Our Updated Carry-On Packing List (for full-time travel)
- The Best Carry-On Backpack for Digital Nomads
- Carry-On Travel in 10 Easy Steps
- How to Pack Carry-On Only for Cold Weather
- 44 Gift Ideas for Carry-On Travellers
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