Winter Packing List for Central Mexico

What’s Your Packing Style?

My first thought after booking flights for the lengthiest international trip of my life thus far wasn’t “where are we going to stay”, “how will we get from city to city”, or “what activities should we consider doing?” No, my first thought was “how early is too early to start my packing list for Central Mexico?”

I recently saw a TikTok that asked, “what’s one subject you could give a 45 minute presentation on with no notice?”  My first thought was, packing for trips.  After spending countless hours researching the best fleece, the best carry-on bag, the best way to fold to avoid wrinkles, minimalist packing techniques, etc., I like to consider myself something of an expert on the subject.

Now there’s a few different types of personalities when it comes to packing…

My partner can pack his travel backpack a few hours before a trip, with little to no thought, and be perfectly happy with whatever he selected. My sister, also a last minute packer, always checks at least one bag that’s bigger than my carry-on and personal item combined, stuffed with more clothing than I feel like I own in my entire closet.

I, on the other hand, start thinking about what I’m going to bring almost as soon as I book the trip. I scour online blog posts written by people who took similar trips, pack and repack, weigh the pros and cons of each item, check weather trends online for the destination, and on and on it goes.

As a highly sensitive person who is very aware of almost all kinds of external stimuli, and easily overstimulated, a simple thing like being uncomfortable in my clothes can give me low level anxiety I can’t seem to shake for hours. While I love traveling, I can’t deny that it puts me a bit out of my element, and while I used to tell myself I just needed to get over my sensitivities, now I accept that part of myself and do my best to be prepared for the obstacles it can present.

With this in mind, I was faced with the challenge of creating a winter packing list for Central Mexico that would be appropriate for 45-80°F (warm days, cool nights) and that would fit into, and not overcrowd, my trusty Osprey Porter 46L backpack. Because I only ever travel with a carry-on, it can be a challenge to feel prepared for anything, while also staying minimalist.

I really love the Osprey Porter 46L backpack that I take on most of my trips

A Starting Point

There are a few questions I ask myself when choosing what clothing to pack…

  1.  Is it a breathable, moisture-wicking material that dries quickly? 

As a person who overheats and sweats very easily, especially while walking and hiking, this is a necessity for me. I can sweat through a linen or merino wool shirt and still stay comfortable for the rest of the day and even wear it again later. A cotton t-shirt, not so much. It can take hours to dry and then usually smells.

While I have a much stronger preference for natural fabrics, polyester works too. Besides being able to wear these materials multiple times, they also dry much quicker when you finally have to wash them in a sink somewhere. 

Tip: You can find a lot of linen items including tops, pants, shirts and dresses at secondhand shops. While it is a more expensive material, I would recommend buying merino wool items new, or at least use the “new with tags” filter when shopping on secondhand marketplaces. If merino wool isn’t properly cared for, it can get holes quickly. I advise washing as infrequently as possible (which is the main benefit) and always line drying.

  1. Can I mix and match all the tops and bottoms and layer the tops if needed?  Also, can the items be dressed up?

The easy way to meet these requirements is by sticking to mostly solid colors in the same color family (i.e. warm, cool, bright, muted, etc). While a lot of capsule wardrobes include neutral colors, I don’t think that’s necessary, but I do try to stay away from very light colors so that I can go hiking or to a cooking class without worrying about staining one of my only two t-shirts. 

Layers are your friend, especially if traveling to places with a big difference between day and night time temperatures. Make sure your top layers aren’t too bulky to carry, or stuff into your day bag.

It can be difficult to pack items that are functional and can also be dressed up, but if you stay away from logos, and pack a few carefully selected accessories, they can really elevate an outfit.

Tip: If you want to bring a patterned item so you don’t feel too monochrome, just make sure it matches all your solid colors. I would recommend bringing a patterned skirt or scarf since they would be easiest to mix and match with solid color tops.

  1. This seems obvious, but will I wear it?

As much as you want to like something or think it’s a good thing to bring, if you don’t love it, you won’t wear it. A personal example of this for me is rompers or the traditional backpacker elephant pants. They are highly recommended on many traveler’s packing guides, but they just aren’t my style and I don’t feel comfortable in them. I learned this the hard way.  

Tip: Never take anything brand new on a trip without testing it out a few times first to make sure it’s something you will actually wear. This especially applies to things like shoes. You don’t want to end up on an extended trip with uncomfortable shoes.

  1. If I need something not already in my closet, can I buy it secondhand?   

As a former owner of a used clothing shop, I’m very passionate about re-homing clothing when at all possible. Shopping secondhand is so important for the environment and for human rights.  It’s also a good way to save money that can go towards your future trips! 

Tip: Before I buy anything new, I will look on Poshmark, Mercari, and Depop to see if I can find the exact item or something similar.  Most of the time, you can find it lightly used or even new with tags for a fraction of the price.

My Winter Packing List for Central Mexico

   With all those considerations in mind, this was my packing list for 2 months in Central Mexico. I’ve linked most items but some are vintage, purchased secondhand, or no longer available.   


  • 2 tanks top (1 linen/1 cotton)
  • 2 t-shirts (1 linen/1 merino wool)
  • 2 merino wool long sleeve shirts
  • 1 merino wool crewneck sweater
  • 1 long sleeve linen button up shirt
  • 1 midi dress (that can also be worn as a skirt)
  • A puffer coat (normally I’d rather have a sweater, but the lightweight pack-ability of a puffer won this time)


  • 1 pair of jeans (most blogs say to leave these at home, but unless you’re going to a very hot, humid location, I say take them)  
  • 1 pair of wide leg linen pants
  • 1 pair of quick-dry polyester straight leg pants 
  • 1 pair of quick-dry polyester shorts 
  • 1 pair of merino wool leggings 
  • Note: I didn’t pack pajamas, as I could sleep in a number of these items comfortably


  • Thong sandals
  • Teva Tirra sandals
  • Altra Lone Peak 5 trail running shoes (Lone Peak 6 is the current model)



  • A sling bag (mine is from Moment)
  • A few Natural Life headbands for bad hair days
  • A hat (I recommend a wide brim hat or baseball cap)
  • 2 necklaces

As you can see, when utilizing a combination of the rolling method, the Marie Kondo folding method, and a packing cube, the tops and bottoms only take up about half of my backpack. This leaves plenty of space for my second pair of shoes and any additional souvenirs I may want to bring home. 

It’s hard to tell, but trust me, those suitcase wheels were clogged with tons of dust and gravel after this walk

While I’d prefer my Monos rolling suitcase to a backpack, it’s definitely important to consider your destination when choosing your bag.  On one of our past trips to Tulum, Mexico, I assumed since it was a short trip, and we were staying in one location, that a suitcase would be fine…

And I ended up rolling it about a mile down a hot, rocky, dusty road to our hotel. 

A backpack may not be the most comfortable thing to wear around the airport, but it definitely is preferable when cobblestones or steep hills may be in your future.  All that being said, I really like my Osprey Porter 46L.  It’s sturdy, affordable, well-designed, and has a really good suspension system that takes a lot of the weight off your back.  

Packing List for Central Mexico in Action

It always helps to see a wardrobe out in the wild, so here’s just a few of the outfit combinations I was able to create from the above packing list. For reference, the cities we visited in December and January included Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Guanajuato, Querétaro, and Mexico City.

In Retrospect

After getting to test out the capsule wardrobe I created, there were a few changes I would make starting with…

The puffer coat.

While this was great for planes and buses, it didn’t get much daily use. Since most Mexican homes don’t have air conditioning or heating due to the temperate climate, I was often most cold inside our accommodation at night. It felt a bit strange and uncomfortable to wear a puffer coat while just sitting inside, so in hindsight, I’d have brought a cardigan instead, despite it being heavier and bulkier.

My shoe choice.

I am normally a big fan of my Teva sandals (I wore nothing else in Thailand), but I didn’t wear them much except in the warmer destinations of Oaxaca and Puerto Vallarta. For this trip, I would have been happier with a second, more fashionable, pair of sneakers. My Altra Lone Peak’s performed better than I could have hoped for daily walking and the occasional hike (seriously not a single blister), but it would have been nice to have another pair when I wanted to look less utilitarian.

The Ex-Officio underwear.

Between the Allbirds and Ex-Officio underwear, I always wanted to wear the Allbirds. I know Ex-Officio is a big name in the travel game, but in my opinion, the comfort and quality is just not there. Other than drying quickly, they didn’t merit the price. Within a few wears, the waistband already had tiny holes and the fabric snagged very easily.

Final Words of Advice

While packing for such a large range of temperatures and activities was intimidating, overall, I was satisfied with my choices. Sometimes I did feel a bit monochrome, or too utilitarian, but adding the few accessories I had often helped.

If you’re visiting the cities of Guanajuato, Querétaro, or Mexico City in the winter, I suggest packing warmer than I did. Once we left Oaxaca and Puerto Vallarta, I hardly ever wore my tank tops, shorts, or sandals. Conversely, for those cities, it would have been nice to have more than one pair of athletic style shorts (I wore them almost every day in PV).

While making your own list, my top pieces of advice are to identify the styles and colors that make you feel best, consider their versatility, and try everything on first! Outfits that look great on other people might not work for you, and that’s okay…

You just want to know before the trip, so that you’re not distracted from all the amazing experiences you’ll be having!

Click here for more details that will help you plan your adventures through Central Mexico!

And here for other items you may want to add to your packing list!

5 thoughts on “Winter Packing List for Central Mexico”

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