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Packing can be a bewildering and stressful affair—just ask any traveler.

Where do people stand these days on the folding vs. rolling clothes debate? Will your overstuffed carry-on actually fit in overhead storage or are you gonna have to shell out 50 bucks to check it? Do you really need three pairs of heels for that week-long trek to Machu Picchu? (“Just in case,” us overpackers chant, as we cram a French press and the entire contents of our medicine cabinet into our groaning suitcases.)

With more and more airlines charging for checked luggage, the art of packing light has become a crucial life skill. When it comes to packing for beach vacays or summer getaways, it’s not so hard—bathing suit, tees and shorts, easy-peasy—but things get much trickier when you’re headed somewhere with unpredictable weather or, say, three feet of snow. Bulky coats, sweaters, and snow pants take up a lot of room in your suitcase, never mind a backpack.

Luckily, there’s a solution: the heated base layer. Thin, light, rollable, and warm, electrically-powered base layers are a modern travel essential, freeing up valuable space in your luggage and guaranteeing you’ll be prepared for the weather on your trip no matter what temperature it is.

Let’s look at exactly why a heated base layer is the must-pack item you didn’t know you needed:


1. They take up way less luggage real estate than coats and sweaters.

Have you ever had to stuff a puffy winter coat into a backpack? It’s a sweaty, frustrating task that leaves you with roughly an inch of free space at the top of the bag and the strong urge to punch something.

A heated base layer, by contrast, consists of thin leggings and a long-sleeved shirt, both of which can be rolled up and wedged in the bottom of your bag with plenty of room to spare. All the warmth of a coat with none of the bulk, plus you can flaunt your sweet style sans jacket while still staying toasty.

(I mean, you could also bring a big suitcase and pay to have it checked—but wouldn’t you rather spend that money on fun stuff like food and kitschy souvenirs?)


2. They’re a breeze to wash and charge.

Modern heated base layers are made with some seriously advanced tech. The newest ones are completely wireless and instead have conductive fibres woven right into the fabric itself. A combo of moisture-wicking textiles like merino wool and lightweight-but-insulating synthetics make for a sturdy, machine-washable garment that dries quickly and won’t wrinkle in your suitcase. Charging the battery is a snap, too—simply plug it into an outlet or power source, give it a little time to recharge, and you’ll be good to go!


3. You’ll never have to worry about the weather on your trip.

“Be prepared for anything” is good advice in theory, but not always practical in reality. Some pretty wacky stuff can happen on the road, after all.

“Be prepared for as much as you can” is a much more useful mantra, and packing a heated base layer has you fully covered, weather-wise. Layer it under your regular clothes if the temperature drops and leave it in your bag on sunny days. No matter what Mother Nature throws your way, you’ll be ready—no stressing or second-guessing needed.


4. You’ll actually be warm on the plane ride over.

With those tiny vents blasting chilly recycled air at you for hours on end, airplanes can sometimes feel like giant refrigerators with wings. Occasionally, the airline will make a big deal out of giving you one of those thin, staticky blankets but they’re certainly not what you would call “cozy.”

On the other hand, keeping warm on your flight is snap when you’re wearing a heated base layer—you’re in full control of your own little microclimate, and all that toasty warmth being delivered to your core means that your body won’t need to steal heat from your extremities like it otherwise would.

Throw in some noise-cancelling headphones, a quality eyemask, and one of those plastic cups of airplane wine and you might even start to (gasp) enjoy the flight.