Packing for a Trip to Northern Norway in Winter

What to pack for a trip to Norway
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Traveling to Norway at any time of year could inspire a detailed packing list – layers are necessary year-round, as is gear for any of the various outdoor adventures that Norway has to offer.

But this list is focused on what you'll want to take to head north of the Arctic Circle in the winter months.

It doesn't get as cold in the Norwegian Arctic as it does in neighboring Finland (thanks to the warmer currents coming in off the Atlantic), but you'll still want to prepare for temperatures below freezing.

The essentials

What to pack for a trip to Norway in winter

Thermal base layer

Whether you're going on a dogsledding trip, sleeping in an ice hotel, or just planning to walk around outside in cities like Alta or Tromsø, you'll want to have a warm base layer close to your skin.

Wool is usually the go-to material for base layers (merino wool is especially great), but if you're like me and are allergic to wool on your bare skin, then I recommend getting a set of Terramar Hottotties. I have their Climasense Cloud Nine Turtleneck and a pair of their Cloud Nine pants, and wore them almost every day in Norway. (They also make silk leggings, which are another great non-wool alternative.)

I especially love the turtleneck – it fits great, is nice and long, and did not get smelly at all even after I wore it daily for almost a week. I paired my turtleneck with a North Face fleece (the Agave jacket is my current favorite) for a super warm base layer.

Packing for Norway

Waterproof top layer

You'll want good outerwear, too. I have a pair of Columbia ski pants that I LOVE, and also have a long, tri-climate North Face coat (the Aeliana) that is a great winter go-to. All of this over my base layers kept me nice and warm.

Warm boots

I went to Norway prepared with two different pairs of boots – one for just walking around, and one for doing serious outdoor activities. My walking around boots are Columbia's Minx Omni-Heat boots, while I love Merrell's Polarand boots for outdoor activities since they have better support. Both do a good job of keeping your feet warm.

*A note on boots: You may want to buy at least a half-size bigger than you normally wear to accommodate for thick socks AND to make sure your toes have room to move. The tighter your boots are, the faster circulation to your feet gets cut off – and the sooner your feet will get cold.

Winter boots

Serious socks

Another thing to ensure warm feet is to have a good pair of socks. I got some Heat Holders for this trip, which are true to their name – SO warm! These socks are super thick and super soft on the inside. My toes never once felt cold, and I highly recommend these for any winter activity.



Things that will come in handy

Hand warmers

You can pick up some Hot Hands hand warmers for fairly cheap. I promise you'll appreciate them on those snowmobile trips, or when you're standing outside at night looking for the Northern Lights.

Yaktrax

Because Norway's Arctic cities are mainly found along the coast, this means that they can often be really icy. Tromsø heats some of its sidewalks to shed them of snow and ice, but that doesn't mean you won't find slippery patches (I may or may not have fell in Tromsø three times while crossing the street…). To combat this, you may want to throw a set of Yaktrax in your bag. These attach to the bottom of your shoes to help you get better traction on snow and ice.

A guidebook

Fellow blogger Kristin Repsher has written a really great guide to Lapland and Northern Norway in winter. If you'd like to read more about the destinations, weather, customs, accommodation, and more, this guide is worth investing in. She also has a whole section on Northern Lights photography.

Travel insurance

Even though it’s not a tangible item, I also always recommend packing a good travel insurance policy. That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.

Frozen water in Alta, Norway

Complete Packing List

Here’s a look at what was in my bag for my trip to Northern Norway:

In my main suitcase

In my carry-on

My carry-on these days is photography focused – the Pacsafe Camsafe V25, which has a dedicated compartment with separators for camera lenses and gear. It also has an upper section in which to pack other things, like my Kindle and purse.

Packing for Iceland

In this bag:

And what about for men?

It's true that my packing list is geared towards women, but my packing guidelines for men are pretty much the same: Warm, waterproof layers are where it's at!

Here's a look at some of the things my husband, Elliot, packs when we go to cold-weather destinations together:





Anything else you would pack with you for a trip above the Arctic Circle?

 

 

31 Comments

  • Ijana says:

    What a helpful post! I will most definitely reference this post when packing for winter trips. In Europe it honestly doesn’t get as cold as most people expect it to get. I was in Germany in January and only needed a long sleeved tee and a hoodie. Though I would expect that Norway is quite a bit colder than Germany, and the months of February and March would be colder.

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, it does get cold in Norway – but still not as cold as most people expect! (The real frigid winter weather is over in Finland haha.)

  • Mel says:

    Great post with some good products I’ll refer back to whenever I need gear for seriously cold places. Thanks!

  • Dominique says:

    I always bookmark the best packing lists I find! I don’t have one for wintery locations, so thanks for this post! 🙂

  • Danielle says:

    I really want to make a trip to Norway soon, this will really come in handy!

  • Super helpful! I need to get my hands on those cloud nine pants. Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      The leggings (and turtleneck especially) have come in handy on so many trips! In fact, I brought the turtleneck on my current trip in the US Southwest and have worn it a couple times on early morning hikes since it’s been cool!

  • Our Wanders says:

    Haha, we were looking forward to this article so much! 🙂 Reading all of your cool winter adventures our only concern when thinking about visiting Norway or Iceland in winter is the cold. Because we are the summer types of people, hot is much better than cold for us and most probably this is the reason why we have never ever thought of visiting the northern part of the globe in winter… until we read all of your stories. 😀 Thanks for the details tips, they will be great help when planning our winter trip!

    • Amanda says:

      Awesome to hear, guys! I never would have imagined having a whole host of different packing list on my site, but people really seem to love them, and I’m so happy they’re useful! As they say in Norway, “there’s never bad weather – only bad clothing!”

  • Rina says:

    its always my dream to travel to norway, especially in the winter. thanks amanda for the blog post. it really help me

  • I always dont remember to take many warm socks. Always i have sth like 2-3 pair and always it is too less and i need to dry it my boots :] It is possible to do really:P

  • Good stuff! I’d like to head out to Iceland sometime this year to go chasing the Northern Lights so this does help. I thought bracing myself for a Canadian winter would be rough, haha.

    • Amanda says:

      I’ve seen great Northern Lights in Canada, but yes, it was SO COLD. Norway and Iceland are more temperate – good luck in Iceland! I’ve been there twice in the winter, but sadly have never seen the lights there.

  • Angelina De Castro says:

    Hi Amanda, A quick note of thanks for this amazing travel tip. I ordered the Yaktrak, and I was super confident on my feet, no slipping or sliding in Alta. I love that place, would return in a heartbeat!

  • wendy says:

    Headed to Arctic Circle/Norway and Iceland March 1. Very helpful – especially the headlamp and yaktrax. Was thinking of using my fleece lined leggings under jeans as thermal underwear. Were you on the Hurtengurten? I read you can also rent ski pants/bibs in some places. Also thinking I only need a pair of fleece lined boots with heavy duty traction. Trying to back as little as possible into a carryon

    • Amanda says:

      I think fleece-lined leggings under jeans would work just fine (especially if you already own them)!

      And no, I wasn’t on the Hurtigruten – I was just traveling with a friend! Most tour companies in Norway will indeed provide you with full snow suits and even thermal boots for excursions, but I didn’t find the same in Iceland. In Iceland you were expected to have your own winter gear!

  • Bron says:

    Thanks so much! Coming from a hot climate I don’t think I can overpack for a wintery Norway!

  • Carl says:

    I can’t imagine sleeping in an ice hotel! It seems too far out of my comfort zone. Maybe that is why I need to try it one day 🙂

    The Heat Holder socks are not bad, but I prefer Merino Wool socks. They are soon warm, and they keep my feet dry by wicking the moisture away. I never leave the house without them whenever I have to venture outside during winter.

    • Amanda says:

      Merino is a great option – but I’m allergic to wool, and sometimes merino makes me itchy, too! So I’ve tried a lot of non-wool alternatives. Of those, Heat Holders are definitely my favorite!

  • Kateryna says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the tips. We are going to Norway this winter. Many call us crazy because in winter they go South and we are going North :))

    Anyways, I am looking for good ski pants for my husband. I want to make a Christmas present for him. I’ve searched online and found these Mammut Bormio HS Pants (number 2 on this list: http://www.bestsnowgear.com/best-mens-skiing-pants/).

    I am not a very frequent skier myself wear same pants 5 years in a row already :))

    Could you tell your opinion on the pants mentioned above? Is the price worth it?

    Thanks

    • Amanda says:

      I’m not exactly an expert on men’s ski pants 😉 but I would probably counsel you to not spend a fortune if you’re buying them just for this trip. Most tour companies in Northern Norway will provide you with thermal suits to wear, so you don’t need super heavy-duty snow pants of your own unless you plan to do a lot of independent outdoor exploring. My favorite outerwear brand is Columbia, and I have the women’s version of this pant and find it just fine for most winter activities: http://amzn.to/2yKtpVj

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you for all your great suggestions on Norway in winter, and this excellent packing advice. I am planning a trip in February with my daughter and hope to follow many of your suggestions!

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