What to Pack for a Trip to Northern Norway in Winter

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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.

What to pack for a trip to Norway in winter

What to pack for Norway in winter: The essentials

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. 

Packing for Norway

A comfy mid-layer

Base layers are all well and good, but you'll need a mid-layer, too, so you aren't sitting around in your long underwear when you take your coat off.

On top, my go-to mid-layer is either a down vest or fleece – for Norway, I paired my turtleneck base layer with a North Face fleece (the Agave jacket is my current favorite) on top. 

On the bottom, a pair of comfy leggings is usually what I turn to, as jeans are typically just too bulky. You could opt for some fleece-lined leggings, or maybe cute printed leggings made from sweater material.

Amanda in Norway
Sweater leggings are cute AND cozy

Warm and water-resistant 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 coat that is a great winter go-to. If you're looking for an outer layer that's warm AND packable, I also have a Cocoon Coat from Rohan that's a great option for when you need to be able to stuff that outer layer into your suitcase.

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 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. (Though note the Columbia boots run small, so size up!)

*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
My go-to 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. (Though if you want to cut down on waste, you can also get rechargeable hand warmers now!)

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 fallen 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 Norway winter packing list

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

In my main suitcase

The bag I travel with the most is a soft-sided rolling bag by Osprey. This bag has traveled around the world with me for 5 years, and is still in excellent shape. 

Inside my bag you'll find:

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.

If you're not too concerned with photo gear, then my carry-on pick is the STM Haven, which is a great carry-on-friendly backpack with great protection for things like laptops and tablets.)

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?

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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39 Comments on “What to Pack for a Trip to Northern Norway in Winter

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  1. Many thanks for your useful tips on what to pack for men going to Norway. We are off on a Nordic Cruise over Christmas and new year on the Hurtigruten line.

    I am so happy to have come across your tips, which I will follow when packing for my holiday to Norway in December. I am not a young person and wonder if I really require ski pants as the tours I have booked provide all clothing and the rest of the time I will be on a cruise ship and visiting coastal towns. I await your response.

      In your case, I would say no! Most tour operators in northern Norway will provide you with warm layers to wear if you don’t bring your own.

    I’m going in March so reading all the tips. But what do you travel on the plane in .all the outer coats and boots seem too bulky to stuff in the over head locker. But might be too Old during transfers meant. Cold. From Ros Morton

      For this trip, I wore my lighter boots and my bulky coat on the plane, but packed everything else (like snowpants, hats, bigger boots, etc.) in my checked luggage. Most winter coats can be easily stuffed into an overhead locker.

    Great article! I’m strongly in favor of the silk baselayers. Good for changing into/out of, on a flight from/to a warm country, as they take so little room in the carryon.
    Hat, scarves, gloves? I like my polartec-lined Buff as a hat, headband, and scarf. A thin silk scarf next to the neckworks wonders,you can wrap a pashmina wool scarf over it to warm the upper neck & area under the chin. Still looking for the best pair of waterproof windproof gloves, maybe gloves with liners?

      Silk base layers all the way! And yeah, gloves can be tricky! I usually go the liners + gloves or mittens route, simply because that makes it easier to take the top layer off to take photos!

    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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