Packing for Norway, or Scandanavia in general, might seem like a difficult task, especially for those used to going to tropical places – or even living in a warm place for his or her entire life. No one really explains to you how to dress, especially in the cold. The only dressing suggestion is to maybe put on a nice shirt for the occasional fancy event. It’s fairly casual here in Hawaii.
But dressing for Norway’s winter isn’t too difficult really, nor do you have to buy a lot of gear if you aren’t staying to long. You can survive with a few simple items like a base layer, parka jacket, and warm socks and mittens. If borrowing from a friend or family member doesn’t work first, then you can always try to layer up as much as possible with what you have. But perhaps you’re like me and have no clue, nor any winter clothes in your dresser. This is the guide for you – What To Pack for Norway.
Read here about What to Pack for your Northern Lights Trip – an adaptation of the post below but more specific.
For general knowledge, Norway’s winter isn’t the type of winter that you’d expect elsewhere. It’s actually fairly warm and there’s not as much negative degree weather as you think. It mostly hovers around freezing. The gulf stream is the reason, which brings warm air from the south in the Atlantic, up north to Norway.
But the gulf stream, with its warm weather, also means that it is wet and cold, vs. cold and dry. So you’ll have to prepare a little differently this time and bring items more waterproof than usual.
For starters, the most important parts of your body to keep warm are hands, head, neck, and feet in correct order. Then once you’ve made sure to keep those warm, you can focus on your body and legs.
But also the base layer is the most important and a good starting point for winter clothes, as this is a main staple item within the winter wear area. Wool is your friend, but also costs a lot. You’ll want to buy high quality long underwear and long sleeve shirts, as you’ll likely wear this all the time and you don’t need any breaks or stitchings to come apart.
The best base layers are from Helly Hansen. They can keep you very warm with only a light jacket on top. And although the price tag is high, you’ll likely be reusing these clothes often and also will keep it through many winter seasons. Don’t be afraid to spend around $100 for good base layer clothes.
You’ll likely only need one or two pairs of each – shirt and pants. By just letting them air out on off days, depending on whether you are actively sweating during the day or if you are not expending energy too much, you can get by on your trip abroad. Two pairs of long underwear for the bottom and long sleeves for the tops will be enough.
On a side note, these base layers are probably the easiest to forget, so make sure you double check that you have the pairs in your suitcase before you leave!
Wool and Lots of It:
If you leave enough of your budget open and save ahead of time, you could buy yourself a wool sweater with a traditional Norwegian design. Marius and Dale are good brands that won’t skimp on the quality of wool. Don’t buy from the tourist shops unless they are selling a known brand of sweater. This might be the most touristy thing you can do, as no good Norwegian buys a sweater, but I think it adds a lot to your photos here and serves as a good souvenir to remember your trip.
On socks: One pair of socks is warmer than two – at least when the second pair constricts your blood flow. Try to buy a warmer boot, if you think your feet will get cold. Toes, since they are the closest to the snow, are the first to go bad. See these examples for these warm boots.
Side note: If you are going north to see the northern lights and are outside for a while, then these are warmest possible boots.
If you can, a pair of knitted wool socks will keep your feet way warmer than any other pair of sock you have, including the merino wool ones. Perhaps its the weaving that traps air better, but it’s going to be thinner than expected. A thin sock can actually keep you more warm. But more importantly, try to get waterproof shoes for the snow. A warm sock that is wet, will be very cold. And for girls, Uggs will get wet and won’t dry fast enough for the rest of the trip,
so avoid that.
Gloves: Mittens are way warmer than gloves, so you should try to get the warmest possible pair. If you do go the glove route at least get the touchscreen gloves so you can operate your phone, but realize that you’re wasting your time and your heat taking the gloves on and off. The outer-most layer on the gloves is the most important, as this blocks the wind from penetrating to the tips of your fingers. But also try a pair of wrist gaiters to protect the gap between your jacket and gloves. It’s a good value, similar to the neck warmer.
Winter hat: A winter beanie can be bought in Norway, but you’ll want to buy something with ear flaps abroad before you arrive. This hat is the one I use and it keeps me super warm.
Neck Gaiter: also called a neck warmer. Many people forget this item, although it’s the best value for warming your body in terms of cost and effectiveness. A $5 gaiter and you’ll be much happier when the wind doesn’t come streaming into your nice new warm jacket. Fleece is good.
These are the essentials for a normal day. If you are chasing the northern lights then use the second links to find the correct warmth level.
A plug for Helly Hansen: Helly Hansen has been my favorite brand for outdoor clothing. It has quality design, but never pay full price unless its for the under layers. Those usually don’t go on sale due to how much demand for them exists. https://www.hellyhansen.com/en_us/h1-pro-lifa-seamless-1-2-zip-49335 Wear this and you’ll likely be super warm with just a jacket on.
The Jacket: Find a good Parka and you’ll be very happy for this winter and many more. If you find a good quality jacket, then you won’t have to worry about thick down jackets, which are expensive. They won’t keep you as warm as a thick windproof outer layer and you’re much better off your own underlayers below, such as a wool base layer, then wool sweater, then thin down jacket and thick waterproof outer parka compared to a all-in-one jacket.
Be mindful that if you get your all-in-one jacket wet, you’ll be cold for the rest of the trip unless you can quickly dry it, which usually isn’t the case. Switch the under layers if you get wet.
Boots: Waterproof boots are the way to go, along with a high leg area so that snow doesn’t creep in when walking in some deep powder. Sorel is one of the best, but not the comfiest. Something with good grip should also be considered since it is very slippery on the ground. Or you can use an ice grip for the bottom of your shoes – very important as you’re not used to walking in the snow and usually a large ice patch is just waiting for a new person to take out. Wear the ice grips so you don’t slip and fall and break a wrist or arm.
Which also leads me to explain: Get travel insurance in the case of you slipping.
You could slip and fall and break something, but you don’t want to have to pay a huge amount at the hospital in this case. The idea of free Norwegian health case doesn’t really exist.
Now, if you are unprepared and can’t get these items before your trip, then don’t worry. On arrival, you can search for second hand clothing shops, if you are on a budget. There are also many outlets like XXL and G Sport, which tend to sell name brand items at a discount. Try Fretix, which is the largest, most well known second hand store in Norway. It’s like salvation army but more upscale with their products.You could try to research if the town that you are staying in has a store like this. Trysil is starting out with a small area of their sports outlet design to hold only second hand winter clothes. But if you’re trying to go to South East Asia, try buying winter clothes there – at least the outer windbreaker jacket to start.
On a last final note, a last minute emergency is using an emergency space blanket to cover your feet underneath your socks. This is used when your boots and socks are too cold and you need something to keep your feet warm.
So hopefully this guide keeps your warm during a Norwegian Winter. If there is anything you think I missed, then please comment below. Thanks!