What to Pack for Winter Adventures in the Arctic

Winter has come to an end and spring has finally arrived in the Arctic too. Pictures of the Northern Lights are slowly being replaced by pictures of the Midnight Sun on Instagram. You've of course seen thousands of pictures of the Northern Lights this season and now finally, after years and years of day-dreaming, you've decided to make your dream come true: visit the Arctic in winter and spot the Northern Lights! But you're worried that you'll freeze to death, right? Well, fear not cause here's a list of must-items to bring to make sure you won't get a cold during your dream vacation!

In case you didn't know, I've been travelling around the Arctic since 2013, have been living in Northern Norway for two years now and recently spent my Easter holidays in Swedish Lapland. In a cabin without running water. That means bathroom = outhouse. And even though I've been living in the North for so long, I was genuinely scared to freeze to death on that trip!

Well, I didn't. In fact, I only wore half of the clothes I brought with me. You don't believe me? Let me tell you what you REALLY need when visiting Lapland.

It's all about wool

First things first: It's all about wool. Make sure to bring real wool sweaters, socks and thermal underwear. There's nothing like wool to make you stay warm! You know, a lot of people think that it's enough if you just wear many layers but honestly, that's not useful at all if your layers are made of acrylic. Wear thermal, woolen underwear, woolen socks and a woolen sweater and you've already got the basics covered.

Of course, you'd also need mittens - bring a pair of thin woolen ones and larger waterproof ones to wear on top. You also need a large woolen hat - I'm afraid your stylish little beanie from H&M will give you blue ears in the Arctic wind. And bring one of those huge woolen scarfs that you can wrap around your neck like 10 times. They also work well as a blanket if the fire in the cabin isn't enough to make you feel warm.

You can't go wrong with fleece

Apart from wool, fleece is the way to go. Make sure to bring a high quality fleece jacket - I promise, they're so worth the price - and fleece leggings to wear underneath your outdoor pants. I bought a fleece leggings at Primark a couple of years ago and always wear them when I'm out and about playing in the snow - they're just incredibly warm!


The most important and unfortunately most bulky thing is your outerwear of course. You can however buy a vacuum pack if you bring a lot of clothes or plan on staying in the Arctic for a longer period. When I was spending a month working in a guest house in the northernmost village of Norway, I had most of my clothes in two vacuum packs and still had plenty of room left in my luggage.

Anyway, what kind of outerwear do you need? Well, make sure to invest in a good down jacket. It needs to be water and windproof and will be the last layer you put on. Great for feeding reindeers - or whatever you'll do.

You'll also need a pair of waterproof and padded pants to wear above your thermal underwear/fleece leggings. That way, your bottom will stay dry during your first attempts of going on skis.

You can wear jeans underneath your outer pants or just fleece leggings - all depending on how cold it is. I myself however absolutely love corduroys during winter - they might not be stylish but they're so much warmer than jeans!

Warm feet...

Depending on what you'll be doing, you'd need different pairs of shoes. The ones I love most during winter are my North Face ankle boots that are made of down and have spiky soles which make them great for not so cold days when the streets are all icy, and my pair of Sorel boots. Those are made of rubber and are completely waterproof and have an insulated inner sole to keep you warm. I usually wear those when I'm out in the nature.

What else?

What else do you need? Well, make sure to bring sunglasses (the snow can be incredibly bright when the sun shines), a waterproof daypack to keep your valuables in, a thermos flask for tea or coffee for when you're out and about all day, a pair of spikes cause the streets in Tromso and elsewhere are mostly icy during winter and last but not least, a tripod and camera to capture the Northern Lights.

How cold is it really?

Don't underestimate the cold but of course, there's no need to overdo it either. In Tromso and Reykjavik, average daily temperatures during winter are between + and - 5 degrees Celsius. Night temperatures can reach up to -20 and some days in January can also be as cold as that but we're speaking of maybe a week in total during the whole "6 months" of winter.

Also keep in mind, if you've booked a tour to go snowmobiling or dogsledding, you will get out into the mountains where it will be much colder than on the coast but usually, your tour operator will provide suitable outerwear for you.

So don't worry, as long as you stick to woolen/fleece clothing and the right layers, you probably won't freeze to death! In fact, during my recent vacation to Swedish Lapland, I was sweating more often than I was freezing...

Are you planning a trip to the Arctic in winter? Where do you want to go? And do you find my tips helpful?

Don't forget to download the full packing list:

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