Living in Tromsø for 3 years, I thought that packing for a trip to Svalbard in the summer would be a walk in the park. After all, I had all the proper winter gear and outdoor equipment and thought I'd be done packing in no time!
Turns out, however, that things are a little more difficult - basically, I ended up wanting to bring all my winter clothes before realizing that surely, that must be too warm in the summer, even in a place like Svalbard?!
To make things easier for your summer trip to Svalbard, I thus decided to make a list of all the things I really ended up needing in the High Arctic and will also tell you why you can leave your down jacket at home, in this article!
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First things first: How cold does it really get in Svalbard in the summer?
Climate and weather of Svalbard
Svalbard in summer is quite chilly but definitely not as cold as you might fear! While the average high in Longyearbyen in July is only 7 degrees Celsius (and the average low is 3 degrees), we experienced temperatures between 0 and 5 degrees on our visit in mid-June - in other words, it's chilly but not as cold as it can be in winter (up to minus 20 on average)!
We experienced a mix of sunshine and grey skies with a little bit of drizzle in the valley, that turned into snowfall when we went for a hike in the mountains, so you should definitely bring woollen layers, but don't necessarily your down jacket.
I mean, you're headed to the High Arctic, so it's safe to say that you can leave your summer dress at home. However, you don't quite need to bring ALL of your winter equipment either.
Here's how you should dress in Svalbard in summer:
What to pack and how to dress
Then again, what you need to pack for a summer visit to Svalbard largely depends on what kind of activities you have planned. Are you planning on going hiking, dog-sledding and kayaking? Definitely bring woolen underwear and breathable sports wear then!
Chances are that you'll be walking quite a lot in Longyearbyen - whether you have active tours planned or just want to take a stroll around town - so, comfortable shoes are a must! As the weather can change quite quickly, I also personally prefer outdoor pants over jeans in a sudden rain- or snowstorm!
The importance of layers
You might be wondering how you're not supposed to freeze if you only bring a slightly insulated windbreaker and the answer is simple: layers!
By dressing in layers you can make sure to stay warm and dry in the Arctic, as a good base of 2-3 layers will absorb sweat if you're going for a hike (sports underwear/thermal underwear as base layer), as well as keep you warm (wool as mid-layer) and dry (outerwear).
On our snowy hike in the mountains of Longyearbyen, I was wearing a sports bra and sports pants, followed by thermal underwear and a fleece jacket as mid-layer, and my windbreaker and outdoor pants as a last layer. I actually was quite hot at the start of the hike but cooled down quite quickly once the snowfall set in.
If in doubt, consider carrying your mid-layer in your backpack and change as soon as you take a break when on a hike, as that's when you start to freeze quite quickly.
Additionally to your layers, you should also bring:
- thin socks, as well as woollen socks to wear together
- gaiters to protect you from snow and/or river crossings when going on a hike
- a warm scarf (I brought a poncho scarf with me that I could wrap around myself on the plane and the hotel room in the evening)
- a woollen (and preferably) windproof hat
- waterproof and woollen gloves (1 pair of each)
- sunglasses, as the combination of snow and sunshine will hurt your eyes!
- a sleeping mask (remember, it never gets dark in Svalbard during the summer thanks to the Midnight Sun)
Here's most of what I brought along on my trip:
Other equipment and gear to pack
Aside from appropriate clothing, there are a couple of other things you need to bring for your visit to Svalbard:
- sunglasses, as the combination of snow and potential sunshine will hurt your eyes
- sunscreen - because the snow reflects the sun!
- a waterproof daypack for your belongings, such as my Osprey daypack, for instance
- a refillable water bottle and maybe an extra thermos for tea/coffee
- a decent camera (I have a Canon 750D)
- travel binoculars for watching wildlife
- a powerbank for your phone/camera gear
- an adapter/converter if you're coming from overseas
- seasickness medicine, if needed - for example sea bands (they always work wonders for me!)
- consider bringing trekking poles if you're not used to mountain hiking
Here are a couple other things I always bring on my travels in the Arctic:
If you'd like to save money, you can also bring certain dry food items from home (such as rice crackers, cookies, protein bars, instant noodles etc.), so that you don't need to spend much on eating out or doing grocery shopping.
Groceries are quite expensive in Svalbard (with the exception of alcohol) while eating out is actually much cheaper than in mainland Norway - though, most likely still more expensive than what you're used to with a standard cost for dinner at around $20.
Are you curious to learn more about Svalbard?
Here's a collection of articles that might help: