Plenty of snow and temperatures below 0 - yes, Norway in winter is quite chilly, but that doesn’t mean that you have to look like the Michelin Man when visiting!
Regardless of whether you’re headed to Tromsø to see the Northern Lights or are just planning a weekend in Oslo for New Year’s Eve, I’ll show you how I dress in winter myself and provide you with some cute outfit ideas that’ll let you visit Norway in style - even in winter!
Base layers are the most important part when dressing for Norwegian winters and sadly, they ain’t pretty. Then again, base layers don’t have to be the scratchy long johns and shirts you might remember from your childhood. There are so many high-quality thermal base layers out there and they don’t even have to be very expensive.
One thing to keep in mind when buying them, though, is that wool is the ultimate material to keep you warm. Forget polyester and synthetics - they will only make you freeze and feel clammy in the long run.
Outfit hack #1: Merino wool is the very best material and although it’s certainly more expensive than regular wool, it also keeps you warm the most, which means you need less layers on top of your thermal underwear, reducing the risk of looking like the Michelin Man!
Outfit hack #2: If you can’t afford or have no need for proper base layers where you’re from, don’t worry! You can also totally get by with woollen tights/leggings and thick long-sleeved shirts. I even own a pair of synthetic Primark leggings myself and even though I’d never wear them on a snowshoe hike (remember, synthetics don’t handle sweat very well), they are my go-to base layer underneath my ski pants on those chilly Arctic winter days.
Wool is also the best material to use for your mid-layers and I don’t know about you, but I’m all about woollen sweaters - half of my wardrobe is full of them!
Which brings me to another hack:
Packing hack #1: Woollen sweaters take up quite a lot of space in your suitcase and, depending on where you're from, you might not want to wear a super warm sweater when travelling. Luckily, vacuum bags will help you out! I would have never been able to move all my stuff to (and from) the Arctic if it hadn’t been for vacuum bags!
Depending on the length of your stay in Norway, where exactly you visit (aka how cold it’ll be there) and what you’re planning on doing (will you be very active?), you want to bring a selection of thin and chunky wool sweaters.
A wool cardigan or high-quality fleece jacket can replace a thick sweater, meaning more space in your suitcase and easier undressing if you do get warm.
When it comes to trousers, jeans and corduroys will keep you warm a lot better than treggings or textile trousers. Also, avoid bringing super skinny jeans and rather opt for trousers with a slightly wider leg, so that you’re able to wear tights/thermal underwear underneath.
Again, the choice of outerwear depends on the activities you’ve planned and the region you’re visiting. Living in Stavanger, I mostly get by with my all-year H&M parka. And yes, you heard that right: Outerwear doesn’t need to cost a fortune!
Here at the west coast of Norway, winter temperatures rarely drop below 0 degrees during the day and we don’t get much snow in Stavanger either. That means that outerwear for a city trip here in the south of the country should mostly provide 2 functions: to keep you dry and to keep you shielded from the wind.
If you already have a good waterproof parka or windbreaker, great! Make sure to bring high-quality woollen base layers and maybe an extra chunky wool sweater and you should be fine!
However, if you’re visiting the Arctic and plan to be outside in the cold for longer periods of time (for example to admire the Northern Lights or go whale-watching), you might want to bring a proper down jacket instead. While you can get by dressing in multiple woollen base/mid-layers and just throwing over a parka/windbreaker, I personally find that I always get way too hot as soon as I go inside, and then the tedious process of undressing begins…
That’s why, personally, I prefer dressing in 1 overall base layer and sweater, and then throwing over my North Face down jacket, as it’ll keep me warm in the Arctic cold and I don’t have to worry about suffocating in layers when I head inside again.
As for pants, I would highly recommend some ski pants if you head to the Arctic as they’re just so incredibly versatile. You can wear them when going on a snowshoe hike, going whale-watching, going on a Northern Lights safari - you name it - and everyone else will be dressed in ski pants as well, so don’t worry about looking weird.
Again, depending on how cold it is and whether you’ll be very active or not, you can combine your ski pants with tights AND long johns/leggings if it’s really cold and you won’t be moving much (for instance when you’re going whale-watching and stand outside for 2 hours because you’re too mesmerized by the whales to go inside the boat again).
Packing hack #2: Many tour operators in the Arctic will provide proper clothing for you if you need it and when visiting Tromsø, you can also rent winter clothes at Tromsø Outdoor downtown, so no need to bring/buy a down jacket and ski pants.
Hats, Scarfs & Gloves
Hats and headbands are super important when visiting Norway in winter as I can guarantee you that it will be windy - and I’m not talking about a gentle breeze here, more like having Father Frost constantly breathe into your ear… In other words, your ears might feel the cold the most, but it’s also super important to keep your head warm, as cold extremities mean that soon the rest of your body will freeze as well.
While chunky, loosely-knit H&M bobble hats might look super cute, they don’t exactly keep your ears protected from the wind. As goes for base layers, your hat/headband should ideally also be a (merino) wool one, or at least have a fleece layer!
The same goes for scarfs and gloves.
Outfit/packing hack #3: Get one of those oversized poncho scarfs. Not only will they keep you warm when wrapped around your neck, but they are also super handy when travelling on the plane or just in the evenings at your accommodation when you’re feeling a bit chilly. Just wrap them around you like a blanket and voila - you should soon warm up again!
I have way too many poncho/blanket scarfs - that’s for sure!
When it comes to gloves, woolen smartphone gloves will totally be fine when visiting Bergen or Stavanger in winter, but if you’re headed to the Arctic, you’ll want to wear mittens on top of your gloves. Woollen mittens are the best when it comes to keeping you warm, however, they aren’t waterproof which makes snowball fights and building snowmen impossible.
And I’m not the only adult who’s still into snow shennanigans, am I?!
So, make sure to get a pair of waterproof mittens or gloves to wear on top of a thin pair. That way, when you take the thick pair off (for instance, to use your phone or camera), your hands won’t freeze too much.
Boots & Socks
This is something people ask about A LOT in our Scandinavia & Nordics Travel group. Obviously, if you come from a warm climate where you never really experience snow and ice, having to buy (and pack) heavy winter boots for a week-long vacation seems like a bit much - I get it! However, it’s not only vital to keep your feet warm in winter, but also to have a good grip on the snow (which might be covering a thick layer of ice underneath).
I personally swear by Sorel boots in heavy snow and love wearing my North Face ankle boots made out of down feathers for city sightseeing in winter!
While my Sorel boots are basically rubber boots with a woollen insole of the same size (which, hack alert, you can take out and use as slippers in your accommodation), my ankle boots are only half the size (and weight) of my Sorels but keep me equally warm - ergo, they suck in heavy snow, but are perfect if you don’t plan on frolicking in the snow a lot.
Alternatively, you could also bring high-quality hiking boots if you already got those. Hiking boots tend to be waterproof and quite warm, and if you can pair them with thermal insoles, thick woollen socks and a pair of crampons, you should be good to go!
Packing hack #4: Yes, you definitely need crampons when visiting Norway in winter. The streets can be super icy - as in, picture a 2cm ice sheet on the pavements in Tromsø. Doesn’t sound very easy to walk on, does it?
While you can get by walking like a penguin, it just makes your trip so much more stress-free (and less dangerous) if you just bring crampons. You don’t need to buy expensive ones, though!
Watch my lookbook for more outfit inspiration for a winter trip to Norway:
Where in norway are you headed?
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