Norway Packing List
Norwegians have a saying, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”.
Usually this advice was given when heavy winds were rattling the windows, snow was falling for hours on end or a wet downpour was half blowing us away. I wanted to groan every time, yet somehow ended up trudging up a mountain or going for a long walk every day of our trip, haha.
I can still remember one bad weather day in particular. We had finished a tour of a small town in Helgeland and retreated into a coffee shop to relax over some brown waffles with cheese. A couple friendly locals started talking to us and mentioned they had spent the morning – lashing rain, chilling winds and all – cross country skiing.
I knew then and there I couldn't hold a candle to Norwegians!
Jokes aside, Norway is dotted with scenic landscapes and the best way to enjoy it all is to spend time outdoors. If you're visiting in winter, packing proper clothing is key!
So today's post is for all my fellow last minute packers – what to wear in Norway, camera equipment if you think you'll see the Northern lights and even some things you can leave at home.
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How Cold is Norway in Winter?
They say that Norway in winter isn't nearly as cold as Sweden or Finland, thanks to warm currents from the Atlantic coast.
But honestly, I was pretty cold and needed all the layers. The good thing about layering is if you're warm blooded, you can easily adjust for your own body temperature.
Winter in Norway is also a pretty long season. Depending on where in the country you're headed, winter temperatures can arrive as early as late October and last until April. We visited in mid-January and while the temperatures weren't bad (about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit), we did receive lots of rain and snow.
Since the weather can change at any minute and you never know quite what you're going to get, layering is essential. The key to surviving is to think of three main sections:
- Base Layer
- Mid Layer
- Outer Layer
A base layer closest to your skin makes a world of difference. You'll want both a long sleeve top and some long underwear, ideally made from merino wool like this one. Uniqlo's heat tech tops and Everlane's bodysuits also work great.
Next, you'll want to add 1-2 insulating layers. For me, I usually wore a medium weight wool sweater and a fleece jacket over it. Again, sweaters with a high wool content are best. Don't worry – your base layer will help prevent any itchiness!
For the outermost layer, you'll want something both waterpoof and insulating. If you have a thick parka for extreme conditions (I brought my Canada Goose) that's perfect. If you live somewhere warm, you can pick up an inexpensive waterproof ski jacket on Amazon (I like this one) that also works well and is budget friendly.
Above all, the key is to layer. You can adjust your body heat by removing or adding layers throughout the day so you're always prepared.
If you're constantly popping in and out of the cold (say, you go for a hike, then indoors for a coffee to warm up), you'll find you're a lot more adaptable to temperature fluctuations if you have layers to take on and off.
What to Pack for Norway
In general, Norway seemed to be a pretty casual place.
Norwegians love wool and make some of the most beautiful wool sweaters I've ever seen. Even going out to eat, we saw locals wearing practical, heavy duty clothing that could stand up to all sorts of weather conditions.
So, stay warm, comfortable and dry on your trip to Norway by packing these must-have clothes and accessories:
1. Base Layer & Thermal Underwear
Merino wool is the best type of base layer since it's superfine, lightweight and warm.
Unlike synthetic fabrics or cotton, wool wicks away moisture from the body so you won't get cold as you sweat. It's also quick drying (you can wash it with regular laundry detergent) and odor resistant, so you can wear it for multiple days.
I have pretty sensitive skin so I wasn't sure about merino wool thermals at first. But after trying out these leggings in Norway, I was pretty impressed!
Don't get me wrong, they don't feel as nice as silk, but they're comfortable enough to wear all day without itch and keep you really warm.
2. Wool Sweaters
Did I mention Norwegians love wool? And after experiencing winter in Norway, I can understand why!
Wool is incredibly warm. It keeps you toasty but more importantly, keeps you dry. As your body heats up, fabrics that don't whisk away moisture (like cotton or synthetics) will keep you drenched in sweat no matter how many layers you pack on.
Pack sweaters with at least 40% wool content – look for merino, cashmere, angora or mohair on the label.
I brought several sweaters from Everlane, like this simple soft wool knit, this thick wool tunic and this cashmere pullover. If you don't already own some, it can be hard to find well made sweaters these days with such a high percentage of wool.
I looked all over the usual high street stores (Zara, H&M, Mango, etc) and unfortunately knitwear from these stores is thinner, with virtually no wool content.
Norwegian sweaters are very popular as well – these are typically 100% wool and have a thick, heavy weight to them. I love the traditional Nordic patterns too! They're a little harder to find in the US, but you can buy second-hand on Ebay.Buy New: Dale of Norway, Devold and Kari Traa Buy Vintage: Dale of Norway, Devold and Kari Traa
3. Fleece Jackets
I'm the kind of person that's always cold, so I packed a couple heavier jackets and fleece pullovers to wear as an extra layer.
This zip up fleece was perfect. It's lined with shearling so extra warm and cozy, and I could still squeeze it under my winter parka.
If the weather wasn't too bad or you overheat easily, you can also wear this as an outer layer.
For bottoms, I recommend packing comfortable pants that are loose enough to layer over your thermals.
Personally I didn't pack any jeans – denim isn't great at blocking the wind and all of my jeans are too tight and skinny to wear a layer underneath.
Instead, I packed a mix of fleece lined tights, yoga pants / leggings and stretchy black pants. They were all great for staying warm and comfortable. And as a bonus, they could double as workout, hiking and airplane clothes!
Since I didn't pack any nicer clothes, I worried I might be too ‘dressed down' with yoga pants and snow shoes but in general Norway was a very relaxed and casual place.
5. Winter Boots
I packed two pairs of boots for Norway, a fleece lined winter boot that was more ‘fashionable' and a heavy duty waterproof snow boot.
If you're just visiting Oslo or a large city in Norway, you can get away with packing just normal winter boots. I wore these winter boots in Trondheim, but then switched to snow shoes for the rest of our Helgeland road trip and never switched back.
If you're tight on space, I'd pack just one pair of solid snow boots! I've written more in depth about the best snow boots in this post, but in general you want to buy a 1/2 to 1 full size bigger than normal so that you can wear thick wool socks (or even layer two pairs of socks) inside your snow shoes.Read more: The Best Snow Boots for Women
It's ok to have a little wiggle room as you actually want air to circulate in between your toes, to create pockets of warmth. If your shoes are too tight and air can't flow, you'll actually get cold feet faster!
Living in New York City, I never really need snow boots so I didn't want to spend too much on them and I also was hoping to find a cute pair, ha. If you're buying snow boots for the first time, pack some bandaids just in case!
Or, you can buy crampons to slip over hiking shoes and winter boots for extra grip and traction.
My friend used these on our trip, for extra stability. Norway doesn't really salt the roads so it's common to walk on thick, icy streets. Amazon has affordable stabilizers (also called yaktrax, spikes or traction cleats).
Note: most stores and hotels in Norway ask you to take these off indoors so a good pair of snow boots is still necessary!
6. Wool Socks
Pack thick wool socks for the trip.
It's better to invest in a 3-4 pairs of high quality wool socks that you re-wear rather than pack regular cotton socks. Layering standard cotton ankle socks won't provide as much warmth.
Also, wool is anti microbial, so you can air them out at the end of the day and re-wear a couple times before washing. I usually wore a pair of heat tech socks or leggings and then added a thick wool sock as a double layer.
If you layer your socks as I did, make sure your socks aren't too tight. You want a little bit of room between your toes for air to circulate, so that the socks can create a cozy pocket of warmth!
Like wool sweaters, socks with 100% wool are kind of hard to find. Patagonia and Backcountry have a good selection online and in general, mens winter socks tend to be better made and have more wool content.
7. Ski Pants
If you'll be doing any outdoor activities in Norway, you should pack snow pants. These are also just great for any nasty weather days or long hikes in wet conditions.
We used our ski pants when we went dog sledding. It can get pretty cold when you're outdoors for long periods and going uphill, my dog sled actually overturned (oops) so the ski pants came in handy!
Other popular day trips and activities in Norway include skiing, ice fishing, RIB boat trips, eagle safaris, and reindeer sledding.
You'll also want ski pants if you plan to look for the Northern Lights and will be spending extended time outdoors or in an ice hotel.
Tip: Keep the pant legs over your boots (not tucked in) so that rain or waves run off the pants instead of into your socks.
It's also handy to pack an extra pair of socks on the days you do any excursions. You can also bag up your feet in plastic bags to help them dry quicker.
8. Waterproof Parka or Ski Jacket
It rained and snowed daily on our winter trip. With constant snow flurries, you'll definitely want a well insulated, waterproof jacket.
But if you live somewhere warm and don't have a cold weather jacket, the Amazon coat is a good affordable buy! It's extremely warm, looks stylish, covers your butt and has lots of pockets.Read more: The Best Affordable Winter Jackets (under $100).
9. Knit Hat
A thick gauge knit hat is a must!
If you only have thinner hats, you might want to double up so that wind doesn't rush through. Personally, I think beanies are better in the cold than trapper style hats, as the key feature to keep covered is your ears.
11. Gloves and Mittens
You'll definitely want gloves in a place like Norway. I brought two pairs: a thin pair of North Face e-tips that are ‘tech friendly' to use with phones as well as a thicker set of ski gloves.
But if you have mittens, you should bring those! I always thought of mittens as kids gloves, but Norwegians know that you actually want wool mittens as the space they leave between your fingers creates a cozy pocket of warmth.
A must have! A large blanket scarf can also double as a blanket on the plane (especially if you're flying low cost carrier Norwegian Air).
If you have room and want to have some variety in your photos, pack a couple scarves to change up your look.
When you're wearing mostly the same boots, jacket and pants, a colorful scarf can make your outfits stand out :)
Just in case your hotel has a sauna!
16. Lonely Planet Norway
Of all the guidebooks, I found Lonely Planet to have the most comprehensive guide to Norway. Pack one if you're planing on doing a road trip and want the latest information on small towns, transportation and lodging.
Buy a guide to Lonely Planet Norway on Amazon here.
We tried to go carry on only, but with heavy winter clothing we just couldn't squeeze it all in. In the end, we checked our bags and were glad to have the room to bring full size toiletries, snow pants and camera gear.
Make sure your luggage has sturdy wheels as there's often thick layers of ice on the ground!
14. Packing Cubes
When you're packing so many layers (and likely re-wearing some of the wool pieces), packing cubes are a life saver.
I have a couple different packing cube sets, which comes in handy since each brand makes them in slightly different sizes and configurations. I use these Calpak packing cubes for large bulky items like sweaters; these Eagle Creek ones for base layers and pants; and this Bagail set for smaller items like socks and underwear. If you tend to over pack, Peak Design makes a fantastic set of compression cubes that can fit a ton!
Browse packing cubes on Amazon here.
17. Portable Charger
I find that my phone battery dies extremely fast in the cold. Since I live by my phone (and use it for photos, directions, finding restaurants – you name it!) I brought along several portable chargers to make sure my phone would always be fully charged.
You might also want to bring a car charger if you plan to do a Norway road trip. I often just use Google Maps for directions instead of paying the extra fee to rent a GPS.
Make sure to download a Spotify playlist for the drive!
Buy car chargers and portable chargers on Amazon here.
It gets so windy and chilly in Norway that you'll definitely want to pack a full skincare set.
Bring your normal beauty products but for a heavy duty staple, I recommend the Dove Dermaseries balm. It's gentle enough for sensitive skin and if you put a light layer all over before going to bed, you'll wake up with incredibly hydrated skin.
For body, I love the Old Whaling Co body butters. They're the best body lotions I've ever used and anyone who visits always tries to take the body balms home! I actually ended up leaving both of these products at one of our Norway airbnbs and was so sad…
21. Reusable Water Bottle
Food in Norway in general is expensive but the one item that gave me the most sticker shock? Drinks. A bottle of water or a cup of coffee could easily cost $6 USD.
Since Norwegian tap water is perfectly fine to drink, I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle so you can fill up on your own, for free. Hydro Flask makes great wide mouth water bottles. They're vacuum insulated to keep water cold for double the time!
22. Hiking Gear
Most of the extensive hiking trails are closed in winter, but you can still do short 1 to 2 hour hikes if the weather is nice. And well, a Norwegian's definition of “nice weather” is different than mine haha. If you like hiking, stay prepared and pack a couple extra accessories like:
Photographing the Northern Lights
We were pretty excited to visit Norway and packed a heavy amount of camera equipment. I recommend packing both a standard 24-70mm lens and a 16-35mm wide angle lens, so you can get a variety of landscape shots.
In cold weather, batteries tend to die faster so extra batteries and a power bank don't hurt.
I also tried out the DJI Osmo Pocket, a tiny gimbal, on the trip and it was fantastic at getting buttery smooth footage during our road trip and excursions. Or a GoPro would come in handy too! You can see our complete gear list here.
For shooting the Northern Lights, you'll definitely need a tripod with a remote control in order to capture the lights dancing with a long exposure.
Norwegian Sweaters & Souvenirs
While you can buy Norwegian clothes in the country as a souvenir, prices will be really high. I recommend buying second hand sweaters on Ebay before your trip, so that you get a good deal.
And let's face it, they don't make clothes like they used to! Vintage Norwegian sweaters are higher quality than what you can often find nowadays. In particular, I love the themed sweaters they used to make for the Olympics!
Buy New: Dale of Norway, Devold and Kari Traa Buy Vintage: Dale of Norway, Devold and Kari Traa
Shop Norwegian Clothing
What You Don't Need
Norway has its own currency, the krona. But, you don't really need to exchange any currency or bring cash with you.
Norway is almost entirely a cashless society and we used our credit cards to pay for everything – transportation, gas, food, etc. We were visiting a church and saw a sign that tithes could even be paid online!
If you can, call your bank ahead of time to let them know you'll be abroad. Make sure you have a credit card with a chip and ideally a PIN number (most American banks can give you one for Europe nowadays).
Happy packing! Where in Norway are you headed to and what are you most excited about?
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