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Norway in winter is absolutely breathtaking. It’s also so cold that it takes your breath away. But, with the right gear, you’ll be able to focus on the beautiful countryside and not on how cold you feel.
Given that I’m based out of Minneapolis (US), I’m no stranger to frigid temperatures. It’s taken me 8 years of living there to finally figure out how to stay warm while I’m out on my cold weather adventures. Luckily for you, I’m here to share all the juicy details!
For your winter hiking in Norway packing list, be sure to include these must-have items and consider these optional ones.
Must-Have Items for Winter Hiking in Norway
Always check the temperature rating on boots before you purchase them to be sure that they are at least rated for 32F (0C) or below, typical for winter in Norway (though temps can drop much below this!). Be sure to buy them big enough that you can fit 1-2 pairs of socks comfortably. I wore the Columbia Women’s Heavenly Omni-Heat Lace Up boots and absolutely loved them. My feet were comfortable, even after hiking all day, and they had good grip on the ice. This was the only pair of shoes I brought for 8 days in Norway.
If you want more sturdy ankle support, try the Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking boot. My cousin wore these and was very happy with their comfort and warmth.
While they are cute (I have a pair myself), pass on bringing Sorel’s Joan of Arctic boots. Two of my fellow travelers brought them and were not happy with their bulkiness and lack of grip on the ice.
You don’t need to break the bank on a winter jacket. I wore a Calvin Klein packable down coat that I bought for $50 on a discount designer website years ago, similar to this. It’s surprisingly warm for how lightweight it is, but I also don’t get overheated in it. Look for jackets that fully cover your neck and extend down to cover your booty. If you want something more rugged and waterproof, try the Columbia jackets with Omni-Heat, such as their Mighty Lite series. These will also be thin, but warm. Trust me, bulky is not necessarily better.
There are loads of cute hats, but what you want is warmth. Trust me. Luckily, it is possible to find warm hats that also look good! I’ve worn The North Face Cable Minna Beanie for years. I love that it’s lined with fleece around the inside to keep your ears warm, but it’s loose enough that it doesn’t mat down my hair.
This year, I took a gamble on a beanie from Minneapolis-based brand, Askov Finlayson, and absolutely loved it. It’s warm but comes in all sorts of fun colors! If that’s not enough, they are on a mission to “keep the North cold by investing more money fighting climate change each year than it does to run their business.” It’s a no brainer investment in my book.
Having the right socks is such a game-changer when you’re winter hiking. I cannot say enough about how much I love SmartWool Women’s Hike Medium Crew socks. I brought one “other” brand of wool socks with me and that day was the only day my feet were cold.
Gloves & Mittens
Norway in wintertime is one of the most photogenic places I’ve experienced. Nobody’s got time for freezing cold hands when you’re trying to snap photos!
It’s best to have two pairs of gloves or mittens for winter hiking in Norway. First, bring a pair of lightweight touchscreen running gloves like these from The North Face. These are perfect for short hikes or as a base layer under warmer gloves for longer hikes. Second, be sure to bring a pair of gloves or mittens that are waterproof and rated for below freezing temperatures. These should fit over the other pair of gloves you bring, if possible.
I prefer mittens to gloves because I can put a hand warmer packet inside of them to keep my fingers toasty without restricting movement of my fingers. But, go with whatever you’re most comfortable with!
Like an idiot, I arrived to go winter hiking in Norway without crampons. As a result, I actually had to turn back before the summit on Ryten in the Lofoten Islands because it was simply unsafe. Don’t be me.
The great news is that there are very affordable, yet effective, crampons available. Be sure to buy crampons with actual spikes and not the cleats (such as Yaktrax). Cleats are great for walking around town, but not for winter hiking in icy conditions. Also, if you’re unsure of what size to purchase, opt for a smaller size so they don’t slide off of your boots while hiking.
Pro Tip: Crampons are not allowed in carry-on luggage on many airlines. Check regulations before traveling or plan to purchase at your destination if you want to carry-on your luggage.
Neck, Face, and Leg Warmers
Even if your winter jacket covers up your neck, it’s helpful to have something close to your skin to keep you warm. I prefer wearing a Buff as a scarf, and pulling it up to cover my face if needed in windy conditions. There are so many funny colors and designs of Buff’s to choose from! A warmer alternative to a Buff is a balaclava. These are often made of fleece, providing added warmth for your neck and face.
At the last minute, I threw an old pair of legwarmers into my suitcase. These were the real MVP of my winter hiking in Norway. I ended up wearing these everyday!
First Aid Supplies
It’s always a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit with you when hiking. Even if your boots don’t usually give you blisters, they may with the addition of crampons and thick socks. Try wearing sock liners under your wool socks to help prevent blisters. But, I always travel with Compeed blister pads just in case because they stay in place, no matter the conditions.
Other Winter Hiking Packing List Essentials
Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean there isn’t sunshine. Be sure to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare off of the fjords and snow. Similarly, with the sun, cold and wind make sure your lips are taken care of with your favorite lip balm. My must-have for cold weather is Chapstick medicated.
Winter days are so short in Norway! If you want to get the most of your time on the trail, be sure to bring a headlamp (with batteries) so you don’t miss out on a minute of the adventure!
Plan to wear layers for winter hiking in Norway. Each day, I wore a sports bra, a breathable tank top base layer, 1-2 long sleeve breathable layers, and two layers of running tights. Sure, you could get more technical and purchase gear designed for the weather, but being budget-minded I opted to layer up the workout gear I already had at home. Combined with the outwear recommended, I was plenty warm. Bring enough for 3-4 days and plan to do laundry to minimize your packing.
If you choose to invest in some cold weather layers, try Smart Wool. No, I’m not a brand ambassador for them but their clothing is a good investment (and actually fits real women’s bodies). I also really like Patagonia’s Capilene zip ups as a breathable layer. I’ve had mine for more than seven years and still wear it all the time!
Optional Items for Winter Hiking in Norway
Expect winter hiking in Norway to include snowy conditions. Gaiters are a great way to keep your feet dry in deep snow, especially if your boots don’t extend up past your ankles. I did not bring these, but did end up with wet feet on one particularly snowy day of hiking.
A down vest is a nice addition to your selection of layers. For some hikes, it was a bit too warm for my full winter jacket, so I wore a vest instead. It was also a nice extra layer to wear under my winter jacket for added warmth at night. The Patagonia Nano Puff vest is a worthwhile splurge that’ll last you forever! If you’re in the US, I actually bought an off-brand at Costco for $15 and am very happy with it.
You will inevitably get wet while winter hiking in Norway, but hopefully your electronics stay dry. A dry bag is nice to have, especially if you visit during a high precipitation month at the beginning or end of winter. Even on a sunny day of hiking, the wind blew snow into crevices in my bag and I was glad my gear was safe and sound. I use my Osprey 3L dry bag year round. It’s light as a feather and just big enough to hold all my critical electronics.
Walking poles are helpful to keep you stable in icy trail conditions, especially on steep trails. There are so many ultra lightweight options that they’re easy to strap onto your daypack and bring along just in case. These poles from Hiker Hunger are great because they collapse into a carry-on case and each way less than 1/2 lb! Their fliplock handles rough terrain well (I used them on the Inca Trail) and the cork handle withstands nature and sweat!
Pro Tip: Poles are not allowed in carry-on baggage so be prepared to check your bag if you bring them along.
Are You Ready for Winter Hiking in Norway?
With the right gear, you’ll be saying “ooh” and “ahh” instead of “brrr” while hiking Norway in winter! And, you won’t have to break the bank either!
If you’re headed to Norway to chase the Northern Lights, check out this post for all of my tips and tricks to help even beginners photograph them!