If you’re planning a trip to Norway in the colder months, especially coming from a warmer climate, you’re probably a little nervous about what to wear in Norway in winter.
I’ve just returned from a winter trip to Norway and while I was a bit concerned about the cold, I found that with the right winter clothing and accessories, I was well prepared for the cold in Norway.
And despite packing for temperatures as low as -20 C (though it didn’t get that cold in my time there!), I was able to fit in all in my carry-on backpack due to careful planning and packing and proper layering.
In this post, I’ll explain what I wore in Norway in winter, linking to products either exactly the same as or really similar to what I used.
Your Winter in Norway Packing List
8 Essentials to Pack for Norway in Winter
One of the most important things to pack for Norway in winter is a sturdy pair of crampons. Crampons are basically small spikes or grips that you attach to your winter boot with a stretchy silicone attachment.
You don’t need a super intense-looking mountaineer type crampon, unless of course you’re going mountaineering (which I definitely can’t help you with, as the most activity I got in Norway was dog-sledding).
I used these simple Yaktrax which were really easy to take on and off — essential, as indoor places everywhere in Norway ask you to take off your crampons before entering.
They were also perfectly grippy for icy city streets and I didn’t have any slips while wearing them, walking around in the snow and ice for miles (and the day I went out without them on accident, I definitely noticed the difference!).
Moisturizer and lip balm
Winter in Norway will really dry out your skin, so you’ll definitely want to pack a pretty heavy-duty moisturizer as well as lip protector.
I remembered the former but forgot the latter and by day 2 I had sore, chapped lips and running to the nearest pharmacy to drop $10 on a basic chapstick…
Norway is expensive, and buying little things adds up. Be smarter than I am and bring it from home where you’ll spend less on something better!
It’s highly likely that one of the reasons why you are going to Norway in the winter is to see Tromso’s Northern lights!
In that case, you’ll want to ensure you have a camera that is capable of manual settings – a smartphone won’t do if you want proper photos.
Most importantly, you need to be able to set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I use a Sony A6000 and it works great.
To properly photograph the Northern lights, a travel tripod is absolutely essential.
You need the camera to be still for at least 3-5 seconds to get a decent photograph, and there’s no way you can eliminate camera shake for that long without a tripod.
In the past, I’ve used a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it worked just fine.
Reusable water bottle
The tap water in Norway is drinkable everywhere (and absoutely delicious).
Make sure you bring a reusable water bottle so you don’t spend a fortune on bottled water, which is expensive in Norway.
If you don’t already have one, try this one from Simple Modern.
Your electronics lose battery so much faster in the cold!
Bring a portable charger (I brought two) with the ability to store enough power to complete 4 or 5 charges – it’ll save yourself so many headaches!
Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use (I have this one) — as a blogger who always needs my electronics charged, it hasn’t let me down!
Also remember to bring extra batteries for your camera, especially if photographing the Northern lights!
Adaptor, if necessary
Norway uses the standard European outlet, so bring one if you need it, which you will if you’re coming from the UK, the Americas, or Asia.
Here’s a universal one if you don’t have one or are in the market for a new one.
Yes, I know this isn’t something that you pack, but in my opinion, it is just foolish to leave home without it… especially since the pandemic!
It’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter in the Arctic, as the weather is unpredictable, and you will be protected and reimbursed in case of trip cancellation in addition to illnesses or accidents.
When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!
I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.
For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway, it’s especially important for me to have coverage. Plus, it’s a Norwegian company!
It provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).
When you throw in travel to the Arctic, things get even more unpredictable with the weather, and you’ll be especially glad for the peace of mind!
Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!
What to Wear in Norway in Winter
You can get away with wearing most of your normal winter clothing in Norway as long as you have proper base layers that help insulate you and keep you warm.
You want something moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, which will keep things from getting stinky or uncomfortable when you sweat (which you will if you’re walking around or being active, yes, even in the cold!).
I brought one pair of thermal leggings and one thermal top with me for one week and just aired them out overnight.
I didn’t find I had any issues with odor, but you could bring a second pair of each if you prefer to alternate daily.
Many people swear by wool, but in general I can’t wear wool or I get insanely, tear-off-all-my-skin itchy (though wool socks are fine for me as the skin on my feet is thicker and less sensitive).
If you can tolerate wool then something like these merino wool leggings, paired with a cashmere sweater layer, will serve you very well.
Note: These are especially important if you stay in an ice hotel or Northern Lights hotel in Norway which often have thermal insulated sleeping bags, but you’ll want a warm layer in between you and your sleeping bag!
A warm winter jacket or parka
For walking around in Norway in winter, you’ll want a nice and warm winter jacket (preferably a parka which goes to about mid-thigh) that is water-resistant and hooded, to keep you warm against the snow.
Winter in many parts of coastal Norway like Tromso actually isn’t that cold, with average temperatures around -4° C to 0° C (24° F to 32° F).
However, there is a lot of wind and precipitation, making it feel colder. You want a waterproofed jacket that will protect against snow and even worse, freezing rain.
For my most trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online but is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue.
I loved having a faux fur lined hood to keep snow and rain out of my face and the weatherproof material was much-needed!
Down feathers add a nice layer of warmth that really helps insulate you (though if you want a vegan option, this jacket is similar).
I forgot my North Face parka back in California and I had to replace my winter jacket in Europe, which is why I didn’t bring my North Face jacket with me on this trip.
If you’re buying a winter jacket for the first time and want something really durable, I think North Face makes some of the best winter clothing.
Best of all, their clothing comes with a lifetime fix or replace guarantee, so if you ever have any issues, you can send it in and they will fix it for you or replace it in the event it can’t be fixed.
Snow boots & wool socks
Norway in winter is extremely snowy and you will regret it if you visit Norway in anything other than proper snow boots!
I wore a pair of snow boots by Quechua which I bought from Decathlon, which I can’t find online.
Here is a similar boot by Sorel, a trusted winter brand that’s beloved in Norway and beyond (here’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I recommend sizing about half a size up to account for thick winter socks.
But no matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks.
I invested in these Smartwool socks after some hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did.
You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is naturally odor-absorbent and antimicrobial.
I was fine with two pairs of socks over a week, which I alternated daily.
And even though I generally can’t tolerate wool because of itchiness, I don’t mind them on my feet as the skin there is much thicker and less sensitive.
For a scarf, the bigger and more wrappable, the better!
I brought two simple scarves, both from H&M, similar to this one to add a bit of variety to my photos since I’d be wearing the same jacket every day.
When it comes to variety, the same advice goes with hats!
I actually brought three different colors because I could add some variety to photos without adding much heft to my backpack.
I picked bright colors like red and yellow so they’d stand out against the white snow.
I also picked ones with cute pom poms or details (since I knew I’d have some photos of me facing away from the camera), but you can also make your own yarn pom poms!
As for gloves, I recommend having two pairs!
However, if you’ll just be in the city and aren’t doing any winter activities in Tromso, this isn’t necessary.
For the rest of your clothing, you can pretty much wear whatever you are used to wearing in winter.
If you have all the above accessories, you’ll be good with a layer of jeans and a sweater.
For me, for one week, I bought three sweaters and two pairs of jeans and it was perfectly fine with all my other winter clothing listed above!
Pretty self-explanatory. I brought eight pairs for seven days and two bras.
But you probably know your underwear needs better than I do!
Bathing suit + flip flops (optional)
If staying at a hotel with a pool or sauna (you lucky duck), be sure to bring these!
Note that some saunas don’t actually allow you to wear swimwear, so do check on any posted signage before hand.
Toiletries for Norway in Winter
You’ll want to pack all your usual toiletries, which obviously vary depending on the person. Here’s what I brought:
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Body wash
- Dry shampoo
- Moisturizer & lip balm
What to Pack Everything In
Having seen my friend struggle with a giant suitcase throughout Arctic Sweden… I strongly recommend that you bring a well-designed travel backpack instead of a suitcase.
Sure, it’s possible to travel with a suitcase… but you will likely regret it when you end up trying to drag your bag through freshly laid snow, getting all your clothes wet in the process.
Take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Helsinki in November.
Travel Backpack (carry on size or check-in size)
While rolling suitcases can be great for short weekend trips, they are not the best for Norway in winter.
There will likely be snow and ice on the ground, and you will have to drag, not roll, your suitcase, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a rolling suitcase. Not fun.
You’re way better off with a backpack that you can easily carry. I am a light packer, so my Tortuga Setout Backpack is perfect for me.
This is the exact backpack I brought with me on my trip to Norway, and it had plenty of room for more than I brought.
This bag is a spacious 45L and has three main compartments.
There is one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc.
There’s also one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside and a strap for something like a jacket or yoga mat.
Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute the weight evenly across your body.
Does it pass airline requirements? Technically, it’s a little larger, but I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair, Norwegian, and Wizzair flights at this point.
Here’s what I do: if I’m flying on a stricter airline like Ryanair or Wizzair, I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag).
This adds about $5 onto my total flight cost instead of the $50 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would.
Despite traveling for two years, I haven’t personally used a bigger backpack, but I’ve heard excellent things about the Osprey system.
If I ever were to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s what I would choose. But I’m cheap and hate paying baggage fees, even at the expense of having less clothing options, so your mileage may vary!
If you haven’t used packing cubes before, get ready for a travel revolution.
These super helpful zippable bags are a miracle when it comes to organizing your clothing, keeping everything from bursting out every time you dare open your backpack.
I personally use these eBags packing cubes and love them to the ends of the earth.
If you are traveling Norway in winter, you will get your clothing wet, dirty, and covered in snow constantly.
This means you’ll have to change your clothes a decent amount. A laundry bag will come in handy at keeping dirty stuff separated from the clean.
Like packing cubes, you don’t need anything fancy at all. I do like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical and like cute stuff.
Hanging toiletry bag
Packing for Norway in winter has special toiletry concerns (hint: bring ALL the moisturizer) and I recommend using something like this hanging toiletry bag to organize your various shampoos, moisturizers, make-up, etc.
It has a good number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space.
It’s the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed – a miracle for travelers like myself who want to bring their entire bathroom with them when they travel (but don’t want to pay check-in fees).
You’ll also want a smaller day bag or purse for carrying your day-to-day odds and ends, like your wallet, lip protector, phone, camera, etc.
I used a simple foldable backpack like this one which easily fits in another bag.
I packed it up folded away for the plane so I didn’t have to carry two bags, but then I used it during my day-to-day travels in Norway.
You may prefer to carry a purse or a larger backpack depending on your needs – this is just what worked for me!
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Allison Green is a former educator turned travel blogger. She holds a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her educational background and her experience traveling to 60+ countries to encourage thoughtful travel experiences that both educate and entertain. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.