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 up to -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 simple chapstick… so 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 the magical 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) so 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).
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.
Yes, I know this isn’t something that you pack, but in my opinion, it is just foolish to leave home without it. It’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter as the weather is unpredictable, and you will be protected and reimbursed in case of trip cancellation in addition to illnesses or accidents. I recommend buying travel insurance as far in advance as you can, as it’s always cheaper that way.
I always use World Nomads when I travel. The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, the excess/deductible is very low, and it covers a wide range of activities and events.
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 wore 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). If you can tolerate wool then something like these merino wool leggings, paired with a cashmere sweater layer, will serve you very well.
These are especially important if you stay in an ice hotel or Northern Lights hotel in Norway which often have thermal insulated sleeping bags!
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.
While 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), 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).
On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love.
The only reason I didn’t bring it with me to Norway is because I left it in California. I haven’t moved it over to Bulgaria where I’m living yet, so I had to replace my winter jacket, but if you’re buying a winter jacket for the first time and want something durable, I think North Face makes some of the best winter clothing (and 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).
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, but 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.
Same with hats – I actually brought three different colors because I could add some variety to photos without adding much in my backpack.
As for gloves, I recommend having two pairs, one lightweight pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves and one more heavy pair of waterproof gloves for things like dog-sledding and playing in the snow (though if you’ll just be in the cities, 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 personally, for one week, I bought three sweaters and two pairs of jeans and it was perfectly fine.
Pretty self-explanatory. I brought eight pairs for seven days and two bras. 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!
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 Finland 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 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in, plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside.
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 perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.
Does it pass airline requirements? 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.
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), which 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 Sweden in winter, you will get your clothing wet, dirty, and covered in snow constantly, and 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 girly girl travelers like myself who want to bring their entire vanity 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 I packed up folded away for the plane so I didn’t have to carry two bags, but then used 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 San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, she has also lived in Prague, Sofia, and New York City.