Are you planning a trip to Lofoten in winter and wondering what kind of weather you can expect and what to pack? Packing for a winter trip to Lofoten might be challenging.
Especially if you’re not from a cold climate, it can be overwhelming thinking about everything you might need. Morevoer, choosing the wrong clothes can make for a miserable trip and ruin all the fun you have planned – whether that’s northern lights chasing, dog sledding, or just heading out on a winter hike.
This article will help to answer all your questions about what to pack for Lofoten in winter. In addition, we include our personal experience and examples of clothes and equipment we use.
To make it clear, by winter in Lofoten, we don’t mean just the typical winter months of December, January, and February.
The winter up here in the north is much longer, so you will have use for winter clothes in October, November, March, and April too. Moreover, most items from the winter packing list are handy even during summer.
This article focuses on Lofoten, but you can also use these tips as an inspiration for winter packing for Tromsø or northern Norway, Sweden, Iceland, or Finland.
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Believe it or not, winter weather in Lofoten isn’t all that bad! From December through March, the average temperature is 0°C (32 °F). However, the main thing that makes winter in Lofoten challenging is the wind chill!
The wind in Lofoten during winter blows at an average speed of 10m/s (22.3 mph/36 kph), but on some stormy days, there can be wind gusts with windspeed up to 25m/s (56 mph/90 kph.) Remember that on windy days the “feels like” temperature is different from the actual air temperature shown on a weather forecast.
The weather in Lofoten is very local, and it changes quickly. For example, you can have sunny weather on the south side around Reine and thick fog and unpleasant wind 20 km further north in Fredvang. Moreover, the sun might be shining when you start hiking up a mountain, but it can quickly become foggy, or it might start to rain, snow or hail.
Norwegians have a proverb: There’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothing! So don’t be afraid of chilly temperatures and the cold Arctic wind. It’s easy for anyone to stay warm and dry during a winter trip to Lofoten.
Just follow these simple rules and use our packing list.
DRESS IN LAYERS
KEEP YOUR FEET WARM
PRACTICALITY OVER FASHION
Dressing in layers is the ultimate answer to all your questions regarding how to dress for Lofoten/Norway in winter. The layer system is designed to let you modify your clothing for all kinds of temperatures and weather conditions, with warm air generated by your body trapped between the layers to keep them warm.
In other words, you can easily remove, for example, your woolen sweatshirt (middle layer) when you are too warm.
Dressing for winter in northern Norway starts with thermal underwear. Wearing thermal underwear is essential, as it is the main isolating layer that keeps you warm.
We talked earlier about the Norwegian proverb: There’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothing! (Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær).
So let me introduce you to other Norwegian words of wisdom: “Ull er gull” – “wool is gold”.
The inner layer will be in direct contact with your skin, so it should be comfortable and soft. On top of that it has to wick the perspiration away from your body
Do you know how woolen clothes keep our bodies warm? One of the main reasons wool keeps you warm is that it doesn’t pull heat away from your body. Instead, because wool fibers have natural kinks and bends, they trap air to keep your body warm.
It gets better; not only does the wool keep your body warm. It is also capable of generating heat on its own. When a wool garment gets wet, water gets trapped in the wool’s porous fibers.
The mechanisms behind this natural process of water adsorption and evaporation can get pretty complicated. It all happens thanks to the combination of wool’s cellular structure, biophysical qualities, and chemical properties.
Overall, the important thing for you to know is this:
Your wool garments will keep you dry and comfortable by pulling moisture away from your skin and allowing the moisture to evaporate quickly.
We recommend you bring a complete set of woolen underwear (long shirt and long trousers) no matter the time of year you visit Lofoten. During the winter, we recommend you to bring two sets of woolen underwear. This layer can also double as pajamas, especially if you plan a visit to an Ice hotel.
(Note that there is no Ice hotel located in Lofoten, there is one in Kiruna, Sweden, and Tamok close to Tromsø.)
A lot of people tend to sway away from wool over concerns of the garment not being comfortable and being a little scratchy.
You may remember your woolen sweaters from when you were a child that was itchy and uncomfortable. However, spinning methods have improved quite a bit since back in the day, meaning nowadays knits are of much better quality.
Fine merino wool is soft and gentle on the skin through its natural properties and advanced knitting processes that it’s even suitable for underwear.
Kari Traa for Women
Most Norwegian women own at least one set of Kari Traa wool underwear. Kari Traa is a former Norwegian Olympic freestyle skier who got fed up with boring ski clothes and ugly base layers and came up with her own fashion brand.
Kari Traa is mainly known for her rose wool underwear design, which took woolen underwear from being something girls would hide under their ski coats to something they happily show off.
Devold for Men
When it comes to men’s clothes, the favorite brand in Norway is Devold, which is one of Europe’s oldest sportswear brands.
Since the foundation of the Devold factory in 1853, Devold has equipped famous polar explorers, hard-working fishermen, farmers, forestry workers, skiers, and everyone loving the Norwegian outdoors with woolens.
On top of the thermal underwear and underneath your jacket or parka, you will want mid-layer(s). Depending on the expected temperatures and your own comfort levels, you may want to pack one or more mid-layers.
The mid-layer preserves heat and transports moisture and excess heat from the body.
This layer should be looser-fitting and more voluminous than your underwear because you need to form an air gap between your underwear and outerwear. Go for flexibility – the idea is that you add or remove these layers depending on how warm you feel.
A typical option for mid layers is a woolen sweatshirt, light down jacket or fleece hoodie.
The perfect thing about a woolen sweatshirt, apart from the unique qualities of wool mentioned above, is that you barely ever have to wash it.
Instead, you simply air it out. It is, therefore, sufficient to bring only one woolen sweatshirt for your whole stay and save space in the luggage.
During winter, you will often wear more than one mid-layer on top half of your body. Moreover, If you are active, you will find yourself constantly adjusting the number of mid-layers you are wearing. So you can go for a thinner fleece hoodie and a light down jacket or woolen sweatshirt on top.
For your lower body, you should chose not too tight outdoor pants, ideally fleece-lined or insulated. (You can have a look on these insulated pants (women / men).
The outer layer is a matter of personal taste. Some Norwegians wear parkas; others wear sports down jackets or hardshell jackets based on the temperature, weather, and occasion. The outer layer is often referred to as the “shell” as it provides the ultimate protection against elements.
Parka is a long padded coat with a hood, often lined with fur or faux fur. This kind of garment is a staple of Inuit clothing, traditionally made from caribou or seal skin.
Parkas were later adopted by the US military, for pilots and soldiers stationed in cold climates, with their oversized fit enabling them to be worn over bulky uniforms.
Personally, neither one of us owns a parka. We are not city types; we spend most of our free time in nature.
So instead of a parka, we wear layers of woolen clothes with a hardshell or down jacket on top.
Occasionaly, for example while chasing the northern lights, we add an extra warm down jacket on top.
When choosing between a parka and a winter jacket, you need to ask yourself what kind of vacation you are planning.
Will you be mostly walking in a town?
Will you be standing on a beach waiting in the cold for northern lights to show up?
Or will you be active and go hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing?
For example, you usually do not move much when waiting for northern lights or photographing them. In this case, a parka that covers your entire backside and runs down to the upper thighs or knees will keep you warm and comfortable.
The downside of parkas? They are bigger, bulkier, and heavier to carry if you pack them into the backcountry. Also, parkas are generally not as breathable as traditional winter jackets.
When hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing, you’ll most commonly wear a shell jacket and use the down jacket for extra warmth only when you stop, rest, or are in camp (you’ll overheat quickly while moving and wearing one). Consider buying a more oversized fitting garment that allows you to throw it over all your other layers.
When hiking, snowshoeing, or ski touring in winter, we wear windproof yet highly breathable softshell pants with woolen underwear beneath.
Of course, jeans are an option for strolling in town if that’s how you roll, but they can be very uncomfortable if wet. Moreover, they dry very slowly.
If you do not plan to participate in any outdoor activity, then fleece-lined winter leggings and a parka look fashionable and should keep you warm.
If you participate in organized activities, the activity providers will most likely offer you winter overalls/thermal packs and proper boots, especially for dog sledding, northern lights chasing, or snowmobile trips.
However, we would advise you to inquire about it in advance.
Warm waterproof shoes are a must if you want to survive winter in northern Norway.
From the kids in kindergarten to the guides working in the Arctic, most Norwegians wear Sorrel shoes.
They’re warm, durable, stylish, and wallet-friendly.
The Sorel boots offer decent overall traction on most surfaces, but when conditions get icy, it’s a good idea to bring microspikes.
We recommend you bring an extra pair of shoes in addition to your winter boots. That way, you can have something more comfy/casual when going to a restaurant or at your hotel.
With any pair of winter boots, your socks matter a lot, as does your activity level. In other words, if you’re standing still in the cold for extended periods, it will be tough to keep your feet warm.
Sometimes, especially during the long cold nights when chasing the northern lights, it is a good idea to wear two pairs of socks. Go for warm woolen socks.
If you can not get woolen socks in your home country, get them the first day you arrive in Norway. There is a wide selection of woolen socks in any tourist shop.
When packing for a trip to Lofoten in winter, put practicality over fashion.
Personally, we don’t care much about how we look when we go hiking outside; what matters to us is that we are warm and comfortable.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look great in photos but always put your comfort first.
Norway is super laid back, and a pair of jeans, a woolen T-shirt or sweater, and winter boots will suffice for a nice outfit for eating out.
That being said, don’t forget the rule about the layers and unless you walk to the restaurant straight from your car, use woolen tights or leggings underneath your jeans.
OUR TIPS FOR THE MOST POPULAR WINTER TOURS IN LOFOTEN:
✅ Lip Balm and Moisturizer
✅ European Power Adaptor
✅ Reflective Bands
Unless you plan on traveling to Lofoten during the mørketid when the sun does not rise over the horizon, it is wise to pack some shades.
You can definitely get sunburned in Lofoten if you aren’t careful. Do you think it is unnecessary to use sunscreen in the winter because the sun is low above the horizon or because it is hidden behind clouds?
Unfortunately, unless you’re in a pitch-black windowless room, those pesky rays can reach through clouds and still cause skin damage. Moreover, snow reflects sunlight right back at you, and you’re at serious risk of sunburn, even in winter.
Remember to reapply sunscreen regularly in the mountains, as wind and harsh elements quickly wear it away.
The freezing temperatures and harsh wind will dry out your skin, so you will want to pack a moisturizer and lip protector.
A sturdy pair of microspikes is one of the most essential things to pack/buy for Lofoten/Norway in winter. Microspikes are cleats that you attach to your winter boot with a stretchy silicone attachment that will help you walk on slippery/icy surfaces.
You will also be able to buy these in Norway in shops like Fjellsport, Biltema or Jula. They are called “brodder” or “pigger.”
Depending on when you will travel, you might have 0 – 12 hours of daylight. A headlamp is, therefore, quite handy, especially if you want to photograph the northern lights using a tripod.
In addition, if you plan to take pictures of yourself in front of the northern lights, you will need a flashlight or headlamp.
Be aware that the light from your headlamp or flashlight can ruin other people’s photos. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of where you’re pointing your lamp and ensure you aren’t directing it toward anyone else.
If you want to check how many daylight hours you will have during your trip, check the page timeanddate.
There is something cozy about sipping hot tea or coffee while waiting for the northern lights to show or making a small picnic on your road trip. A hot drink from a thermos will keep you warm and your thirst at bay.
We bring this 900 ml thermos filled with hot water on our trips.
The battery discharges quickly when you use your mobile phone or camera outdoors on a cold day. Carry your phone or spare batteries in an interior jacket pocket close to your body. That way, your body heat will keep them warm.
If you want to be sure that your phone does not discharge right after the northern lights finally pop up, bring along a power bank.
OUR TIPS FOR THE MOST POPULAR WINTER ACTIVITIES IN TROMSØ:
Many travelers start or finish their winter trip to Lofoten in Tromsø. We spent six months living in this beautiful gateway to the Arctic, so here are our suggestions for the tours you should add to your Tromsø bucket list.
The most important thing is to keep yourself warm and comfortable. If you get cold, move around, do a few squats, or dance around. Bring a thermos with hot tea/coffee or find a cozy café and warm yourself up with a cup of hot chocolate.
And that’s it! We hope you found our guide to packing for Lofoten in winter helpful. Let us know you if this article about what to pack for Lofoten in winter has helped you in the comments below. Or let us know if you have any more questions or tips!
Also, if you’ve been to northern Norway, swing by our Facebook group and post your pictures. We would love to share in your journey.