While we do offer a packing list on all of our trip dossiers, it is admittedly difficult to know what to take until you have been and experienced it for yourself. So, here are my five top tips for packing for the Arctic!
1. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes…”
If I had a pound for every time I heard this during my time in Finnish Lapland then I would be a very wealthy lady. Something to remember is that, although many of us aren’t accustomed to extreme temperatures, Nordic natives experience them every year. So, while we are baffled that they go about their daily lives so seamlessly in the snowy and freezing conditions, they are equally as bemused that tourists are worried about spending a few nights in the cold.
Their key to preparing for the bitter winter is, of course, wearing the right clothing (which they manage to do in a fashionable manner, something that I haven’t yet mastered).
On that note, my first and most important tip is 'do not fear the cold' - if you pack right then you won’t even feel it.
2. Layers, layers, layers
The easiest way to keep the cold out is by wearing plenty of layers underneath your coat/ thermal overall. Whenever I dressed in preparation for an activity, I wore my thermals as a base, with around 6 thin jumpers/ fleeces over the top. On my legs, I wore a pair of thermals, a couple of pairs of leggings and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. I even layered on my feet, with thin socks under very thick socks. Finally, I pulled my thermal overalls on top of all of this, and once I stepped outside I felt invincible since the cold couldn’t touch me.
Basically, although you may feel a little silly, if you look like the ‘Michelin Man’ then you are probably doing it right!
3. My number one packing essential: feet and hand warmers
After spending a week in Northern Finland, the one thing I wouldn’t return without are feet and hand warmers. Even with mittens and thick socks, toes and thumbs can become cold very easily, and can also become painful and seriously distracting. You don’t want to be out in a once-in-a-lifetime husky safari and find that all you can think about is whether your toes may or may not have turned into ice cubes (they won’t, but it can definitely feel like it!).
Once I hit upon the feet and handwarmer revelation slipping them into my boots and gloves, I never looked back. I would recommend taking your own, although some hotels sell them at reception.
4. Invest in a good coat
Although you will be provided with a thermal winter overall, I think anyone heading to the Arctic needs a good, thick coat, even if it’s just to keep you warm from the airport to your hotel. I found that I didn’t want to wear my thermal overalls all the time during my stay, for example when I was walking to dinner, so it was good to have a big padded parka to wrap myself up in.
This definitely doesn’t need to be an expensive investment. I scrolled through the internet to find the best deals and discovered that TK Maxx (other retailers are available!) offer some great coats with massively reduced prices. I just typed ‘Arctic Parka’ into the search bar and found plenty of choice. I have since found mine great to wear in the UK, for things like dog walks and winter strolls.
5. EVERYTHING is provided, so use it!
If you have booked a trip that states ‘cold weather clothing is provided for the duration’ (which the majority of our trips do), this means that literally everything is provided. Hotels have high-quality winter boots, mittens, hats, thermal overalls, socks, some even provide jumpers – you name it and they’ve got it.
The reason I would encourage people to use the provided clothing rather than your own is because I learned this lesson the hard way. I made the mistake of wearing my own mittens on a husky safari, which ultimately ended with me crippled with pain and unable to drive my sleigh as my hands were so cold! Luckily the guide noticed my pained expression, gave me her gloves and my fingers warmed up within 30 seconds.
Personally, I don’t think you need to go out and buy top branded winter clothing in preparation for your trip - you will be hard-pushed to find better winter gear than the stuff that the hotels provide.
So, for anyone planning their next Arctic adventure, those are my top five tips based on my own experiences in Finnish Lapland. So don’t be scared, wrap up, and embrace the minus temperatures on your next exploration north of the Arctic circle!
Image Credits: Matt Robinson