I worked as a dog sledding guide in Swedish Lapland for 3 months. The coldest temperature I experienced was -34°C. I learnt a lot about how to keep warm in such extreme conditions so learn from me what to pack for Lapland. You must really embrace the mentality of ‘there is no such thing as bad weather there is just bad clothing’.
Here is my advice of what to pack to keep warm is such cold temperatures. Although you might not experience the cold as much as -30°C it is best to be prepared for this just in case. These temperatures can genuinely get dangerous with risk of frostbite so netter to not take a risk. I spent most of my days outside so here is what I learnt.
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Thermal base layers should be the first on your list of what to pack for Lapland! The higher percentage merino wool the better. This can often end up being quite costly, so it really depends on your budget the brand you choose. I personally bought icebreaker thermals from an outdoor shop in the UK. If you are tight on a budget, decathlon is always a great option for outdoor gear. Make sure to have base layers for top and bottom.
A nice big cosy jumper! 1 or 2 depending on the temperature. I used to wear a work fleece and a big woollen jumper. My boss bought me a lovely woollen jumper from Devold of Norway and I really noticed the difference with the high quality wool.
Ski Trousers and Coat
After the base layers of course, a warm coat is needed on your list of what to pack for Lapland. Ski trousers are also needed to keep your legs warm.
Are you sensing a theme, more percentage merino wool the better. Don’t be tempted to layer your socks too much as this could cause your feet to sweat and make them colder in the long run, 1 pair of high quality should be enough. If you are driving to an outdoor activity or have been inside for a long time before going outside, your feet may sweat in the warmth so bring a change of socks for when you start the activity.
Hiking boots or snow boots should be enough for walking around town and exploring. For long periods outside, high quality snow boots are definitely the best option. You may be able to hire these from activity providers or hotels. If you are buying shoes, make sure they are both warm and have good grip.
Hat, Balaclava and Buff
In really cold temperatures, try to avoid all exposed skin especially neck, ears and nose. On particularly cold days, I used to wear a woollen balaclava, a neck buff and a think hat. Especially for snowmobiling outings, try and cover all of your face.
If you are doing outdoor activities such as dog sledding or snowmobiling the company will often provide extra gear (check with each one). Often you will be given a snowsuit to be put on top of everything you are wearing and then a change of shoes.
If you are visiting in the winter time, even in the polar night (when the sun does not come above the horizon) the days are short. A good head torch will be a great addition to get around.
Sunglasses or Ski goggles
The winter sun is quite low in the sky so sunglasses are useful to stop the glare. If you are planning to go snowmobiling ski goggles are good to take but not a must.
Camera gear with extra batteries
The cold temperatures are not good for battery performance. If you bring a camera it is a good idea to have back up batteries as the battery life is significantly shorter in the cold. Bring a power bank for your mobile phone to keep that going to take lots of lovely photos.
For night time shots a tripod is a great way to get beautiful northern lights pictures as you need long exposure to capture them properly.
Seems like a crazy idea but a sauna and spa is a great way to warm up after a cold day.
Heat packs either reusable or disposable sound great in principle but do have their negatives. If your hands or feet get particularly warm they could sweat and then once the pack runs out it will be doubly cold. If you choose to go dog sledding be careful not to drop them near a dog as the dog could mistake it for a toy and it could harm a dog.
I personally always travel with a backpack. I find it easier than a wheeled suitcase especially in Lapland when there is lots of snow on the ground.
After long times outside in the cold, there is nothing quite like sitting by the fire with a warm drink. Pack some cosy clothes for chilling out inside.
Extra tips for the cold
There are a few extra things than just what to pack for Lapland to keep you warm. It seems silly, but it’s best not to shower in the morning. The extra moisture that stays on your skin is just extra to freeze. The same applies to face creams, try to avoid putting cream on in the morning.