I’ll be heading off to Norway and Sweden in just under a week! The excitement is palpable. We’ve pulled down the suitcases and started to fill it with stuff – gifts and goodies for the friends we are seeing during a stopover in London, guidebooks and gee gaws – but the most important stuff is what we’ll bring with us to keep our fingers and toes from falling off during a dog sled ride, or during the hours spent outdoors watching the Northern Lights, or wandering the cobble-stoned streets of Gamla Stan. This is how I’m planning to layer up:
The first layer is the most important – get it right and it’ll help you retain heat. Wear cotton, and you’ll be shivering for hours. Nothing beats a technical thermal layer for heat retention. I had some thin Uniqlo Heattech tops, but I felt like these weren’t heavy duty enough for a wintry March in Scandinavia, so I stocked up on Patagonia’s Capilene 3 midweight baselayers - tops and bottoms. These wick away moisture, which will help keep me dry and warm even in the snow or rain.
Wool or cashmere
The middle layer/s should be insulation – warm woolens or cashmere tops will work. I’m bringing three of my favourite cashmere jumpers, a thin fleece, and two down-filled jackets, one thicker than the other, with a hood, to cope with changeable temperatures. I plan to layer these as much or as little as I need to.
Goretex jacket and ski pants
It doesn’t matter how many layers you have on, if you get wet, you won’t be able to keep warm, so a weather-proof outer layer is key. To keep rain off, I splurged on a triple layer Goretex jacket, with a hood. This will help keep me dry, cut out the wind and retain heat. To allow for space underneath for the many layers I will be wearing, I bought this in a slightly larger size. I’m borrowing a quality pair of ski pants from my mate in London as I was advised against the thinner, snowboard style of pants.
Finger and toes are usually the first to feel the cold – so I’m bringing a pair of Thinsulate gloves as a baselayer, then throwing on a pair of ski gloves. The additional base layer has the advantage of dexterity, which I will require for fiddling around with my camera settings in the cold! I’m also bringing along a lambswool scarf, a Thinsulate beanie plus an alpaca double layer beanie and a heavyweight wool sock along with a thinner, moisture-wicking liner sock. I’m also bringing two pairs of reusable pocket warmers – they’ll be a comfort in the cold!
I was advised by a friend to bring snowboots; however I doubt I would ever use them again if I bought them, and snowboots are not cheap! Instead I’m going to wing it in my ankle high hiking boots, which has a medium thick rubber sole – but I’m amping it up with 3M’s Thinsulate Thermal Insoles and some icegrips for better traction on snow and ice.
What else should I be bringing to withstand the temperatures? Any other suggestions on how to beat the cold while on an aurora hunt or while walking on cobblestones around a Northern city?