How to dress for the Arctic climate

I believe you are reading this because you already know: the Arctic is cold! Living here, we are used to the below 30 in wintertime, however, to be comfortable you need good clothing. The Arctic lifestyle requires us to be outdoors all year and we live by the saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. 

The "three layer principle"

In the Bardufoss Region most winter days have sub-zero temperatures. We often experience longer periods with cold weather (below -20), and in the inlands the temperature occasionally creeps down to -35. 

So how do we dress for this incredibly cold weather? The answer can be summarized in one word: layers. Layer upon layer with high quality clothing. Layered clothing keeps you flexible to regulate your body temperature as your activity level changes through the day. It can best be explained by the “three layer principle”:

Base layer: this is the layer you have closest to your body. The primary purpose of this layer is to transport moist away from your skin and keep you dry. A base layer of thin wool is ideal, especially merino wool. Cotton is not suited as base layer, as it stays moist and cools your skin when you stop exercising. 

Mid layer: this layer should provide insulation and prevent release of body heat. A mid layer made of a fibrous material that keeps the air locked in is ideal, like down or coarse wool. In summer, a light down jacket or a fleece sweater may do the trick, however, when the extreme winter cold sets in a thick down jacket is the only thing that will keep you warm when staying outdoors for hours. Be aware that down jackets are not suited for wet conditions as the down will clump together and eliminate the insulating effect.

Outer layer: to protect you from the elements, wear a windproof and waterproof outer layer. A windstopper or softshell jacket is ideal which will let out excess moisture and keep you dry. In heavy rain a raincoat is recommended. Remember to wear insulated and water repellant pants!

 

Protect your feet from the cold

The shoes you wear can be the factor that makes or breakes your experience. Having cold feet ruining your Arctic experience feels sour! Make sure your winter shoes are insulated with thick soles, and have enough room for thick socks. The layer principle can be adapted to your feet, however, two layers are enough. I recommend a thin inner sock with a thicker outer sock, both made out of wool. If your shoes feel tight with two layers, reduce to one layer to leave room for insulating air. 

If you struggle with cold feet and feel like nothing keeps you warm, try changing your socks to a dry pair after a few hours! Another great alternative is heated insoles. 

Where can I buy suitable clothing on a budget?

Our best tip for Arctic clothes shopping on a budget is to visit a second hand store. You are likely to find everything you need! Most large sports chains like XXL and Sport1 have great options for you who are traveling on a budget, as most winter attire is on sale by the time winter arrives. These stores can be found in most Norwegian towns. 

Two happy snowshoeing guides on a hike to Norway’s National Waterfalls. This was a beautiful winter day with temperatures just below zero.

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