The following female packing list for Greenland was submitted by Lauren. See all packing lists here.
Greenland is a remote and beautiful Arctic destination that boast true wilderness, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality of the Greenlandic people. The country is an enormous landmass. In fact, it is the largest island in the world and is almost entirely covered by an ice sheet.
My experience is centred around the town of Ilulissat in Northwest Greenland, which is known for the UNESCO protected Ilulissat Icefjord. The actively calving glacier (Sermeq Kujalleq) is adjacent to the town and pushes ice of different sizes into the mouth of the fjord. In Ilulissat, not a moment goes by when you’re not a glance away from floating icebergs. The dynamic shapes, sizes, and even colours (in light) make everyone who visits marvel at the natural landscape. The word “Ilulissat” translates to icebergs from Greenlandic.
As an intern I was responsible for researching and monitoring the UNESCO site. During my time there, I was invited to live with a Greenlandic family and learned intimately about their special Inuit culture.
Activities revolving around nature and adventure are most accessible such as hiking, kayaking, and sailing. Many people are also surprised to find out that Greenland offers many experiences around culture, art and gastronomy. The Greenlandic Inuit are the indigenous peoples of Greenland and the standard language is Kalaalisut.
Whether you are going for several days or weeks, there are many things to consider when packing for a truly Arctic adventure. The following Greenland packing list is a guideline that can be adapted for various lengths of stay.
Overall, there is a very casual and down-to-earth dress code everywhere in Greenland. For eating and going out, dressing in outdoor gear with boots is definitely acceptable. People living in Greenland are practical and appearing “too fancy” will make you stick out right away.
If you visit in the summer months, you will be greeted with “Midnight Sun” where the sun stays above the horizon for several months. It won’t be bright all day, you will still feel a sort of sunrise and sunset, with shifting hues throughout the day. But don’t let the sunshine fool you, it doesn’t get particularly warm – with temperatures averaging around 10° C (50° F).
Layers: It is important to note that layers are incredibly important when you’re thinking about what to wear. If you go hiking you will find yourself constantly adjusting your layers and if you sailing in the evening, under the midnight sun, temperature drop drastically to 1-2° C (33-36° F).
Start with a functional base layer (synthetic fibre or wool). If you sweat a lot, I find that synthetic base layers are much more breathable, and often more affordable. If you find yourself generally a cold-adverse person, then a wool base layer provides more warmth.
>>Read about why you should pack quick dry fabrics.
Then, wear a mid-layer. Often I wear hiking pants and a light fleece sweater, and finish it off with a wind and waterproof shell. If you’re spending time exploring in the evening hours, you may need a warm jacket (sandwiched between the fleece and shell). Ask your clothes: “Are you tough, resistant, stretchy and breathable?” If the answer is yes, then pack it!
Wind and rainproof outerwear/warm jacket: Mentioned above, take something that will protect you from wind or unexpected rain and something that will keep you warm for evening adventures. I was wearing a Canada Goose shell as the outermost layer.
Socks: Warm socks (a lot!), preferably some wool socks.
>>Check out our guide to travel socks.
Footwear and Outerwear
Hiking shoes: Boots are not necessary for the summer months, but sturdy and supportive footwear is a must. Hiking shoes that are water resistant and have a hard sole are beneficial because there’s a lot of uneven and occasionally muddy terrain when trekking and hiking. I also find that if you have hiking shoes that cover over the ankle, you will have even more support.
Thin gloves, thick gloves, hat: You will be grateful for extra warm protection for your head and hands!
Insect repellent: During the summer months, unfortunately, pesky mosquitoes and flies can be a problem. Bring strong repellent, but this is one of the items that can be purchased in town.
Mosquito net: Again, especially if you’re planning to spend time trekking and hiking, the mosquitoes can drive you crazy. It looks silly, but purchase just a mosquito cover for your head – they’re often inexpensive at outdoor stores if you buy the basic mosquito net.
Allergy medicine or your best remedy for bites: How do you deal with mosquitoes? I personally use TigerBalm, a common Asian remedy for bites, but bring whatever works to stop the after-itch.
Sunscreen: The midnight sun can really get to you and your skin! Protect yourself by bringing some sunscreen.
Sunglasses: Same goes for your eyes, protect them!
Swimsuit: You can probably leave this at home unless, (a) you’re wild and want to try the ultimate polar dip, or (b) you travel to South Greenland and discover the hot springs in Uunartoq.
Water bottle and Thermos: Comes in handy for a day-trip of any sorts!
Solar Charger: This is obviously not a “must”, by why not capitalize on the never-ending sunshine to recharge your items in a sustainable way?
Snacks: If you have space in your luggage, I recommend bringing some snacks with you. Almost all grocery shelf items are imported from Denmark and if you thought Scandinavian countries were expensive, expect to see some items priced at double. Carry items like chocolate and nuts (if that’s your thing!)
Adapter: Type C/E/F or the common two prong one used in most of Europe, with a standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz.
Money: Currency used is Danish Krone if you can exchange in your home country or Denmark if you fly through that country; however, it is possible to withdraw from the bank or at a hotel at towns such as Ilulissat.
Camera: Icebergs. Ice. Bergs. They are magnificent and incomparable natural art that deserves to be photographed to share with friends and family (tip: take photos in the late evening for different colours in the sky). You will also come across beautiful flora that bloom different colours in the summer months.
>>Check out our best travel photography products roundup.
Tips on the local language
Hello (general greeting) = Aluu
How are you? = Qanoq ippit?
Goodbye/see you = Takuss
Thank you = Qujanaq
Be prepared and do research in advance. In the end, travelling to Greenland may not be easy or cheap – it’s a place that most people only dream of experiencing.
To save money, it’s important to pack the right things! Remember that grocery stores will be much more expensive than back home – although you can still find almost everything in Ilulissat. If you forget outdoor wear, you will still be able to find and purchase in town, but again it might cost you a tad bit more!
But if you do find yourself lucky enough to venture north to the Arctic for days or even weeks, be respectful of the fragile environment and take time to learn about the Greenlandic Inuit culture and you will leave a better steward to protect some of the world’s truly wild places.
About the author: Lauren is a master’s student of tourism management – trying to understand the world through the lens of sustainable and responsible travel. She interested in the unique and diverse relationship between people and their environment and she shares her thoughts on Travel & Muse and Instagram. In January 2018, follow her as she travels Asia-Pacific for half a year with the European Commission.
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