This female packing list for Lapland has been prepared by Kristin Repsher. See all packing list posts here.
I am not a winter person. I was just short of my 18th birthday the first time I saw snow actually stick to the ground, and moving to Brisbane didn’t improve my chances of seeing that happen again. Needless to say, when I started planning my trip to Lapland in winter, I was most concerned about how I would stay warm in sub-Arctic temperatures. With only a few modifications to my initial packing list, I made it through 28 days in temperatures as low as -38C! This is what I recommend for surviving those long nights of northern lights watching in Scandinavia’s far north.
Owning a blog called A Pair of Boots and a Backpack, it’s not a surprise that I would recommend taking a backpack to Lapland. I made this choice after traveling in Lapland with a rolling bag last year and finding it the most annoying thing in the world. The bag dug in to any uncleared snow and it seemed twice as heavy when I tried to pull it out. Plus, it slipped all over the place on ice.
My Osprey Farpoint 55 worked very well on this trip — it was large enough for my clothes and tripod and had a detachable daypack for carrying during the day (since I often needed to carry extra layers and gear). Plus, its straps zipped away to keep them from getting damaged in the baggage holds on buses.
>>Read another traveler’s review of the Osprey Farpoint 55 here.
No cotton: Cotton absorbs moisture and quickly becomes a fabric that makes you colder rather than warmer. Avoid it in all of your layers if you possibly can.
4 layers of thermals: Thermal underwear is one of the most important things you’ll take with you. I had at least two layers on top and bottom at all times — a layer of 200GSM merino wool and a layer of polypropylene. Wool is the best fabric you can get, since it helps to regulate your temperature more (keeping you warm in winter and cooler in summer) and doesn’t smell. I recommend bringing double the number you plan to wear, since you’ll still want to wear thermals when one set is being washed!
2 bras: I recommend supportive over cute, since it’ll be hidden under a pile of other clothing and you’ll be doing a lot of activities that cause a lot of bounce, like snowmobiling and dogsledding.
5 pairs of underwear: Just because you don’t want to wash them every night, but it’ll be easy enough to wash them and hang them on a radiator to dry for the next morning.
1-2 shirts: I wanted to feel like I was wearing something other than thermals so I took a T-shirt and a V-neck sweater to wear over them.
2-3 midlayers: Warm fabrics without the bulk are important here so you don’t end up feeling like the Michelin man. I wore multiple zip-up wool sweaters (one around 160GSM, one 320GSM) and an ExOfficio ChicaCool hoodie.
Jacket: Preferably one that’s rated at least 10,000/10,000 (meaning it is breathable yet waterproof). My jacket was thicker than a simple outer shell, but it wasn’t thick enough for the nights where it was below -20°. I really wished I had a down jacket because they are incredibly warm yet compact down a huge amount for packing.
Fleece pants & ski pants: I felt that the combination of fleece pants & waterproof/breathable (again, 10,000/10,000 rated) ski pants worked much better than jeans. I was much warmer and the ski pants had elastic that sealed around my boots to stop snow from getting in.
5 pairs of thick socks: I didn’t want to try re-wearing socks since I didn’t want them to start losing their insulation, so I took as many mid-weight SmartWool socks as I could fit.
Swimsuit: I forgot mine and had to buy another one at H&M. You won’t want to pass up sitting in that hot tub with a view because you forgot yours, and it’s occasionally handy for mixed-gender saunas as well.
Protection from the Elements
Gore-tex gloves/mittens with glove liners: Gore-tex is one of the warmest, most waterproof fabrics you can find for winter gear. It comes with a big price premium, but even in -33°, my Gore-tex mittens kept my hands quite warm. I chose mittens because they keep your hands warmer than gloves, since warm air can circulate across your entire hand.
I really recommend buying a pair of gloves that comes with glove liners (or alternatively, buying a thin pair of gloves that fits inside the larger ones), especially if you’re planning on taking photos. Thick gloves (and especially mittens) make it impossible to work any controls on your camera, and you don’t want to be continuously exposing your hands to the cold air to get your focus right.
As a side note, if you plan on using your smartphone a lot (see electronics below for more details on that), you can buy special gloves with little nubs on the thumb and index finger that let you work the screen. I have a pair of Mountain Designs OnTips that work exactly as advertised; Amazon has a lot of cheaper alternatives.
Fleece neck gaiter: A scarf is handy, and I wore mine for the majority of my trip for a bit of extra warmth. However, a fleece neck gaiter is an absolute necessity. Not only does it let you keep your cheeks, nose, and mouth warm while doing things like dogsledding or snowmobiling, but it also helps you breathe during the cold nights. I found that, at any temperature below -20°, I would go outside and immediately start coughing from the harsh, dry air; wearing the fleece over your mouth helps to humidify the air and therefore avoid the coughing fits.
Beanie: You’ll be wearing this all the time, so make sure you’re not allergic to the material it’s made of (since it’s a hard choice when your head itches but taking your beanie off will make you lose heat quicker than anything else). I had a thick woolen beanie with extra reinforcement around the ears to help stop wind from getting through, but I also acquired an Arctic hat with ear flaps since I often found that my ears were cold no matter how much I pulled down the beanie.
Sunglasses: You can actually experience snow blindness if you don’t have sunglasses — and even if you don’t, you’ll end up walking around with your eyes squeezed nearly shut to cope with the glare of the sun on the ubiquitous snow.
Good, broken in winter boots: Of everything you take to Lapland, this one is the most crucial to get right. These are the only shoes you’ll be wearing outside, so you’ll want to make sure they are comfortable, have good grip, and are warm enough to keep your toes from freezing during a night outside watching for the northern lights (nearly all other organised outdoor activities will provide thermal overalls & boots).
The most important thing you can do to ensure a warm pair of boots is to buy them a size larger than your normal shoes. This way, you can wear thick socks and still have extra room inside the boot for warm air to circulate. Also, do not believe the ratings on boots — even if it says you’ll stay warm down to -40C, it’s unlikely that that’s the case. I adored my Columbia Bugaboot Plus XTMs, but my toes started to get cold when it was below -20° — which was way off the -65° that the label said they were rated to.
While my boots didn’t have them, many Sorels offer removable liners that you can pull out and dry at the end of the day.
Yaktrax: After breaking my leg falling on ice last year, I don’t know if I could have coped in some of the cities without these. While many towns had snowy sidewalks and roads that my boots could grip quite easily, cities like Kiruna and Tromsø often had very slippery ice that you couldn’t avoid. The Yaktrax, which are little contraptions made of bungee cords wrapped in spring-like steel, give that additional grip to stop you from uncontrollably sliding down the sidewalk. It’s a bit annoying that you can’t wear them on non-icy surfaces since it will damage the steel/break the bungee cords (the latter happened to one of mine), but it’s worth having to take them on and off a few times.
Flip flops: Even though I didn’t stay in many hostels, these flip flops came in quite handy for trips to saunas and hot tubs. You wouldn’t want to put wet feet in your boots because the boots are likely to stay wet; at the same time, running through the snow to a sauna is a good way to not feel your feet for the next 15 minutes (I know, I tried it).
Non-water-based hand lotion: My hands were covered in cracks by the time I left Lapland. Why? Because the only lotion I took with me was water-based, and water-based lotion accelerates frostbite. That meant I could only use it right before bed — when I knew I wouldn’t be going out to watch northern lights anymore. Had I had other lotion, I could have used it much more regularly and avoided the painful cracks.
On a side note to do with frostbite — you shouldn’t shower or sauna within 2 hours of spending time outdoors. Both of these strip your skin of necessary oils it needs to help insulate so you’ll feel the cold much more quickly.
Chapstick: The dry air will destroy your lips.
No makeup: I’m not big on makeup at the best of times, but it’s really not necessary in Lapland. It’s more likely to be an annoyance when it gets all over your scarves/neck gaiters, etc.
Shampoo/conditioner/body wash: Since there’s not many hostels, most places you stay in will provide this for you. It’s good to have a small stash just in case though.
Razor: Although getting a wax beforehand is a good idea, since shaving is one more thing that dries out your skin.
Hair ties: It’s possible to keep your hair under control with a beanie, but with the number of outdoor activities you’ll be doing, you’ll probably want to tie up your hair and keep it out of your way.
Brush: After all those activities, your hair will be a mess.
Prescriptions/other medication: Most towns will have small pharmacies (sometimes as part of the supermarket), but it’s good to travel with any medicines you might need. I recommend adding some Sudafed and Benadryl to your kit to knock out any sniffles you might get.
Batteries, batteries, batteries: Batteries just don’t last in the cold — some people say their lifetime can be up to 5x shorter. My iPhone often died without warning when it said there was still 50% battery left, and even when warmed it wouldn’t turn back on until I’d plugged it in. I’d definitely consider taking a portable power pack like the Anker Astro if I went back.
You’ll need to make sure you have multiple spare camera batteries as well. When they die, you can put them in an inside pocket of your coat and warm them back up to get a bit more juice out of them.
Camera: This goes without saying. Cameras with a bulb mode (or a manual mode that lets you adjust shutter speed) are important for taking northern lights photos, and you’ll want something very portable to take on excursions (since shooting with an SLR while driving a dogsled isn’t really an option). Most activities have somewhere to store your big camera so you can get it out at stopping points, but I liked having my GoPro so I could capture the action hands-free.
Memory cards: Take a lot of memory with you (or alternatively, a device that you can transfer photos on to). I took more photos in Lapland than I’ve taken in nearly every other place I’ve been.
Tripod: If you want to get any photos of the northern lights, you’ll have to take a tripod, otherwise you risk blurry photos (or none at all, since the lights aren’t usually as bright as they appear on camera). A cheap one (like this one from Velbon) can do, although having a tripod with legs that aren’t attached to each other (like this one from Manfrotto) is helpful since the surfaces you’ll be shooting on will be uneven (and you won’t know how uneven until the tripod sinks into the snow). I use a carbon fibre tripod for its light weight.
If your tripod has a detachable head, I recommend putting it in the freezer and testing how maneuverable it is in cold weather. This would have saved me having to buy a new tripod after mine got jammed.
Power adapters & chargers: Norway, Sweden, and Finland use the European two-pronged plug. You’ll want a few so you can make sure your phone and camera batteries are always charged to start the day.
>>Check out our ultimate travel photography packing list here.
Kindle: You’ll spend a lot of time in the evenings expectantly waiting for the northern lights to come out. Reading on your Kindle is a good way to pass the time without having bulky books taking up space in your bag.
Headlamp: If you plan on going out on your own to look for the northern lights, even if it’s just behind your hotel, it’s much easier to not fall into a massive snowdrift if you can see where you’re going.
Handwarmers: Having these in the toes of your boots or in your pockets can feel like a lifesaver.
>> See some of Kristin’s other guest posts on her favorite travel sandals and her Travelon bag.
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You can follow Kristin’s travels on her blog, A Pair of Boots and a Backpack, and on Twitter and Facebook.
*All photos, except for title photo, by Kristin Repsher.
Book a Viator Tour Before You Go
Lapland Husky Sled Ride from Yllas – $121.01*
Glide through the snow courtesy of eager husky dogs on this invigorating 30-minute (approx.) sled ride from Yllas. Head for a welcoming husky farm and enjoy a sled ride across the snow-clad landscapes. Rush around forests, fells and fields and enjoy the all-encompassing silence on route. Cap everything off with a hot berry juice while you listen to fun husky stories beside the campfire.
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You have no idea how happy I was to find you have a packing list for Lapland!!! I just booked my trip there for February 2014 with my boyfriend and was looking all over the internet for what to pack clothing wise. It gets cold there! Thank goodness I was going through my travel pins on Pinterest, revisited your site and here was the Lapland List!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! =)
Hi Monica — so glad I could help you with your packing for Lapland. It definitely gets very cold there! The coldest temperature I had was -38ºC, a temperature I couldn’t even comprehend before I went there. Whereabouts are you going in Lapland? I know you’ll have a fantastic time. Say hi to the huskies and the northern lights for me 🙂
Wow that really is cold! I just want to make sure I have all the proper gear to stay warm so I enjoy the great outdoors! We are doing Lapland part of a tour package so we will be spending time in Saariselka, Kakslauttanen, Rovaniemi and Kemi.
Hi Monica! Sorry, I seemed to miss your reply when you posted it. Anyway, I hope you’re getting excited about your trip to Lapland and that you’ve started to gather the gear you’ll need. You’ll have a fantastic trip — I went to all four of the places on your tour and loved them all (I’ve written more about them on my site if you’re interested as well). Kakslauttanen was definitely my favourite — the experience of sleeping in a glass igloo under the northern lights was just amazing.
Hello Kristin! No worries and I’m glad to hear back from you. Even more great news to see you were at all those places! I will be checking out your site for more information as well. If I have any more questions I will definitely let you know 🙂
Hi I am booked to get married in Lapland at the end of the year and found this list very helpful thank you very much I am so looking forward to it what is the chances of catching the northern lights? Is it a slim chance? X
Hi Debbie, congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Lapland would be an amazing place to get married! What time of year is your wedding? The lights start to be visible around September there and can be seen until the beginning of April. During the other times of the year, they are still there, but the sky is just too bright for them to be seen with the naked eye.
The sun is actually at a solar maximum at the moment, so the chances of seeing the northern lights are a bit higher this year than normal, but good viewing conditions still require both good weather and good solar weather. I definitely recommend keeping an eye on http://www.spaceweather.com, where they post forecasts and predictions of solar storms hitting; on the sidebar, you can see an up-to-date map of where in Europe the aurora should be visible. I pretty much lived on that site while I was in Lapland!
Also, if you can, I’d recommend getting out of the cities if at all possible to give yourself the best chance of seeing them — the less light pollution, the better.
Let me know if you need any more details on the northern lights or anything else related to Lapland, and good luck with all the planning!
I was just in Finnish Lapland about 8 days ago!
Very cool! I bet it was very different to how I experienced it. I’d love to go back to Lapland to experience the midnight sun. Someday!
Fantastic list. We were in Finnish Lapland last year for a lodge/sledding/camping/ice hotel trip and I wish I had read this beforehand. We did pretty well packing, but I would have gotten larger boots, more socks and brought extra batteries both for phone and camera and water based lotions. Nonetheless, it was one of the places we’ve been in the world that I found most alien and wonderful. Great blog, thank you!
Hi Ashley! Packing for Lapland is definitely a learning experience — just hopefully not a learning experience while you’re freezing out in the cold! It sounds like you had a fantastic trip anyway. Did you actually camp out in the snow? I couldn’t bring myself to do that — I stayed in a Sami tent one night, but I at least got a reindeer skin to sleep on. Did you stay at the Icehotel as well? I really enjoyed it — it’s definitely a one-night-only experience though!
hi, im going to iceland in march to see the northern lights, im looking forward to it, would you say your packing for lapland is similar to where i am going?
Hi Wendy, good to hear you’re going to make it over to Iceland — it will be a fantastic trip! I believe most of the items on this list will be relevant for going to Iceland as well. I believe the climate in Iceland would be similar to Arctic Norway, in that it doesn’t get quite as cold as the interior of Lapland due to its proximity to the sea and is a bit more unpredictable.
I am going to Norway for 8 days in July of 2016. Going on a tour and seeing some of the fjords. Do you think I need thermals? Boots? Any help would be great. BTW, I am traveling carry on only, with a personal item.
Hi Cassie! You will be fine going to Fjord Norway in July without thermals or boots. I was there in August and, while it was an abnormally cold and rainy summer, I still only wore a couple of layers. I think the most crucial layer for that time of year is actually a raincoat, since it can be sunny one minute and pouring rain the next there.
Hiking boots were handy for going on walks like the popular ones to Trolltunga, Preikestolen, or Kjerag, but they are definitely not essential. I’d recommend having shoes that are comfortable for walking decent distances in though.
Carla Abanes says
i will be travelling to abisko this december 2015 and am really happy i came across this post! this is a big help for me. as i will be coming from singapore which is you know summer all year round, how do i dress up so that when the plane lands in kiruna I’m already prepared for that below 0 temp? do you change your shoes from casual shoes to snow boots shoes? i don’t want to wear my thermal wears just yet when leaving from singapore so do i bring it in my hand carried bag? just curious. thanks in advance for replying
Hi Carla! That’s fantastic that you’re going to Abisko soon. It’s been a really strong aurora season so far and I’ve seen tons of good images come out of Abisko. I hope it continues that way for your trip as well.
As for what to wear, I totally understand not wanting to wear thermals when you are in Singapore! I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being in all that humidity with thermals on, haha. I would definitely recommend carrying on a pair of thermals as well as your winter coat — not only will that save you space in your luggage but coats usually don’t get counted against your carry on allowance.
I have always worn my big winter boots on the plane for three reasons: (1) saving space in my luggage, and (2) ensuring I’ll have them when I get there. If you do take them on board, you’ll need something else (like flip flops) to wear once you get on the plane. However, if you don’t take them on the plane, make sure you are wearing a completely closed shoe, as you will likely have to walk across the tarmac in snow to get from the plane to the terminal in Kiruna. Plus, the last thing you would want is for your luggage to get misplaced on the way and then not having any decent footwear to get to your hotel in!
Please let me know if you have any more questions before your trip. I’m always happy to chat about Lapland! I’ve also written a ‘Guide to Lapland and Northern Norway in Winter,’ which is available through my blog.
Wow, thank you so so much for this! I am trying to find exactly these infos for months now. I am forever grateful 🙂
That’s fantastic Janina — I’m so glad that this post filled a gap in information that you weren’t able to find elsewhere! Please let me know if you have any other questions about travelling to Lapland in winter, or check out my guidebook to the region at http://www.winterinlapland.com.
Thank you! Some fantastic tips & some I hadn’t considered at all- (eg the number & type of layers required) coming from Sydney. I’m also travelling with my two little kids to see santa so I want to make sure I take only what’s required but enough that we’re comfortable- a fine balancing act! When you mentioned cotton does that include jeans?
Hi Michaela! I’m glad to hear that the post was helpful for planning your trip. I know how you feel, since I had no idea what to plan for prior to my trip since the climate is nothing like the one in Brisbane!
As for jeans, I would avoid them if at all possible. They are not as warm as other materials, and if they get wet (from being in the snow, etc), they take way too long to try.
Sorry, typo there — I meant that they take “way too long to dry.”
Yanie Kamaruddin says
Greetings from Malaysia!
I am travelling to Rovaniemi in 3 weeks time. Will be arriving Rovaniemi on 24th morning, since its Christmas Eve most of hotels in Rovaniemi are fully booked, hence we will be staying in Ranua for one night. Would it be possible if you could suggest best activities we could do while in Ranua.
Thanks in advance for replying 😉
Hi Yanie, great to hear that you’ll be headed to Rovaniemi soon! Christmas is a great time of year to be there (even though it is more crowded then, as you noticed with the hotel situation). Unfortunately I haven’t been to Ranua so I don’t have a lot of activity suggestions. However, a lot of people have raved to me about the zoo, which has both reindeer and polar bears (among many other animals). Alternatively, if you have your own transport you could visit Kemi for the day and head out to sea on an icebreaker ship. It’s a unique experience that I really enjoyed!
Thank youuuuu! Great help!
No worries Suzi 🙂 Glad I could help!
Gomathy Mohan says
We will be travelling to Lapland in 3 days time. Kind of scary…We land Helsinki and stay overnight, after that get to Ivalo and stay in an igloo. Later we get to a hotel in Kakslautannen.. After that Ice hotel in Kemi.
Got your views on dressing.. Great stuff. I guess getting to the igloo we will leave our bags in the hotel , but do you think a suitcase will be a bother? We will of course take a back pack to be able to take some toiletries and the camera.. We are from India are are accustomed to 40 centigrade!,
We are travelling in a large group of 16 though.
Look forward to your comments
I am leaving for Rovaniemi in a few weeks to visit my grandparents with my father and am freaking out about the packing already. Being a 15year old I tend to worry more than I should haha.
I will absolutely use your list like a bible but I was wondering if you had any advice on what to wear for the plane ride over. I will be travelling for over 31 hours and I cannot even comprehend this number! I am very willing to compromise style for warmth and comfort and also ease so any advice you have will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much!
G’day from Australia, I am heading to Lapland in late September/early october this year. I’ll spending time in both kakslauttanen and kiruna. Do you have any suggestions for that time of year? I have the merino thermals ready to go, but footwear and jackets are my big question. Coming from Australia, I need to keep weight and bulk down in my pack.
Thanks for your lists – they are ridiculously helpful!
Ranjana Naharoy says
Hi, I am relieved to find the ultimate packing list to travel to the Lapland in winter. I am fro. Sydney and would like to know whether there is a one stop shop to buy most of the clothing/footware or do I need to visit different stores for differed kind of warm gear. Please advise.
Thanks so much
RanjanaPs. I am going with my sister to abistko in the 1st wk of Jan !
Hi Ranjana! So sorry — I missed your comment and it seems you have already gone on your trip. I hope you were able to find the gear you needed and that you had a fantastic trip to the Arctic north!
Going on my honeymoon to Levi this weekend and this list has been a life saver! Had no idea where to start with packing before reading this, so thank your! I’m hoping we won’t need all the stuff, I get very warm very quickly, but I imagine if it hits as low as -38 as it did for you that we’ll definitely be pleased to have it all. Going for a night in the snow hotel and a bit anxious about the -5 room temps, but sure we’ll love it! Also planned for snowmobiles, reindeer safari and a few evening northern lights hunting. Very exciting! Fingers crossed for the lights, the forecasts are good for next week, so hopefully we’ll see them, it’s been a dream of ours to see them for a long time! What better excuse than a honeymoon? Very excited.
Hi Selina! I hope you had a fantastic trip and that the temperatures were not too cold in Levi. It looks like the northern lights have been fantastic up north as well so I hope you got to see them a few times!
Ann Ibrahim says
Hi Kristin.. Thank you for such a great sharing. I am going to lap land on 11/3/2017
Your tips really helps me to organise my packing
I am from Malaysia. I have been to Europe n Japan n had experience the winter season there but Lapland is bit different I guess. Yes for your tips
Hi Ann! Glad to hear the packing list has been helpful. Have a great time in Lapland — it will definitely be a trip to remember!
Alison Milner says
Thanks for this list. My partner are doing a 6 week European trip xmas 2019/2020 and are doing a 5 day Lapland trip. Coming from Australia any places online we can get gear in 12 months time.
Paula Laitinen says
Re: the swimsuits – you might want to stress that if the swimsuit has been worn in a chlorinated pool, it MUST be washed thoroughly before it can be used in the sauna. Otherwise, the chlorine might evaporate in the heat and poison both the wearer and their fellow sauna-goers. That’s why most Finnish saunas forbid swimsuits and only permit towels for modesty, instead.