Lapland – A place so mystical and magical, the land of the midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis, home to the Samis and the reindeers and a total dream for me! For all those who don’t know, Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region which also borders Sweden, Russia, Norway and the Baltic Sea. I was lucky enough to visit this piece of heaven last year.
After living in warm weather conditions of Mumbai and Dubai, I was extremely worried about what I would wear during my Arctic escapade because my current wardrobe would have surely left me frozen. So after scouting tons of websites and a couple of frantic calls later I came up with the ultimate packing list for the Arctic. Even though I have been only to Finnish Lapland, this is a list that applies to the entire Arctic Region. So even if you’re going to Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia or Finland you could use this packing list.
Just to make your life easier I have carefully put down the slightest details about the kind of clothes you need and where you can buy them. If you want to enjoy rolling in the snow and watching the northern lights then make sure you are warm head to toe. It’s not a holiday where you can look stylish and pretty, at times you might look like a rucksack or a cotton ball but that’s ok. Most of the outdoor excursions like husky safaris and Northern light tours provide warm clothing and boots but you still need to be prepared. Make sure to check the temperature before hand and dress for the season accordingly. Keep in mind that I travelled in the month of March and it was still quite cold (-8 degrees), so if you’re going in December/January layer up even more. The list below is ideally for temperatures ranging from -5 degrees to -20 degrees Celcius. The key to dressing up in the Arctic is layering. Layer as much as you can!
The Norwegians have a saying –‘’ There is no such thing as bad weather, it’s only bad clothing’’ and I couldn’t agree more.
DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING IN COTTON, NOT EVEN SOCKS!
1st Layer– This is the base layer that regulates your body temperature and keeps you warm. If this goes wrong then you’ll landup freezing completely. This layer shouldn’t be too thick or else you won’t be able to wear anything over it and at the same time shouldn’t be so thin that air passes through. I would recommend thermal pants and a full sleeves thermal tshirt. Keep an extra pair so you could alternate and wear them. Stick to fabrics like wool and polyester.
2nd layer– If its extremely cold then this layer is a must (-7 to -30 degrees Celsius). Just like the first one you could opt for thermals or compression clothing. Basically you have to wear something that’s tight enough to keep the thermals close to your skin. At times I wore 2 thermal layers and sometimes lycra pants and a top (compression gymwear). They were just perfect and were quite thin but stuck to the thermals like a skin.
3rd layer– This layer is supposed to insulate. I highly recommend fleece tops, woollen turtlenecks/sweaters or a thin fleece jacket. For the bottoms you could wear denims or waterproof pants.
4th layer– This is the most important one. Please invest in a good quality thick waterproof and snowproof jacket. They need to have a zip or buttons and could be made of quilted poyster/fur/ goose feather/ fleece etc ..You also need one waterproof jacket. I carried three jackets, one fur, one fleece and one waterproof. You need something that’s really thick and keeps you warm from the inside.
Your first layer has to be thermal. The second layer could be a merino wool tights/ polyster leggings/ fleece stockings or a tight pair of lycra pants, I carried the ones I wear to the gym. These lycra pants keep the thermals close to your skin which keeps you warm. The third layer could be denims (avoid if you want to play in the snow) or fleece lined leggings (Like this). If the weather is really bad or you’re going to be rolling in the snow then you definitely need ski pants/waterproof pants as the fourth layer. These pants are simply amazing, they’re wind proof too, they will keep your inner layers intact and keep you warm even in -10 degrees.
Do not even think of wearing your regular cotton socks. If your feet freeze your holiday is ruined. The first layer should be a thin silk or synthetic sock. The second could be your thermal socks. I wore two pairs of thermal socks daily. The thermal liners are a great addition too.
If you will be using your phone or camera buy the touch screen winter gloves that allow you to operate all tech gears. Thick gloves are essential but they restrict movement so make sure you wear thin fleece gloves/ mittens or the touch screen gloves first and then the thick insulated waterproof snow gloves. (Shop Here- A B C)
Hat or Beanie
They say you can lose 20% of your body heat through your head so remember to cover your ears and head at all times. A woollen cap or beanie is a great choice. You could also use ear muffs. I preferred the woolen hat with ear flaps at all times, it kept me so warm. If its too cold, around -25 degrees the a balaclava is essential. (Shop all the hats here- A B C D)
The most important part of the winter outfit are the boots. With the wrong kind of shoes you will be running indoors with every chance you get, so forget about chasing the northern lights.
To enjoy the Arctic experience you will need high quality insulated snow shoes preferably with a fleece lining. Do not wear your regular leather boots/ gum boots/ rubber boots as they won’t keep you warm. Make sure your boots are sized properly for the number and type of socks you wear while leaving enough room for the air to circulate and to wiggle your toes. I usually wear a size 41 but had to buy a size 43 because of two layers of thermal socks. If the boots are high quality then they will stand the test of time too. For airports and flights carry a pair of sneakers, snow boots will just get too difficult for travel.
You definitely need a crossbag or a small backpack through the trip to keep your wallet, phone, money, gloves etc. I always prefer a crossbag as it’s so easy to remove anything anytime. This bag from Zara is my latest find. It’s two-in-one, a backpack and a crossbar. A must have on every travellers list!
Try carrying a huge backpack because dragging suitcases in the snow can be difficult. If you still prefer your suitcase (just like me) make sure its waterproof and use wooden sleighs to drag them. Remember to pack extremely light. Pushing trolleys in that weather is no fun.
Spas and saunas are a Finnish tradition so make sure to carry a pair of swimsuit.
A thick warm woollen scarf is a must. For activities like husky safari and snowmobile I suggest neck gaiters or short knit scarves that go around your neck (long ones can get stuck somewhere), this is one thing you will be thankful for.
If you really want to enjoy the weather without tweezing your eyes or getting blinded by the super white snow then please do carry sunglasses, preferably metallic ones. If you’re skiing then carry appropriate ski goggles.
Apart from the regular things carry a chapstick, thick moisturiser, all kinds of medicines, balms for muscle aches.
-Extra Batteries: Always remember that the batteries don’t last in the cold, whether its your phone or camera or portable charger. Your phone will die out even without any warning.
-DSLR and Go Pro for some amazing pictures. Make sure to charge your batteries every night.
-Tripod ( A must for capturing the Aurora Borealis)
– Extra Memory Cards
-A warm case for camera and batteries.
– Head Torch for operating the camera during the night ( a must)
– Have multiple spare camera batteries, portable charges, extra phone batteries.
-High-energy snacks like bananas, dates, nuts, biscuits incase you get hungry during the safaris. For emergency night snacks cup noodles work the best.
-Alcohol flask and coffee flask
-Miniatures of Brandy/Cognac/ Vodka
– Packing cubes or Compression bags : Just incase carrying thick jackets is a task. I didn’t need them but if you do you can find them here (Shop here A B)
-First aid kit
WHERE TO SHOP?
-Marks & Spencers – It’s the best place for thermal tops, pants and socks for men and women. Also they have great merino wool stockings for women.
-Brands for Less (Satwa, Dubai)- Fleece tops, waterproof jackets, waterproof pants/ski pants, lycra tops/skins. This store is so cheap and affordable. I picked up most of my 2nd and 3rd layers from here. You will also find great accessories like thermal liners, shoe chains etc.
-Winners Dubai – This is a small thrift store in Bur Dubai just below Al Rais. They stock Candian Goose jackets and North Face jackets for a cheaper price. Not sure about the authenticity but they are definitely cheaper than the store and the jackets serve the purpose.
-Real fur jackets can be shopped from Deira in Dubai. There are tons of Russian stores that sell jackets.
-North Face: This store in Dubai Mall is a great place for snow shoes and insulated jackets. We picked up one pair from here and the othervfrom a local shop in Finland.
– Aldo/ HnM/ Zara- These are great stores for woolen scarves, backpacks, gloves, sunglasses and other essential.
-Online stores: A lot of online stores like Amazon sell amazing compression garments, thick jackets, thermals, snow shoes, hand warmers, shoe chains, fleece jackets and thermal caps.
-Do not wear cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and quickly becomes cooler than warmer, so avoid it in all layers.
-Try buying fabrics like wool, fleece and polyster.
-Do not even think you will survive in your regular winter Jackets. You need real thick fleece/ wool/fur jackets. So anything that looks fancy might not be warm
-Since you will be flying into Helsinki, make sure to put a thick jacket and your shoes in you hand luggage. So It’s easy for you to step out of the airport and look for a cab or a bus.
-Make sure your shoes/bags are always waterproof.
-Don’t even think about heels or boots with heels
Here is the final packing list for 7 days:
-3 sets of Thermals (pants and top)
-3 sets of the 2nd layer
-3 to 4 Fleece or woollen sweater and tops
-2 Thick Insulted Snow Jackets
-1 Waterproof Jacket
-1 pair of Waterproof Pants
-2 Woollen Leggings
-1 pair of denims for the flights
-1 pair of Insulated Snow Shoes
-1 pair of Sneakers for flights
-1 backpack for daily essentials
-2 to 3 woollen beanies
-1 ear muff
-3 woollen scarves
-2 silk mittens/ thin fleece gloves
-2 thick woollen gloves
-1 bathing suit for thermal spas
-4 pairs of thermal socks
-2 pairs of regular woollen/ synthetic socks
-Thermal insoles for shoes
-Shoe chains and hand warmers
-Ski Gear if you plan to Ski
– Tech gear and everything from the miscellaneous list
Here are some outfits ideas :