In Norway, “There is no bad weather but only bad clothes”. A popular proverb that makes you wonder about the clothes to bring with you during your stay, whether it is a short or long-term trip. You have to make the right choice. So, Here are the solutions I propose to you.
Before reading this article, I invite you to read “Is it cold in Norway?“
The famous athletes protection against cold : 3-layer rule
One of the most effective solutions to fight intense cold is the 3-layer rule. Mostly used in hiking, it consists of superimposing 3 layers of clothing, each with its own role to protect you.
Important and yet often overlooked, this layer will keep you dry by wicking away the sweat produced by your body (perspiration). It will prevent you from getting cold, as that perspiration will be transmitted to the top layer.
For this purpose, you will need thermal (or technical) underwear, preferably not made with cotton (which dries too slowly). Merino wool is one of the clothing materials that will keep you warmest. Norwegian people swear by this one! Its advantage is its ability to regulate body temperature but also not to retain odours.
2nd layer :
This layer must be able to evacuate the moisture transmitted by the lower layer while having a strong insulating power. A fleece jacket or a thin down jacket will do relatively well. While polar fleece always insulates by being wet, the dry down jacket will keep you much warmer than the dry fleece.
3rd layer :
This one will protect you from the outdoor conditions: wind or rain but also from nature in case of hiking (tree branches etc). These are waterproof or windproof jackets, preferably with a hood (even very important).
If you plan to use your jacket for hiking, find out about its breathability rating, which will once again help to wick away your perspiration. Indeed, the waterproofness of a jacket makes it difficult to evacuate moisture, which, in the long term, if you make considerable effort, could cause you hypothermia.
For the lower part of the body, good quality softshell pants over your technical underwear will do the trick. Tested and approved in Tromsø in the middle of January!
Result: An efficient technique for physical efforts in the cold:
As far as I am concerned, I found the 3-layer principle very powerful when hiking or skiing. I wasn’t cold at all. When I was too hot I usually removed the middle layer and everything was fine!
There are also 3 in 1 jacket that facilitates you to take off or put on clothes layers and can be used all year round!
Also read : Bergen 7 mountains.
Focus on parkas / thick down jackets
You may not want to buy all these clothing layers and only want to invest in a very good jacket that will act as protection and insulation. The waterproof side of your garment will always be the priority. In addition, you can amortize this purchase for the next years and no longer be afraid of cold winters…
First of all, is there a difference between a down jacket and a parka?
The principle is the same: an insulator covered with a more or less impermeable membrane. Where the parka will relatively stand out is usually in its length and style. But really, these two names actually refer to the same garment.
Did you know that?
The closer the seams of a padded down jacket are, the more insulating it will be. Indeed, insulation will be compartmentalized closer together and will act as a barrier against cold air more efficiently.
The insulation: Synthetic or down padding?
Insulators choice is generally made between down and synthetic. The down will have strong insulating power in the dry state and will last you over time, unlike synthetic down which will be easier to clean and will always keep you warm when it’s wet.
However, it is not the only variable to consider. The weight of down and feathers also plays a big part in the warmth of your garment. That latter information will usually be quite difficult to find but to help you, check the thickness of the jacket, which can sometimes tell you a lot about its effectiveness.
The fill power for down, a quality reference?
The CUIN measures the heat-to-weight ratio, which is the ability to retain air in the feather. Basically, remember that the higher the CUIN value is, the better the quality of the down will be. 900 being the best value.
You have to pay special attention to the several standards, a CUIN value given in Europe will be different in America:
700 US = 600 EN.
From, 600 CUINS consider it to be a good quality jacket.
And if you are very cold, why don’t you try the connected and warming parka?
For the mid-season, you may also have heard of the hardshell or softshell jackets which respectively protect you against rain and wind and which are actually the 3rd layer as explained above. While the hardshell is truly a breathable raincoat, the softshell will protect you from the cold with a water-repellent capacity (not abundant rain).
For more information, read: Hardshell vs. softshell jackets: what’s the difference? which one to choose?.
In Bergen, rainy weather prevails, to get an idea of how waterproof a jacket is, check the maximum amount of water it can withstand or opt for the famous K-way.
For the shoes, the most useful would be winter hiking shoes that can be used both in everyday life and during your hikes and trips around the country in winter. You may choose shoes with a non-slip soft rubber outsole that will prevent them from hardening and becoming slippery in freezing temperatures.
What about the accessories?
Don’t forget these accessories, which are still useful!
- Bonnet :Do not neglect it, as it will warm your head and at the same time, considerably reduce heat evacuation through the extremities of your body (if you are very cold on your fingers and feet). Otherwise, put on your hood or both!
- Scarf : also very important not to get sick, by having your neck well covered, you will be much less cold!
- Ski socks: very efficient and important for very low temperatures.
- Gloves: preferably mittens.
Think about the mid-season and hot days!
During my Erasmus in 2018, from April onwards, it began to be so hot that some people regretted not having brought their summer clothes with them. Don’t make that mistake either!
So, I invite you to add in your suitcase:
- A swimsuit to swim in the fjords on sunny days in spring or summer! It can be very useful!
- Sunglasses and sunscreen: very useful for cruises where the sun is strong if the sky is clear but also when hiking, don’t forget them! You’ll also use your sunglasses in winter to minimize sunlight reflected through the snow.
Some tested and approved brands:
The North Face, Jack Wolfskin, Timberland, Superdry, Columbia, Cimalp, Sorel, Salomon, Schott, Canada Goose, Peak Performance, Lafuma, Odlo, L’Aigle, Napapijri.
And if you want to blend in, choose the brands that many Norwegians love to wear:
- Helly Hansen
- Dr. Martens !
Choose a minimal and economical solution!
For tighter budgets, you will find everything you need at Decathlon. Their thermal underwear will also do just fine!
And if you only want to buy the bare minimum, my advice would be to take:
- A good parka;
- Waterproof non-slip shoes;
- Technical underwears;
- Ski gloves or mittens;
- Warm socks;
- A hat and a scarf.
I found it winter to be cold but it wasn’t that freezing, temperatures rarely went below -5°C in Bergen, and when it was lower, it was in rare and exceptional cases.
If you want everything, you can add to your list (but it is not necessary):
- Ski pants (if you plan to travel in the North in winter)
- Rain boots
- Spikes (very useful for hiking in winter, they will prevent you from slipping and making dangerous falls, with snow and ice). You can find some in Norway for about 10 € but from what I have observed if you do a lot of hiking, they will not last, you will have to take a better quality for 300 KR (≈ 30€).
- Sub-gloves: very very useful if you are cold on the extremities
- Ski glasses
Having spent one semester between January and June 2018, I only had to wear my winter clothes between January and March.
Finally, the clothes to wear in Norway will depend on the length of your stay and its period. In winter, choose warm solutions such as a the 3-layer rule, make sure to bring warm shoes, and in mid-season and summer, bring at least one jacket and waterproof shoes and keep technical underwear and a scarf in hand just in case.
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Sources : Erasmus Bergen (my own experience), LaQuotidienne, Helly Hansen, randonnée malin, camptocamp, quechua, hardloop, Le Yeti, altitude-blog, Timberland, Dr.Martens, whattowearonvacation, blog e-ben.fr.