What Should I Wear When Watching the Northern Lights in the Arctic?

After “where is the best place to see the northern lights?” the question of what to wear when watching the northern lights or visiting the Arctic or Antarctic is the one most  people ask us.

Well the good news is that even if you’ve never been skiing or been on holiday anywhere really cold before, you probably have most of what you need in your cupboard already.

If your northern lights holiday package includes trying some of the outdoor tours or activities such as snowmobiling or dog sledding, then the warm outer clothing, boots and/or helmets you need will be provided by the supplier. These usually consist of an all-in-one padded waterproof overall-type suit, thermal mittens and thick soled, thermal lined boots.

What may surprise you is that Northern Norway isn’t really that cold in Winter. Yes, the temperature can drop at night so you need to be bundled up when seeing the Northern Lights, but in general the climate is both stable and fairly mild. The average winter temperature in and around Tromso is -3 degrees Celsius, nothing we haven’t experienced ourselves here in Ireland.

what to wear in the Arctic

  1. Bring warm and comfortable clothes and shoes.
  2. Remember to layer your clothing so that you can easily regulate your temperature by removing or adding a layer.
  3. The first layer next to your skin should be long-sleeved and long-leg thermal underwear and socks. The thermals can either be 100% wool or similar synthetic quality clothing. You don’t have to spend a fortune on these. The vests and longjohns can usually be picked up for around €10 each in popular high street department stores.
  4. The second layer should consist of a long-sleeved shirt or jumper and a pair of cotton or fleece leggings or trousers (jeans are fine).
  5. The third layer should be a thick jumper (wool or fleece), a pair of lined trousers (preferably windproof and waterproof) and a pair of thick woollen socks. If you have waterproof outer trousers for golf, cycling or salopettes for skiing, these are ideal.
  6. For your final layer add a warm winter jacket, hat, gloves or mittens and a strong pair of winter shoes or boots. Ice-grippers to put over your shoes/boots when outdoors would also be useful – again these can usually be picked up in a discount supermarket in Ireland. If you are going out to hunt and try to photograph the Northern Lights, light-weight gloves are useful, as is a balaclava or scarf to partially cover your face.

And here’s a useful tip. If you don’t have the right outer clothing already there’s a wonderful hire shop in Tromso. We can give you the details so you can pre-book the clothing or you can call in and hire the thick soled boots, mittens and padded body suits on the spot. They also sell the over–shoe ice-grippers to use throughout your stay. They stock all sizes for children and adults. What’s really handy is that if you have an early departure from Tromso you can arrange for them to pick up your hire clothes from your hotel after you lea

If you’re travelling further afield with Hurtigruten, say into the Arctic to Svalbard or to explore Antarctica, then the following checklist of clothing and equipment will be useful … and no, including a swim suit is not a typo! You may want to take an Arctic or Antarctic swim!

All year

  • Binoculars
  • Camera & memory card
  • Trainers
  • Backpack
  • Thick sweater or thin jacket
  • Passport
  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Swim suit
  • Credit card
  • Wind and waterproof jacket

Winter, Spring & Autumn

  • Warm clothes
  • Winter shoes / boots with good soles
  • Crampons
  • Thick winter jacket
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Thick woollen socks
  • Warm scarf
  • Wool or fleece sweater
  • Thermal underwear


  • Fleece sweater (e.g. roll neck jumper)
  • Thin woollen socks
  • Thin water resistant jacket
  • Hiking boots
  • Lights scarf
  • T-shirts
  • Think hat and gloves
  • Long trousers

If you want to go and hunt for the Northern Lights, either on land or at sea, check out our range of suggested holidays and then give Project Travel a call on 01 – 210 8391. We’ll be happy to put together a package just for you.

Image credit: Project Travel, Hurtigruten

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