Clothing basics for adventures in the Nordics
Hiking and trekking in the natural surroundings and wilderness areas of the Nordic Countries is certainly more enjoyable with the right outdoor clothing and footwear. The starting point for choosing the right gear comes with these keywords: items have to qualify on waterproof and windproof, furthermore the fabrics should be highly breathable and quick-drying. Lightweight could be added but this is certainly less important as one of the primary features. And cotton is out.
The outdoors dress code is layers
It is fitting that the layering system, admittedly something like an outdoors mantra, is stressed by everyone – it simply works best. And of course does the relevance of layering your clothing apply to all seasons and various weather conditions, albeit that in summer your layers are a few only or less insulating. Be prepared however, also in the warmer months of the year, to face changing weather – the items you are wearing and those that are in the backpack should get you through an unexpected storm and heavy rainfall, as well as shield you from the sun. See also our Packing list for day tours for an overview on what to bring along.
How to start?
Heading to the Nordic Countries means you will have to bring appropriate clothing, shops are scarce in the wilderness… How much you will spend on this outdoor wardrobe is totally up to you, it may be everything between a few hundred or more than a (few) thousand.
One way of building your outdoor wardrobe is deciding what style you like most. There are manufacturers who design their clothing according to more traditional styles, while others offer brands that are more technical, modern and fashionable. Another way of looking at it starts with the question which items will be used in daily life as well, during those weeks or months when you are impatiently waiting for the moment to depart again. You may decide that an expensive shell or a premium down jacket is worth its price because you will wear it downtown too. Or that some stretchy fleece jackets are suitable for running as well as backpacking trips. A multitude of options exists, so start from your budget, decide what style you like and which items will be used at different moments. Last but not least: do you want clothing that will last (and you will therefore wear for several years) or are you more into a yearly update? And although all items are important, do not compromise on footwear and the outer shell.
Starting from scratch
As an example, here is an outdoor wardrobe list including all the basics. It is designed to fit the needs for most seasons, taking summer as the starting point. Obviously, for winter trekking and hiking you have to add clothing specially designed for those weather conditions. But don’t be fooled by the season or the calendar. As summer temperatures in the Nordic Countries may vary from below zero at night (when you are in mountainous regions) to 30 degrees Celsius in the afternoon, clever packing is a must. Also expect to be in areas that mosquitoes call their homeland. Dress to protect yourself, failure to do so could mean more stings than imagined. Shorts or skirts are fine only when it is hot and insects have a day off.
Basic clothing (the warm weather essentials – summer)
- base layer/underwear: in summer opt for quickly drying and moisture transporting synthetic fabrics or a very light merino wool, in colder conditions choose wool
- hiking pants
- short sleeve shirt
- long sleeve shirt
- second layer: fleece pullover/hoody/jacket
- outer layer: waterproof and windproof jacket (a light shell)
- rain pants (depending on the area)
- insulation layer: light synthetic or down jacket
- hiking shoes or boots
- hiking socks: to avoid blisters and to add comfort, also wear a pair of liner socks under your hiking socks
- a light neck gaiter (buff)/scarf/headband or a cap (a hat is optional)
- base layer pants (for in the tent)
- camp shoes (soft shoes that have no sole or only a very light one, also for in the tent)
- gaiters (protecting hiking boots and pants from getting overly wet and dirty, applies especially in spring)
Basic clothing (the cold weather essentials – winter)
- base layer/underwear: long underwear top and long johns from merino wool
- second or mid layer: a light to medium weight fleece or ‘real’ fleece, meaning (again) wool
- third/insulating layer: down or synthetic jacket, preferably a light one because it has to fit over the mid layer and under your outer shell jacket
- fourth layer/outer shell: the last layer is the one that has to protect you from wind, water (snow) and cold
- a balaclava, a neck gaiter, a warm hat (anything that covers your ears also)
- mittens or gloves, and again: liners will do the trick
- a vest: wool, fleece or a down filled garment
- an insulating skirt: synthetic or down filled, to wear over your pants
- knee gaiters and wrist gaiters, for extra warmth
Wear and tear will tell what works and why all in good time, according to your preferences!