I will be visiting Sweden in a few weeks—right in the middle of winter.
I will spend a few days in Stockholm, and will also travel north to Abisko National Park where I hope to see the northern lights. This part of Sweden is north of the Arctic Circle, and extremely cold during winter. I am the kind of person that is always cold and dislikes being uncomfortable, so for me to travel to the arctic—in the winter—is the joke of many who know me. I see it as a great opportunity to push myself, and to step outside of my [literal] comfort zone. I am honestly looking forward to the challenge.
Preparation is the key to any visit to an extreme climate, especially cold ones. Thankfully, I am one of those people who reads a lot and likes to compile lists for everything. Over the past month, I’ve collected lots of great products and other things related to traveling in Sweden, and in Swedish Lapland.
While in Sweden I plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, even at night. The majority of my three nights in Abisko will be spent outdoors searching for the northern lights, trekking through the snow, and hopefully not freezing to death. Thankfully, I’ve found quality products that will protect me from the cold, keep me safe and comfortable while outdoors in the Arctic.
So how do you stay warm in the Arctic in winter? Probably the most important thing I can suggest to anyone trying to stay warm in an extreme climate is to layer. Layering is vital to keeping your body warm in the Arctic. The materials you select for each of your layers is also extremely important. For example, cotton is one of the worst materials for the Arctic. It absorbs moisture and remains wet, which makes you feel colder especially if you use it as your base layer (the layer that touches your skin). I suggest avoiding cotton blends as well. Some of the best materials you can use for all of your layers include merino wool, polyester, thinsulate, and other synthetic fillers. I am not a fan of down feathers for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I think it is unnecessarily cruel, especially when there are so many other options. (click here for some cruelty free outerwear options)
You do not need to purchase expensive products to stay warm and comfortable; even inexpensive polyester and polyester blend items can offer excellent warmth when properly layered. I have planned a mix of products for my upcoming visit—from very inexpensive (a few dollars) to somewhat expensive (a few hundred dollars).
I spent the most money on my boots, which are made by Baffin, and offer excellent protection from cold temperatures. The boots I selected are also made of all man-made materials which is very important to me (I do not use leather or other animal products in any way.) Baffin boots were a logical choice for me because my feet are always cold, and if my feet are cold I will be uncomfortable and cranky. So high quality boots were an absolute must for me. The good news is I can use these boots at home in New Jersey as well, or for our ski trips. I’ve already used them a few times and they are exceptionally warm and comfortable. I also purchased high quality winter socks that come up to just below my knees (remember not cotton). I chose these socks, which are not made of any wool (because I don’t use animal products). I tried them out with my Baffin boots during a recent snowstorm here in New Jersey, and felt very comfortable. I will let you know how they work in the Arctic temperatures. (by the way, these are some of my favorite regular socks for non-Arctic temperatures. So comfortable and cute!)
My outer layer is a moderately priced parka (around $150) that has excellent online reviews from verified buyers. I’ve already worn it a few times here in New Jersey (we recently had a few days of snow with -1 F to 15 F temperatures) and found it to be warm and comfortable. My only complaint is I ordered my outer layer one size larger than normal because of all of the additional layers I will be wearing underneath in Sweden. I definitely suggest that you keep this in mind when selecting your outer layer. Here in New Jersey it’s just too big, but I will be able to use it for skiing and other winter sports when I return to the US.
For an excellent guide to the layers and links to recommended products, many of which I also use, please visit the Arctic Clothing Guide. This guide was written about northern Norway, but the conditions will be very similar north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, Finland, Russia, etc.
I will post more in the upcoming weeks, and after my visit to Sweden, I will share what products worked best, and also share tips for ways I could have improved my warmth, comfort, etc.