How to dress for a cold climate

The weather in Norway changes a lot. It can be warm and sunny, and then the next day wind and heavy rain. In the winter it can both rain and snow, and the temperatures can vary from 30 to -20 degrees Celsius depending on where you go and the season. The Norwegians try to layer their clothing so they can put on and off clothes after how the weather changes. However, it doesn’t help to layer up with the wrong type of clothing. If you want to know more about the climate in different places, visit weather statistics and forecasts in yr.

The three-layer principle

To layer up correctly, we use the three-layer principle – following these rules for dressing you can meet the cold climate both warm and dry.

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This is how I would dress for a Norwegian winter, with an inner layer of wool, a thick woollen sweater in the middle and a winter jacket outside to protect against the snow, wind and rain.

Inner layer

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Closest to the body you will wear thin woollen clothes to keep you warm underneath your regular clothes.

The interior layer consists of thin woollen longs and a thin sweater, popularly called woollen underwear by the Norwegians. The great thing about wool is that it keeps you warm even when it is wet. This makes wool perfect when you are outside being active and sweating. If it is not wool, it will get cold after getting wet.

The inner layer usually is only worn in the winter half of the year. However, there is also a lot of people who swear to it when hiking in the summer. Since this type of clothing is very thin, you can wear it under your regular clothes during the winter.

You can find woollen underwear in all shapes, sizes and colours. From the sports versions in strong colours to t-shirts and singlets. Some are blends with other fabrics to increase durability and to let you wash it on a higher temperature, but the higher wool percentage, the warmer!

Mid-layer

When it is cold outside, you want to put on a layer in the middle. This can be a traditional Norwegian woollen sweater or a more modern fleece sweater or a hoodie. The goal of this layer is to keep you warm. In your everyday life, this would be your regular clothing like a jean and a shirt.

Outer layer

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The outer layer should protect you from rain, wind and snow.

This layer is going to protect you against rain and wind. Therefore, you need to make sure it stops the wind, and that it is waterproof. How waterproof you want it to depends on what weather it is, but you do want to own rain clothes that are waterproof since it rains a lot in Norway.

Accessories

Head

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Make sure to put something on the top of your head!

You can lose a lot of heat through your head. Therefore, it is nice to put a good beanie or a trapper hat, some like woollen and others prefer other materials – you choose! Make sure to get something that reaches down and covers your ears to protect you against the cold and the wind. If you are using a helmet, you may need a thinner beanie or a headband underneath.

Neck

Cover your neck with a buff or a good scarf, it protects your neck, and you avoid a sore throat.

Hands

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There are many types of gloves and mittens. Some are waterproof, and some are not, choose after the activity you are doing.

Wear gloves or mittens. Gloves let you move your fingers more, while mittens keep your hands warmer.

In the wintertime, it is often smart to have gloves in a water-resistant material if you are going to touch the snow (snow melts into water). The warmest ones are usually insulated with fleece or wool.

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The thin knitted gloves/mittens are not made to be used alone, use them as an inner glove inside a thicker glove, and you will have warm hands.

Feet

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Thick homemade woollen socks versus new thin woollen socks.

The most important is to keep your feet dry. Woollen socks are the best when you wear it close to your skin. You can choose between the finely knitted socks or the thick socks that you knit yourself. In the summer half, cotton socks work well if you keep your feet dry. Cotton is not warm when wet.

Shoes:

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Make sure that your winter shoes are water resistant and that you got enough space for a thick sock!

Canvas sneakers are comfortable in the summer half – as long as it doesn’t rain. However, it rains A LOT in Norway. You need to have a pair of shoes that are water resistant. Some prefer leather and others like gore-tex – but it pays off to invest in high quality.

In the winter you need winter shoes that are both warm and waterproof since in the winter you can get a horrible mix of snow, ice and water at the same time – and nothing kills the mood as cold wet feet. Some people also buy woollen insoles to put inside their shoes to make them warmer. Norway is covered by ice in the wintertime, and it can be very slippery. Make sure to get shoes that are not smooth underneath to avoid falling on the ice. A lot of people manage to break their laptops falling on their backpacks on the ice. If you want to run or walk comfortably without any risk of falling I recommend buying crampons (in Norwegian they are named brodder), they are cheap, and you can walk safely.

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Crampons help you avoid to slip on the ice, you can buy them cheaply almost anywhere in Norway.

When picking shoes, it is also smart to consider the height of the boot, if you are going to have water or snow up to your knees, you may want to find shoes reaching up to the knee to avoid snow and rain inside the shoes. An alternative to protect against the snow is hiking gaiters that is like an extra pant leg attached to the shoe and reach up to the knee.

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Hiking gaiters can help you avoid getting snow inside your shoes. You use this when you are hiking in deep snow.

Where to get these clothes cheap?

Good quality clothes can be expensive, especially the winter clothes. Here I want to present different options to get the clothes you need without ruining your wallet.

Sports outlets

All over the country, several sports outlets sell outdoor clothes, woollen underwear with a high discount. Here you can do a real bargain on good quality clothes and shoes.

Finn.no

How much I love finn.no! Finn is the ultimate Norwegian web page for buying and selling second-handed, here you can buy close to anything. You can buy a lot of high-quality clothing and shoes for often just 20% of the original price (depending on offer and demand). If the quality is good, there is usually no problem of buying items that are used a little bit, and sometimes the clothes there are not even used.

Second-hand markets

All over Norway, you can find a second-hand market that sells clothing and shoes, the biggest chain is fretex. If you are lucky, you can find a real piece of treasure. This is an excellent spot to look for a traditional Norwegian sweater for a reasonable price.

Knit yourself

If you are feeling a bit crafty, you can always try to knit your own clothes. There are plenty of tutorials on youtube, and some people claim it to have meditative effects.

Wool factory stores

Several places in Norway you can find wool factories who will sell woollen clothing for a decent sum. Some smart places to look is janus and safa.

General tips

Wet = cold

When you are wet, the clothes insulate less. Try your best to keep dry, and wear materials that transport sweat.

Take off clothes when you are moving, to avoid getting sweaty

When you are in high activity level, you produce heat and sweat. To avoid becoming too sweaty, you can take off clothes when you are moving and put them back on when standing still. This way you will prevent your clothes to get wet as well.

How to wash wool so that it doesn’t shrink

Wool is a delicate material if you don’t follow the washing instructions it can shrink or lose some of its effects. Follow the washing instructions carefully and wash it on a wool and silk programme with soap made for wool and silk. Some types of wool can be washed on 40 ⁰C, but if you don’t know wash it on 30 ⁰C. Do not tumble dry.

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