I didn’t really know what to expect when I booked my last-minute ticket to Bergen. I was traveling there between Christmas and New Year’s, taking advantage of a few free days off of work. And while I was excited about exploring a new—and very cool—city, I knew I needed to figure out the packing sitch for Bergen in winter.
So after all the research I did and then learnings from my trip, here’s my packing list for Bergen. I’ll give you all the info on what types of fabrics will keep you warm and dry, what brands I’ve found to be best, and what you should leave at home.
If you’re visiting at a different time of year, this post on packing for Iceland in summer might help!
Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
Packing principles for Bergen, Norway, in winter
The good news is that for this trip, I’d already done Arctic Circle Norway (Tromsø) in winter as well as Iceland in summer, so I had a lot of the basics I’d need. And mostly, the foundational principles are the same:
- Rain and wind are two major factors in Bergen, so it bears more similarity to how I packed for Iceland than an Arctic winter trip (where intense cold is your biggest foe).
- Bergen is one of the rainiest places in Europe, so you have to think waterproof or water-resistant fabrics—and things that dry quickly. It’s less likely that you’ll be dealing with snow.
- Speaking of fabrics, getting the right fabric or material (and then brand!) can make all the difference
- Merino wool and silk are your friends for key bottom-layer pieces like thermals (merino wool is the more cost-effective of the two). Fleece-lined leggings are also great, in my experience.
- Synthetic materials can be good at times, particularly if they’re designed for active activities (so they wick away moisture). Synthetic materials will be your go-to for most water-resistant pieces.
- Find brands that consistently get good reviews, and go big there. A few of the big ones I’ve had great luck with are Minus33, Icebreaker, Arcteryx, and then some good pieces from REI, Backcountry.com, North Face, Columbia, etc.
- Figure out which items are worth splurging on (e.g. a 100% merino wool top), then which you can be cheap about (extra layers on top).
- Avoid cotton and jeans! They both take forever to dry, and are super uncomfortable when wet.
- Be prepared for a whole year’s worth of weather in a day. The weather is super variable and can change in a moment. One day I went from sideways 30+ mph winds in the morning to rain and sleet midday to blue skies in the evening. Layers are KEY.
- Make sure you love your coat, because you’ll be wearing it in pictures 80%+ of the time…so it doesn’t really matter too much how cute the rest of your clothes are.
And just for the record, I *did* pack everything in just a carry-on and personal item! It’s totally doable for a winter trip. My all-time fave carry-on holds a ton, and you can just carry your coat on the plane.
Packing list for Bergen in winter
A really good coat is critical
Before I went to Tromsø during Polar Night, I did TONS of research on the best winter coats for extreme cold and ended up buying this Helly Hansen one. I LOOOOOVVVVEEE this coat! Not only is it insanely warm and comfy, but somehow I can fit whatever I need under it and it doesn’t make me look like I weigh 400 pounds. The color is so fun (I got a bright red) and looks great in photos as well…note, the colors they offer change over time.
I’ve affectionately called this my “Norway coat” for a few years, because I’d only ever worn it in Norway (on two separate trips), but last winter it also came in super handy on a business trip to Toronto during the Polar Vortex. Any coat that can keep you nice and toasty—and cute, to boot—in -27 degree F weather is a keeper in my book!
If the Helly Hansen one isn’t for you, this post shows a couple more that I really love.
It’s funny how in just a couple years, fleece-lined leggings have become a staple in my life. I use them for my daily cold-weather runs at home, and they come on almost every winter trip with me. For Bergen in winter, I often wore them with a sweater and then my big coat over it…and definitely wasn’t too cold!
These are three of my favorites—the first is more active, like running tights. The other two are nice, though cheaper and so will pill fairly quickly. They’re also pretty lightweight and a synthetic material so they dry pretty quickly when they get wet (key in rainy Bergen).
A few sweaters & maybe 1 pair of jeans
Pair those fleece-lined leggings. Quality isn’t important. Layering is a good idea too.
Good gloves with touchscreen capabilities
I accidentally discovered these merino wool Icebreakers a while back and they’re my everyday cold weather running gloves back home. They’re fairly thin, so you can still use your hands well, including quite impressive touchscreen technology for using a phone or other touchscreen device.
Hat and fleece headband
There are a couple things that can work well here, depending on your preferences. I love a good fleece headband, like the one below (I also have an old one from Old Navy I adore). Fits well under my coat’s hood (which was up most of the time).
I also brought this cute and super warm/comfy hat, which looks great in pictures.
I would have liked earmuffs too…on my list to find, because I would have loved them in Chicago recently too.
A few different kinds of shoes
I brought flats for the flight, and then tennis shoes and booties for walking around Bergen, and boots for the Norway in a Nutshell day.
I wore these cute booties in Bergen, and I think that for Bergen in winter something like this is a good idea. The great thing about them is they’re comfy, warm, and have a good grip on the rubber sole. The only down side for ME specifically was that I have super messed up ankles and I twisted my ankle twice on the cobblestones in these.
I also had a soft, slouchy, warm pair of boots my mom had given me that I wore on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. I could have survived without them, but they did a good job of keeping me warm. If you’re tight on suitcase space you could live without these.
Wool or at least wool-blend socks
I’ve recently fallen in love with the Balenga running socks below…super soft and cushion-y. If you need true no-shows, these Smartwool No-Show socks are also another great thin layer. Perfect for a third layer in the Arctic, or even keeping your feet cool and dry in the desert (I wore them in Jordan as well!).
If you’re going more the hiking boot route, then I recommend these Minus33 socks.
Scarf and/or neck gaiter
Due to the wind, chill, and rain that defines Bergen in winter, you want to protect your neck and chest. I have found that neck gaiters work better for me than regular scarves, and this one from Minus33 is my true love. I’ve been known to pull it up over my mouth and/or nose if it’s super cold or windy. Just make sure to get the merino wool one, not fleece—fleece won’t wick the moisture away from your sweat or breath, so gets really cold once it’s wet.
Daypack/backpack or purse
I ended up going with my trusty old cross-body purse because I wasn’t planning to do any hiking or real activity at all.
I almost brought this Osprey Celeste backpack, because it’s the only one I have. It’s good quality and holds quite a bit of stuff. If you’re doing anything active, a backpack is definitely your friend.
External battery charger
Trust me, you’ll need it (phone batter on 17% is no one’s friend…). I use this Anker one and love it!
Things I didn’t end up needing or using:
- Jacket…I brought a great waterproof jacket from North Face, but it wasn’t warm enough and didn’t cover my butt, so didn’t use at all.
- Curling iron/straightener…hahaha I was going to try and actually do my hair like a grown-up, but the wind and rain made that entirely futile. Leave it at home.
Hopefully this helps you figure out what you need for your own trip to Bergen, Norway, in winter. I had such an amazing time and was really happy with the clothing and gear I brought—and as a NOT WINTER person, it was great to be comfortable in the cold!
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