Packing List: What To Wear In Finland In Winter (Including Helsinki, Lapland, & Tallinn, Estonia!)
Finland is consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world. And that’s sometimes hard for me to believe with all the…WINTER. People are fond of saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. (Note…yeah, that’s not true. There’s definitely bad weather.)
But as I’ve learned from previous winter trips to Norway, having the right clothes makes a HUGE difference. So I wanted to share my recommendations on what to wear in Finland in winter…including what works in urban centers like Helsinki and Tallinn (Estonia), as well as special considerations for Finnish Lapland in winter.
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How to pack for Finland in winter in a carry-on
My cousin and I visited in February, which is generally gray, cold, and snowy. However, we happened to hit Helsinki when it was slightly less frigid and instead had some windy, rainy, sleety business (with snow on our last morning). We found Tallinn a bit colder (a sharper, biting cold), and then Lapland was exactly what we expected—beautiful, cold, and snow-packed (but not windy).
I’ll note that both of us packed for the entire trip in a carry-on (this my fave, aka life partner), which I’m really proud of. The key for this type of trip is layers, and choosing the right fabrics. In particular if you’re wearing merino wool items and fleece-lined leggings, you can re-wear the same items multiple times (and they don’t take up a ton of space).
I wore my snow boots onto the plane and carried my big coat, and everything else fit in my suitcase. It’s totally doable!
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 (or other) 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!
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The post below gives a lot more detail than this, plus pictures of what it looked like, but here’s a punchlist & POV on where it’s important to spend a bit more:
- Coats: Critical! This is a place I wouldn’t scrimp, but you also need to think about aesthetics—like 90% of your photos will be in your coat vs. what you’re wearing under it, so you want a coat that’s super functional and ideally cute. I recommend this Helly Hansen (Lapland) & this affordable slimmer puffer coat in a fun color.
- Footwear: Again, critical! If you have to pick only one, I’d go with these lightweight and cute Sorel snow boots. I did sneak in a more regular walking boots for some of the city time. And don’t forget merino wool socks!
- Tops: Not as important. You can definitely scrimp here if needed. I’m always a fan of merino wool thermals and normal lightweight athletic ones for layering under a variety of sweaters.
- Bottoms: Semi-important, as you don’t want your legs freezing. A combo of fleece-lined jeans and fleece-lined leggings were warm enough (usually), cute, and versatile.
- Other outer gear: Again, pretty critical, as you don’t want your extremities cold. This hat was warm, comfy, and cute, along with these gloves (and a neck gaiter for Lapland).
- Don’t forget polarized sunglasses and sunscreen! The sun bouncing off the snow is intense at times. Good facial moisturizer is key as well, due to the dry, cold air. I also brought my go-to clean makeup, which protects and moisturizes (and looks great!!).
I also have deep-dive posts on visiting Bergen (Norway) in winter (more temperate, less snowy) and Iceland, as well as a super intense Arctic packing list (which I recommend looking at if you’re also visiting Lapland on this trip).
Winter packing for Helsinki & Tallinn (urban environments)
We’ll start with outerwear. First off, you really need to think about your coat and outerwear—like 90% of your photos will be in these vs. whatever you’re wearing under it, so you want these to be not only super functional, but ideally cute!
I thought I would need my intense, beloved Helly Hansen coat (or here for their direct site if it’s out of stock) for Helsinki as well, and definitely knew I’d need it for Lapland. But I also brought this slimmer puffer coat (super affordable but still high quality & good “fillpower” aka warmth) and that was my winner for the city portions of our trip.
I loved that the puffer coat didn’t take up much space in my suitcase (it squeezes down super small), but was still really warm and didn’t make me look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Helsinki was cold but not frigid, while Tallinn was definitely a bit colder, but this coat performed well in both.
I do recommend having a coat with a hood—it was clutch when the wind kicked up or we got a bit of rain or snow!
Other Finnish (& Estonian) adventures you’ll love:
To round out our outerwear, I loved this hat, which was warm, comfy, and cute! I also used these gloves (with touchscreen fingertips, super helpful for using my phone and taking photos!) and brought a neck gaiter just in case (though didn’t end up needing it in the cities).
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Okay, now let’s talk footwear. This is the thing I’m always the most scared about in cold destinations, and the first place I started with my Finland winter packing list.
The walking boots were actually perfect for most of our city stuff, as Helsinki didn’t (at the time) have much snow and ice on the sidewalks and so my feet weren’t getting super cold. The only weird thing was that somehow I kept getting pebbles in them.
But they were really cute with my jeans and leggings, and I double-layered merino wool socks under them for warmth (these and these were my go-to’s…sometimes I only wore one pair, other times layered). You can see a pic of these boots in the Helsinki full-body photo above.
The Sorels were really the star though, and if you have to only choose one pair I’d go with these. They not only were lightweight enough to be comfortable walking around Tallinn all day, but also served me very well up in the Arctic Circle snowy wonderland of Lapland.
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Next let’s talk about what I wore under my coat. You can go a number of directions here, particularly with your tops.
For tops, I had both merino wool thermal tops as well as normal lightweight athletic ones for layering under sweaters. I practically lived in the merino thermals. Then I brought this merino wool sweater to layer on top and wore it everywhere. I also had a fleece zip-up though didn’t wear it as much (I don’t like the friction when layering).
Your tops are where you probably have the greatest leeway to go cheaper if you need to (like those lightweight breathable ones), as long as your coat is really good.
For pants, I switched back and forth between fleece-lined jeans and thicker fleece-lined leggings…both were cute, and I stayed warm enough since my feet and core were warm. I have a deeper post on my fave fleece-lined leggings for different things.
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I wanted to also share a photo of what my (younger, cuter) cousin wore most of the time. Her coat was a little different but definitely had that clutch hood. She usually wore fleece-lined joggers (which look much cuter on her than me) and similar types of layered tops as me.
Her footwear was a little more “style of the moment” (again, I cannot pull that look off), and then when we did tours such as dog sledding or snowmobiling, she used the tour-provided giant snow boots.
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One other thing to remember that seems counterintuitive when we’re talking Finland in winter…bring a swimsuit! Finnish sauna is a major part of the culture there, something you’ll find in many homes and most hotels, as well as public ones you can visit. You definitely need to experience this while you’re there.
Packing for Finnish Lapland in winter
Because we were visiting both (further south) cities and Lapland on the same trip and packing in a carry-on, I had to find clothes that could do double-duty in most cases. Also, from what I’ve found, most tour operators offer intensive full-body snowsuits and boots if you’ll be outside a lot.
This is where my beloved Helly Hansen coat really got a workout (even under the giant snowsuits the tours gave us), and I used my Sorel boots the whole time. I wore the same socks, hat, and gloves as I’ve linked above, for the most part, and then relied on my fleece-lined leggings (not jeans, which don’t dry well) and merino wool thermals and sweater.
There are two new items that came into play in Lapland at times, though. What’s great is that neither takes up space or weight in your suitcase.
- My neck gaiter! I’ve written a deeper post on why a good merino wool neck gaiter is a winter travel essential, and it (and you can see below) played a key role in my survival 🙂 I wear it as a kind of turtleneck when I’m not pulling it over my face, to keep my neck warm.
- I had to use my hood a lot more for activities where we’d be outside a ton (like dog sledding or snowmobiling), and the cute pom pom on my hat doesn’t play nice with my hood, so I swapped it out for my fleece headband when needed.
And don’t forget polarized sunglasses and sunscreen! The sun bouncing off the snow is intense at times. Good facial moisturizer is key as well, due to the dry, cold air.
I recommend checking out my Ultimate Arctic Winter Packing List for more detailed info!
Lapland was on my list of 10 places to travel in 2023!
You can see my full outfit a bit better below, as I rushed outside without even tying my boots to capture a stunning sunrise from our tiny mobile cabin on a frozen lake after a night of watching the Northern Lights dance.
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This is just a better view of the Helly Hansen coat (from a previous winter trip to Norway).
So hopefully this gives you a great idea of what to wear in Finland, including the essentials for cities like Helsinki and Tallinn, and what items will serve you well in the freezing snowy landscapes of Lapland in winter. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or further suggestions!
Other cold weather spots that this packing list could serve:
- 3 Days In Bergen, Norway: What To See & Do
- Blown Away By Norway’s Fjords: Norway In A Nutshell Tour In Winter
- A Detailed First-Timer’s Guide To Chicago
- 3 Days In Tromsø (Tromso), Norway…During Polar Night
- Sleeping in a Norwegian Sami Tent & Other Arctic Adventures at Camp Tamok
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