Best Tips for Traveling to Cold Climates, Such as Lapland and Antarctica

By Ralph Velasco

Traveling to cold climates offers a magical experience, but it can also mean bracing for extremely cold temperatures. Staying warm is vital for both comfort and safety. Here are some tips to ensure you stay toasty while enjoying Lapland’s Northern Lights and/or Antarctica’s Southern Ocean:

  • Layer Up: If you know me at all then you know I’m all about layers, so I recommend that you wear multiple layers rather than one thick one. This traps air, which acts as an insulator, plus it allows you to take off layers giving you more options should you get too warm. Typically, go with:
    • Base Layer: Moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetics to keep sweat away.
    • Middle Layer: Insulating materials like fleece or down for warmth.
    • Outer Layer: Waterproof and windproof jackets and pants to protect against the elements. On my Seeking the Northern Lights in Lapland trip the local tour operator provides a high-quality snowsuit so you don’t have to bring one, although a good outer layer, along with some inner layers, for walking around Stockholm and Helsinki is highly recommended.

  • Protect Extremities:
    • Head: As we all know, a significant amount of body heat is lost through the head. Wear a thermal hat that covers your ears.
    • Hands: Use mittens (they’re warmer than gloves) and consider liner gloves underneath. Hand warmers can be placed inside for extra heat.
    • Feet: Wear thermal socks (again, merino wool is excellent). Avoid cotton. Consider bringing foot warmers, as well.
  • Choose Good Footwear: Invest in insulated, waterproof boots. They should also have a good grip for icy conditions, and for additional grip and stability, I suggest an inexpensive set of lightweight ice cleats. On both my Lapland and Antarctica: Fly & Cruise trips the local tour operator provides a heavy-duty pair of boots, again, so you don’t have to bring them, but the ice cleats are great for your other shoes and boots.
  • Avoid Cotton: Cotton retains moisture and can actually make you feel colder. Opt for wool or synthetic materials instead.
  • Stay Dry: Wetness is a major factor in feeling cold. Ensure your outer layers are waterproof, and always remove wet clothes immediately and dry them as soon as possible.
  • Eat and Drink: Consuming food and water helps your body produce heat. Warm drinks and high-calorie snacks can help maintain body temperature.
  • Keep Active: Physical activity generates body heat. If you’re waiting for the Northern Lights, occasionally walk around, do some light exercises, stretch, or even dance around a bit to keep the blood flowing.
  • Limit Alcohol: While it may feel like alcohol warms you up, it actually dilates blood vessels and can make you lose heat more rapidly.
  • Use Heat Packs: Portable heat packs are great for an instant source of warmth. They can be bought in bulk and placed in pockets, gloves, boots, and even sleeping bags (and they’ll keep your batteries warm, too).
  • Prepare for the Elements: Check the weather forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Bring windproof gear and consider a quality balaclava or face mask for extra protection against harsh winds and cold.
  • Safety in Numbers: Travel with a group or guide. Not only can this be more fun, but it’s also safer. They can provide local insights, and there’s security in numbers, and you’ll almost always have someone to share your experience with.

It goes without saying but both Antarctica and Lapland can be extremely cold and intense and they can be dangerous if you’re not adequately prepared. But with the right gear and precautions, you can enjoy the mesmerizing Northern Lights and the magic of the Antarctic, or anything in between, comfortably and safely.


If you’d like to experience the aurora borealis and put your photography skills to the test then join us for Seeking the Northern Lights in Finnish & Swedish Lapland.  You should also consider my Antarctica: Fly & Cruise trip if you enjoy wildlife, icebergs, and perhaps ticking the 7th continent off your bucket list.

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