How To Pack For Scandinavia: The Five-Step Solution

How To Pack For Scandinavia: The Five-Step Solution

Written by Patrick Gensel on

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming, visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on his website and Twitter

How To Pack For Scandinavia: The Five-Step Solution


A Scandinavian vacation is one of those awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime kind of trips. There are endless things to see and do, whether you are heading to Denmark, Norway, or Sweden. This makes proper packing and planning an essential part of an enjoyable trip. No need to get overwhelmed, though: Our five-step solution will guide you in the process and send you on your way to Scandinavia fully prepared for the trip of a lifetime.

Step 1: Consider The “Why” and “When” Of Your Trip.

Before you can even begin packing, you need to ask yourself why you are traveling to Scandinavia. What do you plan on doing there? Will you be exploring the big cities to sample food and take in the sights? Will you be out in the wilderness camping and hiking? Your planned activities will help dictate what you need to bring with you. Another thing to consider is the time of year you plan to travel. The Scandinavian countries are quite far north, so weather can be a big factor in planning your trip. Winter can be quite cold and snowy in parts, while summer can often be quite mild, so be sure to pack according to the expected weather during your trip.

Consider The “Why” and “When” Of Your Trip Tip: In a region as big as Scandinavia, figuring out where to go can be a daunting task. Start by looking for activities that are popular in the season and area you will be traveling. For example, if you are going to Northern Norway during the winter months, dog sledding might be a great choice.

Step 2: Focus on Suitcase Strategy.

When packing for any trip, it’s important to have the right bags; otherwise, you will struggle to throughout the trip to stay organized, find what you need, and get around. The “why” and “when” you nailed down in Step 1 will help dictate what kind of luggage you need. Because I spend a lot of my trips outdoors, I often bring the biggest backpack I can carry on the plane with me. This will play double duty as a carry-on and as a daypack for hiking and such when I get to my destination. With so much outdoor adventure in Scandinavia, especially Norway, it makes sense to follow this same strategy. In addition to my carry-on bag, I like to check a large duffel, which is helpful if I plan on taking a sleeping bag and tent — or any other large items — with me.

Focus on Suitcase Strategy Tip: Compartmentalize your packing by using smaller  packing organizers inside each of your bags. This will make finding things a cinch throughout your trip.

Step 3: Bring Your Maps.

With so many roads and trails in the Scandinavian countries, it’s easy to get turned around or lost while you’re wandering about. Though smartphones are handy for navigation, you may not always have service, so it’s a good idea to have a physical map to not only help you find your way, but also quite possibly take you to places you may not have otherwise found.

Bring Your Maps Tip: If you forget to bring a map, you can often find cheap or complimentary ones in touristy areas or at your hotel.

Step 4: Pack For Your Itinerary.

By this point, I’m sure you have a few activities planned for your trip, or at the very least, have a rough idea as to what you’ll be doing. Focus your packing by choosing the necessary items for those specific activities. For example, if you visit in the winter and are thinking about going dog sledding in the north, pack a warm jacket, winter pants, and boots to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Pack For Your Itinerary Tip: If you need a specific item for your trip, do your best to try and bring it from home, as prices in Scandinavia can be quite high by American standards.

Step 5: Remember Your Camera — And The Right Accessories.

Being a photographer at heart, this step is essential to any trip I plan, even more so if I’m traveling to a place I have never been before. If you plan to be out in the wild on your trip, and you are taking a camera with an interchangeable lens, pack a wide-angle lens to capture all the beautiful landscapes this region has to offer. If you also plan to explore urban Scandinavia, pack a short telephoto as well to get tighter shots. A lens that is around the 24-105mm range works great for travel photos.

Remember Your Camera Tip: Don’t forget extra batteries as well!