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10 Things to Pack for a Winter Trip to Finland

Winter in Finland is cold. Across the country — some of which is north of the Arctic Circle — winter temperatures consistently average at or below freezing. Depending on where in the country you go, Winter begins sometime between October and December and lasts until April or May.

A winter trip to Finland calls for a special type of packing list. This post includes 10 essential items that you won’t want to forget for a cold-weather trip to Finland. Most of these items focus on staying warm and comfortable, including specific items and brands that we personally tested in Finland in February. However, we’ve also included some other sneaky items that you might not think of.

Here’s 10 things to add to your packing list for a winter trip to Finland.

1. Warm Pants

Let’s start with a wardrobe staple: pants. Even if you’re planning a city trip to Helsinki, you’ll still be spending a decent amount of time outside. A basic pair of leggings isn’t going to go cut it.

Read more! If Helsinki is on your itinerary, be sure to check out our post about how to spend 3 Days in Helsinki. It includes a detailed itinerary, helpful map, and tons of great tips for the perfect stay.

If you want to go the comfort route, consider a high-quality pair of leggings designed for warmth. I scoured the internet and settled on the Craft Advance Essence Wind Tights, which they make for both men and women. Craft is a Swedish brand, so they know a thing or two about cold weather. These pants have a windproof fabric on the outside and cozy fleece lining on the inside.

I wore these leggings for a full day outside on Suomenlinna in February and was warm and comfortable the whole time. They really did block out the cold wind, while keeping the body warmth in.

That said, it’s important to know that the bottoms and back of these leggings are more breathable, and do not have the windproof material. You might want to add another layer on top when it gets really cold. On their own, I’d say these were comfortable down to about 0°F / -17°C.

Note: A good pair of jeans is a decent option as well, especially if you can wear a cozy fleece-lined pair of leggings underneath them. The problem with denim is that it doesn’t do well with moisture. If it snows during your trip (which is pretty likely), jeans will get soggy pretty quickly.

2. Waterproof Pants

Whether you’re planning to spend time outdoors in the snow or not, a waterproof layer is necessary for a trip to Finland in the winter. It frequently snows and occasionally rains throughout the winter season, so there’s a good chance you’ll experience one or the other during your visit. And since it’s so cold, getting wet will make you really uncomfortable really fast.

Of course, snow pants are a good option if you have them or want to invest in them. However, a pricy pair of snow pants isn’t entirely necessary, especially if you aren’t planning any outdoorsy activities.

At a minimum, pack a pair of waterproof rain pants. I have the Columbia Storm Surge pants, but there are several cheaper options on Amazon. If you combine a light pair of waterproof rain pants with the warm, windproof Craft leggings, the result is as good as snow pants in most cases.

Note: Kids in Finland wear snow gear (including snow pants or bibs, or full snow suits) pretty much anytime they step outside in the winter months. It keeps them warm and dry for everyday commutes around town.

I didn’t have snow pants, so I wore warm leggings and rain pants snowshoeing in Rovaneimi. We caught a “warm front” (23°F / -5°C), but I was perfectly comfortable and dry for several hours outside in the snow.

3. A *Good* Winter Coat

This one probably goes without saying. Winter in Finland calls for a good, thick, warm coat. You want a coat that is waterproof or water resistant, keeps out the wind and cold, and keeps in your body heat.

There are many good winter coat options, and your choice will vary based on your preference and quite frankly, budget. You don’t necessarily need to buy a new winter coat just to go to Finland, but it’s a good excuse if your current coat is on the outs.

We went hard on The North Face for the whole family for this trip. We went with the women’s Arctic Parka, men’s McMurdo Parka and the kid’s Freedom Insulated Jacket. (I’m not linking the later because the children’s styles tend to vary more by season.) We stayed impressively warm and comfortable throughout our trip.

Note: If you’re doing any organized outdoor excursions or activities, many tour providers will have thermal snow suits available to use. You might not need to upgrade your winter coat if you can rely on these rentals for the majority of your outdoor time.

4. Fleece Middle Layer

Most of the packing lists I read focused on warm base layers, but I would argue that a warm middle layer is the most important. It is a good way to add warmth and bolster the quality of any winter coat.

A good middle layer is a warm, thick fleece jacket or sweater that you can wear on top of a lighter base layer. I live and die by the Patagonia Better Sweater, which they make in both men’s, women’s and children’s sizes. It’s warm and comfortable, without being too bulky. It’s also comfortable to wear indoors without getting too hot. Plus, it looks nice on its own without looking like you’re wearing a coat inside.

This is also efficient for packing. Instead of packing multiple thick sweaters for each day, you only need to pack (or better yet, wear on the flight) one. Then, you can fill your suitcase with more compact long sleeve and short sleeve base layers, which you can swap out daily.

Tip! If you want to save even more space in your suitcase, invest in merino wool base layers. These puppies are pricy, but the advantage is that they have anti-stink, anti-microbial properties. You can wear the same base layer for several days without feeling or smelling gross. Then you can pack even fewer clothes.

5. Waterproof Mittens or Gloves

You absolutely will need warm mittens or gloves for a winter trip to Finland, and ideally, those should be waterproof. Waterproof mittens and gloves are of course helpful if it’s snowy or rainy during your visit, but they’re also just generally warmer than alternative options.

I didn’t think this was necessary and instead packed fleece-lined wool gloves and they did not cut it. My hands were always cold, the touch-screen functionality didn’t even work, and they got soggy immediately when I touched the snow. I definitely regretted not going for a waterproof option.

6. Tall Socks (Merino Wool)

Pack several pairs of socks that are both warm and tall. You want to have socks that are taller than your boots (which should be at least ankle height) for comfort, plus you want them to be warm for obvious reasons.

I have everyone’s favorite Bamba socks, but I am not here to tell you to buy them. I know I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t think they’re all they’re cracked up to. Most of mine have ripped within a year. Instead, I would recommend getting a much-cheaper pack of merino wool socks on Amazon.

Note: Merino wool is the way to go because of it’s anti-stink properties. You can get away with rewearing your socks for multiple days instead of filling your suitcase with a separate pair of socks for everyday.

7. Boots

There are three main things to prioritize when it comes to footwear.

First, is traction. If you visit Finland in the wintertime, there is a near-100% chance that the sidewalks and walkways are covered with a layer (or many layers) of ice and snow. Be sure to bring boots that have a decent treads so you’re not slipping and sliding.

Note: Removable ice spikes or crampons were popular in Finland. They slip on over your shoes or boots to provide increased traction on ice. However, you have to remember to take these off at most indoor locations.

Second, is weatherproofing. You want boots that are waterproof and warm. They don’t necessarily have to be top of the line — especially if you’re wearing warm socks — but you just want something that will keep the snow and slush away from your feet.

Finally, is shaft height. Ideally, you want a boot that at least covers your ankle. This is so your pants can come around the top of the boot to prevent snow from falling inside. You also want to be sure the boots tighten near the top, again so that snow doesn’t fall inside. (Trust me, if you head north in Finland, it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple feet of snow on the ground for the majority of the winter.)

The most popular footwear we noticed in Finland by far was the Sorel Caribou boots, which come in both men’s and women’s styles. My husband had a pair of these and loved them! I opted for a cheaper pair and my feet were cold and wet more than I care to admit. Likewise, our toddler’s boots didn’t tighten around the ankle and we were constantly trying to keep the snow out of them.

Good boots is the only reason we were able to make it to the top of the hill in Kaivopuisto, which was covered in snow, slush and ice.

8. Swimsuit

Finally, we’re getting to the more interesting — and easily forgotten — items on this list. Be sure to pack a swimsuit for your winter Finland trip!

One of the most popular things to do in Finland any time of the year is to spend time in the sauna. The Finnish way is to combine the hot sauna with a cold swim. There are a few ways to do this, but for tourists, the best option is go to a public sauna and pool. Most of these public facilities require swimsuits.

Even if you don’t want to cold swim, there are several heated pools (indoor and outdoor) in Finland. If you’re interested in sauna and/or swimming of any kind, be sure to pack a swimsuit.

Read more! If you’re curious about this ritual, I wrote about my first time doing an Ice Bath & Sauna in Tromsø, Norway.

9. Sunglasses

Depending on where you go and when in the winter you visit, you might not need these. For example, if you visit the region of Finland north of the Arctic Circle around the Winter Solstice, you might not see the sun at all! But if you’re visiting the southern region in February or so, sunglasses are actually super helpful!

The snow and ice reflects the sun and makes it feel even brighter. Sunglasses help reduce that light, plus they can pull double-duty and protect your eyes from the wind and snow.

I forgot the shades in the hotel room and now my kid’s eyes are closed in every photo from this sunny day in Helsinki!

10. Packable Tote

This is my most-used travel item on any trip, but it’s always the most useful on cold-weather trips. Keep this small, packable tote in your coat pocket at all times.

Took off your hat and mittens? Throw them in tote. Too hot in your fleece at a museum? Throw it in the tote. Have leftovers from dinner? Carry them home if the tote. Bought some souvenirs or snacks? You guessed it — put them in the tote. It’s truly helpful for so many things while traveling.

I bought this multipack and I keep one in my suitcase, one in my coat pocket and one in my fanny pack or purse at all times. I get so much use out of them on every single trip.

After my toddler insisted on getting this moose and then tired of carrying it around 20 minutes later, into the packable tote it went.

What would you add to this list?

If you’ve been to Finland in the winter, what was the most useful thing you packed? Let me know in the comments!