Getting Ready for the Lofoten Islands
Igor and I were in Los Angeles celebrating the birthday of one of my close girlfriends this time last year when we heard the bring, bring of Facetime. We answered to find my brother and friend Casey bundled up in a hotel room when they should have been camping in the remote areas of Iceland. Surprised and befuddled, we stayed on the phone for the next hour to hear their tales of battling the Icelandic elements and eventually rescue by a brave fisherman.
Tales of river crossings, days of rain and poor trail markers completely changed the way we prepared for the voyage to meet them in Norway. Before hopping on that plane to the Lofoten islands a couple weeks later, we would know the layout of local REI shops by heart and had a notebook full of possible itineraries.
Here are the most useful tips I can impart:
WEAR WOOL. Wool is a fabric that can be incredibly breathable and quick to dry when woven for athletic activities. It also will keep you warm when it gets wet. My long-sleeved Patagonia undershirt, wool Patagonia underwear, wool socks, heavier Smartwool undershirt and Smartwool leggings were great layers for rainy and clear days. The athletic wool clothing didn’t irritate my skin, even though we weren’t showering much and I have sensitive skin.
GO FOR WATERPROOF. While it’s good to prepare with wool clothes for getting wet, it’s still not ideal to get wet at all. We spent quite a bit of time picking out waterproof – not water resistant – gear. I decided to spend a little less and go for a quality North Face shell instead of the Arcteryx. One thing to note here, a waterproof jacket that won’t make you feel like a sweaty ham is hard to find. Take note of online reviews, we found them quite accurate. My waterproof pants were handy for keeping both rain and mud (we encountered lots of muddy paths on clear days) away from my underlayers. It didn't stop at our clothes. We bought as much waterproof gear as possible, including our tent and backpack covers.
KEEP IT BREEZY. If it’s nice weather and the sun is out, it’s out for 24 hours. This means it’s easy for your tent to turn into a greenhouse. We woke up sweating the first night there was no rain. Make sure you can and do remove that rain cover when possible. If the light bothers you, make sure to bring an eye mask to help you fall asleep. When it comes to clothing, layers will save you from overheating.
RESEARCH HIKES AHEAD OF TIME. The weather is fickle, hikes can be poorly marked and the reception can be really spotty, so do your research. While Norway is a popular tourist destination, the islands aren’t super accessible. This means that guidebooks only dedicate two to four pages to these magical islands. Popular travel shows don’t seem to go there at all. The three best sites for information on an outdoorsy trip on Lofoten are switchbacktravel.com, rando-lofoten.net and 68north.com. We read the online content for 68NORTH, but also found their $14 PDF summer guidebook super useful.
Hope you get a chance to visit! Check out my post outlining our Lofoten itinerary and find out why I believe these islands are great for a beginning backpacker.