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Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Let's start with pointing out the obvious: the Norwegian winter can be cold ❄️ One of the most popular idioms in Norway is: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!” The average temperature for the winter months of December/January/February is -4.1℃ for Oslo and -4.0℃ for Trondheim. These are just average temperatures, however, and there will be certain days with temperatures perhaps down to -20℃ below zero and others with milder temperatures above 0℃.

Buying winter clothes is therefore an essential part of living here and a necessary investment for thriving in the Norwegian winter. ☃️

Fundamentals of winter clothing

The basic principle of winter clothing is to avoid heat loss. The easiest way to do this is with good clothes that insulate well and retain your body heat. The heat loss will therefore be the highest at the parts where you are not insulated -- i.e. the bare skin. The different parts of the body emit roughly the same amount of heat (per unit of surface area), but the sensitivity to cold varies between the different body parts. Your hands are more sensitive to cold than your legs, even though they in sum emit less heat than the legs. So on cold days it’s important to have a beanie hat /woolen hat for covering the head, a scarf for covering the neck and gloves/mittens for covering the hands!

What do you need to enjoy the Norwegian winter?

The most effective way to insulate your body on a cold winter-day is to wear several layers of clothes. We will here discuss the

Wool is known by Norwegians to be the best material for staying warm in the winter - much better than for instance cotton. Wool still insulates well even if it gets wet and is often used in several of the layers one wears.

Thermal underwear

You can see Agata at an XXL store in Oslo holding an example of a typical thermal underwear product. The whole wall behind her is covered with different brands and types, so there is plenty to choose from.

The layer that we put next to the skin we like to call thermal underwear. The purpose of thermal underwear is both to provide effective insulation and to transport moisture away from the skin. The best kind of thermal underwear is usually made by wool or a mixture of wool/synthetic materials. The reason for this is that if you get wet, then you still do not get cold. If you will be dressing for everyday purposes like going to work or walking to the store, regular woolen underwear more than suffices. Moisture transportation only matters if you will be doing more intense physical activity in the cold. If you will be doing this you can consider buying thermal underwear with a mixture of wool and synthetic materials.

The best thermal underwear to have is a long sleeved top covering your upper body and a stocking covering your lower body (called ‘stillongs’ in Norwegian, ‘long johns’ in English).

Thermal underwear can be bought from both department stores for sports (for instance XXL, Intersport and Obs! Sport) and in low price clothing brand stores (for instance H&M, Cubus and Lindex). Women can also buy thermal underwear in underwear shops (for instance Reimers and Change).

Above you can see Agata at an XXL store in Oslo holding an example of a typical thermal underwear product. The whole wall behind her is covered with different brands and types, so there is plenty to choose from.

Middle layer

Over the thermal underwear, you can wear a middle layer, for instance a sweater. On colder days a woolen sweater or fleece may be advisable, but on milder days a long sleeved shirt or a cotton sweater may be sufficient. The middle layer is what you wear for instance at the office once your jacket has come off.

A woollen knitted sweater is a popular garment in Norway and can be knitted or bought in many traditional and colorful designs. You can see Agata and Espen wearing different types of woolen sweaters in the image below. Agata also holds a woolen sweater in the photo. Espen holds a winter jacket, which brings us to the next topic!


A good winter jacket is a good investment - it will last you for many years and can be used for different parts of the autumn, winter and spring season.

A winter jacket should be airtight, preferably waterproof or water resistant and comfortable to wear also with several layers underneath (as explained previously).

They come in many thicknesses and materials and prices. How thick the jacket needs to be depends on what types of middle layers you wish to use. If you do have thick woolen sweaters you may be alright with a thinner windbreaker jacket, but for most of you we would recommend a jacket with some good insulation.


In addition to keeping your feet warm and dry, a good winter shoe should keep you from slipping on icy roads. We have seen that people who have bought winter shoes in warmer countries before they moved to Norway often end up with shoes that look like winter shoes, but do not necessarily perform well in a winter climate. For example, these shoes may have soles made of a soft plastic material and can be very slippery on ice. The best sole for winter shoes is made in rubber and has a strong pattern that gives good grip on the snow.

The shoe itself can be made of leather or breathable synthetics. To make sure that the shoes are water resistant, look for waterproofing material brands like Goretex or Sympatex.

Winter shoes/boots can be expensive, but it is worth the money since they will keep you warm and dry (and happy) throughout the winter.

Below you can see photos of a good rubber sole with nice grip.


Hats, scarves and mittens are essential for the autumn-winter-spring. Putting on or removing winter such accessories during the day outside make it easier to

As a lot of blood streams through your head and ears it is often smart to use a hat to retain heat. In Norway we often use what we call “lue”, which in English is often called a “beanie”. They come in different materials, colors and thicknesses. You can see an example in the photo below where Agata tries one on.

Gloves vs. Mittens

The difference between a glove (No: hanske) and a mitten (No: vott) is that a glove has separate compartments for each finger, while a mitten has one big compartment for all fingers but the thumb. The gloves are therefore easier to grip things with, but the mittens are warmer.

For sports activities and really cold days we can recommend “pol-votter” (polar mittens), which are very thick versions of mittens.

Leather gloves are popular for use on regular days in the city. Real leather is popular as it lasts very long and can provide water resistance, but modern leather imitations are also starting to be quite good, so for those that do not use animal products it is still possible to look stylish and keep warm.

You can see the difference between a glove and a mitten in the photo below.

Woolen socks

To keep your feet warm during the winter, we also recommend woollen socks. You can find them in many qualities, both thinner ones for city use/office use and thicker ones for outdoors activities. There should be some space for air inside the shoe; if they are too tight you will constrict the blood flow in your feet and will get cold quickly.

Below you can see images of some different thin and thick woolen socks.


A Scarf is maybe the most familiar winter accessory for most as it is used around the globe. There are a variety of options for scarves that can be used both to stay warm and as an apparel to match the rest of your outfit. Any scarf will do really, but it is of course good to have a comfortable one.


What you need for thriving in the Norwegian winter is then:

  • A woollen hat, gloves/mittens and scarf for covering head, neck and hands.

  • Thermal underwear: made from wool, one for upper body and one for lower body.

  • Mid-layer: fleece or wool sweater for cold days.

  • A good jacket that can protect from rain and snow

  • Shoes for winter, either leather boots or gore tex/sympatex shoes. Note that a good rubber sole is important for the grip.

  • Woollen socks. Can be thick or thin, depending on the usage, but note that your shoes must not be so tight that the blood flow is constricted.

Typical places where to buy winter clothes and shoes

Sport shops i.e. XXL, Intersport, Coop Sport

Clothing shops i.e. H&M, Cubus, Lindex

Second Hand: Fretex, Kirkens Bymisjon. Several groups on facebook. Look for “brukte klær” or “Kjøp og salg”,


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