When in Norway, it’s important to do as the Norwegians – and hike! I thought that it might be helpful to provide a resource for hiking gear and safety information. Many of you may already be experienced hikers but, for those who are new to hiking in Norway and don’t know where (or rather, “wear” – groan!) to begin, here we go:
Moved to Bergen but not a hiker?
Ideally you can hike with someone who has more experience at first, or join an outdoor organization, but if you’re on your own and doing an easier hike somewhere near the city, here are some pointers for dressing yourself! While I love to hike, I’m in no way an expert, so I’ve used my home state’s Washington Trails Association (WTA) page on ‘Selecting Clothing and Gear’ to help provide useful information, read their page here.
The gear you need may really vary depending on the length and strenuousness of the hike, the weather, etc. I’m gearing (so to speak) this post to focus a bit more on easy/beginner hikes such as the ones that are replete around Bergen, but make sure to research more if you decide to, say, make the trip to Trolltunga. Soon you’ll be joining the Norwegians as they dance through the mountains, although not as gracefully (in my case).
My Norwegian partner (right) put me and my American friends to shame with his speed and ease hiking up a mountain in Lofoten this summer. Photo: Stand Hiestand
While what you need varies on the weather, the weather here in Bergen often varies, so you may want to have layers with you in case you get caught in the shifting winds. WTA points out that avoid cottoning and wearing synthetics or wool is generally a good idea when thinking hiking gear. Wet cotton is a poor insulator when wet which could be uncomfortable or even dangerous (hypthothermia can be a risk). Here’s what WTA suggests in terms of layers to have handy on a hike:
- Base layer: In warm weather, this could be a synthetic t-shirt and shorts. In colder weather, you might go with long thermal underwear (so… remember that when you gear up for cross-country skiing this winter!).
- Insulating layer: This should keep you warm, for example a fleece jacket or wool sweater.
- Waterproof/ wind-proof layer: Rain/windproof jackets as well as hiking or rain pants would be ideal.
- Socks: Hiking-socks offer more cushioning and breathability protect against blisters.
Here’s how layered it can get when you’re serious about cold weather hikes! Image: http://theathiker.com/clothing/
Of course, if you’re just taking a quick jaunt up Fløyen, you’re unlikely to need all of these, but you may want to make sure you’ve got a waterproof jacket at least, in addition to your base layer!
Sneaking up Fløyen the back way makes for some new views! Photo: Stand Hiestand
It’s important to make sure you have appropriate footwear for a hike. Even on the most basic hikes, it’s not a good idea to venture out in flip-flops or other flimsy footwear. At the least you want a hardy tennis shoe that can potentially handle mud, slippery surfaces, and inclines. And if you’re doing anything other than the easiest of hikes, you are gonna want a shoe built specifically for hiking that supports your ankles and feet and keeps them comfy on even the most rugged of paths. So, as WTA mentions, consider the following:
- Will hiking conditions be wet or cold? (This is Bergen, so the answer is likely yes, at least for wet).
- What will the trail conditions be like/how long is the hike?
- Do I have any injuries to consider?
It’s vital that you find a shoe that fits well and is comfortable, as well as meeting any other needs such as being waterproof, support wobbly ankles, etc. Ask the clerk at the store questions about your specific situation, they may be able to make recommendations. WTA offers some tips in their page, “Finding Boots for your Hiking Feet“.
You probably want to bring some kind of pack, no matter how easy your excursion. This allows for carrying the vital necessities such as water, the layers you may need to put on later, and Kvikk Lunsj (a Norwegian hiking tradition — or, arguably slightly tastier but less traditional Sport Lunch ). However, for an easy hike a tiny pack is likely just fine.
Kvikk Lunsj, the Norwegian classic, exactly like Kit Kat, but better! Image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRUcZ4AFSBQ
Bergen has mountains as its ‘backyard’, and Norway is filled with amazing natural beauty to explore. As a visitor, it can be easy to be in ‘vacation-mind’ and fail to prepare adequately for the natural elements one is stepping into. It is always important to remember to be careful and to adequately prepare for your adventures.
Study Bergen provides some helpful hints for hiking in Norway. They recommend following The Norwegian Trekking Association’s Norwegian Mountain Code (the link provides an excellent and more detailed explanation of the following points):
- Pre-plan your trip, inform others about your route
- Adapt routes to abilities and conditions
- Consider weather and avalanche warnings
- Prepare for bad weather and frost, no matter the trip-length
- Bring enough equipment for yourself and others
- Recognize avalanche terrain and insecure ice, reroute if necessary
- Use a map and compass to know where you are
- Sometimes it is wiser to turn around
- Conserve energy and seek shelter if necessary
Likewise, the WTA recommends taking the following “10 Essentials” for hiking safely.
- Map and Compass (Most likely these aren’t necessary in the mountains immediately around Bergen, as long as your phone is working, anyway! WTA says that while you don’t need a map and compass for clearly marked recreation trails, in the backcountry they can prove vital.)
- Water/water purifier (in the mountains surrounding Bergen I often have seen and participated in drinking water from some of the running streams without filtering or purifying, this may not be the best practice everywhere, though as parasites can be present in streams, lakes, and rivers).
- Extra food (a Kvikk Lunsj six pack?)
- Extra Layers/Rain Gear
- Firestarter and matches
- Multi-tool or knife
- First aid kit (read more here)
- Flashlight/headlamp and extra batteries
- Sun screen and sunglasses
Course you could always bring more, if you want to be prepared for any eventuality, you can read all WTA’s suggestions on their site.
New to Norway and in need more clothing advice?
Check out my post about where to look for more affordable clothes, “Only bad Kleather“.