While Dan and I did get to go on a few shorter hikes during our time in Northern Norway, we also had to skip out on a couple of days of hiking because the weather was really bad. On one of those days we were sitting in a cosy café chatting to the owner and when we told him what our plans had been for the day before it started snowing (yes, in June) he suddenly got all serious and said “well I’m SO glad you didn’t try to hike today.”
And I had to laugh, because he was sporting the same stern expression I do when I talk about hiking in Norway. Hiking here is no joke, and you will probably never see me more serious than when I am talking about the importance of preparing properly and respecting Norway’s magnificent, but also at times very dangerous nature.
My heart breaks every time I hear about a hiking accident here, especially as the more serious accidents usually happen to foreign tourists and could have been avoided if they had known just a bit more about hiking in Norway.
Don’t get me wrong, hiking in Norway can be the experience of a lifetime and I certainly don’t think you should miss out on it, but I do think that you should do your research first. And at the very least, try to avoid these (all too common) mistakes:
Not wearing the right footwear
This is number one on the list for a reason – proper footwear is so important on a hike. Because while you’ll be fine in sneakers on a shorter walk, most hikes in Norway really require waterproof hiking boots with proper ankle support. You’ll have a hard time getting home on a sprained ankle!
And if you’re tight on luggage space, I would actually just bring hiking boots instead of sneakers – at least I wear my hiking boots everywhere. In fact on my trip through Northern Norway I only had my hiking boots with me. Just be sure they’re broken in first!
I have these hiking boots, which I love because they’re waterproof and super supportive, but they also don’t look too sporty to wear walking around a city in a sundress.
I always thought this commonly shared warning was a bit of a joke until a few weeks ago I came across a couple hiking in jeans – in the rain. Uh, don’t do that.
Ideally you’ll want to invest in some quick dry or even waterproof hiking trousers. As an added bonus, Norwegians love these trousers so you’ll totally look like a local! You could even buy some hiking trousers at a local sports shop to have as a nice souvenir from Norway.
Wearing only one layer of clothing
If you read my packing list for summer in Norway you’ll already know that the key to dressing for Norway is layers – if you’re not wearing them, bring them.
The weather in Norway can change in an instant, and the temperature changes as you go up in altitude can be dramatic. I’ve started off hikes in summer shorts weather and found myself in a snowstorm.
Wear a thermal inner layer – wool is best because it will keep you warm even if you get wet – bring a warm sweater or fleece, and have a water resistant jacket with you in case the weather turns. I also always bring a hat with me because the wind at the top of mountains can be brutal.
Ignoring the weather
Norwegians have a saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” And it’s often true. You can totally still go on a hike in the rain or extreme cold if you have the right gear.
But then again, sometimes there is such thing as bad weather, and in those cases unfortunately you might have to cancel your hike.
If there’s a hike you have your heart set on then try to factor in at least two days in that destination to give yourself the best chance of being able to do it. But also be prepared for disappointment, because no hike is worth risking your life for in stormy weather.
Not consulting locals
It can often be hard to find updated information about hikes online, especially in English, so you’re always best off consulting with locals about any bigger hikes you’ll be attempting. Stop in the local tourist information office, or simply ask someone at your accommodation.
And if you’re feeling unsure about your hike, see if it’s possible to go with a local guide. Not only will this ensure your safety, but you’ll get the chance to spend the day with a local and learn a lot more about Norway. Usually the tourist office can help arrange this, or I know Viator has a lot of guided hikes you can book online.
Trying to plan your hike online
I get emails every week from people asking where the best hikes are in places in Norway I’ve never blogged about (so presumably have never been). And I totally get the desire to plan out your trip before arriving in Norway, and I totally appreciate you doing research online – I mean hello, you’re here reading this now! – but in this case it’s actually so much better to wait to ask locals about the best hikes.
Because even if you can find information online, usually it will just be for the super popular, super touristy hikes, whereas only locals will know about the hidden gems. So like I said before, stop in the local tourist information office or ask at your accommodation.
And don’t worry about not having a firm plan in advance – there are so many hikes all over Norway (even in the big cities) that you’ll be sure to find something that suits your timeframe and fitness level, as well as the local conditions.
Setting off on a hike without telling anyone
It might seem unnecessary, but please be on the safe side and tell someone where you’re going, just in case something happens. You could tell your hotel reception, message a friend, even tweet about setting off on an exciting hike in Norway – just tell someone.
Starting too late
While daylight isn’t an issue in the height of summer, during the rest of the year you do have to carefully time your hikes to make sure that you can get home before it gets dark. Factor in lots of extra time for breaks and getting lost, because you definitely don’t want to get stuck somewhere in the dark.
Attempting hikes that are closed for the season
Oh my goodness, do NOT do this! I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people saying that hiking Trolltunga is their dream but they’ll be in Norway in November and is it difficult to get through the entrance of a hike if it’s technically closed?
To which I get out my caps lock and exclamation points to tell them STOP NO DO NOT DO IT!!!!
These hikes are closed for a reason and even if you don’t see any snow at the bottom of the hike, there will be snow higher up and it will be a nightmare.
Relying on your phone for a map
While it’s great to have your phone with you, phones are fickle and have a habit of shutting off in the cold, so if you’re going on a longer hike, bring an old fashioned map and compass as well. You can feel like an explorer!
uh, remember what I said about hiking in jeans? do as I say, not as I do!
Not bringing enough water and snacks
While people tend to be good at bringing supplies for longer hikes, I find that a lot of people forget about water and snacks on shorter hikes. Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you won’t need lots of water, even if you’re just going out for an hour.
Plus a hike in the Norwegian mountains is the perfect excuse to sample some Norwegian chocolate. The chocolate of choice for most Norwegians on a hike is Kvikk Lunsj, though I tend to go for the classic Freia melkesjokolade. So yum!
Forgetting sunscreen and sunglasses
Maybe this is just a pale girl talking, but wear sunscreen, even on a cloudy day, because those clouds could be gone in an instant! And the same goes for sunglasses – just because it’s overcast and drizzling doesn’t mean the sun won’t come out soon to blind you.
Not making a packing list
I’m not really one for lists, or any sort of organization in general, but if I’m setting out on a long hike I will make a packing list, because it would be potentially really bad to forget something.
Mine usually includes all of my layers of clothing, water, snacks, map, first aid kit, a hat, and during the months where it gets dark I’ll throw in a flashlight and reflective vest (we don’t go anywhere from autumn to spring without a reflective vest for walking along dark roads!).
Sticking too rigidly to your plan
Plans are great, but you also need to be prepared to adapt them according to the conditions outside and your abilities. Yes, your original plan might have been amazing, but I promise you can still have a great time even if you make some adjustments.
Refusing to turn around when you need to
On that note, there is no shame in turning around! Some hikes can turn out to be much harder than expected, the conditions could be too muddy or snowy to continue, or something else might happen where you’ll need to turn around. And that’s fine! You don’t need to have reached the top of the mountain to have had a wonderful day out hiking.
Continuing up when you’re lost
Yes, you might be able to find your way back to the path if you keep going up, but if you really don’t know where you are and are running out of daylight, make your way downhill and try to follow streams or rivers, as they will tend to lead back to a town, or even just a farm.
And if things are getting dire, save your energy and try to make a little shelter. Sit on your backpack so your bum stays dry and keep calm.
Leaving trash behind
Okay, I know I don’t really need to tell you this, but I’m going to say it anyway: don’t leave anything behind in the mountains. I’m sure you love how pristine they are, so lets keep them that way.
And that’s it!
If you have any other hiking tips, please share them in the comments!