This is the first part in a series on how to survive the northern lights. The article will cover clothing. Wearing layers is very important. Materials that breath are best. The other articles will include photography equipment, items and food.
In Northern Finland the temperature can vary. So this is a “general guide” suitable for winter. The temperature will change depending on how far north you are. Sometimes there can be extremes of temperatures in the north that can plummet to below -40°C. Check the weather reports at Supersaa they will give you 2 different weather reports to help build a picture.
You don’t have to spend lots of money on winter clothing. But technical clothing is an investment especially if you live in a cold environment. Some articles of clothing appear in Lidl. There technical clothing is cheap but effective. They don’t sell it all of the time so you have to be an opportunist shopper
Northern Lights Clothing
Simply layering is adequate if you are on a budget but check the materials you are using. Cotton is great indoors, but breathable fabrics that don’t remain wet are the best. Wet means cold. Cold is not fun If you are out in -25°C for 4 hours at a time.
Snow boots are best. Hiking or walking boots are fine if they have space so you can wear 2 pairs of thick wool socks. Thermal insoles or liners are an important method to keep your feet warm, consider it the most important part. If you get really cold feet, it can be a living hell.
Woollen hiking socks or ski socks. The best are wool , especially Merino wool.
Base layer : Long underwear or thermal underwear. Woollen are the best, polyester is good. Do not wear anything under it.
Base Layer: Thermal underwear Wool or 100% polyester.
Middle Layers: Fleece shirt (polyester) – thick 100% wool jumper. (100% wool jumpers are hard to find.)
Outer Layer: Fleece coat, insulated jacket. I recommend a high quality jacket. The jacket must perform in extreme temperatures. So buying a quality brand is worthwhile
Head: Hat, woolly hat, fur trapper hat, balaclava.
Hands: Gloves It is good to have a thin pair of gloves on under your main gloves/mittens, so you can use a camera. Mittens are better than gloves in serious cold. Good quality ski gloves are even better, as they are usually wind proof. I have a pair of lined leather mittens which work really well. UPDATE – Wrist warmers by Ruskovilla
Scarfe: Woollen or Polyester.
All in One
Body and Legs: In Finland Ice fishing is a popular hobby. They sell a reasonably priced wind proof / weather proof suite. With layers underneath this will make a great option on a budget.
Summary Layers are good. Pay attention to the materials. Polyester and wool (Merino wool) are really good, cotton is bad. Most of the clothing regular off the stuff. Spend a bit extra, for good quality ski trousers and an insulated jacket.
how to survive the northern lights.
This was the first instalment on “How to survive the northern lights.” If you like this article or better still it helps you while you are out in the cold. Then please share this post. I am looking forward to writing the next instalment.
Why visit for the destination? A snowmobile ride across tracks and frozen lakes. Husky and reindeer sleigh rides. Wildlife. Visit Father Christmas. Angry birds activity park for young children. Staying in an Ice igloo. This is just Rovaniemi. So don’t go for the northern lights. Go for the destination. There are a lot more locations within the Arctic Circle Northern Finland. Northern lights are a bonus to a holiday. They are very unpredictable. Around 40 hours notice. Even then it might miss earth and have the wrong magnetic charge.
The Northern Lights are unpredictable. It doesn’t have to be cold to see the Aurora. it has to be dark. You can consult with weather websites like SuperSaa to find the averages for both temperature and precipitation when planning your trip. The weather in Finland can change in the blink of an eye. The weather in the North of Finland is unpredictable as the Aurora Borealis themselves. It’s not unusual to have sunshine, clouds, snow and high winds all in the same day. Just because you wake up to clear skies, that doesn’t mean those clear skies will be around until Northern Lights viewing time once it’s dark.
You have to put effort into seeing the Northern Lights.
It has to be dark to see the Northern Lights. This may mean you need to get out of the town or hotel to avoid light pollution. The Aurora are easily visible in places within the arctic circle like Rovaniemi and Kilpisjärvi and when they are at the strongest the are visible to the south of Finland areas like Uusimaa, your best chance is to seek out spots in the countryside. Light Pollution map of Rovaniemi and Kilpisjärvi.
Look in the direction north when hunting Northern Lights.
This sounds obvious but knowing where north is will make setting up your camera equipment easier as the Aurora can appear and disappear very quickly or they can last for hours. I usually check the compass on my phone or a regular compass if I remember to pack it with in my camera bag The Aurora Borealis appears in a range of colours. Including a light grey. Grey northern lights are common in Southern Finland. Mind you they only appear light grey with the human eye. When you use a camera to capture them they go green.
Can you see the Northern Lights when there is a full moon.
People think they can not see the Northern Lights if there is a full moon. I have photographed the Aurora on a few occasions with a full moon. The moon brightens up the foreground. It can effect exposure time so try 3 or 4 test shots and then look at them. Try and get a happy balance or something that pleases your eye. I have a short guide on how to photograph the northern lights which is a lot easier than you think.
Q & A – quick fire round
Where are the Northern Lights in Finland?
Everywhere although it is easier to see them in the North of Finland. Visible at night. In the sky. Look North. Preferably while you have a raised Kp a good – Bz and an increase in solar winds. I have made a page with tools to see northern lights. I also have a long list of my favourite tools for viewing the Northern Lights.
When are the northern lights visible in Finland?
All year round. When its dark. see above
What is the Finnish word for Northern Lights?
Revontulet – A loose translation is the Foxes Tail
This is my first piece of blog content on Anthony.fi. I hope it answers so questions and maybe inspires you to visit Finland.