“There is no such thing as bad weather, it’s only bad clothing.” This is what I heard over and over again before, and during my trip to Greenland. Most of the country lying in the Arctic circle, Greenland is not your typical pack up and go destination. You have to think about where you will be visiting, what time of the year it will be, and what activities you would participate in.
I went to South Greenland (latitude between 60-69 degrees North) during August, which is towards the end of summer. The tempratures ranged from 30-50F, and other factors played a role as well. If the sky for clear and sunny, it felt pleasant, but if it was cloudy and windy, it felt a lot colder. Thankfully, I did some research ahead of time and was well prepared so I never felt uncomfortable.
Here are some tips that I highly recommend when packing for your trip to Greenland:
Dress in Layers – A shell of long sleeve t-shirt or thermal; sweater or fleece; parka or jacket – at least three so you have some way to adjust your comfort based on the dramatic changes in weather. I took a Canada Goose Camp Hooded Jacket and Canada Goose HyBridge Lite Jacket, based on guidance from their Thermal Experience Index. They were both stylish and fitting, available in vibrant colors. I found out that this Toronto based company provides official Parka for Air Greenland flight crew and pilots. Canada Goose is the official jacket of the UNESCO site Ilulissat Fjord and worn by the park rangers. In fact, Canada Goose sells more jackets per capita in Greenland than anywhere else in the world.
Layer dressing also applies to pants, hats and gloves. Because of strong winds, you must carry wind proof jacket with hoodie at all times.
Get Good Shoes – Don’t think about carrying a pair of fashionable boots for the day and sandals for the night. All you need is a super comfortable of all terrain hiking boots. Make sure that they are not a brand new pair and are already broken into. I walked on ice, snow, rocks, streets and grasslands – even though this was not an expedition. Of course, warm socks are a must. Take a look at outdoorempire.com for some great choices of tactical boots, perfect for hikes of all magnitudes.
Greenlanders dress very casual and even when you go to a restaurant or bar, hiking shoes or boots are perfectly ok. You may want to carry a pair of house slippers as you have to take your shoes off before entering a Greenlandic homes. This rule also applies at some of the hostels.
Pack Some Food – Even though I stayed at hotels and hostels located in somewhat urban areas, there were multiple times during my trip when I needed food and couldn’t find it. The grocery stores close at 6pm (some at 4pm), there may be a restaurant or two in town, no snack bars near tourist attractions, and no vending machines anywhere. I carried few granola bars and snacks with me for these times, and made a run to the grocery store to buy fruit, chips, chocolates, etc. (cost is at least 2-4 times than in US).
Also, note that alcohol sales at stores ends at 6pm on weekdays, 1pm on Saturdays and not allowed on Sundays. If you are the kind of person who likes a glass of beer or wine in the evenings, make sure you plan ahead. Surely, you can find it at restaurants and bars (if there is one), but its not cheap.
Travel Light – The only way to get around Greenland is by air or water. I took helicopters, planes and boats to move from town to town. Although none of these had issues with luggage allowance, its easier to get in and out with one bag. The two Canada Goose jackets I took with me were super light, unlike any heavy wool, goose-down, or parka I have purchased before.
When we landed by boat at a sheep farm in Ipiutaq, there was no dock. We had to get off the boat and directly climb on to a wet rock with our bags. Then we landed in grass and carried ourselves into the farm house. It was quite an experience!
Take Everything You Need – Greenland is still a remote destination where most of the products are imported from Europe. Only Nuuk (the capital city) has shopping centers and malls where you can find practically everything from backyards pools to hula hoops. In other towns, stores carry basic supplies like food, medicine, alcohol, electronics and household goods. Choice are limited and prices very high. It is better to prepare ahead of time and carry items you may need during your trip, for example enough medication, batteries, toiletries, etc, as well as thinking outside of the box for anything you might need, for example if you’ll be on a boat, remember to pack spare marine batteries. I also carried my laptop and DVD’s for the quiet evenings where there was no television (even if there was one, it rarely worked), and I didn’t want to pay for internet ($20/ hour standard rate).
Click here to read more about my experiences in Greenland.