You have booked your flight, made your hotel reservation, and are getting excited about your upcoming vacation to chase the northern lights. But what do you need to bring? We get a lot of inquiries about what people need when preparing for their northern lights trip, so we thought we would make some specific recommendations.
Safety should always be the primary concern. Cold weather cannot only be uncomfortable, it can create some serious health risks. Being prepared ensures that you have both a safe and enjoyable experience chasing the northern lights.
Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. In the earliest stage of frostbite, known as frostnip, there is no permanent damage to skin. Symptoms include cold skin and a prickling feeling, followed by numbness and inflamed or discolored skin. As frostbite worsens, skin may become hard or waxy-looking. Read more information on symptoms and treatment.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water. Primary treatments for hypothermia are methods to warm the body back to a normal temperature. Read more information on symptoms and treatment.
Cold Weather Gear
You want to be able to stay outside long enough to wait for the aurora, and then enjoy them when thy appear. Remember, aurora chasing is a marathon, not a sprint! That means wearing the right type and amount of layers in order to be comfortable in cold winter conditions. Preparing for your northern lights trip is the best way to enjoy it.
Protect your Core!
Staying warm starts with keeping your torso and legs warm. Our body works to maintain blood flow to our core sometimes at the cost of our extremities. So have a warm, moisture-wicking base layer underneath a warm sweater or fleece, followed by an outer later that is well-insulated and protects against the wind. Don’t use any cotton products for any layers. Use wool or polypropylene or other synthetic products designed for cold weather.
Head, fingers and toes
For all of our guests, this is the area where people often come unprepared or feel like they are not keeping warm enough. Like with your body layers, no cotton! For your feet, don’t wear two layers of socks unless the first layer is a thin, typically synthetic, moisture-wicking layer. The second layer should be wool. There are two reasons for this approach. First, keeping your feet dry helps them stay warm. Second, too much pressure on your feet will actually constrict blood flow and make your toes and feet get colder faster. For hands, it can be good to find gear that is a combination glove and mitten to allow for dexterity but extra layering. Lastly, for the head, it may also be helpful to have an under-layer that covers the whole head except for the face and an additional outer layer that is thicker and insulated. For boots, you definitely want something that is layered and insulated.
Check out our specific gear recommendations on our Amazon marketplace page (commissions paid).
We are often asked what sort of camera gear is necessary to successfully photograph the northern lights. When preparing for your northern lights trip, think of what specific gear you will need to successfully photograph the aurora borealis.
Camera and Lens
You basically need a digital camera (either DSLR or mirrorless) that allows for full manual exposure control – ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Additionally, it needs to be a camera that allows for a detachable lens – preferably with a widest aperture of at least f/4.0.
You will also need a tripod with either a cable or remote trigger release. You can get by with your camera’s self-timer if you don’t have a release. Have extra batteries and at least 128 gigs of camera cards available. You may also want to have some lens cloth available to clean off your lens – frost build-up can sometimes be an issue.
Check out these and other specific camera accessory recommendations we have on our Amazon marketplace page (commissions paid).
Also, make sure to read our post on How to Photograph the Northern Lights in 10 Easy Steps!