I'm off to Norway this week, and though I don't have anything to share yet from the adventure, I believe it is worth talking about the preparation for the trip as I had a bit of a hard time finding all the information I needed in one place. So here's the prep you need to know for a week and change visiting Norway as an outdoor adventurer:
We are going to be backpacking more than half the time we are in Norway, so our gear and bags are tailored to that experience. Though I would have loved to pack a bunch of cute sun dresses or my jeans, hiking boots and pants it will have to be.
4 pairs of pants: 2 pairs of hiking pants, 1 pair of long underwear, and 1 pair of rain pants (a splurge last minute purchase in anticipation of unpredictable weather).
2 pairs of shoes - hiking boots and regular tennis shoes
4 shirts: 2 for hiking, 1 for sleeping/hiking, and 1 for just hanging out
Underwear and socks
Winter hat, sun hat, and gloves
Warm jacket, rain jacket, 2 long underwear tops
Yes, those of you serious backpackers - I know this is a lot of clothing even for 11 days of traveling, but, it's nice to not be cold or wet, right?
His and hers clothes for the adventure.
Tent for 2
Sleeping bag and pad (x2)
Hiking poles (x2)
Water filtration system
Cooking pot, bowls, and utensils
Crampons for potential snow (x2)
Swiss army knife
Camelbaks and 1L regular bottles (x2)
Sunscreen and bug spray
Bronner's soap and general toiletries
First aid kit
Hiking backpack (I don't travel without my amazing Gregory Deva 60L). We also will have our collapsable duffle bag which is being checked under the plane with our gear that can't go as carry ons. We each will also have a collapsible day bag (mine is a Wild Kiwi one I picked up in New Zealand, but any will do!).
Backpacking meals for 4 days (personal favorite: pad thai. Don't knock it until you try it!)
Backpacking breakfast food and tea for 4 days
To get in Norway: lunch prep materials like bread and cheese
Clif bars for days
Trail mix and dried fruit
Getting Around & Hike Planning
I was surprised to find cheap flights to Norway (and Europe in general) from the west coast of the U.S. I have been shying away from flying that direction because I thought it would be much longer and more expensive, but that isn't the case. It takes about as long to get to Finland as it does to Japan. It's nice that the world is round, or whatever. Norwegian airlines has also started direct flights from Oakland to Oslo!
The Norwegian train system is robust and their website surprisingly easy to access in English. Trains can be booked far in advance (and if done this way, you can save a LOT of money!). We plan to train from Oslo to Bergen, Bergen to Voss, and Voss back to Oslo.
There is also an express train between Oslo airport and the downtown area, which are quite far from one another.
Though train travel is the elegant way to see a lot of Norway in a short period of time, there are also many buses to connect the other corners of the country. We plan to take a bus from Voss to Kinsarvik at the start of our hike and from Odda to Voss at the end. Bus information can be found through Skyss (there is a mobile app where tickets can be purchased in advance, though I have so far struggled to get it to work), otherwise, tickets can be purchased from the driver on the bus in cash. I also liked used the site Rome2rio to plan our itinerary.
We are traveling mainly to hike, which we decided on after perusing beautiful photos of the Norwegian countryside. It turns out though that there aren't really specific hike names like "The John Muir Trail". Instead, the Norwegians string different trails together. So for example, we will be hiking the Kinsarvik-Husedalen-Stavali-Torehytta-Hårteigen-Tyssevassbu-Trolltunga-Odda hike. It's a little confusing but it goes well with the Norwegian ethos of 'friluftsliv', which roughly translates to the outdoors or "free air life". In Norway, you could just wander off into the wilderness and hope to run into one of their many self service huts in the backcountry, maintained by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). If you are a member, you can get a key to access the huts you will need. We are skipping the hut experience since our time in New Zealand taught us we don't like sleeping head to toe with 40 or more strangers in a bunk in the woods. However, I hope to poke my head into one or two on our trail just to get a vibe. We will be enjoying the Norwegian concept of 'allemannstretten' - the "freedom to roam". This law means you can "put up a tent, or sleep under the stars, for the night anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains, as long as you keep at least 492 feet away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. This rule also applies to camping cars and caravans." - Visit Norway.
I basically stumbled upon the hike we will be going on via a blog but there is much more information (granted, in Norwegian) on Ut.no. Google translate can help a bit but you do have to scour the internet to find what you are looking for. We were able to download some trail maps and I am hoping we can pick up some real ones when we get to Oslo. The nice thing about there not being a ton of directed information about this hike (or any particular hike it seems besides Trolltunga), is that I think we can expect to not find too many international tourists along the way.
We are staying in airBnBs in Oslo, Bergen and Odda, as well as a hotel near the airport our last night. There were many reasonable options in all cities. I love traveling on airBnB around the world as it gives you a much better opportunity to embed yourself in a place, sometimes get to know the locals, and usually have access to a kitchen, which will be helpful somewhere like Norway where the food is apparently quite expensive.