Northern Lights: What To Wear

What should I wear to watch the Northern Lights? Well, it's not going to be about glamour on this little outing. Practicality - as boring as that sounds - is key.  You don't want to taint the memory of the night you saw the Northern Lights with that same time you got a touch of frostbite. Having recently ventured to Iceland in February with only carry-on luggage to hand, I can assure you that there will be room for enough layers to keep you warm. As the best time of year to see the Northern Lights is December though to March, it's time to embrace those sexy thermals. Here's what I wore the night I stood under the star-lit sky for three hours watching the Northern Lights put on the most incredible dancing show.

Starting with the base, a layer of thermals is essential. I literally packed this M&S thermal top in three colours (black, white, oatmeal) and rotated them throughout my stay. The HeatGen range is the best for quality from the High Street and easy on the purse-strings. They have a great selection of necklines and fabrics ranging from thin, lightweight, discreet tops to more thicker, fleecy ones. The latter was what I opted for; the thicker, the warmer, the better. Available from £16, Marks & Spencer.

One thing I hadn't come prepared with was thermal leggings. A 20-something Londoner doesn't have many needs for longjohns in her wardrobe but whilst, on this occasion, I felt I had missed a winner, luckily I was offered my husband's cycling leggings to add a second layer to my legs. Plus, a bonus of this situation is when is a better time to be able to store an extra pair of socks in your crotch area?! For next time, I'll be stocking up on these M&S HeatGen Thermal Leggings with Cashmere, £25.

Black jeans are oxygen to my wardrobe so they were the final layer for my legs. Particularly sexy to note the tucking action that went down here: thermal top into my waistband and a pair of socks under and walking socks over my trouser leg. The aim here was 'snug as a bug in a rug'. My go-to brand & style for jeans is River Island's Molly Jeans, £40.

Knowing I would be jumping between different temperatures throughout the evening, layering was my approach to the top half! The hotel room in which we got ready became increasingly like an inferno with every new garment applied. On top of the thermal top was a long-sleeved shirt made from a brushed cotton-type material. Super snuggly and handy to button up/down depending on whether I was stood outside by the bus-stop waiting to be picked up for the tour, or sat under a heater on the coach's 50 minute journey out of Reykjavik.

Thermal + Shirt + Jumper up next. I wore this one from Topshop for it's high neck and ample room for said layers to sit beneath without distorting it for future wear. I recently learned that the reason wool keeps you warm is because it lightly abrades the skin's surface, therefore sending blood rushing to the site. Kind of weird and ineffective in this case given there were two layers between said woollen jumper and skin surface but an interesting fact none the less. Similar style can be found here, Topshop £32.

The coat is key. For me, I was really glad to have a coat that didn't resemble that much of a sleeping bag from an aesthetic point of view, after all I was hoping to be in the odd photo or two, whilst not compromising on the heat retention. Pockets, for me, were a must for lipbalm, camera, iPhone and headphones. Whilst I love this coat, it was more fashion-based than practical so I couldn't turn down the offer of a gilet to go over the top of the coat. Told you, sexy.

Now onto accessories... Pack a long scarf that you can wind around your neck a couple of times and tuck into the front of your coat (anyone else remember their parents doing this to them before letting them loose in the playground?). Leather gloves are so much more efficient than wool ones and damp, cold gloves should be avoided at all cost. Considering the snow on the ground and how damn dark it is 'out there', one slip and drop of the lens cover into the snow and you're screwed. An 'ear-band' to ensure your ears are actually contained under a layer of weather resistant fabric makes more difference that you would think. I actually got an earache from whistling cold wind hitting my ears earlier in the trip so I highly recommend. Again, another of the husband's cycling paraphernalia which came in rather handy! Woolly hat (preferably with bobble) to top it off! I just love my Kate Spade 'Ooh La La' black and white hat.
So there is my packing list for your adventure out into the darkness to see this spectacular phenomena. Three hours stood outside in the freezing cold, crunchy snow underfoot and throat-catching winds blowing a gale requires some serious outfit consideration so if in doubt, do a 'Joey' and wear all your clothes. Every trip and tour may be shrouded in disclaimers about the uncertainty of whether you will see the Northern Lights, but should you be one of the lucky ones, the misery of feeling cold to the bones whilst you're gazing upwards or forced to retreat to the warmth of the coaches will hopefully be prevented by reading this post.


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