What I packed for a trip to Greenland in June

As I’ve already introduced you to my trip to Ilulissat and Kangerlussuaq in a previous post (and narrated one of my trip’s highlights: evening sea kayaking amongst the icebergs), there are a few technical topics I’d like to cover. For one: what on earth do you pack for a trip to Greenland in June? Secondly, does Greenland actually have warm weather? Here you have it: packing tips from a girl who managed a ten day trip to Greenland via Copenhagen with just a backpack.

 Upon landing at Kangerlussuaq airport, I was met by a lovely lady from Icefjord Apartments, where I was staying first.
Upon landing at Kangerlussuaq airport, I was met by a lovely lady from Icefjord Apartments, where I was staying first. “Your luggage will arrive through there”, she told me. When I replied that I didn’t have any luggage, her response suggested that this was pretty odd. Luggage is fine, ladies and gents. However, if you’d like to pack minimally, it’s certainly possible.

Is summer a thing in Greenland?

Well, to start with, here’s what my trip looked like in terms of timing:

  • May 30 – train to Geneva, flight to Copenhagen

  • May 31 – flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq

  • June 1 – flight from Kangerlussuaq to Ilulissat

  • June 7 – flight from Ilulissat to Kangerlussuaq

  • June 8 – flight from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen

  • June 9 – flight from Copenhagen to Geneva, train to Bern where I stayed the night in the youth hostel (not the finest example of one)

  • June 10 – train from Bern to my new house in Meiringen, where in a rare case of advance planning all my belongings were moved in and waiting

I’m not sure if the weather was typical for early June in Greenland, but I was never uncomfortably hot nor cold. I wore my light ski jacket every day in Ilulissat, but I probably could’ve got by with just a jumper a lot of the time. When researching my trip beforehand, I read advice from others that layering is key. I’d agree: pack enough layers and a waterproof and you’re sorted. You should definitely be prepared for colder weather (especially if you’re going on evening boat rides), but you don’t want to be stuck with a really heavy jacket and ski trousers on a good day either.


My decision to pack light for Greenland

Now, I don’t necessarily recommend you follow my lead and pack tremendously light. It’s just the way I like to travel. I love being able to explore a new place with everything I need on my back. I like checking out of a room and knowing I don’t need to find a locker for my bag, because it’s light enough to keep with me.

There were also some disadvantages of travelling light in Greenland:

  1. I didn’t really have any room to acquire and store souvenirs in my bag. Sorry guys, no whale tooth tupilaks for you this time.

  2. I flew from/to Copenhagen, spending a day here on either side of my trip. This complicated my wardrobe: while I was wearing winter clothes in Ilulissat, it was shorts weather in Copenhagen. As expected, navigating the city centre with a less-than-attractive hiking outfit and a ski jacket in tow wasn’t ideal. I had prepared myself for any questions with a “I’ve been in Greenland, I’m not as stupid as you think”, but of course this didn’t happen. I’m guilty of overthinking things.

 Packaged up rather ridiculously for my evening boat trip. Oh look, icebergs!
Packaged up rather ridiculously for my evening boat trip. Oh look, icebergs!

A rundown of what I packed for Greenland:

Most of the time I wore…

  • Purple Salomon ski jacket (which wasn’t too bulky or thick), with the following things stuffed in pockets:

    • Passport

    • Phone plus charger

    • Green knitted hat and thick woollen gloves with furry lining (e.g. not built for adventure sports in the slightest)

    • Quattro small artist blank notepad and a pen

  • Ankle-height Salomon hiking boots (bulky, so I wore these when travelling)

  • Colombia black hiking trousers

    • Black cotton leggings (I wore these most the time under my hiking trousers)

  • Grey zip-up fleece jacket

On my back was…

  • North Face Borealis backpack

    • Nikon D3300 camera with 18-55 lens and 55-300 lens plus battery charger

    • Small Nikon Wireless Adapter for uploading photos from camera to phone

    • European adapter plug

    • Clear plastic airport liquids bag, containing…

      • A few makeup supplies: MaxFactor mascara, L’OrĂ©al Touche Magique concealer, the rose-coloured Vaseline, Bobbi Brown powder and blush compacts (these two non-liquids mostly resided in my coat pockets)

      • Travel-size toothpaste, toothbrush, small pot of moisturiser, suncream, insect repellent roll-on, deodrant, mini shampoo and conditioner, shower gel

      • Sleep eye mask and earplugs

      • Nike running leggings

      • 5 x cotton t-shirts, mostly long-sleeved

      • 1 x Zara thin navy blue knitted top

      • 4 x thick hiking socks and 2 x thinner trainer socks

      • Enough underwear for 5 days (thank you, apartments with washing machines)

      • Kindle + charger

      • Spare phone (I keep my previous phone lying around, so decided I might as well pack it)

      • Blue thin Patagonia rain jacket (which spent most of the trip folded and stuffed under the elastic bungee cord on the front of my backpack)

 Warm ears, happy kayaker.
Warm ears, happy kayaker.

Things I didn’t really need:

  • My airport liquids bag was definitely pushing its luck in terms of size. I know this might seem ridiculous for the standard traveller (who would’ve just checked in a bag), but by nature I am a bit ridiculous. So, when repacking throughout the trip, I thought I should have…

    • Decanted some of my suncream into a tiny pot. While I used it fairly often, there was no way I needed the whole tube.

    • Packed a mini deodorant instead of a full-sized one in a glass container.

  • My navy thin knitted top. It creased too easily in my bag, wasn’t a layer I needed for hiking, and looked too dark worn alone with black leggings. If you’re travelling around Greenland like I did, doing a lot of hiking and outdoorsy stuff, you probably don’t need to bring anything other than hiking clothes with you. The only time I felt underdressed was when passing through Copenhagen, but I’d probably feel like that on a good day.

Things I needed:

  • Although I worried it would be excessive, I found it useful to have two pairs of shoes (one pair ankle height, the other more trainer-ish and flexible).

  • I bought a merino wool Buff before my evening kayaking to keep my ears/neck warm, both when on the water and while hiking. It did an ideal job (much better than my knitted – read: ventilated – wool hat), so would definitely recommend packing one.

  • My zoom lens. It’s heavy and bulky, but I was glad I had it when hiking and spying on wildlife.

 Remember your layers and your trip will be glorious.
Remember your layers and your trip will be glorious.