Snow, ice, cold and dancing northern lights
From the van with the skis directly into the next trail, with the snowmobile from the campsite in the endless winter landscape and see the northern lights dancing out of bed in the evening ... Who would not like to experience it once - a real winter in northern Europe? Often we are therefore asked what to pay attention to, whether this is easy to realize and what we have gained experience. To make it easier for you to plan your own tour, we have compiled the most important nine points for you.
Of course, we can not give a reliable weather forecast for your trip here. In addition, in Scandinavia extreme weather conditions can be expected at any time and in all regions. However, there are some basic climatic conditions that can be considered when planning your tour. So it is generally milder on the coast than inland, as the climate at the sea is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream active there. In the interior, in the east of the country, however, there is generally a continental climate with sometimes extremely low temperatures.
From November to April there is a lot of snow to be expected there and, above all, on the mountain passes. During the massive snowfall with the often associated drifts, it is common to lock some roads for a short time. The vehicles then often have to wait and line up for a few hours before these routes are cleared for passage in column. Led by a leader vehicle - the "Ledebil" - you will then be guided safely over the pass or through the snowy landscape. To prepare for these waiting times and closures, you should always have enough fuel in the tank, blankets and warm drinks. The ADAC has published a vivid video and further information in this article Winter Holidays in Scandinavia on his blog about the rides and conditions in the "Winter Columns".
Other routes are partially closed seasonally in the winter months. Please inform yourself at an early stage about possible closures on the well and clearly arranged site of Norway's Road Authority : Overview Statens Vegvesen .
In general, the roads are not cleared as we know it from Germany. As a rule, only the snow is pushed and scattered regional different something. Especially in the north of the country, north of Trondheim, therefore, is often expected in the winter with icy roads, as here very changeable weather conditions (freezing rain, snowfall, cold) prevail. In the eastern parts of Norway, on the other hand, you usually have to prepare yourself for a frozen snowpack. It is generally slow and should plan accordingly much time for his route.
From our experience, you can get along the well-developed roads in Sweden often faster, as these are usually well cleared. Therefore, we often travel through the longer routes for arrival and departure to our destinations in Norway in the winter through Sweden. Depending on the route and the destination, this also avoids some mountain passes in Norway, which often offer unpleasant surprises in winter. The journey can then be well connected with the cheap ferry Kiel - Gothenburg (Stenaline). More information about the optimal and inexpensive journey to Norway can be found in this special article on this topic.
We are traveling with a converted van based on the Mercedes Sprinter 4 × 4. Its four-wheel drive in combination with our year-round tires BF Goodrich AT has proven well on the previous tours. In the snow and also on frozen snow cover we are even in some extreme situations (snow drifts) got along well. In the winter, we also have auxiliary equipment such as snow chains, blankets and spades in the winter, which we have not had to use yet.
The BF Goodrich AT have so far mostly surprised us positively. Only in the slush and with small amounts of snow on a wet road, they reach their limits relatively quickly. In the east of Norway, in the border area with Sweden, we were now several hundred kilometers with these tires and without any problems on the most diverse road conditions. But we've also read a lot about how these tires just get to hard after three to four years to continue to deliver such a good impression in the winter. We will keep an eye on this and would like to publish an update on this in the near future.
North of Trondheim you should try to use spikes tires. The often mirror-smooth roads in the north of the country make this necessary. For the locals it is therefore also common practice to drive in the winter with spikes tires. As a tourist you can either use special snow chains with spikes (available in Germany) or make it like some experienced "Nordland drivers": You buy the corresponding spikes tires in Norway or Sweden, store them there at a tire service of your choice and this can be raised on every tour to the north of Scandinavia. On the return trip to Germany will then be "exchanged". A variant that only makes sense on regular and longer winter tours through Scandinavia.
We try to use campsites in winter. Thus, we are largely independent of the systems in the vehicle and in the case of extreme weather situations, not on us. There are a surprising number of campsites in Norway that are open in winter. Many local permanent campers are also in their caravans and living tents at this time. From there it is often on skis or the snowmobile in the trail.
Generally, you should register at the campsite, so that the operator can clear the way and the parking space. A short mail to the operator is usually sufficient. Even if you are not sure if the campsite is open, you can clarify this via a mail to the campsite quickly. In this way, we have always successfully planned our previous tours and then registered on the course about two days before arrival.
Regardless of your own, irreplaceable research, there is a great overview of the campsites that are open in the winter on the Norwegian website "Camping Portals" at this link . However, this is not quite complete - because typically Norwegian, sometimes a campsite owner is willing to open the place due to your nice request for you 🙂
The isolation of the vehicle is almost existent at temperatures of minus twenty degrees and more. Especially panel vans are usually designed only conditionally for these extreme conditions. Nevertheless, you can achieve a lot with a few simple steps. Basically, we insulate the windows in the cab with thermal pads, which we attach from the inside. So far, we have renounced (additional) insulation from the outside, but soon want to test a variant.
The windows in the living area we have insulated in extreme temperatures with trapped Styrofoam plates between the plastic discs and the roller blind. In addition, we have made curtains made of insulating microfibre fabric, which can easily be attached to the sliding door in winter instead of the fly screen curtains. With additional, subsequently installed curtains made of the same material, we can separate the living space from the cab. We have the experience that there are the most cold spots and want to reduce the air exchange between the two areas with this curtain.
After the experience of our first winter tour, we have made in the seating area a well insulated carpet, as it was often very cold. Another cold bridge is the outlet for the brake cable of the handbrake and the front seats, for which we have not yet found a suitable solution.
Furthermore, we put in the winter between the slatted frame and the mattress a warm blanket to protect us from the cold air from the rear garage. In the end, we weathered it well at minus 28 degrees - our cold record.
Snow? No problem. Freezing cold? Can be clarified. The biggest challenge for us has always been condensation. Although we only boiled water for tea or coffee and otherwise did all the other activities on the campgrounds in this regard, we were extremely concerned with the humidity in the vehicle. In spite of icy temperatures, we had to ventilate well and intensively in order to then heat everything up again properly. At least you should keep this cost factor in mind. Various aids, such as room dehumidifiers, unfortunately proved to be ineffective and did not help.
The danger is simply that you turn your RV into a stalactite cave. If the condensation on the ice-cold inside of the metal roof precipitates and freezes there, it can happen that it suddenly starts to drip in warmer temperatures in the car ... Therefore, as little as possible in the vehicle to cook, ventilate intensively and also properly heat.
In a nutshell: on our winter tours, we only use the toilet flush. There we add a commercially available antifreeze concentrate to the rinse water in the tank, as it is also used for the windscreen washer system. So nothing can freeze there.
All other water-bearing systems are emptied during our winter tours, as if the vehicle had been completely winterized. Instead, we use the kitchen and bathroom on the campsites. It would be too risky for us to leave the vehicle during the day and not know if the heater will start in any case when the indoor temperatures drop below zero. The consequential damage would be extreme if the water pipes freeze and therefore we will not allow it to arrive.
In order to be able to fall back on a small water supply, we have a canister with drinking water on board. We have done well so far and thus had no problems with frost damage.
We regularly use the diesel heating system Truma Combo D 6 on board, which has hitherto served us reliably. Nevertheless, we have on the winter tours with an additional electric ceramic fan on board. On the one hand, we are double-protected in case a heating system should fail. On the other hand, the combination of both heaters creates a cozy atmosphere, as the heat is distributed differently and better in this way.
In addition, it is also a very inexpensive option to heat in Norway, since the electricity is usually charged on the campsites flat rate. Therefore, with our electric radiator ECOMAT we can also heat relatively cheaply. In addition, this small part is extremely quiet and can therefore run at night as frost protection inside. Even if he is slightly more expensive to buy, he was worth every euro for us and we can recommend him as an additional, second source of heat without restriction.
For the winter tours, basically everything is cleared out, which you will almost certainly not need, such as the camping furniture, the gas grill and all similar utensils. Of course, many other pieces of equipment have to be on board during the winter. We have listed these from our experience once for you:
The products are linked to our Affiliate Partner Bol.com. When you buy one of our referral links, we'll get a small commission without you having to pay more 🙂
We are used to refueling in Germany or Denmark before we translate to Norway or Sweden. Purely economically, this makes sense and in any case cheaper. But we do NOT do that on our winter tours. In winter, people in Sweden and Norway usually refuel the so-called Polardiesel. This is due to various additives better suited for extreme degrees of cold than the Central European fuels. In this respect, you should also consider whether you fill the tank properly (again) in the north to be better prepared for extreme temperatures.
In the meantime, we were traveling through Norway on two road trips during the winter. In January 2018 we traveled through extreme low temperatures and lots of snow through eastern Norway and from September to November of the same year we went to the north of the country . So prepared, these tours were unforgettable in the indescribably beautiful winter landscape. When you see the northern lights dancing through the skylight in the van, you almost lose your breath. In this respect, we hope to help with our shared experiences and tips in preparing your own tour and wish you a great trip already.
Do you have any further questions or suggestions? Did we forget something? Then we look forward to your comments under this post.