When I told my friends that my boyfriend and I would be traveling to Greenland and Iceland over the summer, they all responded the same way.
"Did you suddenly turn into this outdoorsy person without us knowing? What gives?"
Not at all. In fact, I'm a total indoors girl, barely played sports (unless dance team in high school counts), cry every time I see a bug, and constantly joked that I was always more of a Victoria than a David. Of course, my boyfriend Dave is a totally different story. Three-hour hikes are no big deal to him, lives for the day he can climb onto a glacier, and he's been on plenty of trips that require him to rough it.
I honestly don't really understand what he sees in me.
When he suggested that we take a two-week trip to Greenland and Iceland, of course I was down—I'll go wherever you will go, as early '00s one-hit-wonder band The Calling once sung, and I've wanted to see that part of the world for years, especially now before climate change ruined everything. However, this would require me to be the outdoorsy person that I was not, with activities like kayaking, exploring ice caves, and hikes upon hikes dominating our schedule. All of this was pretty new to me. Of course, I was excited to have the experience, but I'm not the kind of person who regularly sleeps on the ground in a tent, or backpacks across an entire continent for fun.
Maybe you are, and hey, more power to you, but I'm not, and I don't pretend to be. I certainly exceeded my own expectations during this past trip, but certain aspects, like carrying four shampoos along in my luggage, remained the same.
Are you an indoors girl en route to an outdoorsy locale? Rest assured, dear reader, I have you covered. Keep reading for your comprehensive guide what you need in order to pretend you can hang in the wilderness.
VIDEO: Five Glaciers to Hike Before They're Gone
1. Layer Up
Initially, I thought I'd be fine packing my gigantic winter parka as my sole form of outerwear, but since weather tends to vary in different parts of Greenland and Iceland, layering seemed like a better idea.
Underneath the NASA puffer jacket I bought from the kid's section of the Kennedy Space Center gift store (not kidding), I have on two long-sleeve shirts, a t-shirt, a sportsbra, and a wool sweater. Ilulissat, Greenland was the northernmost city we were visiting, and at one point during a glacier tour, I found myself wearing every single layer I packed, along with two pairs of leggings at once. When we were hunting the northern lights in Iceland, I ended up having to wear three pairs of leggings because it got so cold. Alternately, the further South we went, the less layers were required, as temperatures hovered around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put roughly three short-sleeved tees on your packing list, four long-sleeved shirts, a bomber jacket, a waterproof jacket, and maybe two sweaters on your packing list, then assume you'll re-use a ton of them. I packed slightly more, and still ended up taking some clean pieces home.
2. Hiking Boots Will Become Your Best Friend
Initially, I threw a fit when I found out I'd need hiking boots. Like, I thought my Converse Chucks would be fine, thank you very much. I hated how most styles looked like a pair of Skechers I used to wear back in the 8th grade, and Dave kept telling me to stop putting aesthetics over function.
I'm so vain. I probably think this song is about me.
I caved and bought a pair of Salomon Ultra Mid boots ($125; rei.com) in the least offensive black and grey color pattern I could find, and let me tell you, I am so glad that I did. This trip took me on more hikes than I have ever been on in my life, and there were a few surprise hikes along the way. For example, we'd be on our way to this scenic waterfall, when all of a sudden, we learned that a surprise hike up a hill for half an hour was the only way to get there. Want to get up close and personal with a glacier? Surprise hike!
The tread on the bottom of the boot kept me from sliding around and falling off of the terrain, while the waterproof exterior enabled me to walk through streams without getting my socks wet. And that's another thing—pair your boots with some wool socks, which keep you warm, don't get gross if your feet happen to sweat, and are generally more comfortable than your standard cotton pair. I used a bunch by People Socks ($37 for four; peoplesocks.com), which sometimes made me look like I had cankles if I rolled them weird, but were insanely warm and worth the investment.
3. As Will Your Backpack
"What are you going to do, take your handbag on a hike?" Dave asked me prior to our trip to the Faroe Islands we took last year. We get around.
"How the hell am I supposed to carry around what I need, then?" I retorted.
As it turns out, a backpack was the answer—The North Face's Isabella Backpack ($85; thenorthface.com) in particular. This, of course, is a no-brainer for most, but at that point, I hadn't used one since I was in school. Now that I've converted, it's all I ever use on trips. It's big enough to stuff my laptop, makeup bag, and handbag into, without feeling insanely heavy. It's my constant carry-on, and fits all the hiking snacks I could ever want, because I am a total pill to deal with when I'm hungry.
4. Waterproof Everything
And I'm not just talking about your mascara. A waterproof outer layer like Marmot's PreCip Rain Jacket ($60; rei.com) saved my ass on a few occasions—namely, during unexpected rain storms, unexpected splashes from a boat you happen to be on, and any time I got too close to a waterfall, which happened a lot on the Iceland leg of the trip. Despite the elements at play, all of your clothing (and hair) underneath will remain totally dry, provided you tighten that hood to the point you look like a giant lollipop, as I did.
If you do nothing else to prepare, get thee to an REI and find a waterproof jacket. It was so effective, I'm actually on the market for a longer version that covers my butt, and am considering adding other waterproof items to my wardrobe. Dave has a pair of waterproof pants I became insanely jealous of after the rain in Nuuk soaked my leggings all the way through.
5. Bring Extra Socks and Leggings
Real talk: you probably won't wear that cute pair of heeled booties you take everywhere, but you will burn through your legging and sock supply, particularly if you're doing activities like kayaking or any open-boat tours that require a dry suit. You don't need more than a single shirt, pair of leggings, and socks underneath since the suit keeps you pretty warm, though you may want to re-wear an ensemble that needs to be washed, rather than clean pieces.
Kayaking through a bay filled with icebergs was something I never thought I would do, but was thrilled to do it and sung most of the Moana soundtrack in my head while I did. Though the dry suits are typically pretty waterproof, my socks somehow got soaked, as did my leggings, and this is no fault of the company, but the suits smell kind of weird as it is by default. Props to the cool guys at PGI Greenland, however, who put up with my weird, claustrophobic panic attack when I couldn't get my head through the latex-coated hole at the top of the suit.
6. Assume All Your Hair Tools Will Break
I was simultaneously working on a story centered around universal voltage hair tools that wouldn't burn up, and spoiler alert, most of them ended up melting. Drybar's Baby Buttercup Blow Dryer ($135; sephora.com) did make it out alive, but when your days consist of hiking to a glacier, or hiking to a hot spring on the side of a mountain, time for a full blowout is pretty few and far between.
Knowing we'd be swimming at a hot spring at Uunartoq in South Greenland, I rocked air-dried hair that day, assuming it would get slightly wet. Planning on doing the same? Tie your hair back so that even if it does hit the water, you won't have to walk around in 40-degree weather with a fully wet head. The hot springs are pretty much natural pools on the side of the mountain, so while there is a changing room, you don't have anywhere to plug in a blow-dryer. Keep a plastic bag handy to stash your wet clothes post-swim, and make sure your towel is nearby the spring so that running like hell back to the changing room isn't so painful.
7. Never Underestimate the Power of a Mosquito Net
When we were looking up travel info for South Greenland, just about every site recommended taking a mosquito net and insect repellent during the summer. Apparently the bug situation is just that intense once most of the ice melts.
Of course, I didn't believe any of it and refused to get one, but Dave went and picked up two Sea to Summit Head Nets ($10; rei.com), knowing I was stubborn as hell. Little did I know that this net would save me after arriving in Qaqortoq. The tiny boat we took from the airport docked at the port in town, and as I was dragging my massive suitcase up the hill on a gravel road, a cloud of gnats surrounded me. Pissed off, I whipped out the net to avoid inhaling any, and continued to lug my belongings to the hotel—where, fun fact, we saw the actor who played Raven's dad on That's So Raven. Not kidding.
How strong the gnats came for us was usually dependent on the wind—when there was no wind, the gnats were in full force. On breezy days, we barely saw any. Still, we did end up having to use the nets pretty frequently during our three-day span in Qaqortoq, and I picked up a tiny can of insect repellent in town, which I used as setting spray twice.
My face smelled like a gigantic lemon, but it worked.
8. Always Find Time to Wind Down
After two weeks straight of outdoorsy activities, I was finally able to kick off my hiking boots on our very last day in Iceland for some much needed R and R at the famed Blue Lagoon. You've likely seen pictures and heard rave reviews of the spa—even Beyonce is a fan—and I was even more intrigued after learning more and experiencing the silica and algae-rich waters for myself. The Blue Lagoon has been around since 1976, though it wasn't until the late '80s that it was opened to the public. People who worked at the Svartsengi power plant began bathing in its naturally-heated waters and found that the combination of silica and algae had a healing effect on skin ailments like psoriasis. A special clinic devoted to treating the issue still exists today, and the Blue Lagoon's masks have reached somewhat of an icon status in themselves. Upon arrival, you're given a generous scoop of the Silica Mud Mask ($115; bluelagoon.com), which I proudly wore while toting around a glass of red wine. Everyone was doing it, so I didn't feel as weird and self-conscious over my mask face as I normally would, say, on a plane. I followed with the Algae Mask ($115; bluelagoon.com), which made my skin feel so soft and look insanely glowy, despite the colder climate.
Pack a handful of Invisibobble hair ties ($8; sephora.com), though a second swimsuit is totally optional if you already have one—I insisted on taking my Mikoh Seychelles One-Piece ($218; zappos.com), as it didn't take up much room in my suitcase, and was very eager to do so since I hadn't worn it all summer. It looks like a bikini from the front, but the cool string detailing in the back makes it classify as a one-piece.
I never wanted to leave that geothermal pool, but eventually, I had to step out once my fingers got too weird and pruny to handle. Still, I took home the Signature Mask Set ($259; bluelagoon.com), Rich Rejuvenating Cream ($159; bluelagoon.com), Foaming Cleanser ($59; bluelagoon.com), and Rejuvenating Lip Balm ($39; bluelagoon.com) in an attempt to bring that zen-like feeling home.
9. Hair Products
Now, on to the products!
My hair is color-treated, and naturally pretty thick and wavy, so I need a few products to get it to look the way I want. I veered between blow-drying with a round brush, and letting the air do its thing naturally, so I loaded up with products that could simultaneously reduce frizz and keep my strands soft.OUAI Smooth Spray ($26; sephora.com): When I would heat-style my hair, this floral-scented mist added a protective barrier, but also worked wonders at bringing out my wavy texture when I opted to air-dry. R+Co. Sunset Blvd. and Atlantis Minis ($14 each; randco.com): My hair has a few blonde highlights, and because I'm constantly paranoid that they'll turn orange, I applied the lavender-tinted Sunset Blvd. shampoo and conditioner liberally. Sometimes I'd switch them for the hydrating Atlantis formula, or would mix and match shampoo and conditioners depending on what my hair needed on that particular day. OUAI Hair Oil ($28; sephora.com): Aside from glueing my split ends back together, a few pumps of this nourishing oil helped the air-drying process, and added a healthy shine. R+Co. Death Valley Dry Shampoo ($17; barneys.com): My favorite dry shampoo in the history of dry shampoos. I used this pretty regularly to get my hat hair in check, and I love how it immediately eliminated oil and restored volume without any unnecessary stickiness. A few blasts around my root area saved me on the days I didn't have time to deal with washing and styling my hair, which was pretty often.
I tried to keep my makeup bag pretty streamlined, but there are certain things I refused to go without—a groomed set of brows, sharp cat-eye, and glowy highlight are everything to me.Kelley Baker Brow Powder and Brush ($26 and $30; kelleybakerbrows.com): I refuse to go in public without first doing my brows, and Kelley Baker's brunette powder is my favorite product at the moment. It's a close match to my natural hairs without looking too Jafar from Aladdin-ish, and the angled brush dispenses the perfect amount of product. L'Occitane Shea Butter Lip Balm Stick ($9; loccitane.com): I kept this tiny tube in my jacket pocket, and would reapply frequently whenever my lips were feeling dry. Surprisingly, they never cracked or flaked, and I loved how this clear balm almost seemed to enhance my natural lip color. Make Up For Ever Filled 3-Pan Palette ($45; sephora.com): I filled this palette with a bronzer/contour pan, blush, and highlight, all of which could double as eyeshadow if I ever needed it. For the most part, I'd add some slight definition with the contour and blush pans, then blend the shimmer over the high points of my face. When I was especially pressed for time, I'd wear the highlighter solo. Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Mascara ($28; sephora.com): The unique shape of the mascara brush allows you to evenly dispense the volumizing and lengthening formula, resulting in an almost-faux appearance in the best way possible. NARS Velvet Matte Stick Foundation ($45; sephora.com): I used this blendable foundation stick as concealer, and concentrated placement to areas of my face that needed a little extra love, like under my eyes, down the center of my nose, and over any unexpected breakout. Eyeko Sport Waterproof Mascara ($20; nordstrom.com): Come unexpected humidity or high water, this liner never ran or smudged, and the included brush on the opposite end allowed me to taper my wing to a point.
In the Arctic circle, extra-hydrating products are key. During the day, I'd layer my Guerlain serum under a dollop of La Prairie Sunscreen, followed by eye cream. At night, I piled on every serum I brought with me, working from thinnest to thickest, to keep my skin from getting too dry.
Don't tell him I told you this, but my boyfriend tapped into my skincare supply more than once, as he neglected to bring his own moisturizer along for the ride.L'Occitane Immortelle Divine Cleansing Cream ($39; loccitane.com): Centered around the hydrating Immortelle flower, this cream-based cleanser effectively whisked away my makeup and kept my pores from getting clogged, without stripping my skin of its much-needed natural oils. Guerlain Abeille Royale Youth Watery Oil ($90; nordstrom.com): This serum was lightweight enough for me to wear under makeup, and I'm convinced that piling on this stuff prevented any inklings of wind burn from becoming too severe. My skin absorbed the fluid formula on contact, and gave the makeup I applied over the top a super-smooth, even finish. Don't even get me started on how addictive the smell is—my heart practically broke when I reached the bottom of the bottle. Dior Prestige La Micro-Huile de Rose ($260; saksfifthavenue.com): I basically coated my entire face in this petal-scented concoction every night. The hero ingredients is the Rose de Granville flower, which Dior researchers found growing in a harsh marine climate. The regenerative essence of the bloom was incorporated into micro-capsules, which float within a hydrating serum base, and break open on contact with skin. Sunday Riley Luna Face Oil ($105; sephora.com): I've been using Sunday Riley's retinol-rich oil for years, so I obviously had to bring it along on my trip. The retinol is potent enough to simultaneously kill breakouts and signs of aging, but the nourishing oil base prevents irritation, even in harsh climes. La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protective Veil ($185; nordstrom.com): Yes, you do still need to wear sunscreen in the Arctic circle, and La Prairie's SPF 50 provided the protection I needed, with a side of some age-fighting edelweiss flower. You know, like from The Sound of Music? Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel ($54; sephora.com): I thought I would be one of those people who just had to deal with dark circles until I tried Biossance's formula, which faded them dramatically. I used this stuff in excess, particularly on the first few days of the trip when my jet lag was more evident than ever. L'Occitane Lavande Hand Cream ($12; sephora.com): By the end of this trip, this tiny tube had been squeezed into a twist. I was constantly reapplying it to my hands, as I forgot to pack gloves, and would use it over particularly rough patches that the hotel lotion didn't quite soothe. It also worked to calm down an area of Dave's skin that had been somewhat irritated by his camera strap.