Adventures / Sub Zero

Hike, Snowmobile and Wild Camp Through Svalbard in Winter

Journey through remote Arctic landscapes on the lookout for polar bears and Arctic foxes as you explore Svalbard on foot and by snowmobile

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Trip Ref #10218

Adventures / Sub Zero

Hike, Snowmobile and Wild Camp Through Svalbard in Winter

Journey through remote Arctic landscapes on the lookout for polar bears and Arctic foxes as you explore Svalbard on foot and by snowmobile

DURATION

6 nights

LOCATION

Svalbard

ANNUAL LEAVE

1 week off work

SEASON

Mar, Apr

GROUP SIZE

Up to 12 people

MEETING POINT

Guest House, Longyearbyen

ACCOMMODATION

Guesthouse · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

You'll need a good level of fitness, a serious sense of adventure and a fondness for very cold temperatures

Spend two nights in the wilderness keeping lookout for polar bears on an otherwordly winter camping experience in the Arctic

Zip across Svalbard Island on a snowmobile adventure, to set foot on the frozen Arctic Ocean by Tempelfjord

Featured as one of the ‘Best Northern Lights Tours’ by The Times

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    Peter Fellows, March 2022

    A life changing trip of childhood dreams that delivered in every way possible and more than I could have ever have imagined.

    Jamie, March 2022

    Svalbard is a beautiful and spectacular place and this MBA trip allows you to experience the very best of it. I've been dreaming of visiting Svalbard since I was a boy, and this tour fulfilled every hope and expectation - and more!

    James, March 2022

    What an amazing experience! I can't recommend it enough. There are not words I can find to describe how stunning the scenery in Svalbard was. There were so many highlights but just a few included- the polar bear watch overnight, seeing the northern lights and the snowmobile trip. All the guides were excellent and the other guests were all great company too and we had a lot of laughs!

    Darren, March 2022

    Brilliant trip, really enjoyed the scenery and remoteness. Guides were exceptional. Highlight was the snowmobile day to finish the week off perfectly. Kit list could be a bit clearer and worth mentioning a driving license is required for the snowmobile.

    Callum, March 2022

    Amazing trip and place, the guides were brilliant (even the grumpy hiking husky)! Like no where we have ever been.

    Laura, March 2022

    One of my best experiences ever. Unique and spectacular island. Knowledgeable, amusing and unflappable guides. Two day camping was tough in the cold but an amazing adventure, as was the whole trip. Do it!

    Tom, March 2022

    This trip was the best experience of my life to date. Exceptional from start to finish with some nice little unexpected surprises thrown in that kept us with a huge smile on our face the whole way around. The group were a great laugh, which really put the icing on the cake. Two particular experiences will stick in the mind forever - standing out on polar bear watch in the middle of the night soaking in the majesty of the scenery; and observing the Northern Lights dancing flirtatiously over a nearby mountain before we descended into an ice cave to sleep for the night.

    Daniel, March 2022

    What an amazing trip….I’ve tried but honestly, most of the experience has no words to accurately describe it. Spectacular does it no justice. The tour guides could not have been better in any way, just amazing- nothing was too much trouble. The locations are other worldly. If you want adventure on earth, this is it.

    Included

    Guides

    Expert, English-speaking, local guides

    Accommodation

    4 nights at a hotel or guesthouse in Longyearbyen and 2 nights camping at an Arctic wilderness camp

    Meals

    All meals included except for 3 dinners and 2 lunches while in Longyearbyen

    Equipment

    Everything you need for winter camping, glacier walking, ice cave hiking and, of course, a snowmobile

    Permits

    All permits and entry fees

    Not Included

    Flights to and from the meeting point

    Travel insurance

    Some meals as described

    Personal expenses

    Travel to and from the start point

    The Area

    map

    Logistics

    Starts

    Guest house in Longyearbyen

    Catch any flight on Day 1

    Ends

    Guest house in Longyearbyen

    Catch any flight on Day 7

    Transfers

    The airport shuttle costs around £8 / $10 and links up with all flight arrivals and departures. It will take you directly to your guesthouse on Day 1 and get you back to the airport any time on Day 8 for your flight home. You can pay by credit card. Cash is not accepted in Svalbard.

    It takes a maximum of 10 minutes to get from the airport to your accommodation. You can see full details on the Svalbard tourist website.

    Travel options

    Both Norwegian and SAS offers flights to Svalbard throughout the summer. We recommend flying to Oslo in Norway and getting a connecting flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen, which takes around 3 hours. If flights don't match up well with your trip start date then we recommend arriving a day early and booking a pre-tour night. If you arrive early there is plenty to enjoy in Longyearbyen before your trip starts.

    Day 1

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 2

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 3 – Day 4

    Wild camping · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 5 – Day 6

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 7

    Departure day

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    What is the food like?

    Longyearbyen has plenty of international food options, including the world's northernmost sushi bar!

    At the wilderness camp, breakfasts will consist of bread, ham, cheese, eggs and bacon. There will also be cereals or oatmeal, tea, coffee and 'Polar Bread' - so lots of options! Lunches will typically be dry-pack expedition-style meals, heated using water boiled while you're out in the wilderness and accompanied by hot drinks and biscuits. You can make extra sandwiches each morning to bring with you if you want a particularly large lunch. Dinners are homemade and vary depending on what's in stock. Tacos, pasta or a variety of stews are possibilities - including Norwegian reindeer stew.

    Vegans, vegetarians and most food allergies can be catered for. Please let your host know of any dietary requirements in advance.

    What is the accommodation like?

    Longyearbyen

    In Longyearbyen you will stay at Gjestehuset 102 - a warm and friendly guesthouse with huge breakfasts. Gjestehuset 102 was previously the Millionaires’ Mansion, reserved for the best and most experienced miners.

    Arctic Wild Camping

    You'll stay in a twin-share tent, camping in an area of wilderness completely away from snowmobile traffic. All your camping equipment is provided, although you will need to hire a sleeping bag if you don't bring your own. You'll be kept warm overnight in your expedition tent, sleeping on two cold-weather sleeping mats per person while your baselayers and sleeping bag keep you warm and snug. Your host will make you a hot water bottle each night for some extra warmth.

    Upgrades

    For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for the 3 nights spent in Longyearbyen for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

    Day 1

    Arrive in Longyearbyen

    Touch down in Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost city, and get your first glimpse of the Norwegian Arctic's blanket of white. Check into your cosy guesthouse and spend the rest of the day freely exploring the town. Meet up with the rest of the group in the early evening for a quick hello and briefing from your guide, then grab some dinner together at a local restaurant.

    Day 2

    Hike to a Glacial Ice Cave

    Hiking

    4-5 hours · 350m up

    Waste no time on your first full day in the Arctic! You'll start the day with breakfast and then after a briefing from your camp expedition guide, you'll set off on a 2-hour uphill hike to reach the entrance of a frozen ice cave. Here you'll add some spikes to your boots, allowing you to move freely on the polished surface. All kitted up, it's time to explore the frozen underworld beneath the glacier. You'll explore a maze of tunnels, from glassy halls to tight passages, marvelling at thick layers of ice crystals. It's dark down there, but you'll be able to use the group's headlights for navigation.

    After a chilly day's outing, return to the comfort of your guesthouse for an evening in Longyearbyen and rest up before heading out into the Arctic tomorrow.

    Day 3

    Head out in to the Arctic Wilderness

    Hiking

    4-7 hours

    After breakfast you'll pack up your pulka - a small sled which you'll drag behind you from a harness attachment - with everything you need for a night out camping. Feeling like a Polar explorer, you'll head out from Longyearbyen with the group to make your way into the wilderness. After reaching a wild area, far away from civilisation, you'll hike even deeper into the white landscape. You'll don spikes or snowshoes for this bit, depending on the conditions. Keeping an eye out for polar bears, arctic foxes and reindeer as you go.

    Eventually, you'll set up camp with your guide who will teach you how to camp successfully in the sub-zero conditions. Enjoy a surreal and otherworldly dinner at camp. If you are visiting in March, the northern lights may be keeping you company this evening.

    Hiking time will differ depending on conditions and group fitness. Expect minimum 4 hours and as much as 7 hours today if all goes well.

    Polar Bear Lookout Tonight you'll have the unique experience of being on polar bear lookout. After a full safety briefing, each member of the group will take it in turns to keep watch over the silence and stillness of the Arctic wilderness. Watching for polar bears in the distance as your fellow adventurers sleep is an unforgettable experience.

    Day 4

    Wake up in the wild and hike over mountains and glaciers

    Hiking

    3-5 hours

    Waking up in the middle of the Arctic wilderness will be a morning like no other. Warm up with a steaming hot drink and breakfast at the camp, before setting out once more on foot. There are many route options today. Your guide will assess the weather and the avalanche conditions in the area and choose the best one hike for the group. Your hike will immerse you in the immense scenery of the surrounding area. Perhaps round trips over nearby glaciers or a hike to the top of a mountain viewpoint.

    Again the length and distance of today's hiking will depend on conditions and group fitness

    Day 5

    Load up the pulkas for another big push through the wilderness

    Hiking

    4-7 hours

    After another memorable night wild camping in the Arctic, you'll help take down the camp and load up the pulkas, ready for another big push through the wilderness. Conditions will again dictate the exact route and your guide will choose the best option. All being well, you'll be reaching another peak or two for sweeping vistas over Svalbard. Today's route will see you edge closer back to Longyearbyen, arriving back into civilisation by late afternoon.

    Back at your guesthouse, hot showers will be the order of the day before relaxing in one of Longyerabyens restaurants and bars.

    Day 6

    Explore Svalbard by Snowmobile

    Snowmobiling

    5 hours

    Hiking

    3 hours

    Have your driving licence at the ready - it's snowmobile time! Jump onboard your personal snowmobile for a unique and exhilarating journey through the Arctic wilderness, covering far greater distances than your previous journeys on snowshoes. Whistling through the lunar, snow-covered landscape you'll visit sights including a former trapper's station where a man named Hilmar Nøis lived with his family for 26 winters in the wilderness. The furthest point you'll reach is Tempelfjord, a picturesque fjord overlooked by the Temple Mountains. With the ocean still frozen at this time of year, you'll be able to drive your snowmobile out on to the thick ice and get up close and personal with the glaciers at the head of the fjord.

    Day 7

    So long, Svalbard

    Say farewell to Longyearbyen and the Arctic and return to Svalbard Airport in time for your flight home.

    15% Off Outdoor Gear

    In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

    Which pieces of kit are included in the trip cost?

    • For the ice cave: Snowshoes, helmet, headlight, crampons
    • For the hiking and wild camping: Snowshoes, spikes, hiking poles, pulka (a sledge for your luggage), tent, sleeping mat, cooking and dining equipment, expedition Thermos flask
    • For the snowmobiling: Snowmobile suit, boots, mittens, helmet, goggles and balaclava

    What's available to hire?

    • Sleeping bag. These are available through your host. See Optional Extras for details.

    What do I need to bring?

    Bags

    • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
    • Daypack (35+ litre backpack)
    • Waterproof liner/dry bag for kitbag/rucksack
    • Small dry bags for electrical items

    Clothes

    • Hardshell Gore-Tex jacket with hood (windproof, ideally waterproof and breathable)
    • Insulated salopettes, ideally with braces (loose-fitting to allow room for base layers, windproof, ideally waterproof, and breathable)
    • Good-quality expedition style down jacket
    • Good quality thermal bottoms and top x 3 sets (natural fibre such as wool/merino/alpacca, suitable for extreme cold, not cotton or synthetic)
    • Mid-layer such as a fleece or woolen jumper (for between your thermals and your jacket)
    • Thin wool socks x 3 pairs
    • Thick wool socks x 3 pairs (these can be purchased at your hosts storage place in Lonyearbyen) to wear over your thin wool socks
    • Thick insulated finger gloves (for camp use and to set up camp)
    • Warm, windproof overmittens (for during the hike)
    • Warm, woolen mittens (no finger gloves) for under the windproof overmitens
    • Thick & warm hat x 2 (for hiking and for sleeping in)
    • Long, warm buff (or balaclava) x 2 for protection against cold & wind (wool or similar)
    • Snow/ski goggles
    • Underwear
    • Swimwear (for saunas in Longyearbyen)
    • Something to wear and to sleep in while in Longyearbyen
    • Good quality insulated hiking boots (worn-in, large enough to fit over both your thin and thick wool socks)
    • Warm bivouac/snowmobile shoes for camp use will be provided

    Sleeping

    • Sleeping bag, 5-season with a comfort rating of down to minus 25/30 degrees Celcuis - see our Sleeping Bag Guide. If unsure we recommend you hire one from your host for the wilderness camping. See under Optional Extras.
    • *Sleeping mats are provided

    Other

    • Sunglasses
    • Eyemask (near 24-hours of daylight in April)
    • Binoculars
    • Cold protection lotion
    • Suncream (non water-based for the cold conditions)
    • Padlock for left luggage
    • Universal travel plug adapter
    • Power bank or solar charger
    • Colourful mobile phone cover or leash attachment (you'll be amazed how difficult they are to find in the snow otherwise)
    • Spare camera batteries
    • Passports (and visas)
    • Travel Insurance documents
    • Driving Licence (required for the snowmobile)
    • Debit/credit card (Longyearbyen is cash-free and there is no bank)
    • Earplugs
    • Heat pads
    • Personal first-aid kit (including blister treatment)
    • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
    • Quick-dry towel
    • Alcohol hand-gel
    • 1-litre Nalgene water bottle x 1-2 (reusable and suitable for holding boiling water as this will double up as a hot water bottle at night)
    • Biodegradable wet-wipes
    • Energy bars and snacks
    • *A 1-litre expedition Thermos flask will be provided (if you choose to bring your own it should be suitable for temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius

    Important Notes

    • Those who wear glasses are advised to wear contact lenses if possible as a sheer of ice may form on your glasses. Alternatively, if you are unable to wear contacts, we recommend bringing snow goggles that fit over your glasses.

    • We have specified natural fibre clothing such as sheep wool/alpacca/merino as this is best in extreme cold. Synthetic or cotton does not provide the required insulation or wicking properties.

    Optional Private Room Upgrade: prices start from

    Payable Before Departure

    Optional Private Room Upgrade: prices start from

    Per Person

    Sleeping bag hire

    Payable Before Departure

    Sleeping bag hire

    Single room: prices start from

    Payable Before Departure

    Single room: prices start from

    Per Night

    Twin/Double room: prices start from

    Payable Before Departure

    Twin/Double room: prices start from

    Per Night

    We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

    What's the number?
    It works out on average at 112kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

    The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

    But what does the number mean?
    Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

    • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
    • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
    • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

    What are we doing about it?
    Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

    Want to know more?
    Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

    Sustainable Tourism provides an economic incentive to protect, rather than exploit, vital wildlife areas. Over the years 7 national parks and 21 nature reserves have been created to protect the Svalbard archipelago.

    Thankfully, the local population of polar bears and various marine species have increased and Svalbard tour operators - including your host - have worked alongside environmental groups such as the WWF and Friends of the Earth to block any unsustainable development such as new roads, mining and fossil fuel exploration. Every visitor to Svalbard also pays £15 which goes directly to an environmental protection fund to manage the protected areas.

    Of course, we are aware that the flight to Svalbard is damaging to the environment and the Arctic is visibly feeling the effects of climate change. As there are currently no viable, sustainable travel alternatives available, Much Better Adventures mitigates 4 times the carbon emitted by your flight to Longyearbyen through our partnership with Cool Earth. The adventure itself - mostly self-powered activities and wilderness camping - is about as low carbon as it’s possible to get, especially when compared with the myriad cruise ships that visit Svalbard.

    The only non-self-powered activity on this trip is a day onboard a snowmobile. Snowmobiling is a part of modern life in the Arctic, and for many months of the year it is the only way for locals to travel between settlements.

    Your host uses the most modern snowmobiles currently available in Svalbard to ensure as high an energy efficiency and noise level reduction as possible. Your journey follows a frequently used route along a valley floor leading to Tempelfjord. This limits the disturbance to wildlife by avoiding going 'off-piste'. Any local or visitor to Svalbard wanting to venture deeper into the national parks has to apply for permission to do so. Travel by snowmobile by tourists is a highly-monitored activity in order to avoid negative impacts on Svalbard's wildlife.

    For more on this topic you can read our article on tourism and conservation in Svalbard, where our very own Stuart Kenny interviews Arne Kristoferson, your host for this trip and resident of Svalbard for nearly 3 decades.

    Also, here’s how our very own co-founder Sam answered the question ‘Is it responsible?' after we launched our winter svalbard hiking and snowmobiling tour

    You'll need to have a good level of fitness and a serious sense of adventure. While you will be kitted out with everything that you need to be safe and comfortable, the temperatures are extremely cold so you'll need to be prepared for it! Days out in the wilderness are tailored depending on the weather conditions and overall fitness of the group, but you can expect to be on the move for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 7 hours if conditions allow. Hiking in snowshoes in minus temperatures is a different kind of physical challenge compared to normal hiking, however no previous experience is necessary.

    You are visiting Svalbard in what they call the 'light winter', as the archipelago emerges from the months of 24-hour darkness. In March you'll have around 12-13 hours daylight and during April it doesn't get truly dark at all. In March you'll experience lows of -20ºC / -4ºF and highs of -13ºC / 9ºF, while April warms up a touch to a balmy -9ºC = 16ºF.

    Camping in the Arctic is a completely safe and hugely enjoyable experience with the correct preparation. Your hosts in Svalbard are expert wilderness guides, the majority of whom are originally from the island itself, and you'll be perfectly safe in their hands.

    You will need to pack correctly for this trip. There are various specialist pieces of kit included in the trip cost, as well as other items available to hire when you get to Svalbard - see the Kit List on this page for a full breakdown. The other items on the kit list are important to bring along too, so perhaps do a dummy-run packing your bag a couple of weeks before the trip. Then you can buy anything that you might be missing. There will be outdoor adventure shops in Longyearbyen to plug any gaps, but items will be considerably more expensive to buy in Svalbard. Your host will run a check of everyone's preparedness for the camping expedition before heading out into the wilderness on day 3.

    The camping equipment provided is specifically designed for extremely cold conditions, to ensure everyone has a safe and comfortable few nights camping in the Arctic. The preparation and equipment will let you relax and enjoy this amazing experience.

    Your guides will be carrying GPS, emergency beacons, satellite phones, first aid equipment, flare guns and rifles (rifles must be carried by law outside Longyearbyen). For concerns on polar bear safety and any ethical considerations please read the FAQs: 'What does Polar Bear Lookout entail?' and 'What about polar bears being killed by tour guides?'

    Each member of the group will take it in turns to look out for polar bears while the rest of the group sleeps. The experience of being on the lookout is one of the most memorable parts of the trip and has been described as "like being a crew member on a David Attenborough documentary".

    You'll be given a full briefing and safety instructions and a shift roster will be developed between you all. Lookout shifts are generally around 2 hours. However, if the group size is larger than 4, you will have at least one night without needing to take a shift.

    While on this trip you will be in the hands of expert wilderness guides. Your host has been operating wildlife expeditions in the area for over 25 years and has never had a close call with a polar bear. This is all down to their knowledge and expertise. There are polar bears in the area and they have come close to camp before, but the guides know exactly what to do in all cases.

    Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

    The water in Longyearbyen is drinkable. At the wilderness camp you'll have a supply of water brought in, as well as the option to melt snow for drinking water. This Arctic ice water is perfectly safe to drink and super refreshing!

    Rather cold!

    You'll experience averages of -20ºC / -4ºF, with highs of a balmy -9ºC / 4ºF. The length of days in March and April differs dramatically, with an average 15 hours of daylight in April compared with just 3 hours in March.

    You can leave any excess luggage in Longyearbyen before heading to the wilderness camp. There is storage at your hotel and also at your host's secure warehouse.

    We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

    For current advice about travelling in Norway, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

    Svalbard is a cash-free society - cash is not accepted and there is no bank. Only card payments are accepted so you'll need to bring your credit and/or debit cards with you.

    Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

    Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

    We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

    We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

    If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

    All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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