The Ultimate Guide to Prepare for Your First Northern Lights Hunting Trip

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Is seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list? If yes, continue reading this article and you will know everything you need to know when it comes to Northern Lights hunting for the first time! 💚

The Northern Lights or as many people know as Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon displayed as a beautiful glow in the sky. You may see her in different colours: green, pink, purple, yellow and sometimes in orange depending on which type of collision happens. The yellow and green colours typically appear when the particles collide with oxygen and red, violet and blue are displaying when colliding with nitrogen. These beautiful colours dancing in the sky are the most impressive phenomenon that attracts people all around the world to come and experience it.

Vibrant Northern Lights over a mountain

When should I go to see the Northern Lights?

Best time to see the Northern Lights is during what we call the “aurora season”, it's the time of the year where the aurora is most visible in the arctic. This is the period between the beginning of August until beginning of May. The aurora are technically active all year long but you cannot see it during the summer time in the arctic because of the bright midnight sun. We will look into how to see the aurora later in this article so keep reading! 

You can see the aurora in Iceland from late August to beginning of May

If you want to learn more about aurora, do check Night Light Film. There you can find many content and courses relating to Northern Lights in depth!

Where should I go to see the Northern Lights?

There are plenty of Northern Lights locations you can visit all around the world but choosing the place and country is the most important factor. There are regions on our planet where the aurora will surely be displayed during the aurora season and it’s called the auroral zone or aurora band. It’s located in a high latitude where the aurora is visible frequently. For you to plan your Northern Lights trip for the first time, it’s best to get as close to the aurora zone as possible. Which are the countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia where the auroral band stretches around the globe.

Northern Lights location in Iceland

What kind of clothes should I pack?

To be able to see and photograph the aurora you are expected to spend your night outdoor most of the time. Here you should at least prepare for -10°C. Remember the Northern Lights are visible during the wintertime in the arctic therefore you should be prepared for an extremely cold temperature 🥶

For Northern Lights trip you are recommended to bring more than less

Here are the items you should bring with you on your long Northern Lights hunting nights: 

  • Base layer: the base layer is a necessary first round of warmth. We recommend wearing a wool top to keep yourself warm. 
  • Middle layer: we recommend wearing fleece or thicker wool to retain warm air around your body.
  • Outer layer: Windproof and waterproof will help you to block out the wind, rain and snow and will keep your body temperature warm. 
  • Accessories: warm hat, balaclava, gloves, wool sock and hiking shoes.
  • Other recommendations: Hot drink, flash light, power bank and hot pack or heating pack.

To take picture of aurora you should prepare to bring your gear!

What camera gear do I need for Northern Lights?

Well, one of your goals is to get the beautiful aurora photo home right?

Here are the lists of gear you should bring with you! 📷

  • Your favorite camera that has a manual mode functionality
    If you don’t have one don’t worry. You can also photograph the aurora with a smartphone check out our detailed blog post about how to photograph aurora with iPhone or Android
  • Tripod

How long should I stay?

There is no define period on how long you should stay, the best recommendation is to stay around a week because there are many factors you should take into consideration such as the weather forecast and the cloud forecast. In Iceland you can expect an extreme storm during the winter which will be notified to the public when this happens you should not travel or stay outdoors. The storms rarely occur for the whole week so you may have favorable weather during this one-week period to see the Aurora Borealis. It’s very important to expect some delay on your trip and take your time to enjoy it. 

On our hello aurora application for Northern Lights, we do send notifications to our users when extreme weather occurs in Iceland.

Weather alert available in Iceland on hello aurora app

How do I find the aurora?

When you arrive in the country, you can either choose to explore it by yourself or take a Northern Lights tour. There are plenty of tours available that you can book online. We suggest reading a review before booking it.

But! If you want to chase it by yourself here are the tips for you. Firstly, check the real time aurora forecast. You can download hello aurora app on your phone and it will show you what information you should know about the Northern Lights forecast along with it will send you the notification when the aurora is in your area. 

Once you have got the app, find a location where it is far from light pollution, drives to the location, and wait! 

It requires a lot of patience when it comes to Northern Lights hunting, the aurora can be dancing in the sky anytime. In the meantime, you can set up your camera and check if there is any aurora spotted around your location via hello aurora app. And don’t forget once you see the aurora do also notify other aurora hunters around you so they will not miss the show! 

How to share your photo and location when seeing Northern Lights

How do I picture it?

Now, let’s learn how to photograph the aurora. Follow the steps below and you will get a beautiful picture of aurora!

  1. Fix your camera to the tripod
  2. Set your camera to manual focus with the lens to infinity and try to find the brightest star to focus it
  3. Set your aperture to the lowest number possible and ISO to 1600 with a shutter speed to 20 seconds. You will need to configure the setting later depending on how vibrant the aurora is.

Note: this is only a basic camera setting. Because Northern lights move fast you will have to adjust your camera according to the intensity of the lights.

Northern Lights dancing in the arctic

So here is your ultimate guide to Northern Lights hunting for the first time. We hope you enjoy it and if you do like our app and/or our content please do support us. Your contribution will help us keep on running the app and create an aurora community 💚

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