This page deals with camping in Spitsbergen - both out in the field, and on Longyearbyen Camping.
By giving here some advice also on camping issues not relevant for Longyearbyen Camping, we try to be helpful to hikers in general. However, we do not see it as our job to be a consultant for further detail hiking questions regarding equipment, supplies, firearms, alarms, transports, etc., which are not connected to a stay on Longyearbyen Camping during our seasons.
You find more detailed information about equipment and other issues in the guide book:
Spitsbergen - Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Franz Josef Land , which can be ordered in book shops.
Camping in Spitsbergen is no uncalculable adventure, at least in summer on Longyearbyen Camping, with appropriate equipment and sensible conduct. Here some brief tips. Tents, insulation mats and sleeping-bags (for use on the campsite, only) can be rent for use on Longyearbyen Camping – see Services & Prices. The following tips are meant for campers in Spitsbergen in general - special aspects for Longyearbyen Camping are added.
As for the tent, wind stability is the most important feature for Spitsbergen. The terrain (tundra – meaning no trees and bushes) offers only limited shelter and strong wind and even storm can occur sometimes even in summer. Ideal are high-quality tunnel or cupola tents with ample fixations.
Useful can be wide snowflaps all around the rim of the outer tent, made of a sturdy material to place stones (winter: snow) on them as extra weight, preventing the wind from lifting the tent (especially with nobody inside temporarily) and also reducing drift snow inside (winter).
At least one spacious apsis (bell-end) protects baggage and shoes against rain or snow, allows sheltered cooking with less risk than inside the tent (no inflammable tent floor in the apsis - be careful, nevertheless) and is more likely to keep curious foxes or birds away from food stored inside (pack it well to reduce smell, nevertheless - and no feeding of animals !).
In summer, an additional point are condensation and occasional rain – here, ventilation and dry storage area is often better in tunnels than in cupolas. In winter, geodetic tents can be especially nice, as humidity is usually less a problem then than windstability.
In winter/spring with possible snowstorms and cold, it is very important that the tent protects effectively against finest penetrating drift snow and is as little engangered by being pressed down by snow (snowfall or snow accumulated in a storm or slipping down from the top) as possible. During the last years, more people had to call the rescue service due to unusable tents (full of drift snow or collapsed) than because of polar bears !
For stationary use (like on the campsite), where higher weight is no problem, also sturdy cotton tents can be comfortable as their textile is less prone to condensation.
Sleeping-bag: Frost is an exception during summer season, but on the other hand, manufacturer informations are sometimes quite optimistic. Therefore, a sleeping-bag, which is good down to -10° C according to the producer, should be sufficient even for possible minimal frost. Certainly, extreme winter sleeping-bags are no recommendable summer solution as they quite likely are much too warm and therefore kept open, leading to partial cold, just like a too thin pure summer sleeping-bag. Good artificial fiber filling is less critical regarding humidity in summer than downs.
In late winter/spring, extreme cold down to -25°C is possible occasionally until mid-April, until beginning of April possibly even more extreme. Here, top quality winter sleepingbags are a must for camping.
Campsite customers can rent (only limited number) some sleepingbags for summer use on the campsite - see Services and Prices.
Insulation mat: In Spitsbergen, the ground is cold also in summer (and frozen permanently from maximally 1 m depth downwards) – therefore good insulation from underneath either with a foam mat with closed cells (absorbing no humidity) or an inflatable mat are very important for a healthy sleep. For winter use preferrably two or especially thick models.
Campsite customers can rent (only limited number) some insulation mats for summer use on the campsite - see Services and Prices.
Cooking and eating utensils, fuek: For camping on tours out in the field, you have to bring along your complete cooking gear. Fuels are not allowed in the planes. Normal petrol and diesel are available in Longyearbyen, also some types of liquid gas cans. There have been repeated function problems with stoves fired with locally bought paraffine. Please keep in mind that relevant shops and gas station may be closed on weekends and norwegian holidays ! Please check yourself - we cannot give fuel, stove or shopping advice exceeding these basic hints. Please observe: it is not our job on the campsite to take care of remaining fuels from guests returning from field trips - use it up or deliver it to the waste treatment facility in Longyearbyen against a charge.
For outside use, metal dishes have a disadvantage of poor insulation: first the plate or cup is too hot, and then the meal is quickly cold.
On the campsite, you can use our electric stoves in the service building for cooking during season (electricity cuts are very rare) - so there, you do not need your own stove. The kitchen in the service building ia equipped with a few pots and kettles and limited number of dishes and cutlery (we advise you to bring these along to avoid shortages during visitor peaks).
This applies to the season, when the service building is in use. When using the campsite area out of season, you have to bring along stove, other cooking gear, fuel, dishes and cutlery yourself.
Hygienic articles: Soap, towels, etc. have to be brought along by campers - also by guests of the campsite. Try to use only biodegradable, environment-friendly articles. Many sprays, cosmetics, etc. do not meet this requirement.
Slippers for the campsite: Shoes which have been used outside, are not allowed inside the service-building – otherwise, the black dirt from outside would quickly be spread all over. „Just a few steps, I have only forgotten my toothbrush“ does not count as an excuse, as the result is the same. To avoid cold feet (or wet socks in the washing room), some guests bring along slippers or trainers (again: do not use them outside on the campsite, because then you should not wear them inside the building, anymore).
Night mask: Some guests have sleeping problems due to the permanent daylight. A mask over the eyes can help.
Camp alarm system and firearms:
The issue "Polar bear risk and Longyearbyen Camping" is dealt with more in detail under FAQ (frequently asked questions) .
As a principle, each user of Longyearbyen Camping is responsible for his or her own safety. Due to fairly open terrain, permanent light, occasional traffic on the adjascent coastal road at any time of the day and also almost always some activity on the campingsite itself, an undetected approach of a polar bear is very unlikely during most of the summer season. At least since the opening of the service-building in 1985, there has been no polar bear visit on the campingsite at all during the summer season of Longyearbyen Camping (but a very few cases of a bear appearing nearby in summer - by far not every year, and running away when seeing people or chased away by the police before reaching the campsite). Therefore, alsmost all guests abstain from having fire-arms and alarm system ready on the camping-site in summer – also in view of the risk of injuries caused by these safety equipment items. we lack information. In periods where there is partly real darkness, white terrain or also more fjord ice (at least some of these aspects are the case from end of summer to late spring), the appearance of a polar bear also near Longyearbyen is either more difficult to detect and/or a bit more likely. In these periods, campsite users are more likely to prefer to take appropriate safety measures.
Firearms on the campsite: all over Spitsbergen, firearm owners are expected to have their weapons and ammunition safely locked away when not using or carrying them. This can be difficult for campsite guests. A minimum measure is to remove the bolt assembly and ammunition and take them with you to make the rifle unusable (precaution against playing children, curious other persons, etc.!). Firearms are not to be taken into the public areas of the service building. No loaded guns anywhere on the campsite.
Camp alarm systems on the campsite: This is more an issue from end of summer to late spring (same reasons as for a gun, see previous passage). Again, you have to make sure that your alarm system cannot cause damage or injury to others - including unattentive or curious persons (also children), dogs, etc., triggering your alarm unintentionally or playfully. Alarm systems with explosives are therefore not suitable for use on the campsite (and during our season, we do not accept their installation). An option could be electric alarms (battery warmed inside sleepingbag) or horns with pressurized air and a tripwire. Another possibility could be a dog (we do not rent out dogs).
Out on tour in the wilderness, the situation is quite different also in summer: when camping there, both alarm system for the tent and a suitable gun (plus good marksmanship with that gun) are a must, because out there, there is nobody else who could discover a bear before it is close.
We do not answer detail questions regarding how to bring your firearm or alarm system to Spitsbergen or how to rent one - and for a summer stay on the campsite, hardly any of our guests considers a firearm or alarm system as necessary.
However, at least some basic advice: generally, bringing along your own suitable firearm (caliber with bullets thicker than 7.62mm, no pistols, no revolvers), with which you are familiar, is the best solution. For this, you need the relevant documents from your home country and check in advance which extra documents or procedures are required for the way to Spitsbergen and back (various national customs regulations, baggage safety regulations, etc.). Depending on your country, you should prepare for going through the required procedures in good time - often more than year is needed, if you are no shooter, yet.
Rental of rifles is possible in Longyearbyen, but also restricted: first, you need appropriate documents from your home country, which may have to be approved by the governor (Sysselmannen) in Spitsbergen. Second, you will get only 10 cartridges to rent together with the rifle and without a permit to buy ammunition in the relevant caliber, you cannot buy more ammunition, either - so there is no realistic possibility for an appropriate shooting training with the rental rifle (normally no courses offered for visitors, either). A possibility to overcome this obstacle is to do a shooting training with the same type of rifle already in your home country. But remember: carrying a rifle around with you in Spitsbergen is not just a kind of visum to be allowed to move around there in the wilderness - you should be able to shoot with it also under stress in surprise situations, and for this, some earlier shooting in the military with different guns or a few recent shots on a range are not very convincing. The type of rifle available for rent in Longyearbyen are usually old world war Mauser K98 german army rifles (big, long and heavy), rechambered to caliber .30-06. The above makes it obvious that rental of a rifle is an appropriate option only in few cases.
Arctic nature is both fascinating and highly vulnerable – and the protection of this environment is taken very serious in Spitsbergen. A crucial point is that any regeneration of damages takes very long time – a carelessly placed fire-place leaves a vegetation scar for maybe more than 20 years, the same applies to faeces or even worse garbage. Digging down litter a little bit does not even help superficially because frost movements in the soil will bring it up again soon. Anyone camping and enjoying this great nature should be keen on also minimising any impacts by following the regulations, if not trying to be ahead of them: