In 1990, Erling Kagge and Børge Ousland became the first people ever to reach the North Pole unsupported. The expedition started from Ellesmere Island on March 8, 1990 and reached the North Pole 58 days later on May 4, 1990. They traveled approximately 800 kilometers on skis pulling their supplies on sledges.
Less than three years later, in 1992–93, Kagge completed the first unsupported and solo expedition to the South Pole, covering the 814-mile (1,310 km) route in 50 days. Kagge had no radio contact to the outside world for the duration of this expedition, which was featured on the cover of the international edition of TIME magazine on March 1, 1993.
In 1994, Kagge summited Mount Everest, thus becoming the first person to complete the "Three Poles Challenge". For two years during this period, Kagge worked as a lawyer for industrial giant Norsk Hydro. Kagge has also sailed across the Atlantic twice and around Cape Horn.
After his record-breaking feat of reaching the "three poles", Kagge attended Cambridge University to study philosophy for three terms. In 1996, he founded Oslo-based publishing house, Kagge Forlag, which today is one of Norway’s leading book publishing companies. In 2000 Kagge Forlag acquired one of Norway’s oldest publishing companies, J.M. Stenersens Forlag. Kagge and Stenersens publish approximately 100 new titles annually. These days it is Norway's biggest publisher of nonfiction.
Kagge has written seven books on exploration, philosophy and art collecting, which have been translated into 39 languages. He sometimes writes articles for newspapers, e.g: Financial Times and New York Times. Kagge continues to do expeditions, although with a lower profile than in the nineties. In 2010 he and urban historian and photographer Steve Duncan descended into the sewers, subways and water tunnels of New York - walking for five days from the Bronx, via Manhattan, to the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. In 2012 he walked the entire length of Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard over three days with Petter Skavlan and Peder Lund. In December 2019 Kagge, Skavlan and Lund walked the entire length of New York's Broadway - from Sleepy Hollow to the tip of Manhattan - in 24 hours.
In addition to running his publishing business and writing, Kagge is a leading collector of international contemporary art. Astrup Fearnley Museum for Modern Art displayed art from his collection through the summer of 2015. In 2020 the museums Fondacion van Gogh Arles, Sala Santander in Madrid  and Museion in Bolzano  will dedicate shows to Kagges collection.
Kagge's book Silence: In the Age of Noise was broadcast as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in January 2019. The Guardian named it as one of the top ten books on silence. The New York Times has described Erling Kagge as "a fascinating man. He's a philosophical adventurer or perhaps an adventurous philosopher".
Kagge has three daughters: Nor, Ingrid and Solveig.
- Kagge, Erling (1990). Nordpolen: Det siste kappløpet. J.W. Cappelens forlag. ISBN 82-02-12406-9.
- Kagge, Erling (1993). Alene til Sydpolen. Cappelen. ISBN 82-02-14087-0.
- Kagge, Erling (1994). På eventyr. N. W. Damm & Son. ISBN 82-517-8081-0.
- Kagge, Erling (1994). Pole to Pole & Beyond. N. W. Damm & Son. ISBN 82-517-8082-9.
- Kagge, Erling (2007). Philosophy for Polar Explorers: What They Don't Teach You in School. Pushkin Press. ISBN 1-901285-69-3.
- Kagge, Erling (2015). A Poor Collector's Guide to Buying Great Art. Kagge Forlag
- Kagge, Erling (2015). Manhattan Underground. World Editions.
- Kagge, Erling (2017). Silence: In the Age of Noise. Pantheon. ISBN 15-247-3323-7
- Kagge, Erling (2019). Walking: One Step At a Time. Knopf Doubleday ISBN 1524747858
- National Geographic Magazine, March 1991
- Buchan, James (January 8, 1993). "Echoes of Amundsen as Norwegian races to Pole". The Independent. UK. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
- "2006 Rolex Awards for Enterprise – Committee Selection". Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Archived from the original on January 9, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
- "AdventureStats heads-up: Three poles correction – Erling Kagge first". ExplorersWeb. August 13, 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
- Feuer, Alan (31 December 2010). "The Wilderness Below Your Feet". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- "A Polar Explorer's Art Adventure". The Wall Street Journal. New York City. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- Author: Erling Kagge; Reader: Cal MacAninch; Abridged and produced by Eilidh McCreadie (28 January 2019). "Silence". Book of the Week. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 29 January 2019.