Wondering what to wear in Iceland? The country’s weather is pretty notorious so it’s only natural that the question of what to pack for Iceland comes up a lot. Given Iceland’s popularity, we get the question of what to pack for Iceland a lot these days. It’s only natural that once you book your ticket and make travel plans you spend your time wondering what to throw in your luggage.
To be fair there is no quicker way to ruin a trip than to be uncomfortable, but packing for Iceland isn’t rocket science and you’ll be fine. First, we suggest that you consider the length of your trip and what time of year you’re heading to the Scandinavian country.
The key to packing for Iceland is to bring weatherproof clothing and layers. However, if you’re traveling in winter, the winter months in Iceland can be very cold and it’s worth bringing proper winter attire. Any other time of year, be sure to pack a rain jacket, a great down jacket, a warm base layer like a flannel, and a decent pair of boots.
Don’t let any poor weather deter you though, there’s no bad weather in Iceland, just the wrong clothes. We’re here to help you out about what to wear in Iceland with our packing list.
What should you pack for Iceland?
Before you pack it’s important to determine what you’ll need to bring in your suitcase. What time of year are you heading to Iceland? Temperatures can vary greatly depending on when you are visiting and will alter your Iceland packing list. If you need more info read about the best time of year to visit Iceland.
Will you hang out in Reykjavik? Or will you be out hiking across the wild landscape? We’re active travelers and spend most of our time outside. When we’re in Iceland we prefer camping while we drive around the Ring Road. Your activity will determine your choice of outfits.
Then you need to think about how long are you spending in the country? You can get by with a lot less by just layering! We manage to get by and live out of a suitcase so think twice about how much you really need to get by!
There are a number of staple items that I would recommend everyone bring for their trip to Iceland. I’ve been a long time preacher of functionality and packing clothes that can serve multiple purposes. The right outfit can handle just about any environment or weather. So, for the most part, we opt for outdoor wear when we’re out exploring Iceland. The exception lies in Reykjavik, a hip city where a nice outfit is handy to have in your suitcase.
In this post, we’ll share with you some packing suggestions and what to wear in Iceland. You’ll have some pictures for outfit inspirations and suggestions to some of our favorite travel products. At the end, you should be able to build your own packing list for Iceland. Then finally we’ll share some of our favorite tips for traveling in Iceland.
What to Wear in Iceland
What to Pack for Iceland: Essential Items
If there is one article of clothing made for travel in Iceland it’s the wool sweater. Sweaters can make a great travel outfit staple. They’re comfortable, stylish, and warm. It doesn’t matter the season either as most of Iceland remains cool year round and it’s a great mid layer in the winter months.
I have a number of sweaters, but my favorites are from organic materials like wool or Alpaca. It’s even become my favorite travel souvenir and I treasure my Scottish wool and Peruvian Alpaca sweaters. Ever since then we’ve been living out of them in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Ireland.
Iceland has some terrific wool and sweater producers, but expect to pay top dollar for the privilege of owning one. Of course, you can still find a great sweater at home. I love this recycled one from Patagonia, one of our favorite outdoor brands.
Triple F.A.T. Goose Down Parka
In the winter months you’ll freeze your ass off if you don’t have the right gear. That being said Iceland remains manageable for most of the year we face much colder temperatures at our home in the Canadian Rockies (It’s 40F in Reykjavik and -20F in Banff as I write this and cope with mild frostbite, ouch).
In general you will be able to get by with a packable down jacket or a great fleece jacket, as they are warm and lightweight. However, if you’ll be in the far North and spending a fair amount of time outside a good parka is vital to remaining warm.
Winter jackets are often heavy and take up a lot of space. As much as you may want to bring a few different winter jackets for options it’s best to settle on just one. Plan to wear the parka on the plane as it can easily occupy half your luggage.
A good winter jacket should be waterproof, windproof, warm, and have a hood. A solid shell is important as it is your first line of defense between you and the cold. If you stick with a neutral color it provides more outfit options. Black goes with anything and everything so whether you’re a boy or a girl it’s a good color option.
For those on an active ski or snowboard trip, bright colors are a little more acceptable, but you should opt for technical clothing like a jacket from Patagonia, Arc’teryx, or Helly Hansen.
T-Shirt or V Neck
A classic tee will never go out of style. We suggest sticking with solid colors like black, white, or grey. There’s also the option of a v neck for a more stylish look, but it all depends on personal preference.
A simple base layer like a t-shirt, v neck, or even a thermal is perfect to keep you warm and comfortable. Hiking on a sunny day in the Iceland can be quite warm and we found ourselves shedding layers often. In Iceland it can reach up to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 Fahrenheit in the summer months.
Keep it simple when it comes to tees. No one needs a fancy designer tee as a base layer. Cameron prefers the grey as it’s super easy to stain the white ones. T-shirts are cheap and we like order new pack before each trip as old shirts look slobbish.
Thermal underwear is essential to remaining warm and dry. Your base layer is the first key to wicking away moisture and keeping your body heat from escaping. When we’re active in cold temperatures like hiking, snowboarding, scrambling, or camping we always wear quality base layers.
For base layer we recommend they fit snug are made from a non cotton material like nylon or wool. We both wear wool based layers from Helly Hansen, Smartwool, Black Diamond, and yak wool from Kora.
A technical long sleeve shirt looks great and is typically well constructed. You should look for a nice blend of synthetic materials that allow for quick drying. A long sleeve shirt like this allows for greater comfort moving from chilly mornings into warm days. It’s a great travel shirt as it avoid wrinkles, resist stains, and looks better than relaxed tee.
Flannel shirts are great mid layers for both men and women. They provide warmth and go well with vests. Most of Iceland is a very relaxed place and with a flannel or sweater you’ll right at home hiking to see a waterfall or sitting down to a seafood stew in a small town.
Iceland is cool year round, but when you’re out on a hike it’s easy to overheat. This is when a vest comes in handy. I personally have three Patagonia vests and they last forever and are great for keeping your body a comfortable temperature. Plus it looks great in photos when combined with a flannel!
Right after you pack your wool sweater reach for a rain jacket. If we were taking bets we’d make a strong wager you’ll see some rain during your trip to Iceland, it doesn’t get that green without plenty of rain.
You’re going to need an Iceland raincoat or jacket. No matter the season a rain jacket is always essential for traveling to Europe (and the rest of the world). We both have rain jackets made by Kathmandu and Patagonia. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
There are only a few travel items I recommend everyone have and one of them is the down jacket. A down jacket is one of those staples and it’s tremendously versatile.
We always recommend you always bring a great packable down jacket on just about any extended trip. With a destination like Iceland it’s a great way to keep warm without eating up too much space in your luggage.
Technical pants like these are water resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable. Traditionally these pants were pretty ugly, but now times are changing and pants are looking similar to chinos or khakis. Iceland is all about the landscapes and spending time outside so a pair of hiking pants are a must on your Iceland packing list.
For women, Tasha likes a pair of hiking pants made by prAna that roll into capris. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price. Here are some other great travel pants for an international trip.
Jeans go with anything, and despite the notion, they are “American” casual the right pair is attractive. I see jeans everywhere I travel as well, and it’s definitely not just Americans wearing them. You’ll find plenty of Icelanders in well-cut jeans, but nothing baggy or ripped.
We stick with the classic look in jeans. That means fitted jeans that are a dark color. No fades, light blues, or rips! That would be the Levi’s 511 for men and 721 for women.
If you plant to spend some time in Reykjavik or driving around the Ring Road bring a pair of shoes. For a destination like Iceland we like a hybrid sneaker that has some outdoor elements. For that check out the Merrell Burnt Rock Travel Suede.
Merrel in general is a solid company to look for shoes that will hold up to the rigors of walkways and woods. The Burnt Rock Travel shoe, in particular, is an excellent bet with its attractive design but durable construction.
These are great all year round as you can never go wrong with a pair of leather boots. Women can wear them with a pair of chinos and a blouse while men can pair them with just about anything from jeans, chinos, and even a suit.
It’s wet and boggy in Iceland and you can expect a lot of rainy weather so packing a pair of good hiking boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. If you want something more technical opt for a nice hiking shoe or boot.
I’m a leather boot fiend and love a classic boot. If you’re looking for the best boots for Iceland check out an affordable option like Clark’s or Timberland for leather boots. However, if you want quality and boots to last a lifetime check out Chippewa, Danner, or Red Wings boots all manufactured by hand in the United States.
We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.
We travel with a couple pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont!
This is a travel staple and a great wardrobe choice for both women and men traveling in Iceland. They act as an accessory to your outfit and they’re super comfortable giving you an added layer of warmth. Iceland is known for its windy days so the scarf is wonderful at protecting your neck.
Scarves are especially great for travelers: They can spice up an outfit that you’ve already worn three days in a row and can be thrown into a bag or purse to pull out when the sun sets and the weather gets chilly.
It’s important if you’re driving to in Iceland to have a pair sunglasses. After all the sun almost never sets in the summer and you’ll 20+ hours of daylight. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again.
You’ll need something to stash your photography gear, hand sanitizers, papers, phones, and anything else that you need for a full day out when traveling. Saddleback Leather makes some of the best quality backpacks – hands down and fantastic for Iceland. They aren’t cheap by any means, but they are quality.
Saddleback Leather even ensures their products with a 100-year warranty. They only use sturdy materials on their bags including full grain leather, pigskin lining, and marine grade polyester thread.
We always recommend bringing a travel towel when you’re on the road, Iceland is no exception. If you plan on staying in hostels or more budget accommodation you’ll often need your own towel.
The one reason everyone needs a towel is the public pools and hot springs. If you go to a public pool you will have to shower before entering and although you can often rent towels it’s best to have your own towel.
The biggest complaint about travel towels is that they often feel nothing like the plush cotton towels we are accustomed to at home and in hotels. However, with the PackTowl you can forget about all of that because they set out to create a towel that mimics its cotton counterparts with the technical features of a travel towel.
Speaking of public pools make sure to bring a bathing suit to enjoy some of Iceland’s hot springs and geothermal pools. One of Tasha’s favorite brands for swimsuits is prAna. prAna makes high-quality swimsuits for active women. Many of their pieces are stylish, yet supportive. So if you’re planning to go surfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, or play beach volleyball and want to make sure your ta-tas stay intact these swimsuits are for you.
For men, Cameron loves a good pair of board shorts from Billabong or Dakine. Both make great quality shorts that are lightweight and built for surfing so they stretch and move with the body. When purchasing board shorts it’s best to stick with darker colors as they hold up longer and to get a shorter cut above the knee. As for material a great blend of polyester and elastane is a solid choice as it’s lightweight and comfortable.
What Women Should Wear in Iceland
Long Sleeve Cardigan
This is one of my favorite items to wear in Iceland. A cardigan has a great relaxed style and look plus it keeps you warm. They’re also light enough to eat up minimal room in the suitcase. I pack one during any season in Iceland as it be combined with a coat in winter, and it’s rarely too warm in the summer.
I always love to have a loose blouse for summer days in Iceland. It’s comfortable and can be combined with a light jacket for a nice look.
Rompers are probably one of my favorite travel outfits because they’re stylish, comfortable, and practical. You really can’t go wrong here and I’d suggest throwing at least one or two rompers in your suitcase for Iceland. They’re great for a night out on the town in Reykjavik or having dinner in the hotel.
Make sure to pack a nice black dress for nights out. It’s a travel staple and takes up almost no room in your suitcase.
A pair of black flats is always great to have in a suitcase. They’re stylish comfortable and they take up minimal space in your luggage.
No need for push up bras when you’re active. I always bring a few pairs of sports bras when I’m traveling. It’s easy to forget bringing a sports bra as you might not be headed to the gym, but they’re tremendous for active days. I love this one from Patagonia as it provides support in a more a subtle cut.
What Men Should Wear in Iceland
I’d look pretty ridiculous wearing a T-shirt or a flannel out to a nice meal. Men should pack at least one dress shirts for a trip to Iceland. I like to stick with a classic color like blue or white that will never go out of style.
I recently ordered a new selection of shirts and ties from the Tie Bar and so far I’ve loved my clothes. All stylish, nice quality, and affordable. Plus their online website makes it easy to order a new wardrobe with suggestions for what matches and inspirations for outfits.
A henley is a great clothing choice for Iceland. It’s lightweight yet provides some warmth from the wind and it looks better than a long sleeve graphic shirt or technical clothing.
The right watch is the perfect accessory for men. I’m not a fan of big gold watches and find them to be overstated. Opt for something more stylish and modern like this leather and silver watch.
As a plus, they’ll match a pair of brown boots lending to more versatility in everyday life. I just picked up this one from Michael Kors and think it’s a perfect blend between casual and formal.
Electronics to Pack for Iceland
After camping in Africa we learned that a headlamp is never a bad idea. Our Petzl headlamp came in handy when we did night walks searching for the Northern Lights and at campsites as we drove around the Ring Road in our camper van.
You will definitely need an adaptor for your electronics on your packing list for Iceland. We always keep one handy in our carry-on bags, that way we can charge electronics on arrival or at the airport. Remember that Iceland uses the Europlug.
Make sure you find a good adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for an overpriced one once you land.
You’ll need the British “Type G” three prong adaptor for the United Kingdom.
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation We travel with a bunch of cameras, but the one we universally recommend is the RX 100.
They make a number of models at different price points, but it’s a simple to use point-and-shoot camera that anyone can operate. It also takes superb images with a 20mp resolution and full manual controls.
While I love having a good real book when I travel sometimes it’s just not practical because of the weight. I’ve recently switched to a Kindle Paperwhite which is small and compact, plus it has a backlight for reading at night without a harsh glare.
I love traveling with a power bank to make sure my phone never dies. The majority of the time I don’t need to use it on long flights as some of the nicer airlines provide entertainment systems with USB ports! We also make sure to find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a major pain in the ass.
Accessories to Pack for Iceland
We’ve suffered through enough red-eye flights to never forget to pack a travel pillow for international flights. My favorite travel pillow is the Cabeau Evolution Pillow, but we break down more of our favorite travel pillows here.
Packing cubes are great for any backpack or suitcase. They keep all of your clothes and toiletries organized. I’ve had these Eagle Creek cubes for three years now and think they were worth the investment to stay organized and create space in my luggage.
For the women, I suggest traveling with a theft-proof purse that is blackand stylish to hold belongings. Cameron has a great passport wallet that holds his passport and credit cards so he never leaves it anywhere.
These are small but essential travel necessities for Iceland as they can be crucial to your sleep. Whether you’re flying in business class, sleeping in a hostel, or in the cabin of a ferry a good pair of earplugs will help you sleep. You also never know if you may have noisy neighbors, have a room on the ground floor, or a train passes by in the middle of the night.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
It’s always a good idea to keep your toiletries organized and separated from your clothes. So we love always travel with a toiletry bag; however, Icelandic bathrooms can be cramped and small. If you are limited on counter space a great option is to buy a hanging toiletry bag. This style of bag tends to a have better organization system with a variety of sections for storage than the traditional option.
You Need This To Travel in Iceland!
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
You never know if the worse could happen while you’re abroad and often your insurance plan at home will not cover medical emergencies abroad. Having the peace of mind that we have a good backup plan helps us sleep at night.
What Not to Wear in Iceland?
We love cotton and I’m a massive fan of wearing it almost everyday. However, Iceland is a great place to wear synthetic materials and organic fibers that offer more technical features. We love wool and nylon or polyester for clothing!
For the most part you’ll find shorts on very few Europeans, as in almost none. For the most part Iceland never even gets warm enough for you to bust out the shorts so it’s best to leave them at home.
Okay this should go without saying, but sweatpants are never appropriate in public. It seems to be the accepted norm in North America, but everywhere else in the world they are for home and the gym and that’s it.
A Few Tips For Your Iceland Trip
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
So, what’s the best time to go to Iceland? Well, the short answer is it really just depends on what you want. Are you in search of warm (ish) weather and the midnight sun? Or do brisk winter nights, fewer crowds, and the Northern Lights strike your fancy?
When I traveled to Iceland in July I enjoyed partying under the midnight sun and hiking in a t-shirt. We have also been in October and the fall colors were just simply amazing. To top it off we saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time ever. If I were to pick ideal times it would be June, October, and December. Generally, November and March are the months to avoid as they’re in between seasons (cold rain).
Don’t be Afraid to Get Naked
Speaking of pools, if you go to a public pool you will have to shower before entering. This is a non-negotiable aspect to visiting an Icelandic pool. And you must shower completely naked in an open shower. The Icelandic take their hygiene seriously and don’t want anyone’s dirty bodies infecting their pools. They use minimal water treatment in the natural geothermal water that fills the pools. We don’t disagree with them!
I appreciate knowing that when I am in the swimming pool every single person has showered and scrubbed before entering. Yes, showers are separated by sex so everyone is comfortable. I wouldn’t suggest trying to skip around the naked or shower part as it may get you a few scowls from the locals or you could even get kicked out!
Reykjavik is an Unconventional Capital City
Even though we used to live in New York City, we’re not city people anymore. We prefer to be off hiking, on a beach or doing just about anything else not in a busy city. However, Reykjavik is not the usual European city and we enjoyed spending time in the charming city.
There are no high rises and few business suits, just a laid-back atmosphere surrounded by the ocean and mountains. If you only have a few days in Iceland you can base yourself in Reykjavik and take day trips out or catch the local bus to places like Esjan & Glymur.
In my opinion, Reykjavik deserves at least one day of exploration, unless you’re there during one of its epic festivals – then definitely stay longer!
Credit Cards Are King
Never once did we use cash in Iceland. Credit cards are accepted everywhere – even at public bathroom stalls. Of course, it never hurts to have cash on you, but I wouldn’t convert much of it to Icelandic Kroner. If you need tips for travel banking we have a post.
We suggest you carry around 5,000 ISK to get out of any unknown situations. Make sure to get yourself a credit card that doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees and provides you travel rewards for using it. Here are a few of our favorites.
Book a camper!
A campervan is the best way to get around Iceland on a budget. While a camper is slightly more expensive than a car, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with expensive restaurants in Iceland. Plus you get to sleep in nature every night and still use a heater if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van like we did (and you should they are the BEST!) make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
Things to do in Iceland
There are literally so many things to do in Iceland I could write a book about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time so I’m showing you the ultimate Iceland bucket list here. Some things that are a must do are go to an Iceland swimming pool, soak in a natural hot spring, stand under a waterfall, and see the Northern Lights.
Photography Gear for Iceland
A high-quality camera is an important packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation. We travel with our Fujifilm Camera and 200mm telephoto lens. Drones have sort of taken Iceland by storm, and can capture fantastic footage as well. We had our DJI Mavic in Iceland, but make sure to use your drone responsibly as many locals are getting increasingly annoyed at the sight of them.
Whatever you do do not forget a tripod for Iceland – especially if you plan on photographing the Northern Lights. You’ll need one for the long exposures.
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is mega expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and in line with your budget. It’s certainly possible to do Iceland on a budget of less than $100 if you are camping, cooking all your own basic meals, and traveling by public transport or score a good deal on a rental. The good news is that nature is free, and you’ll be able to see Iceland’s beauty without paying for it. So yes – it’s completely doable to have an affordable Iceland vacation.
If you plan on drinking be sure to pick yo duty free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
Popular Tours to Take in Iceland
- Whale Watching Excursion in Reykjavik
- Dog Sledding!
- Whale Watching Excursion in Reykjavik
- Tandem Paragliding over Reykjavik
- Snowmobile excursion to Langjokull Glacier from Reykjavik
- Northern Lights Snowmobile Tour, from Gullfoss
- Snorkeling in Silfra near Reykjavik
- Nine Full Days Around Iceland!
- Experience the Best of Iceland in 7 Days
What To Wear in Iceland Summary
It’s best not to forget things like medications, toiletries, and any other personal items that you yourself might need when you travel. However this is a general Iceland packing list for all to go off of.
Remember that Iceland isn’t the end of the world, and if you forget something it’s likely you’ll be able to find it when you get there.
Enjoy your trip!
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