Are you wondering what to pack for Iceland? The country’s weather is pretty notorious, so it’s only natural that the question of what to put in your Iceland packing list comes up a lot. There is no quicker way to ruin a trip than to be uncomfortable. Luckily packing for Iceland isn’t rocket science.
First, we suggest you consider the length of your trip and what time of year you’re heading to Iceland. The key to packing for Iceland is to dress for the weather, from chilly to downright freezing. No matter the time of year, it’s best to pack a shell jacket, down jacket, warm base layer, 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. With this packing list, we’re here to help you with what to wear in Iceland.
What to Pack for Iceland Tips
- A lightweight hiking jacket or shell jacket is a staple that should be in every traveler’s luggage, no matter the season.
- Packing cubes are excellent at separating dirty clothes from clean clothes or wet from dry. Opt for a packing cube with mesh that will allow wet clothes to dry.
- We love to pack wool base layers such as thermals, socks, and underwear to help fight off the cold.
- A good pair of boots for Iceland is vital as you’ll likely deal with inclement weather and sharp volcanic rock.
- A soft side duffel bag or backpack is best if you plan to drive the Ring Road. They’re easier to carry and can squeeze in the back of a car or van.
- When traveling with a warm parka or heavy winter jacket, it’s a good idea to wear the jacket on the plane to save space in your luggage.
- A good toque/hat and gloves are a great way to stay warm without much space.
- Sun protection is a good idea in the summer, so bring sunblock, sunglasses, and possibly UPF clothing.
- 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 in Iceland.
The Weather in Iceland
The weather and time of year will have the most significant impact on what you wear in Iceland. Temperatures vary widely, and the seasons can be drastically different. If you need more info, read about the best time of year to visit Iceland.
|Summer||This is the season that most will choose to visit Iceland. It’s an amazing time of year in Iceland as you can enjoy the midnight sun. Temperatures range from 5C (40F) to 15C (58F). Generally, you’ll be comfortable with a good down jacket and normal clothes during the day. Rain can happen throughout the summer, so it’s best to be prepared.|
|Fall||Expect temperatures that range from 0C (32F) to 10C (50F). As the season changes, you can see more dramatic weather, such as rain, wind, and eventually, snow, especially at higher elevations. A reliable shell jacket is essential during this season. With shorter days and darker nights, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights.|
|Winter||Winter is pretty cold in Iceland, but never too cold because the ocean moderates temperatures. On average, temperatures hang out around -1C (30F). However, inland and at higher altitudes, temperatures can be far colder! Winter brings about a fair amount of snow and wind. Days are brief, with only five hours of daylight, but the nights make for optimal Northern Lights viewing.|
|Spring||Life returns to Iceland in the spring as flowers bloom, migratory birds return, and the landscape turns a vibrant green. Temperatures begin to warm up, and the weather is not as fickle. Spring sees some of the lowest tourist numbers, so it can be a great time to visit.|
Iceland Packing List Essentials
- Passport – This is obvious, but you won’t make it very far without a passport.
- Credit Cards – We always use several travel credit cards that offer purchase protection, rewards, and no foreign transaction fees.
- Visa – Make sure you have a visa if you need one.
- Debit Cards – It’s good to carry a few Króna in Iceland. We never bother with money exchanges that provide awful exchange rates. Instead, we rely on the ATM when we arrive. Charles Schwab, Ally, and Capital One offer low or no foreign transaction fees. That being said, almost everywhere, and we mean everywhere, accepts cards.
- Driving License – If you plan to rent a car, you will need your driver’s license, plus it never hurts to have a second form of I.D. To drive, you must have a valid license for the last year. An IDP is required if the license is not in the Latin alphabet.
What to Wear in Iceland
Before you pack for Iceland, it’s good to determine what you’ll need for your trip. Travel plans have an enormous impact on this. Whether camping, hiking, horseback riding, sailing, ATV tours, or skiing Iceland is all about adventures. You’ll likely need some outdoor gear that is well-suited for movement and offers protection from the elements.
There are several staple items that I would recommend everyone bring for their trip to Iceland. Pack functionality with clothes that can serve multiple purposes. Layers are key in Iceland, as the weather and temperatures can change a lot in one day. The right outfit and layers can handle just about any environment or climate.
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.
I have several sweaters, but my favorites are from organic materials like wool or Alpaca. It’s become my favorite travel souvenir, and I treasure my Scottish wool and Peruvian Alpaca sweaters. Iceland has some terrific wool and sweater producers, but you’ll have to pay top dollar to own one. Of course, you can still find a great sweater at home!
Shop For A Wool Sweater
Right after you pack your wool sweater, reach for a shell jacket. If we were taking bets, we’d make a strong wager you’ll see some rain during your trip to Iceland. Iceland is notorious for its wind and rain, and a good shell jacket will help protect you from the elements.
We suggest a packable rain jacket for the outdoors/hiking. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. Any rain jacket will do, but the top-dollar ones designed for the outdoors will hold up and help in inclement weather. They also do an exceptional job at blocking the wind, which can be unrelenting.
Shop For A Shell Jacket
A down jacket is an outdoor staple and can be worn every day in Iceland. They’re warm and provide decent protection against wind. The jackets are lightweight by design and easy to pack in a backpack or suitcase.
With all the adventures around Iceland, it’s a good idea to always have one in your pack. We recommend a packable down jacket as it’s an Iceland packing list staple. They are incredibly versatile.
Down Jacket Recommendations
Flannel shirts are fabulous mid-layers for both men and women. A nice flannel provides warmth, comfort, and style. They’re super easy to style for a relaxed outdoor look. A cozy flannel is perfect for travel days, sightseeing, or casual hikes.
Most of Iceland is very relaxed, and you’ll feel at home with a flannel or sweater. You can pair a flannel with a travel vest for a classic look that is great for warmth. It’s an easy addition to any suitcase.
Our Favorite Flannels
At least one hiking shirt that is quick, dry, and anti-microbial should be on your Iceland packing list. This can be either a synthetic blend or a wool shirt. Staying dry is important when hiking in cold temperatures, as moisture will pull the heat away from your body. Plus, if your clothes get soaked, the shirt will dry overnight.
Synthetics are a bit cheaper and lighter, but they are made from plastic and contain chemicals. That being said, they offer exceptional performance. It’s up to your preference on the sleeve length, but we prefer long sleeves in Iceland as it’s never too hot. Our absolute favorite hiking shirts are the Outdoor Research Echo series. They make a hooded version that is light enough to be worn in the heat with full sun protection!
Our Recommended Hiking Shirts
With the often wet weather in Iceland, we suggest some technical pants made from synthetic material. Most of these pants are designed for hiking but look more casual such as the prAna Brion and Halle pants.
Technical pants are water-resistant, quick-dry, and comfortable. Iceland is all about the landscapes and spending time outside, so a pair of hiking pants should be in your suitcase. If you want to know our favorite hiking pants, we suggest the Fjallraven Keb Trouser. Or you can always hike in shorts!
Shop For Hiking Pants
Women’s Halle Pant
Men’s Brion Pant
Jeans are a fashion staple but aren’t the best packing pants. However, travelers have options, such as DU/ER jeans. The organic cotton jeans look sharp, but the blend of polyester and spandex allows the jeans to stretch. They look like quality stone-washed denim without the weight and stiff feeling.
Fit is exceptional, with a slim fit throughout the leg. You can comfortably wear the jeans on long travel days without any discomfort. Thanks to the synthetic blend, they’re great for lengthy trips as there is no need to wash the jeans. An easy favorite for those when you’re out exploring Iceland, the added water resistance is a huge bonus.
Shop For DU/ER Performance Slim Fit Jeans
We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet dry while walking around. Most importantly, wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties. We travel with several pairs of wool socks on any trip. Our recommendations for socks are Darn Tough, Smartwool, and Farm To Feet.
Our Favorite Wool Socks
Speaking of public pools, make sure to bring a bathing suit to enjoy some of Iceland’s hot springs and geothermal pools. We recommend always packing at least one bathing suit in our suitcase no matter the trip. For women, one of the best brands for swimsuits we’ve found is Andie Swim. They make unique swimsuits that offer support and fit as nicely as they look.
Men can try out Quicksilver’s Amphibian shorts. The material looks like tough fabric, but they’re super lightweight and durable. Best of all, they look great and can be worn as regular shorts. Be careful with the inseam cut, though, as we’ve found it can be a bit long.
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Bring a pair of shoes if you plan to spend some time in Reykjavik or a lot of time driving on a road trip. We recommend a hybrid sneaker with some outdoor elements for a destination like Iceland. Our favorite travel sneakers are Allbirds Wool Runners because they’re sustainable, cozy, simple, and comfortable. You can read our in-depth review of Allbirds here.
Shop For Allbirds
Pack a pair of lightweight hiking boots or leather boots to help cope with all the wet weather. The Icelandic people spend most their time in boots as it’s the most practical footwear. It’s important that the boots have a thick sole to protect your feet from sharp volcanic rocks and have some form of weatherproofing.
It’s up to your style preference and plans, but a leather or synthetic hiking boot works well for Iceland. I typically hike in a lightweight trail running shoe, but given the terrain and weather in Iceland, we suggest a boot.
See Our Boot Recommendations
It would be best to pack several pairs of sports/travel underwear. Generally, we’ll pack five to seven pairs of underwear for a typical trip. We recommend several pairs of underwear made from wool or synthetic material.
These materials are antimicrobial, so they stay fresh longer and can dry quickly overnight if you hand wash them. For women, it’s best not to wear your typical cheap cotton undies. Women’s hygiene is essential, so antimicrobial undies are a lifesaver when you’re active in the heat.
Check Out Our Recommendations
Goose Down Parka
You’ll freeze your ass off in the winter months 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 Canada as I write this and cope with frostnip).
In general, you will be able to get by with a lightweight down jacket or a great fleece jacket, as they are warm and lightweight. However, some places are icy in the winter months in Iceland. We’ve always appreciated good parka if we plan to watch the Aurora, which often involves standing around in the cold at night.
As much as you may want to bring a few different winter jackets for options, it’s best to settle on just one since winter jackets are cumbersome. We have many winter jackets, but the warmest we’ve found are Triple Fat Goose down parkas.
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Thermal underwear is essential to remain warm and dry. Your base layer is the first key to wicking away moisture and keeping your body heat from escaping. We always wear quality base layers when we’re active in cold temperatures like hiking, snowboarding, scrambling, or camping.
For the base layer, we recommend they fit snugly and are made from a noncotton material like nylon or wool. We wear wool thermals from Helly Hansen, Smartwool, and yak wool from Kora.
Shop For Base Layers
Scarf, Hat, Gloves
Scarves are a travel staple and a great wardrobe choice for traveling in Iceland. They act as an accessory to your outfit and they’re super comfortable for an added layer of warmth.
Top that off with a good toque and appropriate gloves for the season. It’s three simple things that can make you so much warmer. They’re all wonderful on to have readily available on those blustery Icelandic days.
What to Pack for Iceland: Accessories
A stylish pair of sunglasses is an excellent addition to an outfit. Everyone owns at least one pair of sunglasses. However, it’s best to ensure they have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We always travel with two pairs of sunglasses as we’re pretty active. A pair of Smith Optics for hiking and outdoor adventures and a couple of stylish sunglasses to wear at the beach or around town for the day. My stylish ones are Persol, and my Active ones are always the Smith Lowdowns.
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If you’re not going on an overnight backpacking adventure, a daypack should be more than enough to hold your belongings. No matter the hike, you will want a daypack to store your belongings. My daypack usually consists of a shell jacket, down jacket, hiking poles, snacks, water, gloves, chapstick, a buff, a camera, a first aid kit, navigation, and an emergency blanket.
While not everyone needs an alpine pack, the key to take away is to opt for the correct size pack. I love a versatile size around the 30L mark if you only have one pack. The size gives enough room for gear-heavy days, but it’s light enough for light short treks or walking around town. Of course, a nice backpack will do the job if you don’t have plans for extensive hikes. I can get around on almost any size day hike with a small 10L multi-sport vest.
See Our Recommendations
We always recommend you pack a travel towel on the road. The one reason everyone needs a towel in Iceland are 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. We picked up 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.
See Our Recommendations
A headlamp is always a great idea to packing you bag. We find it most helpful on night walks searching for the Northern Lights and at campsites as we drove around the Ring Road in our camper van. So a headlamp for hiking is super handy. A great option is a rechargeable headlamp like the BioLite 330 or 150.
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A universal power adaptor is an essential travel accessory for any trip to Iceland. We recommend picking up one before arriving at your destination. Once at your destination, finding one that is not overpriced or poor quality can be challenging.
Also, I never want to be searching for an adaptor when I have just come off a long travel day and need to plug in my computer. I want to have it with me and ready to go. We’ve tried a bund of adapters, but this one from Ceptics has to be our favorite in our travels. It has multiple plugs and USB ports. It also works as a surge protector.
Shop For Travel Power Adapter
A Kindle is an essential travel accessory for travelers who love to read. As much as we love an actual book, they are too heavy and take up too much room in my suitcase. We recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite and love it.
It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and has a backlight to read at night without a harsh glare. We can’t think of a better way to disconnect in Iclenad than with a good book.
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Grayl GeoPress Water Filter & Purifier
Regarding travel essentials, a travel water bottle is at the top of our list. And when it comes to water bottles, our favorite is the Grayl GeoPress purifier bottle. It saves money, reduces plastic waste, and ensures that our water is safe and free of viruses and other waterborne illnesses.
The Grayl bottle is not only practical but also innovative in design. A press-like system effectively filters out sediment, bacteria, and heavy metals, leaving only clean and safe water. Its wide-mouth top makes it easy to drink and fill, and its sleek design fits comfortably in any bag or backpack.
Yes, the water in Iceland is excellent to drink from the tap. However, we would never recommend drinking water from a stream or pond due to livestock without purification/filtration.
Shop For Grayl GeoPress Water Purifier
Keeping your toiletries organized and separated from your clothes is always a good idea. It almost feels like a toiletry bag is essential for any trip. Plus, it’s not uncommon to find small or cramped bathrooms in Iceland.
Buying a hanging toiletry bag is an excellent option if you are limited on counter space. This bag style tends to have a better organization system with various sections for storage than the traditional option. We love the Peak Design Wash Pouch. It contains a hidden hook to hang and features terrific organization.
Shop For Peak Design Wash Pouch
I love traveling with a power bank to ensure my electronics never die. I usually don’t need to use it on long flights as some new international flights provide entertainment systems with USB ports! (Always make sure your charging cable is handy when boarding the plane)
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 significant pain. I recommend purchasing this power bank because it’s a great value with solid reviews.
Shop For Anker Power Bank
Packing cubes are phenomenal for the organization of any backpack or suitcase. They are one of those packing essentials that should be in every bag as they keep all of your clothes and toiletries organized. Cubes also keep clothes folded and protect them from wrinkles.
Our favorite packing cubes are currently from Peak Design. It’s a slick design, and each cube has a divider to separate clean from dirty clothes. This saves the need for additional cubes and makes organization easier.
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You may not think of a tripod when thinking about what to pack for Iceland. However, if you’re chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland, you’ll want to pack a tripod for photographs. A tripod is critical for long exposure photographs that you’ll need to take to photos at night. Our favorite tripod for photography is the Peak Design Travel Tripod.
You Need This To Travel in Iceland!
We never travel without travel insurance with Heymondo. With all the risks of travel in a foreign country and insurance coverage, we never have to worry about a good health plan. Heymondo offers incredible flexibility and great plans!
You never know if the worse could happen while you’re abroad, and your insurance plan at home often will not cover medical emergencies abroad. Having the peace of mind that we have a good backup plan helps us sleep at night.
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What Not to Wear in Iceland?
- Cotton Clothing — 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!
- Shorts — You’ll find shorts on very few Europeans. For the most part, Iceland never gets warm enough for you to bust out the shorts. Unless you have plans for trail running or some strenuous hikes I’d leave them at home.
- Sweatpants — 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 A Trip to Iceland
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!
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 favorite credit cards for travel.
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 as 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.
Happy Campers in Iceland
Iceland is Expensive!
Iceland is expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and to stay 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 your duty-free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!