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. There is no quicker way to ruin a trip than to be uncomfortable, luckily packing for Iceland isn’t rocket science.
First, we suggest that 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, 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. We’re here to help you out with what to wear in Iceland with this packing list.
Tips on Packing For Iceland
- 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 great 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 some inclement weather and sharp volcanic rock.
- If you plan to drive the Ring Road, a soft side duffel bag or backpack is best. They’re easier to carry and can squeeze in the back of a car or van.
- Outside the summer months, you may need a large parka, 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.
Weather in Iceland
The weather and time of year will have the largest 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, it means 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 begins to change, you can see more dramatic weather such as rain, wind, and eventually, snow, especially at higher elevations. A reliable shell jacket is important 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.|
Essential Documents To Pack
- Passport – This is an obvious one, but you won’t make it very far without a passport.
- Credit Cards – We always go with 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. If the license is not in the Latin alphabet, an IDP is required.
What to Wear in Iceland
Before you pack for Iceland, it’s important to determine what you’ll need for your trip. Travel plans have a large impact on this. Whether that’s camping, hiking, horseback riding, sailing, ATV tours, or skiing Iceland is all about adventures. You’ll likely need some outdoor gear to protect 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 weather.
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 several 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. Iceland has some terrific wool and sweater producers, but you’ll have to pay top dollar for the privilege of owning one. Of course, you can still find a great sweater at home!
Shop For 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 that is made 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. Lightweight by design, the jackets are great as they are 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 always recommend a packable down jacket on a trip with cool weather since they’re versatile.
Down Jacket Recommendations
Flannel shirts are fabulous 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 feel at home. You can pair a flannel with a travel vest for a classic look that is great for warmth.
Our Favorite Flannels
Pack at least one hiking shirt that is quick dry and anti-microbial. This can be either a synthetic blend or a wool shirt. When hiking in cold temperatures it’s important to stay dry 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 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. The majority 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 really want to know our favorite hiking pants we suggest the Fjallraven’s Keb Trouser. Or you can always hike in shorts!
Shop For Hiking Pants
Women’s Halle Pant
Men’s Brion Pant
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 locals in well-cut jeans, but nothing baggy or ripped.
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 of wool socks from 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. For women, one of the best brands for swimsuits we’ve found is Andie Swim. They make amazing swimsuits that fit as nicely as they look. Many of their pieces are stylish yet supportive.
Cameron has the new 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.
Shop For Swimsuit
If you plan to spend some time in Reykjavik or driving, bring a pair of shoes. For a destination like Iceland, we like a hybrid sneaker that has some outdoor elements. We really dislike driving or flying in clunky boots; instead, we wear comfortable travel shoes.
Our favorite travel sneakers are Allbirds Wool Runners because they’re sustainable, cozy, simple, and super 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 personal style preference and plans, but a leather boot 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
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 Banff 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.
Shop For Goose Down parka
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. When we’re active in cold temperatures like hiking, snowboarding, scrambling, or camping we always wear quality base layers.
For the base layer, we recommend they fit snug and are made from a noncotton material like nylon or wool. We both 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 gloves that are appropriate 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.
Accessories to Pack for Iceland
It’s important if you’re driving in Iceland to have a pair of sunglasses. The sun barely sets in the summer with 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 love to invest in quality polarized sunglasses, and Rayban Wayfarers are undoubtedly the most classic option for travel. We also love our Smith Lowdowns for an athletic style.
Iceland is all about the outdoors, so we’ll bring a good hiking backpack or even our favorite running vest. We suggest a backpack around 30L in size with a sternum and waist strap for Iceland. There are a lot great option for hiking backpacks these days.
Three of our favorite hiking backpack manufacturers are Osprey, REI, and Camelbak. Osprey and REI make more traditional packs, while we wear our Camelbak running vests on most hikes as we trail run.
We always recommend you pack a travel towel when you’re 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 Reccommendations
Shop For A Headlamp
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.
Our Travel Adapter Recommendation
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. They’re a great thing to have on those wireless nights when camping in Iceland.
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.
Shop For For A Power Bank
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.
See Our Reccommendations
Packing cubes are great for any backpack or suitcase. They keep all of your clothes and toiletries organized. I’ve had Eagle Creek cube for three years now and think they were worth the investment to stay organized and create space in my luggage.
See Our Reccommendations
For the women, I suggest traveling with a theft-proof purse that is black and stylish to hold belongings. Cameron has a great passport wallet that holds his passport and credit cards so he never leaves it anywhere.
See Our Reccommendations
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.
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 World Nomads. Natasha is a bit of a worrywart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexibility 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?
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!
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.
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!