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. You will 100% want a waterproof jacket in Iceland
- 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.
- Packing rain pants is always a good idea. We usually try to avoid packing them as they are bulky, but they can be true lifesavers in Iceland.
- 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, though you will probably pay a premium for it.
- We have traveled Iceland three separate times now. On our most recent trip in June I was optimistic and brought shorts and more “summery” clothing. I never wore any of it. As you’ll see from these photos, we wore many of the same clothing items every day.
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, seeing the Northern Lights is possible.|
|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 far without a passport.
- Credit Cards – We use several travel credit cards offering 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. On our last trip to Iceland, we never pulled out any cash.
- Driving License – If you plan to rent a car, you will need your driver’s license; a second form of identification never hurts. 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 significantly in one day. The right outfit and layers can handle just about any environment or climate.
When wondering what to pack for Iceland, you can’t forget this item. If one article of clothing is made for travel in Iceland, it’s the wool sweater. You’ll always want a sweater on your packing list, as the season does not matter. Iceland remains cool year-round, and it’s a great mid-layer in the winter.
A wool sweater is a great travel outfit staple and a classic piece for your closet at home. They’re comfortable, stylish, and warm. I have several sweaters, but my favorites are made with organic materials like wool. Collecting sweaters has 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. It’s the most common souvenir from Iceland, but they vary significantly in quality and price. We shopped around and found they range from $150 to $400+, with the lower-priced sweaters being mass-produced by a machine abroad.
Shop For A Wool Sweater
Right after you pack your wool sweater, we suggest you reach for a shell jacket. If we were taking bets, we’d make a substantial 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. Any rain jacket will do, but the top-dollar ones designed for the outdoors will hold up and help in inclement weather. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof — the wind may be the most important as it can be unrelenting.
If you’re hesitant to invest in a shell jacket, you can always opt for an affordable poncho. We wouldn’t want to hike in one as they’re terrible at ventilation, but they’re adequate if you only have sightseeing plans. Plus, they can save you when the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Shop For A Shell Jacket
A packable down jacket is an outdoor staple and perfect for any trip to Iceland, no matter the season. They’re warm and provide decent protection against wind. Although down jackets were created for outdoor sports, their comfort and practicality have made them perfect for daily life.
It’s a rare day when the weather is too warm in Iceland to warrant a down jacket. Down jackets are lightweight by design and easy to pack in a backpack or suitcase. We always have one in our luggage on any extended trip.
Down Jacket 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. 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 a good parka if we plan to watch the Aurora, which often involves standing 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 our warmest are Triple Fat Goose down parkas.
Shop For A Goose Down Parka
You’ll never feel out of place in Iceland wearing a flannel. The super comfy top keeps you warm and works as a fabulous mid-layer. As even the summer months are cool in Iceland, it’s always good to pack one.
They’re super easy to style for a relaxed outdoor look, and we often spend our evenings or days lounging around in a flannel. You’re not going to find locals wearing flannel, but the relaxed style matches their sensibilities. When the temperature drops, pairing a flannel with a nice vest is a good look and adds warmth.
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 essential when hiking in cold temperatures, as moisture will remove the heat 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. Our favorite synthetic 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! It’s up to your preference on the sleeve length, but we prefer long sleeves in Iceland as it’s never too hot.
Wool shirts are another exceptional option and the more sustainable option. We love wool shirts, and on our last trip, we packed them in addition to our synthetic shirts. Wool shirts are super comfortable and do an incredible job at temperature regulation. Most importantly, as a travel shirt, wool does a much better job of resisting odors. We regularly wear our wool shirts multiple times between washes.
Our Recommended Hiking Shirts
A couple of t-shirts are an easy, no-brainer to pack for your trip to Iceland. As you spend the majority of a trip in an outdoor jacket, there is no need for fancy tops or dresses. We love to wear wool travel shirts as they do a better job at moisture management, temperature regulation, and odor resistance. So, they’re pretty much the perfect shirt for Iceland.
We love them for all the same reasons as wool hiking shirts. However, many shirts have an athletic fit that doesn’t always look the best for daily wear. That’s why we have fallen in love with Unbound Merino. They make wool clothes with casual styles for travel. Wool shirts are super soft, and the heavier fabric is more attractive than cotton shirts.
Shop For Wool Travel Shirt
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
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 casual, such as the Kuhl Renegade and Freeflex 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
In all our time traveling, we’ve never felt a need for rain pants aside from Iceland and Antarctica/Patagonia. While technical hiking pants can easily handle light or brief rain showers, the torrential downpours that hammer Iceland require something more robust.
That’s why we highly recommend rain pants if you’re on a tight schedule and can’t afford to spend a day inside during a trip to Iceland. Amazon has some affordable options if you’re not a serious backcountry enthusiast who needs performance rain pants.
Shop For Rain Pants
You can never have enough underwear or socks. We love wool undergarments on the road as they dry quicker and have antimicrobial qualities. This means they stay fresh longer and keep you more comfortable.
After a lot of testing, our favorites are from Icebreaker. They make several versions and cuts for men and women to match personal tastes. What’s best about wool underwear is that they can be washed in a bathroom sink at night only to dry by morning the next day, so you could feasibly travel with only one or two pairs of underwear.
They are pricey, so we can’t don’t recommend everyone replace every pair. We still travel around with several regular cotton undies, but a couple of pairs of these for dirty clothes emergencies come in handy.
Shop For Wool Underwear
We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of socks. You will want to keep your feet dry with all the wet weather in Iceland. 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. They make every style and cut, so finding your desired pair is easy. Our recommendations for socks are Darn Tough, Smartwool, and REI Co-op. If you still want some classic cotton socks, check out Bombas.
Our Favorite Wool Socks
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 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 and Smartwool. You won’t need thermal layers in Iceland during the summer, but it’s a great item to pack for the Fall and Winter. Fall temperatures don’t always warrant thermals; however, it is Northern Lights season, so they’re a welcome layer of warmth on those cold nights.
Shop For Base Layers
When wondering what to pack for Iceland, a swimsuit may not be on your list – though it should not be forgotten! Soaking in geothermal water is essential to Icelandic culture. Geothermal pools, secret hot springs, five-star spas, and public pools all present an awesome opportunity to get wet.
Vuori makes fantastic lightweight Cruise Board Shorts in various prints and colors. They’re super comfortable, quickly dry, and the cut is perfect. We don’t like board shorts that are too long or loose, as they look sloppy.
Shop For A Swimsuit
A comfortable pair of shoes is always nice when packing your bag for Iceland. You’ll probably spend plenty of days in hiking boots, but it’s nice to give your feet a break.
A comfortable pair of travel shoes that are easy to stash in the bag is a great idea. We love Allbirds as a lightweight shoe, but any comfortable casual shoe will work. A more casual shoe is great for heading to dinner or exploring one of Iceland’s charming towns or the capital city of Reykjavik.
Recommendations For Travel Shoes
Another excellent suggestion for footwear is a pair of leather boots. Pack a pair of lightweight hiking boots or leather boots to help cope with all the wet weather. As Iceland is an outdoor destination, you’ll want it to be practical and comfortable.
We recommend boots with a thick sole to protect your feet from sharp volcanic rocks and that the boots have some form of weatherproofing. It’s up to your style preference and plans, but a leather or synthetic hiking boot works best.
We’re active and love hiking, so we packed trail runners and Blundstones on our last trip. The one thing you need to know about footwear is to pack one shoe for casual wear and one that is weatherproof and matches your travel plans.
See Our Boot Recommendations
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 are 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 to have readily available on those blustery Icelandic days. Our favorite part about these three items is they take up little to no room in your luggage. We always recommend these items for cool weather destinations.
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.
Shop For Sunglasses
A daypack should be enough to hold your belongings if you’re not going on an overnight backpacking adventure. 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. Everyone needs a towel in Iceland because of 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 towel. Plus, you’ll want if you have plans to visit any of the country’s natural hot springs, like the Reykjadalur Hot Spring River.
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 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 for packing your 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 Iceland is super handy. A great option is a rechargeable headlamp like the BioLite 330 or 150.
Shop For Headlamp
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 loved 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.
Shop For Kindle Paperwhite
Grayl GeoPress Water Filter & Purifier
A travel water bottle is at the top of our list regarding travel essentials. And when it comes to water bottles, our favorite is the Grayl GeoPress purifier bottle. It saves money, reduces plastic waste, and ensures 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 a great 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 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 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.
Shop For Packing Cubes
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 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 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! You don’t have to search for hotels or deal with expensive restaurants in Iceland.
Plus, you 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, read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during the high season.
Happy Campers In Iceland
Iceland is Expensive!
Iceland is expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world. Make sure that you plan accordingly and 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 meals, traveling by public transport, or scoring 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, pick your duty-free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.