Packing for Iceland can be tricky. Iceland is a country where you can experience many different types of weather within one day, or even within hours. One moment the sun will be shining and next you will be driving through a storm of wind, rain or hail. The wind can be strong enough to blow you away!
Its varied weather is what makes Iceland so incredibly green and beautiful in many places. Thanks to the rain, often followed by brilliant sunlight, after a storm Iceland often becomes the land of magical waterfalls and rainbows. To me it’s one of the most beautiful and unique places on earth.
You must be thinking: how do you pack for a place that experiences so many different types of weather in a day? Don’t worry, I am here to guide you! The key is dressing in layers and wearing waterproof clothing. Having the right clothes will definitely make your trip a lot more enjoyable. Don’t think for one second that you don’t need proper gear when going to Iceland, even in good weather.
Less is more when you are packing, trust me I've always been an over packer! There have been way too many times where I pack too many pieces of clothing and end up only wearing half. Comfort should be your main priority when visiting Iceland.
Kerið Crater, Iceland
I visited Iceland the last week of September into the first week of October. The weather is very unpredictable at this time but it's like that most of the year. I knew that running into rain, sun, clouds, wind and maybe snow was a possibility. Your Iceland packing list will be pretty similar no matter what the time of year it is but here is my specific packing list for Iceland in the fall.
PACKING LIST (FALL/WINTER)
- 1-2 Jackets (waterproof)
- Hiking Boots (waterproof)
- 2 Pairs Fleece Leggings
- 3 Pairs Wool Socks
- 1-2 Hats
- 1 Pair Gloves
- 2 Uniqlo Heat Tech Tops
- 1 Uniqlo Heat Tech Bottom
- 1 Tech Fleece
- 2 Sweaters
- 1 Pair of Jeans
- 1 Neckwarmer
- 1 Bathing Suit
- Flip Flops
- Waterproof Backpack
- Collapsible Water Bottle
- 1-2 Sunglasses
- Lotion/Chapstick & Toiletries
- 1 Dress (if traveling for a special occasion)
- Undies & Sports Bra
- Plug Adaptor
- Camera & Tripod
- Carry On Luggage
- Packing Cubes
FINDING THE RIGHT JACKET
The right jacket is the most important thing, apart from good footwear, that you will pack for your trip to Iceland. If you plan on visiting waterfalls (Iceland has many) you are going to get wet! There is no way around it. Believe me the last thing you want is to feel cold and wet all day. So something warm that keeps out the moisture is essential.
I recommend Volcom Women’s Winrose Insulated Snow Jacket for colder days. This jacket is warm and insulated and only cost me $79. I purchased this jacket in crimson but it's also available in three other colors. This reddish color was perfect for standing out against Iceland's backgrounds.
The other jacket I packed is my Burton’s Womens Chuteout Anorak for Iceland's more mild weather. This jacket is not insulated and only a shell, so if worn by itself it's very lightweight. Jackets like this are also meant for layering in the color temps. You can wear some heat tech with a sweater for extra insulation if needed. I got so many compliments on this jacket! Everyone loved the unique bandana pattern on the back. It’s a little on the pricey side compared to the Volcom, but I put this jacket to good use and use it during snowboarding season as well.
I love the side zip feature and other zippers along the arms for extra ventilation. This specific style might be sold out on amazon now but they have some new colors and pattern options available. It runs large so please size down.
WATERPROOF HIKING BOOTS
The other item to allow more of your packing budget to is a great pair of boots. If you are adventuring around all day you will experience many different terrains. If you’re doing any hiking, you’ll definitely want them. Even if you’re just walking around the waterfalls, boots that keep out the moisture and have good tread are very helpful for the slippery rocks. I recommend Women’s Danner Vertigo Gore-Tex Hiking Boot. Don’t think you can get by with just any boot. You’ll be sorry when you have frozen and sopping wet toes. I also use these boots back home to hike. They are indestructible and spectacular quality! Available in three different colors. I purchased the Black ones.
FLEECE LINED LEGGINGS
I am so happy I discovered these leggings on amazon! I am obsessed and have purchased more pairs after my trips for colder New York weather. These Yogipace Water Resistant Fleece Lined Leggings were perfect for keeping my legs just warm enough for the cold temperatures in Iceland. I lived in these and wore them during the entire trip. I would order 2 pairs at the very least. The water resistant feature works perfectly and I never felt damp or cold for the entire trip!
Smartwool Hiking Cushioned Wool Socks are the perfect socks to wear in Iceland. They keep you warm and have wicking fibers so your feet don’t get smelly or damp no matter the conditions outside. You will want to get a few pairs of wool warm moisture wicking socks instead of layering regular socks. Regular socks will trap moisture making your feet cold. They come in a few different colors.
BEANIE & GLOVES
Don’t forget to keep your ears, head and hands warm! These will be the most important areas of your body to keep warm. Pack a beanie or two for variety. I purchased a red and black knit beanie. In the height of winter I would recommend something fleece lined. Also pack a pair of warm gloves. Even if you don’t think you will need them, throw them in your backpack. They are small and don’t take up much room.
HEAT TECH TOP & BOTTOMS
For your essentials on what to pack for Iceland, these will be your basics. You’ll need these as your base layer. One of my greatest discoveries is Uniqlo Heattech. Uniqlo’s innovative collection will keep you warm on your day-long outdoor excursions. The Heattech technology works by absorbing your body’s moisture and turning it into warmth. Depending on the temperatures, I wear it solo or layered with a jacket or sweater. They are are so thin and stretchy, you won’t feel them. I purchased 2 tops and one bottom piece. Make sure they fit tightly. When they are tight, they can keep you warmer. Also it will be easier to throw a pair of jeans over them.
When traveling in the fall/winter Make sure to pack 1 tech fleece. You will want to put this over your heat tech for colder days as another layer. If it's warm enough you might also be comfortable just wearing this and a light raincoat.
SWEATERS & JEANS
Having some sweaters and a pair of jeans on hand is great if you want to go out for dinner or a drink later on. Its casual and comfortable. You only need one pair of jeans and make sure to wear heat tech underneath them! Depending on the time of year, you may get away with it. Don't let jeans be your only bottoms, you never know when the weather will turn! I packed 2 Sweaters. I wore them everyday over my heat tech and under my jacket.
Packing a neckwarmer for Iceland is a must whether you visit in the summer or winter. I used this to pull over my face and keep my nose warm. In the summertime, you can bring any scarf that you like. But for the wintertime, I recommend getting wool, cashmere, alpaca or any material that will keep your neck warm. I have been wearing Turtle Fur Neck Warmers for years on all of my snowboarding trips and I am never cold.
One of the coolest and most relaxing things to do while in Iceland is visit the national hot springs. The blue lagoon is one of the most popular destinations. They have showers and pools of varying heat up to 104°F/40°C, and are a great way to unwind after a day of adventures. You will not want to forget your Cupshe Bathing Suit ! Experiencing this is a must!
Flip Flops will come in handy when you are visiting the hot springs. After getting out, you don’t want to wear your boots right away.
On outdoor adventures, I always bring an ultra-lightweight backpack with me. I used this instead of a handbag to bring as my +1 to my carry on suitcase. My favorite backpack is the Fjall Raven . It’s big enough to carry my actual camera bag, water bottle, snacks, and extra items that I may need during the day. Best of all it’s waterproof. I was outside in the rain for hours and NONE of my items got wet.
Tap water in Iceland comes directly from the glaciers, so its as fresh and pure as you can get. There's no need to pay for expensive water so bring your bottle and refill it. It was great to have this water bottle on long drives to avoid making multiple stops. I am obsessed with this Collapsible Water Bottle. I used it during my entire trip and fit perfectly in my backpack.
It can also get very sunny in Iceland! I recommend Blenders Eyewear. They are polarized and great or the outdoors. Plus they look great in photos.
LOTION/CHAPSTICK & TOILETRIES
Don’t forget your lotion and chapstick. Your skin will get super dry. Try to keep makeup to a minimum. I packed a small travel bag that included a tinted moisturizer, eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow. There are drug stores/supermarkets around so you can purchase shampoo or other toiletters if needed. Most hotels provide these things too of course.
Because of a special occasion, I got dolled up one evening and took some beautiful photos with Julie & Ryan Photogarphy on the black sand beach in Vik. In May of 2019 my fiancé and I got engaged in Italy. Since Iceland was our next big trip and the scenery is just breathtaking, we thought this would be the perfect location for an engagement photoshoot. This Red Dress was the pefect choice to contrast amongst the black sand.
UNDIES & SPORTS BRA
I find sports bras to be a lot comfier whenever I'm hiking. I think you’ll feel the same once you’re out and moving around! I always pack around 7-10 pairs of undies for a weeks vacation. It's always better to have a few extra pairs. I like ones that fold up really small and don't take up a lot of space. Gap's Breathe Undies are the softest and fold up to practically nothing!
I purchased this Europe to US Travel Plug Adaptor on amazon. It has both a USB & an outlet plug option which is perfect. I am from the USA so I needed one but Iceland uses the same plugs as the rest of Europe.
CAMERA & TRIPOD
You have to bring a camera to Iceland. It's one of the most beautiful countries in the world with a million photo opportunities. What about capturing the Northern Lights? You need a camera that has manual mode functionality and a sturdy tripod. I purchased a Canon G9x Mark II. My favorite thing about this camera is how small and lightweight it is. It literally fits in the palm of my hand. It's so easy to just throw it in your backpack and go!
Here is a general camera setting for photographing the Northern Lights
• Apeture at 2.8 or 4 – the lowest number your lens can go.
• Expose for 15 seconds for the slower auroras and 10 seconds for the faster ones. Adjust as needed.
• Set ISO at 1,600 to start and experiment.
• Camera must be on a tripod. You cannot move the camera when taking long exposure photographs or it will look like a big blur.
I recommend playing around with the camera at night before your trip. I took some photos of cars going by at night and was able to learn how long exposure on a camera works.
HOW TO PACK WITH ONLY A CARRY ON
You may also be wondering, how is it possible to pack for Iceland using only carry-on luggage? I am here to tell you it's possible! You may not enjoy the luxury of choosing different outfits every day, but it’s possible if you are ok traveling on the lighter side. Believe me you do not want to be hauling around a heavy suitcase on this trip.
The luggage I purchased is Kenneth Cole Reaction 20” Expandable Carry-On Luggage. It has a hard shell and it's the max size you can bring as carry on most airlines. This luggage measures 20” H x 14” W x 7.5”-9” D and is expandable so if you purchase a few extra things on the way home you don’t need to sweat!
To make everything magically fit, use Mossio Packing Cubes. I seriously don’t know how I traveled before these. Also roll your clothes, do not fold them, to save space and keep your clothing from wrinkling. You will be surprised at how much you can fit in these cubes. You can thank me later!
As I mentioned earlier I used brought my backpack as my +1 bag (instead of a handbag). You are able to fit so much more this way and a handbag is not necessary when in Iceland.
One important tip with my experience on long flights is to put anything you need to access on the airplane in this bag. This bag will be under your seat and next to you at all times. This is where I keep items like water, snacks, medicine, makeup/wipes, hairbrush, etc.
I also packed an extra pair of underwear, my swimsuit and deodorant in this bag. After landing my plan was to head straight to the hot springs. By doing this I avoided rummaging through my suitcase in the parking lot. I was able to grab my backpack, relax and enjoy my morning at the blue lagoon.
I hope this post on packing for Iceland was useful!
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