At this point we should tell you the famous quote about Icelandic weather; if you don’t like it, wait five minutes.
Choosing what to pack for Iceland’s weather can be a struggle, it changes every few minutes. Wake up to glorious sunshine, have a hailstorm on your walk to the bus stop, but by the time your bus arrives it’s a dry, if very windy morning. And that’s just in Reykjavik! If you are planning on doing some highland hikes, waterfall visiting, whale watching, or even just a city break you are going to need to bring a cleverly planned selection. Stay warm and dry with our top tips of what to pack for Iceland.
Pack for Iceland 101
Whatever time of year you are visiting there are somethings you should bring with you. But don’t forget – 370,000 people live here all year round, so if you forget something you can definitely buy it, either from one of the awesome Icelandic brands like 66°North or in one of the brilliant second hand shops.
- Socks. Really warm woolen socks. Especially useful if you are Snorkelling at Silfra or going on a hike. However our wool is famously warm and durable, so be sure to pick up a new pair here!
- Rainproof and windproof jacket. Not showerproof, rainproof. Ideally quite long, and folds up small, so you can take it in and out of your rucksack all day long.
- Waterproof trousers. I know. You don’t want to look like a scout leader but you will appreciate these if you are out on a hike and the rain comes in sideways. However, if you are only coming to Reykjavik for a long weekend city break it’s not so important.
- Thin wool jumper and/or a fleece jacket. This must fit under the ran coat, life in Iceland is all about layers of clothing.
- Swimwear! The spas in Iceland are famous, but even our local swimming pools are worth a visit. Unlike pools in the UK each has hot pots for sitting and warming up after a long day hiking. There’s also countless natural geothermal hot springs to plunge into, including a hot river up a mountain you can bathe in! If you have one bring a travel towel for impromptu swims – you can rent proper towels at the pools ( and swimwear if you forget it)
- Beanie hat, gloves, neck warmer. Brimmed hats look stylish, but beanies stay on in the wind. Round scarves and neck gaiters (like Buffs) are preferable to a scarf that flaps about wildly in the wind.
- Proper walking boots. If you do a glacier hike you will be supplied with the correct footwear, but even for normal hikes it’s worth investing in some study boots. To be honest if you are coming to Iceland you are probably the adventurous type, so if you don’t have them it could be time to invest. Leather boots from brands like Scarpa are expensive but comfortable and, if you look after them, last a lifetime.
- Small Hiking Backpack. Useful for day trips, trips to the pool, overnight accommodation etc.
- Sunglasses. In summer it’s sunny and in winter there can be glare off the snow, and all year there is glare from the water if you go whale watching.
What to Pack for Iceland in Winter (or for highland trips)
- Thermal Undies. We actually often wear our thermal pants all year round, the wind from the North can be extremely cold even in summer! In winter full thermals are a necessity. Choose good brands that use merino wool that fit you well.
- Winter Coat. A large, windproof, very insulated coat will be your saviour when the weather’s cold. Sure it will be a hassle when the wind drops and the sun shines, but you will adore it when it starts randomly snowing. Also great to bring if you are going out on a boat at any time.
- Ice Grips. Not crampons. You need them for glaciers and winter hikes, but those spikey rubber shoe covers will do nicely for everywhere else. They sell them everywhere – even in supermarkets so don’t stress too much. Also the centre of Reykjavik has geothermically heated streets, so there will be times when you just slip them off and pop them in your pocket!
What to Pack for Iceland in Summer
- Sleep Mask. There is 24hour daylight! It’s awesome! Make the most of it and go on a hike at 11pm! However also if you do want to sleep bring an eye mask – although all hotel rooms have blackout curtains. N.B No, you can’t see the Northern Lights under the midnight sun sorry.
- Insect Repellent. We know everyone thinks we don’t have any biting insects, but camp near lake Myvatn in summer and you’ll realise that is a myth. We have midges! Thankfully only in certain areas, but insect repellent or fly nets can be useful. Also if you are going horse riding you may appreciate them.
What Not to Pack for Iceland
Horse Riding Gear. Our horses (they aren’t ponies) are unique to us! And as such they haven’t been exposed to many horse illnesses in the greater world. So you can’t use any gear that has been used around horses outside of Iceland. Leave your riding hat at home. They will give you one.
Water. Seriously. Bring a reusable bottle and go to town on our straight from the glacier delicious tap water. It’s better than Evian. Treat yourself and save the environment.
One use hand warming packs. During winter they are dropped everywhere. They are terrible for the environment, don’t last long, and are really expensive! Iceland is warmer than a lot of the US in winter thanks to the gulf stream. Wrap up before you leave the hotel, eat a proper meal, you don’t need to hurt our beautiful nature with this rubbish!
You must be extremely excited for your adventure, so we hope this article helped you work out what to pack for Iceland. Always remember, we live here all year long, and Icelanders are known for being super friendly. So when it’s time to pack for Icelandic adventures don’t stress too much, we will always try to help you out!