Last updated on October 16th, 2018 at 07:13 am
So you’ve decided to go to Iceland and now you need to know what to pack and what to wear. Well you are in the right place! The time of year you visit Iceland will definitely have an impact on what to pack for Iceland – but not as much as you may think(!) – as there are more than a few essential items that carry across all seasons. I decided the easiest way would be to split this perfect Iceland packing list between the very cold season (winter) and the slightly warmer Spring, Summer & Autumn seasons to put together the ultimate guide to What to Pack for Iceland (for every time of year!)
What to Pack for Iceland Packing List
These are the basics and what to pack for travelling to Iceland at any and all times of the year and should be the first things you add to your Iceland packing checklist:
A HIGH QUALITY WATERPROOF JACKET
Iceland is cold and wet in every season and if you only pack the top 2 items on this list, you are off to a good start. Ideally your jacket should be water and wind proof as even in summer when the sun shines for up to 23 hours a day the wind can still get up and a rain or snow storm is never far away. For this reason we recommend buying a jacket that has a layered system that includes a fleece jackets, warm layer and wind and waterproof top layer. I’d also recommend packing a vest for if you are hiking/walking a lot as start to get warm, it is important to keep your internal organs at a consistent temperature. These are a selection of the best coasts for Iceland:
WATERPROOF SHOES OR BOOTS
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Iceland is wet. Even if you are just walking a few steps outside the car the ground is likely to be wet and if you don’t have a good pair of waterproof hiking boots or snow boots, you’re feet are going to be wet too (and nobody wants that). Also, if you are planning to explore Iceland even a step off the marked trails, you are going to want some sturdy footwear/winter boots as Iceland is not known for its flat bitumen pathways. Add a pair of waterproof shoes to your Iceland packing list quick sharp!
ALL THE LAYERS
Layers are one of the essential things to pack for Iceland. Long sleeve, short sleeve, vests, leggings (fleecelined leggings if possible!), jeans, hiking pants. You’re gonna want them all. And following on from our three jacket in one theme above, dress in layers. Think of yourself as an onion – except you are one that can be re-wrapped when the weather changes or the temperature drops!
SWIMSUIT & QUICK DRYING TOWEL
When packing for Iceland, you can’t forget your swimming cossie! That geothermically heated water in Iceland means you’re going to want to take a dip regardless of what season you visit. And I’m sure you know that that visiting the Blue Lagoon (or any of the other hot springs or swimming pools!) is one of the main places to visit in Iceland but don’t forget to pack your bathing suit and a towel – I’m not sure that skinny dipping is acceptable anywhere in Iceland!
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE & THERMOS
The water in Iceland is some of the purest you will ever drink and you will want to avoid buying bottled water there. The tap water is more than good enough to drink – and so are the streams and rivers! Take a resuable water bottle and keep refilling it as you go. And pack a thermos too and keep a stay of coffee/tea or hot chocolate in your car for when you’re reader for a warm drink!
EUROPEAN TRAVEL ADAPTER
If you plan on plugging anything in and you’re not from continental Europe, you’re going to need an adapter. Grab one before you go, as they are on the expensive side once you arrive in the country.
Northern lights or epic scenery, whatever time of year you visit Iceland you are going to want to have a good camera, a tripod, spare memory cards and extra batteries (the cold can rinse through your battery like nobody’s business!)
And don’t forget a GoPro – if you’re planning to snorkel between the plates, you’ll want a decent action cam to capture that incredible footage.
GLOVES, HAT & A BUFF
Another set of basic essentials to keep you warm and happy on your trip to Iceland. If you are planning to visit in winter you will want to be sure that your gloves and hat are thick (fleece lined if possible) and super warm to protect you from the cold, but even in summer I recommend taking a pair of inner gloves and warmer ‘outer’ gloves. I get cold hands all the time and the extra inner layer is great when you need to use your fingertips (maps, cameras etc) but don’t want to expose your whole hands to the cold.
SOCKS, SOCKS AND MORE SOCKS (and Underwear!)
With the best will in the world your socks are still going to get wet. Make sure you have plenty of pairs to rotate through on your trip. And if you can, buy ski socks or wool socks. They’re just a little bit thicker for added warmth but still thin enough to fit in your regular shoes.And packing enough underwear should go without saying!
You don’t have to be quite dressed in your best for your day in Reykjavik, but don’t be a slob either!
If you are planning on spending any time in Reykjavik city (which is a pretty fashionable place by all accounts) you’ll want some ‘smart’ going out clothes for your night on the town. Smart jeans, cute jumpers, warm coat. Or just whatever you are comfortable in. But you get the idea.
DAY PACK WITH RAIN COVER
A small pack for day to day adventures is a great idea. And even better if it comes with a rain cover, as you never know when the weather in Iceland will turn. A day bag with a rain cover will keep everything dry and will be invaluable if you are exploring with camera equipment.
If you are going to be out on the ring road, or even just for day trips, if you rely on your mobile for maps or want to charge your camera gear on the go, a portable charger will be a great addition to your kit.
EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT
I always find it handy to carry a small first aid kit on an adventure. Just in case you get sick unexpectedly, or acquire some miscellaneous cuts and cruises that require minor pain relief (you’d be surprised at how many time this happens to me!) My kit always includes paracetamol, ibuprofen, cold and flu medicine, travel-sickness tablets, antihistamine, Imodium, Hydralyte, pocket tissues, band-aids, hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Don’t forget to add these to your packing list Iceland.
Iceland Summer Packing List ( for Spring & Autumn too!)
If you are thinking about going to Iceland for Summer (or any other season that isn’t winter) , these are some things to bring to Iceland.
AN EYE MASK
In the land of the midnight sun – where the sun barely dips below the horizon in any 24 hour period, and a running commentary about Iceland’s lack of block out curtains, a sleeping mask is an essential piece of kit for visiting during an Icelandic summer. But even an eye mask may not be enough. If you are in the country and struggling to shut off at night, wear dark sunglasses in the evening prior to bed to ‘trick’ your body into thinking it’s night time. (I know, you’ll be the coolest kid on the block – sarcasm intended – but you don’t want to let a few poor nights sleep ruin your experience of this amazing country) These are the perfect addition to your Iceland summer packing list.
Think sunscreen, and a SPF hat. The sun is strong in Iceland – even when you can’t see it. Be sun smart, pack your sun cream and reapply at regular intervals.
What to Pack for Iceland in Winter
If you are wondering what to pack for Iceland in winter, these are just a few extra bits that we recommend you add to your packing list for winter in Iceland. And the answer to the question what to pack for Iceland.
An extra layer underneath it all can make all the difference on a trip to Iceland in winter. If you have ever considered wearing thermal underwear, now is as good a time as any.
Yes. They are a thing. I mentioned these in my Iceland Travel Tips article and am going to reinforce their need here. At the sake of repeating myself (again) – Iceland is wet. The ground is wet, the rain and snow is wet and in an Icelandic winter, when it’s very cold, getting your clothes wet is not good. These waterproof pants are great for throwing on over jeans as you’re exploring. They weigh practically nothing and pack down really small so there is no excuse not to take them!
In winter in Iceland there can be less than 5 hours of daylight. A head torch is a necessity both for day to day exploring and for when you are out in search of the northern lights. Just remember to turn it off before attempting to photograph them or the extra light will ruin your pictures!
As is to be expected, but Iceland in winter is full of Ice. And regular hiking shoes are not going to cut it on their own. Add a pair of Crampons to your winter packing list for Iceland and be sure you stay upright for the whole time who are exploring. (Having no crampons may result in slipping and sliding on your butt. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)A GOOD BOOK
With the limited daylight hours, you will spend a lot of time indoors if you visit Iceland in winter. Go prepared and take that book that you’ve been wanting to read forever. Obviously, the books below are my personal preference – I like guidebooks, crime and mysteries, but feel free to pick books from whatever genre that takes your fancy.
That’s a wrap folks. I hope you have found this Iceland packing list super helpful, that you now know exactly what to wear in Iceland and full of travel gear and packing tips to help you in deciding what to pack for your Iceland trip – whatever time of year you plan to visit!
And feel confident that you now know HOW to pack for Iceland too!
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And if you liked this packing list, take a look at the other packing lists in this series:
- The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List – keeping you and your care happy, entertained & healthy on the road
- The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List – packed full of ski essentials to help you have the best time on the piste
- How to Pack your Carry On Like A Pro – full of travel tips to make the most of those pesky weight and space restrictions!
- The Best Carry On Luggage for every Adventure: from Hong Kong to the North America; Australia to the UK – these bags will gte you where you need to go!
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