What should i pack for Iceland?
If you’re TRAVELING TO ICELAND READ THIS!
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget the most basic of things. So if you are asking your self this question ‘What should I pack for Iceland on my next holiday or vacation’ then you should keep on reading below.
If you plan to travel this summer or winter to Iceland the packing list will be very similar, the winter seasons can be bitterly cold with harsh winds and high snowfall and just alike the summer is also known for having four seasons in one day, and without the correct clothing you could be in for a memorable day.
Packing List for Iceland: At a Glance
- Walking boots
- Thermal base layer
- Not jeans…
- Walking socks ( Medium thickness for summer / thick socks for winter)
- Spare socks…
- Woollen hat (with a removable bobble)
- Balaclava / Snood
- Travel towel
- Sun lotion
- Rain jacket / Rain pants
- Small backpack
- Water bottle, as Iceland the most fresh water in the world
- Travel adapter – Euro two pin plug
- Boarding passes
Savvy packing in Iceland will make the difference to having a great trip or a miserable trip, I can’t stress enough how quickly the weather can change. You could be walking to the glacier lagoon on a South Coast Tour and start in the car park with sunshine and blue skies, as you start to walk along the rocky track the wind picks up dropping the temperature by 10 degrees, by the time you have reached the glacier outlet the rain starts to pour. Being so close to the glacier the weather is extremely unpredictable, they are so cold they create their own weather fronts. If you choose to take a tour onto of the glacier sometimes even in the summer it can snowing and hail !
Packing list for Iceland : The break down
Walking boots are essential, unfortunately it doesn’t matter if you are on the most basic or tours the terrain and pathways are wild. Good ankle support and a good sole is a must. Every part of Icelands terrain is made from volcanic rocks!!! I like to live my life with the Moto – No Regrets :o) While there are some things in the list that you may decide not to bring this is something you should. Trainers are great for the town but anything other than that, just put on a pair of boots. If you decide while you are here to take a trip to the glaciers.. which you should!! Then you will need a high boot and not a low cut walking shoe. You will have to put on a special piece of equipment called a crampon, it attaches to you boot so you don’t slip on the ice. It is essential that its a high boot for comfort and stability.
You do not need the most expensive boots off the shelf. Just something with a good thick sole and deep tread blocks so you can’t feel all the rocks through the bottom. High ankle support is best, you will not regret this. see some of the picture for examples.
Thermal base layers are great for the winter and the summer. They are thin cloths that you put on first before any other cloths. They lay next to the skin to help wicking of sweat and the also trap air to help keep heat close to the body. My favourite its bamboo base layers, they don’t itch as some wool layers can.
These are not so expensive now but in the past they have been, if you choose to use cotton base layers like t-shirts, they breath very well and keep you cool, this is not something you want in Iceland, The weather changes so quickly with fierce winds that chill to the bone… jeans and cotton t-shirts are the devil here in Iceland. Treat yourself and keep warm, once you are cold its really difficult to warm up again.
Walking / hiking socks are going to give you comfort and keep your feet warm during the winter nights when you are looking for the northern lights. Go to your local outdoor shop and get something that will last. I have personally treated myself, I own 10 pairs of hiking socks in a verity of thickness. But I guide for a living and take this seriously … You should just get a few pairs of thick ones for the winter nights outside and some medium weight socks for the day… My top tip is to always carry an extra pair of socks with you in you bag, put them in a zip lock sealed bag to keep them dry. There will be a day where you cross rivers and get wet feet or it rains all day and your soaked or my favourite you fell in the waterfall trying to get the best picture… Trust me on this, take an extra pair during the day in your backpack.
Gloves / Hat / Snood / Scarf are all worth while items to pack for your adventures in Iceland. It does not matter if it’s summer or winter. I personally am a little short of hair and prefer a balaclava, it’s a snug fit and just one item to keep you warm. But if you prefer to be fashionable then go for a hat and scarf. If you anticipate wearing a helmet while on your trip then choosing a hat without a bobble may be a good idea.
A wind proof glove will serve you better than a knitted glove, it’s always wet and windy here in Iceland. Generally if it’s wind proof it will be waterproof to some degree.
Swimwear and travel towel are something that I would usually have in my bag at all times just in case! Bathing in Iceland is one of the main cultural activities you should defiantly not miss out on. The public swimming pools all have hotpots and jacuzzis to relax and catch up with your friends, they are a inexpensive choice for bathing. If you feel like treating yourself you can visit one of Icelands spas like the Blue Lagoon or Sky lagoon, these are set in beautiful locations near the city of reykjavik and world famous for a reason. I prefer to chase the natural bathing spots, which you will find all over Iceland if you look hard enough.
Sunglasses and sunscreen may not seem important but here in Iceland we have 24 hours of sunlight in the summer. In the winter the sun is low in the sky and blinds those that will be driving, having sunglasses is a must.
Camera … Iceland is a paradise for most photographers, it’s almost impossible to take a terrible picture. If you’re not planning on taking a camera, then all new smartphones are more than adequate to capture a few snaps for the photo album! Some of our favourite photos are below, if you want to know more about where they were taken you should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Layers are one of the most important things to remember when dressing correctly in Iceland. What do I mean by layers… you should start with a base layer as described above, it should ideally be a bamboo or marino wool thin layer close to the skin to help wicking of sweat and to keep heat close to the skin.
Next you will want a Mid-layer, something like a long sleeve jumper, it should be thin and not overly balky. Choose a comfortable layer that will insulate you rather than protect you from wind or rain. Try to avoid the mistake of wearing too many layers with a hood and just have your final layer with a hood.
Next Mid-layer … Depending on how cold or windy the weather is will depend on how many layers you will need. In the winter I usually wear 4-5 layers, this will comprise of 3 Mid layers !!! One base layer and a waterproof/windproof shell. Try to layer with items of clothing that breathe well like wool, down feather and fleeces jackets so you don’t end up damp from sweat. I prefer to layer with thin clothing and remove them one by one as I get hot. This is better than having one really thick layer thats difficult to regulate your body heat.
Rain jacket and trousers are the final outer shell of your layering, they should be windproof and waterproof. I find the only material that really works for an extended period of time in the rain is Gore-tex. If you are hiking in the highlands of Iceland for a full day or more, I would recommend spending little extra on a good waterproof light weight outer shell. If you are just sight seeing then a cheep waterproof layer is ok. But you do find that you sweat with the cheaper options as they tend not to breath as much.
The winds in Iceland can reach 30m/s or 67mph any time of the year, it’s normal to see high wind speeds in the winter and it’s less often in the summer. Forget about bringing an umbrella, they turn into lethal weapons in the wind. Just bring a jacket with a hood!!!
Backpack or bag – You will need a small bag to keep snacks in for the day. You can also keep your extra socks or waterproof clothing inside while you are not using them. Most tours in Iceland do not included lunch, it’s best to bring snacks with you. Service stations and stops around the sightseeing locations like the Golden Circle and South Coast of Iceland can be costly, it’s defiantly better to shop local when you are in the city. It also takes up valuable time stopping for lunch, most tour companies keep sight seeing stops short so don’t wast time. I prefer to eat at the beautiful locations like the black sand beach, having a sandwich or two with a view.
Water bottle – It might seem like a strange thing to bring on you holiday, But here in Iceland you can drink the tap water. In fact the tap water is spring water and some of the finest water you will ever taste. So please don’t buy water from the shop, try to save on plastic waste and buy a reusable bottle. Seriously its the best tasting water I’ve ever had! Fill up anywhere around Iceland just like the locals :o)
Travel adaptor will be required if you wish to charge you phones or cameras, you will need a two pin plug with round pins. If you forget to bring one don’t panic you can get one from the local store of service station.
Passport and boarding pass – If you manage to forget these items it’s going to be a short vacation, defiantly make sure before you travel that your passport is in date. In Iceland they have electronic gates at boarder control for those that have a European passports, those that don’t will have to queue, but it doesn’t usually take that long.
Keflavik international airport is well run and efficient. It’s located out side the city and requires a 45minute bus ride or taxi to get to the city or hotel. The coach service to the city is the cheapest option, it stops at the local bus station where you can get a taxi to your hotel or get another bus closer to you hotel. It’s actually much simpler to get a taxi from the airport strait to where you want to go.
Don’t forget to check out are amazing private tours and experiences, if you prefer to travel at your own pace and on your own terms then have a look below. We provide sustainable experiences around Iceland while offsetting your carbon footprint. In the summer months we plant trees in our local heath, if you wish to get involved and plant your own just let us know :o)