Icelanders will tell you that if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait 5 minutes. The weather can be unpredictable, and what you need from one to day to another to enjoy all of the different experiences that Iceland has to offer can vary dramatically.
My visit to Iceland included walking around the city of Reykjavik and visiting museums, exploring areas with waterfalls and geysers, and a day at the Blue Lagoon. All incredible, all requiring very different attire! I travelled to Iceland in the summer. This is a beautiful time to go because everything is green and there are long hours of sunlight, but ultimate the best time to visit Iceland depends on you, and what scenery and experiences you want!
It’s not your typical “summer weather,” so it can be tricky deciding what to wear in Iceland. Iceland fashion largely consists of cozy looking sweaters, good jackets, and sturdy shoes. And that’s just the summer! If you’re travelling in the winter, you’re going to need to pack more than I had to! I have included a few cold-weather recommendations, based on a lifetime of calling Canada home.
What to Pack for Iceland Travel
There are some things that you’re going to use every day in Iceland, no matter what you’re up to. Here are some essential things to take to Iceland.
- Back pack: you’re going to be out exploring all day, so bring a backpack for snacks, water, and to keep spare warm clothes in.
- Reusable water bottle: a reusable, stainless steel water bottle is something that I always travel with because they keep water at warm or cold all day. This one is my favourite and you can get one with a fun pattern on it!
- Hiking socks: pack socks, and always pack a spare pair in your backpack while you’re out for the day. The rain in Iceland comes and goes, so just in case you get soaked it’s nice to be able to change your socks. I recommend hiking socks because they have more cushioning and will help prevent blisters.
- Sleeping mask: there are long hours of sunlight if you’re visiting in the summer! Most homes and hotels have blackout curtains in Iceland, so whether you’re staying in an Airbnb or a hotel you will likely be able to darken the room. Just in case though bring a sleeping mask to help you doze off when it’s light out at 10:30PM.
- Power Adapter: Iceland uses the Europlug outlets, which are circular and accept two round prongs. Make sure you pack a power adapter! Check if you will also require a converter. Power adapters change the shape of the plug, but they don’t change how much power is going through it. This is fine for most modern electronics like phones and computers, but you’ll need a converter for things like a hair dryer.
The weather in Iceland is ever changing, and one of the secrets to enjoying it is layers and quality outerwear to protect you from the elements. Layering pro-tip, don’t buy everything the same colour! One layers covers the others anyways, and that way you have some variety for your photos.
- Rain + wind jacket: a rain jacket is an everyday essential in a country like Iceland, where rain rolls in and out all day. A good Iceland jacket is built for the outdoors, with zippered pockets, a hood, and taped seems, to keep you and anything in your pockets dry.
- Fleece: a cozy fleece is a great item to pack for your trip to Iceland. It’s a great top layer over a base and a long sleeve shirt, and you can throw your rain jacket on over top when it does inevitably stop raining.
- Vest: get even cozier by bringing a vest to wear over your fleece or over a sweater.
Can we pause for a moment and acknowledge that this is a summer packing list? It really doesn’t get the warm in Iceland, even in the summer, so you can skip on packing shorts or sundresses. Here’s what you’ll really need!
- Regular Denim: a good pair of jeans is all you need for a day in Reykjavik. When you’re in the city the weather can still be unpredictable, but there’s no need for any off-roaring.
- Hiking Pants: A pair of lined hiking pants is one of the best purchases you will ever make if you’re a frequent outdoor enthusiast. I bought this pair right before my trip to Iceland. They’re water resistant, have nice deep pockets, and will keep you cosy for days of exploring Iceland’s beautiful landscapes.
- Fleece Leggings: a cozy pair of fleece leggings is warm, versatile item to pack for Iceland that looks great with boots! When it comes to deciding what wear in Iceland, cozy leggings are one of your more fashionable options. I love my fleece leggings!
Layers are going to be your best friend in Iceland. It’s also a more efficient way to pack, because thinner, warm layers take up less space than a bulky sweater. Bring a sport quality base layer, and some long sleeved shirts and sweaters so you have a few different bases to choose from.
- Long sleeve shirts: even in summer, it doesn’t get particularly warm in Iceland. Long sleeve tops or light sweaters are your best attire for in the city, and for under your jacket on days of exploring. My favourite light sweaters have come from Gap, and they have a surprisingly good selection year round if you order online. On a really sunny day, jeans and a light sweater is perfect in Reykjavik.
- Base layer: a wick-away base layer will keep your warm and help keep sweat cleared away from your body. This is a particularly great to have with you for days that include any hiking or other physical activity.
Packing the rights shoes for Iceland is essential to being able to enjoy your trip. You will be walking around a lot, and few things ruin a great day quicker than blisters. The shoes stores in Reykjavik are well visited because many people show up without the right footwear. It’s best to start off right by bringing your own!
- Hiking Shoes: if you’re visiting during the summer months, a versatile pair of hiking shoes is all you need. I wore my hiking shoes every day in Iceland, even though I had also packed sneakers. One of the things you may notice about Reykjavik is that the sidewalks are made of cement blocks. This is hard on the feet if you’re not used to it so hiking shoes are best. You might also find that a day in the city can still include a lot different terrain, so it’s best to just be prepared.
- Hiking Boots: planning to hike around Iceland? It’s worth investing in a pair of hiking boots. The best hiking boots for Iceland are any with good grip, sturdy ankle support, and waterproofing.
Have you really been to Iceland if you haven’t swum in a lagoon? There are a few awesome choices around the island, and an evening at the local pool is a nice way to unwind after a big day. Make sure you have everything you need to go for a dip!
- Swimsuit: you’re going to need it for the Blue Lagoon, or any other pool or lagoon that you choose to visit!
- Flip-Flops: a pair of sandals that you can slide on and off is always useful when visiting any pool.
- Clarifying Shampoo: there’s a lot of silica in the geothermal waters of Iceland, and it can make your fair very thick and dry. Make sure you pack a bit of clarifying shampoo to rinse your hair with after swimming. This one is my favourite, and I use it on my hair every few weeks even when I’m not travelling.
- Quick dry towel:: it’s always nice to have your own towel for after a swim, and even better if it dries quickly. I bring a quick dry towel with me everywhere that I travel!
I visited in Iceland in the summer. You’re going to want more warm clothes than I took if you visit in the winter! While I have not experienced an Iceland winter myself, these are some of my favourite winter gear brands for cold nights in Canada.
- Warm Winter Coat: The best coat for Iceland is going to something that keeps it’s warmth below 25C/77F. Good winter coats will have this kind of temperature information available. Make sure if has a hood and is water proof.
- Winter boots: Sorel / Kamik / North Face /
- Mittens and/or Gloves
- Long underwear
- Ski tights
- Wool socks
The strategy here is to bring everything that you would bring in the summer, and then some. Leave out the rain jacket and substitute for a winter coat. Having survived many Canadian winters, I recommend warm activewear gloves and cozy mittens. A pair of thin dollar store gloves inside mittens is super cozy!
Iceland Packing List
Here’s a summary of what to bring to Iceland! This list is based one week.
Essentials: Back pack / Reusable water bottle / Sleeping mask / Power adapter / 6+ Hiking socks / 7-8 Pairs of underwear
Outerwear: 1 Rain + Wind Jacket / 1 Fleece / 1 Vest
Pants: 1 Hiking Pants / 2-3 Regular Pants or Jeans / 1-2 Fleece Leggings
Layers: 1 Base Layer / 3-4 Long sleeve shirts or light sweaters
Footwear: Hiking shoes / Hiking boots / Flip-flips
Swim: 1/2 Swimsuits / Clarifying Shampoo / Quick dry towel
Winter Coat / Snow Boots / Mittens / Gloves / Toque / Long underwear / Ski tights / Wool socks