I cannot say that I have ever researched what clothing I would need to pack when visiting another country until we booked a trip to visit Iceland earlier this year. The Icelandic weather is very unpredictable no matter what time of the year it is and can change every five minutes. Add rain, snow and extremely strong winds to the already cold temperatures means that you need to be prepared when being outside.
I learnt that packing for Iceland is not difficult but the main thing you need is clothing that will keep you warm and dry. Layers (and lots of them) are key when it comes to successfully packing as you can add another layer if you are cold as well as being able to remove a layer easily when you go inside.
By being prepared when it comes to clothing for your trip to Iceland, you will ensure that you have an amazing time in this incredible and magical country. There would be no worse feeling than being freezing cold and miserable the whole time you are there due to not packing the right clothes – the best phrase that describes it is “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
Thankfully I did not have to buy too much but what I did buy I can and already have used again on other trips since. I have not included items such as pyjamas, underwear and toiletries on this list as I would hope that you know to bring them!
Thermal Base Layer
It sounds old fashioned but packing a good set of thermals (and I wore them everyday) is the best thing you can do for a trip to Iceland. A good thin close-fitting base layer (a top with long sleeves as well as a pair of leggings) is essential for helping to stay warm in Iceland and you can easily add more layers over the top without feeling bulky.
I’ve always found that if my feet feel cold, then the rest of me is cold as well. I took some thick fleece-lined knee high socks with me that kept my feet warm and cosy during my whole trip. One day I wore two pairs at once as it was freezing cold but had to take one pair off as my feet got too hot!
Water Resistant Trousers
I did not want to buy fully waterproof trousers (as I would probably never use them again) but what I did buy was two pairs of water resistant walking trousers which were amazing. They look and feel like wearing cargo trousers and I have worn them numerous times since – even on a warm rainy day in the Far East and my legs stayed dry the entire time!
As we were not doing any serious hiking, I did not find it neccessary to purchase any hiking boots. What I did buy though was a pair of waterproof walking shoes which I wore the entire time I was there – they were also incredibly comfortable and supportive which helped with my plantar fasciitis.
My next layer after my base layer was my knitted jumper (sweater). As well as wearing it during the day, I also felt comfortable wearing it whilst sitting in a restaurant eating dinner.
On top of my thermal base layer and knitted jumper, I also wore a thin zip up fleece top which was incredibly warm.
The one thing I never took with me was a big winter coat (as I could not find one that I liked) but I did have a waterproof and windproof jacket with me which worked perfectly as an outer layer and is essential for keeping dry.
As I take lots of photos, I took a pair of gloves that had grip on them so I could still use my camera as well as the tips on the fingers that allowed me to use my phone. We also brought some hand warmers with us as well for when our hands got really cold.
Finally the scarf that I have barely worn since I got it as it is usually too warm came into its own as it was perfect for winter in Iceland.
I could not decide which woolly hats to bring me so I ended up bringing three which worked well as I could swap if they got wet which they did especially after being near any of the waterfalls. It is also good to have variety as you will probably have a hat on in every photo. If you pick the right style of hat, they will also keep your ears as well as your head warm.
Swimwear / Flip Flops / Microfibre Towel
You do not want to miss out on going into any of the thermal pools around Iceland including the famous Blue Lagoon. As well as swimwear, you’ll probably be grateful for having a pair of flip flops to wear whilst walking outside in the wet and cold from the changing rooms to the water. We also took a quick drying microfibre towel each so we did not have to rent a towel to dry off after being in the water.
During the winter, the sun is very low in the sky so you will need sunglasses as it will be difficult if you do not have them to drive anywhere. It is also very bright when the sun reflects off the snow during the winter as well as the glaciers at any time of the year.
Both of the hotels we stayed at in Iceland had a kettle in the room so we were able to make a tea or a coffee in the morning and take it with us so we could have a hot drink whilst we were out sightseeing in the cold weather.
Reusable Water Bottle
The tap water is about as pure as water comes in Iceland so take a bottle with you and fill it up wherever you are. You do not need to buy bottled water in Iceland – in fact you will stand out as a clueless tourist if you do buy bottled water.
Camera and Tripod
If you’re anything like me, you will want to take photographs of everything and Iceland is the one place where you want to take a good camera with you (I took my Canon EOS 100D and a variety of lenses) as the scenery is just spectacular wherever you look. I do not think I even took a single photo with my iPhone the week we were there. If you want to take photos of the Northern Lights if you are lucky enough to see them, then you will also need a tripod and a remote shutter release. A GoPro or other waterproof camera will also come in handy at the waterfalls and in the geothermal pools. Also don’t forget plenty of extra memory cards and batteries.
Travel First Aid Kit
No matter where I am travelling to, I always bring my small first aid kit containing various medications. It made even more sense to bring it to Iceland as we would be travelling several hours outside of Reykjavik.
As we were going to be on a road trip for part of our stay in Iceland, we packed snacks including cereal bars, crisps and biscuits so we always had something to eat within reach on the long drives.
As well as the advice of what to pack, there are also a few items that you do not need to pack…
It is too windy most of the time in Iceland to use an umbrella as well as the rain coming at you sideways so you won’t ever see anyone else using one as it will blow inside out within seconds and your umbrella will be ruined. Just bring appropriate clothing instead.
Jeans are far from ideal when outside in Iceland as once they get wet (which they will), they will take forever to dry and you will be freezing cold – again stick to appropriate clothing. Even though I wore jeans on the flight to Reykjavik, I did not wear them again for the rest of our trip so I should have left them at home.
Even though we took a small amount of Icelandic currency with us, we did not need it once as everywhere we visited in Iceland accepted credit and debit cards including hotels, bars, restaurants, petrol stations, parking metres and even the toilets at Gullfoss.
So there is what I packed on my trip to Iceland in March this year. Did I miss anything that you would recommend after visiting? Let me know in the comments below.