Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, but with diverse landscapes and an endlessly changing environment, it can feel daunting to pack for the Land of Fire and Ice. But fear not- in the post below, we’re providing the ultimate Iceland packing list, regardless of the season or whether you plan on living it up in Reykjavik or hiking in the backcountry of the Highlands.
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Pssst… if you’re headed to Iceland, you may want to check out our other posts all about the country that brought us Björk and Sigur Rós: 10 Best Hot Springs in Iceland: A Complete Guide Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Everything You Need to Know About Hiking to This Thermal River in the Icelandic Highlands
Before we dive in, I want to note that I trust that you can figure out things like packing your toothbrush and how many pairs of underwear you’ll need and the like, so you won’t see anything of that nature below. This list instead focuses on the essentials you need to pack for Iceland- and exactly why you need to bring these items along.
With that, let’s get into it!
ICELAND PACKING LIST
What to wear in Iceland
When people talk about what to wear in Iceland, it’s often framed around bringing super hardcore winter gear, no matter the season- it is called Ice-land, after all! And while it certainly can get quite chilly in Iceland, the weather is not quite as extremely frigid as in other northern countries, with temperatures hovering around 0°C (32°F) in the wintertime and about 13 °C (55 °F) in the summer.
So you should absolutely expect for it to get frosty here (especially with all the blustery wind the country receives), but nothing that would necessitate, like, some kind of military-grade sub–zero arctic parka or anything like that.
That being said, no matter what season you’re visiting, the real thing that you gotta understand about Iceland is the weather is constantly changing. One moment, you might see a beautiful rainbow in the sunny sky, the next moment, the wind is trying to rip the door off your car (fun fact: it’s not unusual to experience winds up to 50 mph on Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and you’ll have to sign a waiver for your rental car that you’ll be responsible in the event the wind happens to blow the door right off- aaaah, Iceland things!).
So the key for what to wear in Iceland comes down to bringing along layers that you can add or remove, depending on the changing conditions- if you’re visiting in the wintertime, pack plenty of warm layers and if you’re visiting in the summertime, throw some tank tops and t-shirts in there (yes, it can actually get rather hot and sunny here).
- Base layer: This may be overkill if you’re visiting in the summertime (unless you’re a total baby about cold like me, in which case, throw’ em on into that suitcase!), but a good thermal base layer will keep you nice and toasty, even on the blusteriest of days. They provide a level of insulation and warmth that just isn’t possible without them.
For women, I’d suggest picking up a long sleeved, snug base layer, like this, and a pair of thermal leggings, like this.
For men, a long-sleeve thermal top, like this one, is a must-have regardless of when you’re visiting. If your trip is during one of the colder months, I’d recommend packing an oh-so-fashionable pair of long johns, like these.
- Mid-layer: I love a good zip-up fleece- they’re cozy, warm, and can be worn on the hiking trail or out to dinner. After waiting for years to buy a Patagonia Better Sweater, I finally bit the bullet- and AM IN LOVE! So if you’re in the market for a fleece zip-up, I’d strongly recommend them- they’re the height of hiker AND tech bro fashion.
- Athletic pants: Regardless of whether you’re a hardcore hiker or will be enjoying lower impact activities while you’re in Iceland, visiting this incredible country is largely about getting outside and exploring its beautiful landscape. Which means- you gotta be able to move!
For women, I’d recommend bringing some yoga pants along- these are versatile enough to wear while hiking, rock climbing (so they’ll hold up if you need to do any rock scrambling on a hike), yoga- and, in laidback Iceland, would be totally socially acceptable to wear out to dinner.
For men, these hiking pants are water-repellant (super helpful in the seemingly never-ending mistiness of Iceland), work in a variety of weather conditions, and can easily take you from the trail to town.
- Waterproof pants: Story time- when my husband, Justin, and I went to Iceland, we both brought along water-repellent pants, assuming that would be sufficient for the easy to moderate hikes we planned on doing while in the country. After 24 hours of constantly being exposed to what we called “mist kisses” (i.e., it wasn’t really raining- more like misting just enough to get you absolutely and miserably soaked), we quickly went out and purchased way too expensive waterproof pants at an outdoor gear store in Iceland.
So don’t be like us and just proactively bring along a pair of waterproof pants, like these pants for women that pack down into a convenient lil’ packable pouch or these pants for men, so you’re not squishing around and befalling the tragedy of chub rub from wet pants during your limited time in Iceland.
If you’re visiting in the wintertime and plan on doing lots of outdoor adventures, it’s probably worth bringing along snow pants (like these for women and these for men), which are waterproof and will provide better insulation than regular rainproof pants.
- Waterproof coat: So, if you haven’t picked up by now, Iceland can be very cold and wet, so bringing along a waterproof coat will be an important part of your apparel (ideally, with a hood to shield you against that intense wind). I brought along a non-waterproof puffer jacket and a lighter raincoat- and wound up wearing both jackets simultaneously almost the entire time we were there. So be a more efficient packer than me and just bring along one jacket that both keeps you warm AND dry.
If you’re visiting in the wintertime, I’d recommend bringing along a waterproof parka (like this one for women or this one for men), and if you’re visiting in the warmer months, you should be able to get away with something a bit on the lighter side (like this jacket for women and this one for men).
- Hiking boots: Even if you’re not planning on doing any hardcore hiking, I’d actually still recommend bringing along waterproof hiking boots (like these for men or these for women) – they’ll give you more protection and support on the rocky and uneven ground that’s present even at the most touristy of waterfalls or beaches and will provide you more traction on the wet and slippery terrain.
- Hiking socks: If you’re going to wear hiking boots, you’ll need some thick hiking socks to protect your ankles from getting rubbed raw. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, packing regular hiking socks (like these for women or these for men) should do the trick, but if you’re visiting in the colder months, I’d recommend packing some thicker ones (like these), to keep your toes nice and warm.
- Hat: Regardless of what time of the year you visit, I’d recommend bringing along a beanie (like this one for women and this one for men)- did you know that 10% of your body heat is lost through an uncapped noggin (and thus, is roughly the equivalent of wearing shorts while you face the windy Icelandic landscape)?
- Gloves and buff: If you’re visiting in the warmer months, these items probably aren’t necessary, unless you plan on doing any kind of tours at night (when it tends to get quite a bit chiller). Otherwise, I’d recommend including a buff on your Iceland packing list to keep your neck and chest warm and a pair of gloves. Nothing is more annoying than taking gloves on and off to take photos or type something into your GPS so bring along some touchscreen compatible gloves, like these.
Known for its geothermal energy, Iceland is a hotbed of, well, hot springs, from bougie, commercialized ones, like the Blue Lagoon, to natural hot springs, like Reykjadalur Hot Springs. It would be kind of a tragedy to go to Iceland and not visit at least one hot spring, so make sure your Iceland packing list includes the essentials for you to enjoy soaking in those toasty waters.
- Swimsuit: Obviously, you’ll need a swimsuit to enjoy all the best hot springs in Iceland. Since you can only reach some of the hot springs via hiking trails, I’d recommend bringing along a swimsuit that’s comfortable enough to wear under your hiking gear, so you don’t have to awkwardly try to change into a swimsuit in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness- like this two-piece, which provides decent support, for women or this one for men.
- Hiking sandals: Hot springs in Iceland can come in all varieties- from the ultra luxe ones, like Sky Lagoon, to the more rustic ones, like Reykjadalur, which is in a literal river, or Seljavallalaug, which is somewhat famously algae-y. To protect your feet from stabby river rocks and to prevent slipping on any algae that may be at the bottom of these springs, I’d recommend bringing along a pair of hiking sandals, which can helpfully double as water shoes. Justin has these Tevas and I have these– we both love and travel everywhere with them!
- Towel: Admission to the fancier hot springs usually comes with a towel rental (so fancy!), but that isn’t the case at the natural ones. So bring along a travel towel– you’ll want something small and packable you can throw in your backpack, but also something that will dry you off so you’re not walking around the chilly hills of Iceland while sopping wet.
- Reusable plastic water bottle: With all the outdoor adventures you’ll be having, you’re going to need to stay hydrated while you’re on the go. Be sure to include a refillable water bottle on your Iceland packing list (the water here is safe to drink and really delicious!). It’s better for the planet than single use plastic (and fun fact- Iceland is consistently ranked one of the most environmentally-friendly countries, so you’ll fit right in!) and, given how famously pricey Iceland is, it will be easier on the wallet.
- Packable backpack: You’re going to need someplace to throw your water bottle, towel, rainproof pants, and other odds and ends while you’re out exploring. A packable backpack, like this one, is so AWESOME- it fits everything you need while you’re out exploring for the day, but packs down into a tiny little pouch you can just throw in your luggage when it’s not in use.
- Sunglasses: No matter what time of the year you’re visiting, it’s likely you’ll be stopping by at least a few glaciers- some of the most popular activities in Iceland include things like the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon or doing a glacier hike across Sólheimajökull. The sun can be BLINDING when reflecting off ice or snow, so be sure to pack along some sunnies.
I love getting my sunglasses from Warby Parker– not only can I get prescription or non-prescription lenses, but a pair of glasses are donated to someone in need for every pair sold. So much winning!
- Headlamp: If you plan on going on any sunset or sunrise hikes, chasing the Northern Lights, or visiting in the wintertime when daylight is limited, a headlamp can help you see where you’re going and not fall off an Icelandic cliff or whatever. Justin and I have these rechargeable ones that we love- they’re really affordable and since you can just charge them up via USB, you never have to fart around with replacing their batteries.
- Drybag: If you’re planning on doing any kind of water activities, like whale watching tours or heading to natural hot springs, a dry bag is an awesome accessory to keep your electronics safe and dry. As an added bonus, a drybag makes an excellent makeshift beer cooler (why, yes, I am speaking from experience) if you want to haul some tasty brews up to enjoy in said hot springs!
If you’re visiting in the winter:
- Microspikes: Many of the most popular hiking trails- and even some of the more accessible tourist sites, like waterfalls- will be covered with snow and ice in the wintertime. Microspikes can help provide extra traction on this slippery terrain.
- Trekking poles: If you plan on going hiking, trekking poles can offer more stability in icy or snowy conditions. I love this collapsible set, which can easily fit in your luggage.
- Universal power adapter: Iceland uses the standard Europlug socket, so if you’re a fellow American or other traveler that is used to Type A and B electrical outlets, you’ll need to bring along a power adapter for your electronics. This one rocks because it includes pretty much every plug you’ll ever need AND has four USB ports to charge all your tech gear, making it the perfect tech accessory for all trips (not just for destinations where you need an adapter).
- Mobile Router: If you’re anything like us, your time in Iceland will basically be a big ol’ road trip, driving around to explore all of the country’s incredible scenery. So having internet connectivity while you’re on the road will be super helpful, from using Google Maps for driving directions, AllTrails for trail information, or Google to find the best restaurants near you.
During our trip to Iceland, we brought along our mobile router (which we’ve taken all over the world and use in our RV to get internet), popped in a local SIM card we got at the airport, and boom- we had internet at our disposal, for all our devices, almost everywhere we went!
- Battery pack: Since you’re probably going to be on the go almost the entire time you’re here (there’s seriously so much to see in such a small country!), it’s easy to let the battery level on your phone get low or have your camera accidentally die (a travel blogger’s worst nightmare!).
For this very reason, we bring our battery pack with us everywhere, whether we’re exploring the Pacific Northwest, or, yup, hitting the trails in Iceland- it has a ton of charging ports and, unlike a lot of battery packs, is as slim as a cellphone and easily packable.
- Camera: Listen, have you SEEN Iceland? It’s incredibly gorgeous, so if you’ve ever been interested in springing for a better camera, now is the time. Having a camera with manual mode will also basically be a necessity for capturing the Northern Lights, if that happens to be on your Iceland bucket list.
Justin and I took most of the photos you’ve seen here with this camera, which we’ve had for years and takes phenomenal photos. We use it with this lens for wide, landscape shots and this zoom lens for things like wildlife photography (like the adorable puffins you can find along the South Coast from April through September). While camera phones are amazing these days, having a nicer camera with more features and functionalities has definitely helped us step up our photo game!
- GoPro: GoPros are kind of the perfect travel camera- they’re small enough to fit in your pocket, take really decent videos and have a ton of cool features, like image stabilization, and can be used in a variety of conditions (say, underwater while you’re snorkeling between two tectonic plates at Silfra or in the middle of a snowstorm).
We also have this GoPro accessories kit– some of the accessories get a lot more use than the others (like the floating handle grip or the car hood mount), but given there’s a ton of tools that will definitely come in handy for a variety of activities you may do in in Iceland (like a head mount to strap on your helmet during a glacier hike), it’s definitely a great value.
- Drone: To get some of the most epic shots or videos of Iceland, getting a drone will certainly help. Somehow, the black sand beaches, towering waterfalls, and glaciers look even more stunning from an aerial view!
- Tripod: Having a travel tripod, like this one (it’s so light and is the size of a water bottle!), will completely change your photography game for the better- not only can you get shots of all the members of your group together (without having to scope out and ask the nearest tourist who maybe looks like they know how to use a camera), but you’ll literally need it for long exposure shots to capture those tricky Northern Lights.
- Passport: You won’t be able to leave the airport without this one, so hopefully, no explanation needed!
- Binoculars: Y’all, did I mention there are adorable puffins to be seen here almost half the year? Having a pair of binoculars handy can help you get a better look at these cuties- or other creatures you may see in Iceland, like whales, seals, or even reindeer.
- Travel insurance: Listen, I hope your trip to Iceland is incident-free, but when you’re out frolicking in the mountains and by waterfalls, accidents do unfortunately happen from time to time (take it from me- Justin fell in a pothole while we were visiting Cuba and broke his kneecap!).
Having travel insurance is important whenever you’re having adventures out of the country- not only will it provide coverage if you’re injured while traveling, it will also provide extra protections in this weird, post-COVID world we’re leaving in (think: if you have to cancel a flight because you unexpectedly get sick or have unforeseen costs associated with flight delays).
Whenever we go on an international trip, we get our travel insurance through World Nomads, thanks to their excellent customer service and broad-range coverage (they even cover a ton of adventure activities, like scuba diving, that a lot of other companies don’t). Just make sure to read your policy to understand what is and isn’t covered and know how to use your policy in the event you ever need to!
If you’re visiting in the summertime:
- Sleep mask: The Midnight Sun of Iceland’s summers is quite famous- from June through July, due to Iceland’s extremely northern longitude, daylight can last up to 23.5 hours a day in certain areas of the country!
While this provides plenty of light for adventuring outside and gives some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, it also can also mess up your body clock a bit. To help with this, bring a decent sleep mask with you to block out the light so you’re well-rested for all your adventures!
- Sunscreen: As mentioned above, the sun can be pretty intense in Iceland, especially when you account for the glare from snow or ice. Protect your skin with sunscreen- I have a cult-like love for this kind, which basically smells like a tropical vacation in the bottle.
- First aid kit: Given you’re going to be out hiking on glaciers or whatever, it’s a good idea to be prepared in case of an emergency. We have a small first aid kit, like this one, that’s super easy to toss in our backpack but packed with helpful items, if one of us were to fall and get hurt.
- Dramamine: If you’re planning on going on any boat tours (like whale- or puffin-watching adventures), I’d recommend bringing along some Dramamine– the Icelandic seas can be pretty rough and it’s a lot harder to appreciate sea creatures’ cuteness while you’re trying not to barf.
If you’re visiting in the summer:
- Bug spray: Y’all, the mosquitoes come out to PLAY in June and July in Iceland- bring along some bug spray and avoid having your body covered in itchy welts during your trip.
I hope this Iceland packing list helps you with your upcoming adventures- is there anything I missed that helped you have an amazing time in the Land of Fire and Ice? Let me know in the comments below!