Wondering what to pack for a trip to Iceland? Most likely you’re probably coming from a completely different climate, and since Iceland is still a relatively exotic destination, you might not know what to expect. Luckily, we’re here to help! Take a look at our packing list. You might not need everything on the list, but you’re definitely going to need some things on the list! What are you waiting for? Get packing!
Iceland is home to all sorts of different types of weather – all of which can appear in one day! So, you may need some different clothes from what you usually wear. For instance:
What to bring:
- Super hip clothes: Icelanders are super hip and cool. If you want to keep up, you will want to bring your coolest clothes. You’re not gallivanting on a glacier the whole time. You might just, like, go to a museum at some point.
- Activewear: I don’t know if you knew, but Iceland is full of super exciting activities. You don’t want to go caving in high heels and a miniskirt, so bring some active wear like jeans and good shoes. Even on a whale-watching cruise, you might be happy to have some gloves because it can get cold on the sea.
- Serious shoes: Hiking boots if you have them, yes, even in the summertime. You probably want to get out of the city, if just to see the Northern Lights, and once you’re there, you’ll thank us for making you bring good shoes!
- Warm layers: Iceland isn’t that cold, but it’s never really warm, even in the summertime. And there’s usually at least a little wind, and the weather will change rapidly, going from rain to shine to snow in a matter of hours. The trick is to layer, especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside; warm long underwear and undershirts, fleece is great and wind-proof, and winter jackets and snow pants are good in the wintertime. My mom says the rule of thumb is: always bring one more layer than you think you’re gonna need. And my mom is never wrong.
- Rainwear: It has happened on occasion that it rains in Iceland. I don’t think it rains more than most places here, but it might be more unpredictable than in some other places. It never rains for a long time in one go, but it might rain a part of the day for a few days in a row.
- Sunglasses/sunscreen: Don’t act so surprised! Sometimes the sun is much stronger than you might think. Also, the sun basically doesn’t set in the summertime, so you might want to block it out. If you’re skiing or up on a glacier, you might really need sunglasses for the reflected sunlight from the snow. Finally, especially in the fall and spring, the sun’s erratic behaviour can mean it hangs in the air for hours at a time at the exact right angle to get in your eyes when you’re driving. In these conditions, sunglasses are as much a basic safety feature as they are for comfort and style.
- Stylish wear: There are SO INCREDIBLY MANY GREAT RESTAURANTS, BARS and CLUBS in Reykjavík. You might want to go out in style, so bring a tie, or, like heels, or a slightly nicer t-shirt, depending on what your jam is.
- Summertime protective wear: As I said, even in the summertime it’s usually not very warm. In general, it’s 15-20°C (59-68 F) at most. So think tights, leggings, jumpers, cute jackets, scarves. And depending on who you are, hats and gloves.
- Swimsuit: The country is full of hot springs. You will want to jump in. PROTIP: It can be a hassle to find a swimsuit in the city centre, but you can probably get them at the Kringlan shopping mall.
What NOT to bring:
- Umbrellas: If you hear of the famous “sideways” rain, that’s because when the wind and the rain come together, they can come from weird angles. Umbrellas are basically useless against it and will buckle from the wind.
- Pyjamas: Heating is basically free in Iceland, so of course, we overheat our houses. You don’t need thick pyjamas to stay warm.
- Scuba gear. In my experience bringing drysuits and snorkel/scuba gear is a waste of time. You want to get a guide for safety, and they supply the gear at no extra cost. The water is generally too cold for wetsuits if I understand correctly – it’s dry suits you need.
- Driver’s license! I’ve met so many people who were sad they didn’t bring one. Even if you don’t think you’re gonna drive, you might change your mind and want to rent a car. Also, you need a license to drive a snowmobile or ATV, which you might decide you want to do.
- Sleeping mask: In the summer, the sun can stay up all night. If you don’t want to stay up with it, you might want to bring a sleeping mask to block out the light.
- Not money: It’s better to exchange your money here. You get a better rate. Also, you can use a card basically everywhere.
- Medications: Getting to a pharmacy is a hassle you can do without on any vacation. In Iceland at large, the pharmacies can be few and far between, and even in Reykjavík, the local ones may not be open late or on the weekends. So bring a small stash of what you might need: motion sickness medicines, allergy medicines and such. Major boat tours tend to supply you with seasickness pills but not all of them will.
- Camera and tripod, drone if you have one, basically everything you got: Iceland is an amazing place for photographs and videos. If you have good gear, you will kick yourself for not bringing it. This is doubly true if you’re photographing the Northern Lights.
- Water bottle: The tap water in Iceland is some of the best water in the world. That being said, if you’re out and about, you would still have to pay for a bottle if you wanted one. Which seems a waste because the tap water is so good. Also good if you’re hiking.
- Backpack/tote bag: What with carrying around your layers, swimwear, water bottle, sleeping mask and buckets of medications, you’ll need something handy to carry it all around in.