What to Pack for A Week in Iceland — Regardless of Season

Posted on September 7, 2017 by

So you’ve got everything booked and you’re ready for one hell of an adventure in your dream destination. Now what should you pack for a week in Iceland???

what to pack iceland

The first thing you need to know is that weather in Iceland can be unpredictable and harsh, regardless of the time of the year. You can easily experience all four seasons weather in one day, or even in one hour. The wind here is also notorious — our car rental company told us it’s common for people to get their car doors blown right off their hinges here. No joke!

Thankfully, the Gulf Stream prevents Iceland’s temperatures from plummeting past freezing in the winter. But its latitude (being in the Arctic) also means that even in the summer, temperatures don’t get much higher than 10°C (50°F). That means regardless of the time of the year you travel, you’ll need layers and waterproof clothing to protect you from the wind, snow and hail.

What to Pack When?

You’ll generally need to pack around the same things regardless of the season you’re visiting. You might not need to bring a thick winter parka, gloves or beanie in summer — but the other winter essentials will still be necessary.

If you’re traveling Iceland in summer (June-August), 2-3 layers should do: a wool bottom, a fleece, and a thin water and windproof outer layer. For those traveling in fall and winter (September to December), you’ll need 4-5 layers: the above mentioned, plus a thermal layer at the bottom and a down jacket or thick winter parka.

To help you pack efficiently, here’s the list of travel gear that I brought for one week in Iceland. Most of my gear are from Decathlon (Europe’s answer to REI or MEC), but they’re not available on Amazon; as such I’ve found similar products online with the same quality as what I own.

what to pack icelandAll I needed for one week in Iceland (+one week in Greenland!)

Pack Light, Travel Further

I’m a strong believer in ‘less is more’. The less you travel with, the more convenient it will be to move around. If you can’t see yourself using something daily, you probably don’t need it.

For those who are camping, you really want to pack minimally as you probably won’t change as often as you would normally. As we were traveling on a camper van, we had to stick with the essentials to make sure we weren’t crowding ourselves in.

For photography enthusiasts, be sure to consider the amount of photography or video gear you plan to bring, especially if you’re traveling in a normal vehicle and not a camper van. If you’re traveling in fall or winter, make sure you bring a tripod to capture the Northern Lights.

what to pack icelandMy soft shell jacket, leggings and hiking boots were my favorite outfit in Iceland


My Trip Details

Travel Dates: July

Season: Summer

Weather: Summer is the best time to travel Iceland in terms of weather, as you have higher chances of sunny, cloudless skies and lower risks of rain. Temperatures are cool in summer, ranging from 7 to 16 degrees Celsius. The weather in Iceland can be incredibly unpredictable though and you can easily experience four seasons in one day.


what to pack icelandKaleya and I practically lived in our fleece.

Base Layers

1. Long Sleeve Moisture Wicking Tees: The key to staying warm in Iceland is layering. Bring some  long sleeve t-shirts that are great for hiking, that you can easily remove throughout the day and night. I brought three of them for my one-week trip.

2. Pyjamas: I usually carry the same set of pjs for cold-climate travel — a pair of soft, long pants and a thin T-shirt that are comfortable for sleeping. If you’re camping, it can get cold at night even in summer. Layer up with a fleece.

3. Fleece-lined Long Sleeve Thermal Underwear: Pack thermals even if you’re traveling in summer. Mine turned out to be very useful and I wore it several days in a row. Temperatures can dip below zero – and they’ll be particularly useful if you’re camping.

Outer Layers

4. Fleece Base: This is my favorite gear for cold climates. It’s thick but lightweight, and keeps me warm even in sub-zero temperatures. Plus most fleece are cheap and easy to find everywhere. I usually get one that can be zipped all the way down, so I can easily remove layers when I’m warm.

5. Soft Shell Jacket: Pack a thin waterproof, soft shell jacket regardless of the weather you’re traveling. It’s particularly useful when hiking up waterfalls (where you’ll get wet) and for the rain that’s quite common in Iceland. This also acts as an extra layer between your shirt and down jacket or parka. I used this almost everyday on my trip to Iceland.

6. Down Jacket: Lightweight and insulating, a down jacket is great as the outermost layer in summer and spring. It cuts the wind and it’s waterproof. Plus, mine packs into a small pouch and is easy to travel with.

7. Waterproof Ski Jacket: It may be heavy and a pain to travel with, but you’ll need it if you’re traveling in fall or winter. Don’t skimp on a quality coat as it’ll keep you comfortable. I brought mine but I didn’t end up wearing it at all (I did use it in Greenland) as it was quite warm. You won’t need this in summer.

a week in icelandWearing my down jacket when it got colder


 READ MORE: DRIVING THE ICELAND RING ROAD


Pants

8. Quick-Dry Pants: These are something I wear on almost every trip. They’re lightweight, thin, comfortable and waterproof. I can wear them in winter and summer, without feeling too warm or cold.

9. Convertible Pants: These are similar to the quick-dry pants, except they’re zip-off pants that can be converted into shorts when the weather is nice. These are my airplane pants as I like being able to convert them when I’m warm.

10. Fleece-lined Leggings:  For ladies, these are brilliant to keep warm and comfortable, being looking too shabby. I usually wore them without any pants over them (as I was in Iceland during summer).

Tip: Don’t pack jeans to Iceland — they’re heavy and not useful for the rainy/snowy conditions. Plus they’re not as comfortable and take a million years to dry!

Accessories

11. Beanie or Cap: This is useful even in summer as it is very windy in Iceland all year. You’ll definitely need something warm on the top of your head. I used my cap everyday, but my fleece-lined beanie only once (necessary only in fall and winter).

12. Ski Gloves: This would be essential if you’re traveling in fall or winter. Bring thick ski gloves as they’re good for snow and rain (though I didn’t need them and only used them in Greenland). I would recommend getting a pair of gloves with touchscreen pads so you don’t need to take them off to snap photos on from your smartphone.

13. Wool Socks: Invest in some high quality wool socks that can keep your feet dry and warm when hiking in the mushy tundra of Iceland. I brought a pair of thin moisture-wicking socks and a pair of thick wool socks for the chilly nights.

14. Microfibre Towel: You’ll need this for thermal baths that are dotted all around Iceland (and showers if you’re camping). Buy a thin, quick-dry one that can be rolled up into a small bundle. Mine usually dries within a few hours if I hang it on the back seat in the camper van.

15. Swimsuit: Just one pair of swim wear for the geothermal pools and jacuzzis in your cottage.

Tip: You won’t need to bring a beanie or ski gloves in summer, but it will be wise to bring a cap and thin gloves just to be safe!

Packing the same type of gear for Kaleya, except that she needed a winter parka and I didn’t!


 READ MORE: TRAVELING ICELAND WITH KIDS


Shoes

16. Hiking Boots: A pair of sturdy hiking boots that are waterproof and protective for hiking in mud, streams or snow. I’ve used mine for around 2 years now and they’ve been to many countries and different types of terrain with me. Instead of getting those high boots that are ridiculously heavy and thick, I think it’s better to travel with hiking boots like these. Mine were perfect for Iceland.

17. Sandals or flip flops: Useful for going to the thermal baths in Iceland (which you can’t miss!) as well as showers when camping. I don’t like wearing my thick hiking boots all day, so it was a relief changing to my sandals at the end of the day. It was also warm enough for me to wear my sandals to go hiking and sightseeing on some days.

Electronics

18. Camera: I use the Canon 60D for all my trips, and it’s worked really well for the past 6 years. The SLR is perfect for someone like me, who likes to take photos and needs to take them for professional purposes. But it’s also big and bulky, so I’ve invested in a shoulder neck strap belt that makes carrying it around more comfortable.

19. Lens: I usually use my Tamron AF 18-200mm lens with my camera, and it’s great for most landscape and portrait shots. I also carry my Sigma ultra wideangle 8-16mm lens for indoor shots to capture mainly interiors.

20. GoPro: I usually travel with the GoPro when I’m on an active trip that involves some form of extreme sports or water sports. You’ll definitely need it in Iceland if you plan to ice-climbing or snorkel in Thingvellir.

21. Power Bank: I never travel without my external charger. This charger holds enough power to charge my iPhone for 7-8 times. As I’m often traveling in remote places with limited or no access to electricity, it’s awesome to have a charger like this to keep my camera, phone and Kindle going.

22. LowePro Camera Bag: My ProTactic has served me for 2 years now, and it’s still my favourite camera daypack to date. It took me a few years of experimenting with several packs to finally find this perfect one. It’s compact and rather lightweight, perfect for protecting your photography equipment while hiking in Iceland.

For more on my electronics and camera gear, check out this list of tech gear I always travel with.

what to pack one week icelandMy camera bag goes everywhere with me!

Luggage

24.  Eagle Creek Load Warrior: This wheeled suitcase works as a carry-on on most international airlines. At just 36L, it’s the perfect size for a week-long trip. Pack all your gear into organising cubes and you can fit two large-size cubes into this bag. It works well if you’re going to traveling around Iceland by car.

25. Osprey Women’s Aura 50 AG Backpack: If you’re planning to do long-distance hiking or camping, I would recommend using a backpack instead of a suitcase. This backpack is what I usually carry when I’m traveling solo.

26. Waterproof Dry Bag: It’s great to have a waterproof bag to protect your camera and valuables for the rainy weather (especially if you’re doing long hikes). I used this mainly on hikes during wet weather (and when I went white water rafting and snorkelling on my last trip to Iceland) as it proved to be very useful to protect my gear during the snow storm!


 READ MORE: THE ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE TO ICELAND 


 

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

2 Responses to “What to Pack for A Week in Iceland — Regardless of Season”

  1. Teresa richards September 11, 2017 6:49 am #

    I want to visit Iceland in my next winter vacation. but I was confused what I need to pack for this trip. I had no knowledge about the weather of Iceland in winter. your article gives me much information about the weather of Iceland and what I need to pack for my trip. thanks Nellie for the suggestions.

  2. Alex Steven September 12, 2017 1:08 pm #

    Wow! such an informational blog in a true manner. I wish to visit this beautiful place during the summers. Thanks for sharing mate. Cheers!

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