Packing for Iceland can be a challenge. With the unpredictable weather conditions that can change rapidly throughout the day, you have to be prepared for everything. Luckily there is this Iceland packing list that will help you to pack the right stuff, no matter if you go to Iceland during the summer or the winter!
You don’t necessarily need to pack a lot for visiting Iceland, as long as you pack the right items. Staying warm is the main focus and the layer system is the ideal method to do so! By dressing according to the layer system, your own body heat will be caught within the layers to keep you warm.
Let’s go! Let’s have a look at how you can stay warm and dry during every Icelandic season by packing the right clothing.
What is the weather like in Iceland?
The best word to describe the Iceland weather is ‘unpredictable’. To be honest, it is very unpredictable. You can literally experience 4 seasons in a single day, which is why the Icelandic people have this famous saying: ‘If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes’.
It really changes rapidly and often without a warning. You can leave your hotel room when the sun is shining, but before you reach the destination it is raining and storming.
Therefore, it is not easy to pack for Iceland, because you just never know what you will need. Luckily this Iceland packing list will help you out to prepare yourself for every type of weather! But first, let’s see what the weather in Iceland is like in summer and winter.
Iceland weather in summer
Summer is generally said to be the best time of the year when it comes to good weather. But it wouldn’t be Iceland if there aren’t many exceptions to this. Heavy storms, snow, and cold weather aren’t very usual, but can’t be excluded from typical summer Iceland weather.
The average day temperatures vary between 11°C and 13°C during the summer months. But much higher temperatures, up to 25°C can be expected as well. Even sunbathing in the thermal pools is an option when the sun is shining bright and warming up the air.
Iceland weather in winter
The average temperature during the day varies between the North and the South. This has to do with the gulf streams. The Southern part of Iceland gets the warm European gulf stream, while the North has to deal with the Arctic stream.
Average day temperatures in the South will vary between -5°C and +5°C. It might just feel a lot colder when there is a strong wind. In the North it can get a little colder, day temperatures of -10°C aren’t exceptional. In the North, you will also experience more snow than in the South.
Unlike what most people assume, Iceland isn’t covered in snow all winter long. It comes and disappears before it comes again. Because of the temperatures some waterfalls freeze, but others will flow all year long because of the powerful water stream.
Keep on reading: Best Time to Travel Iceland
What to wear in Iceland
Since Iceland is known for its unpredictable weather, the frequent fluctuating temperatures during the summer, and the ice-cold strong winds, you may not know what to wear or what to pack for a trip to Iceland.
I’ve spent 3 months in this beautiful country and even though I wasn’t there during all the seasons, I can tell you I’ve experienced them all. So, let me help you out a bit!
What to wear in Iceland in summer
Especially during the Iceland summer, it is very important to be prepared for everything. The summer can bring you beautiful days with sunshine and temperatures of 25°C, but it can also bring horrible cold winds and a lot of rain.
Therefore I recommend bringing a bit of everything. Pack long and short trousers and tank tops and long-sleeved t-shirts. Always bring a warm hoodie and a wind & rainproof coat.
Just check the weather every day to decide what to wear. If you are planning to be outside for longer, for example during day trips, bring some extra layers if the weather changes unexpectedly (which happens a lot in Iceland). Make sure to always bring a wind & waterproof jacket and pants with you!
What to wear in Iceland in the winter
During the Iceland winter, the weather can still be very unpredictable when it comes to rain and wind. The only thing you know for sure is that it’s going to be a cold winter. Therefore, it is easier to get dressed, as you would for the cold.
I always wear at least 2 layers on my legs, which is a long thermal underpants as a base layer and a ‘normal’ pants or ski pants as outer layer.
On my upper body, I prefer to wear at least 3 layers, which is a long-sleeved thermal t-shirt as a base layer, then a warm fleece-lined hoodie, and a waterproof outer layer, which mostly is a waterproof ski or winter jacket.
Then make sure to always bring a wind & waterproof pants and jacket. The Icelandic wind can be super cold and a windproof layer helps protect you from the cold. If you make sure this layer is also rainproof, it makes it multi-functional.
What to pack for Iceland
So, now you know what to wear in Iceland, you might be able to put a packing list together. But don’t forget there are some other things you need to bring to Iceland! To make it easy for you, I’ve made a list below which is separated into ‘things you always need to bring to Iceland’, ‘things to pack for an Iceland summer trip’, and ‘things to pack for an Iceland winter trip‘.
What you always need to bring to Iceland
No matter when you go to Iceland, there are some items you always need to bring with you. Therefore, make sure to add the following items to your Iceland packing list.
- Passport: Obviously you need to bring your passport to get in and out of Iceland.
- Visa: Depending on your nationality you might need to apply for a visa to visit Iceland. Check out our blog post ‘Visa Iceland: Do you need one’ to figure out if you need a visa and how to apply for one.
- Travel insurance: In my opinion, you can’t forget a good travel insurance for any trip. We are with SafetyWing, which is a very affordable travel health insurance.
- Wallet & credit card: Don’t forget your wallet and credit card as a payment method. Otherwise, you won’t get far!
- Phone: A phone comes in handy every day and it will on your Iceland trip. Navigate with Google Maps, book an experience, or a tour with the Get Your Guide app, take a selfie, or book a hotel with booking.com.
- Camera + spare SD card: Iceland is a perfect destination for photography and you definitely want to bring your camera! Also add a spare SD card to your Iceland packing list, as you will most probably take a lot of pictures of all the beautiful Icelandic landscapes.
- Tablet or Laptop: I always bring my laptop for work and I just love to use it for a Netflix movie every now and then. So, either pick one, both, or just leave it all at home.
- Universal adapter: Iceland uses the standard Europlug socket with two round prongs. So, if this is not the plug you use at home, bring a universal travel adapter to be able to charge your stuff.
- Power bank: Always handy to bring a power bank! Especially in Iceland where the temperature can be cold. This will drain your batteries quicker! This power bank, with a capacity of 25800mAh, is able to charge your phone 6-8 times and is still super affordable!
- Sweat pants: This one is optional, but I love to take a shower back in the hotel or hostel and wear my sweat pants to chill the rest of the evening before I head to bed.
- Nightwear: Bring some nightwear like pajamas. Iceland can be cold, especially during the night, and you won’t regret some extra wear during the night. Especially when you go camping! This is a must-have on your Iceland packing list!
- Wind & rainproof jacket: Going to Iceland without a wind & rainproof jacket is going to Iceland as unprepared as you can be! Even when the sun is shining bright, the wind can make it feel super cold. Protect yourself with a proper jacket like the Eco-Shell from Fjallraven. This is a very durable and nature-friendly jacket that is perfect for your trip to Iceland. I have had this jacket for 3 years and it is still perfectly waterproof!
- Waterproof rain pants: Just like with the jacket, you want to protect yourself from the natural elements, like rain and wind. The waterproof rain pants from Columbia is ideal to put on your Iceland packing list, since it is very waterproof and very durable!
- Sunglasses: No matter whether you go to Iceland in winter or summer, pack a pair of sunglasses. The floating sunglasses from Wavesgear are ideal when you plan on going to a natural hot pot, like the Bue Lagoon. Even when they fall from your head, you won’t lose them, since they will be floating! Super handy for any kind of vacation!
- Bathing suit: Yes, you should also bring a bathing suit when you plan a trip to Iceland in the winter. The natural hot pots have an extra kind of magical touch when the outside temperature is ice cold!
- Microfiber towel: A towel is a must on your packing list for your Iceland holiday. Buying, or even renting a towel is super expensive in this country. The microfiber towels from Wavesgear are super lightweight, pack small, are very absorbent, and dry almost instantly! That makes it the perfect travel towel, even if you want to travel lightweight!
- Water bottle: Please, don’t buy water in Iceland. You can literally fill your water bottle from the natural water streams. The water in Iceland is so pure and good! You can also fill up your water bottle from the tap. I’m in love with this forever-cold water bottle. It keeps your water cool, but doesn’t let it freeze during the winter. In combination with the sport cap, you can even use it on the bike or in the car without spilling a drop!
Iceland summer packing list
Even though it is summer, you still need to be prepared for cold days and especially cold nights. Bring the following items along with you:
- Shorts/skirts: Yes! It can be really nice in Iceland during the summer! So add shorts or a skirt to your packing list for your vacation to Iceland.
- Jeans/long trousers: You are probably also going to need long trousers or jeans to keep you warm during the colder summer days. As you might remember, the average day temperature is only around 12°C!
- T-shirts & tops: Bring some t-shirts and tops to Iceland to wear underneath a hoodie or jacket. If the weather allows it, you can wear it without any overlay!
- Longsleeved t-shirt: A longsleeved t-shirt is a very nice item to add to your Iceland packing list. It gives you just a little bit of extra warmth compared to a t-shirt but isn’t as warm as a hoodie.
- Hoodie: You will really want to bring a hoodie to Iceland, with or without a zipper. It can get cold instantly. This is when a hoodie comes in handy!
- Underwear: Do I need to explain? Pack enough to cover your days in Iceland!
- Day shoes: Pack some proper and comfy day shoes. Preferable ones that can become a bit dirty and that allow you to walk a few kilometers in them. Iceland is a destination to discover nature and the best way to do so is on foot.
- Sunscreen: Yes, even in Iceland the sun can be shining bright and you need to protect yourself from sunburn. Bring a small flacon of sunscreen that you can use if needed.
- Hat/cap: Packing a hat or cap will also help you to protect yourself from the sun. If you make a day hike or even a multiple-day hike, this definitely is a must on your packing list for Iceland.
- Flip flops: They always come in handy! Wearing them in the camp shower or at a natural hot pool is common and needed!
Iceland winter packing list
Going to Iceland in winter? Then you really have to pack some Iceland winter clothes to make sure you are able to stay warm.
- Jeans/long trousers: Bring some long trousers or jeans that are comfortable to walk in. You can also bring ski pants to make sure you’ll stay warm.
- T-shirts: Pack a couple of t-shirts when you go to Iceland in winter. They can function as an extra layer or you can wear them in the hotel or hostel, as Icelandic people like to heat up the indoors!
- Hoodie: It’s always nice to have a (zipped) hoodie with you. It generates a lot of extra warmth. But you can take it off easily when it gets too warm. My recommendation would be a fleece-lined hoodie, as this provides extra warmth.
- Long thermal underwear: It can be freezing cold in Iceland during the winter and a pair of thermal underwear will help you to stay warm. I am a big fan of merino woolen underwear. The wool keeps you really warm, but it doesn’t itch. And did you know wool doesn’t absorb odors? So you can easily wear it a couple of days without feeling dirty! I can highly recommend the merino woolen underwear from Icebreaker, as it is warm, comfy, and durable!
- Underwear: Do I need to explain? Pack enough to cover your days in Iceland!
- Day shoes: Pack some proper and comfy day shoes. Preferable ones that can become a bit dirty and that allow you to walk a few kilometers in them. You might even want to opt for waterproof shoes, to keep the snow on the outside of your boots! Iceland is a destination for discovering nature and the best way to do so is on foot.
- Winter hat & gloves & scarf: As long as you keep your head, hands and feet warm, you should be fine! So, a good winter hat, gloves, and scarf are a must on your winter Iceland packing list.
- Winter jacket: Going to Iceland in winter without a winter jacket isn’t really smart. You really need it to stay warm and to enjoy Iceland to the fullest!
- Snow boots: Packing a pair of waterproof (and snow proof) winter boots are recommended. But if you already packed a proper pair of day shoes, you might be fine with them! If you like to get a pair of snow boots, my brand recommendation would be sorel. They are guaranteed to keep your feet warm and they are also very comfortable. But there are also a lot of cheaper options available on amazon.com.
- Hand warmers: Ideal when you have cold hands. Put a hand warmer in your glove (or in your shoe) and warm up your hands and feet easily.
Iceland hiking packing list
Plan on enjoying a hike in Iceland? Go prepared and take the following items with you.
- Zip-off hiking pants: Proper hiking pants allow you to move freely, which is exactly why I like wearing them so much on any type of hike. A zip-off makes it super easy to change to short or long hiking pants in no time! Zip it off when you are warm and zip it on when you take a break. I highly recommend the GpxPro zip-off pants from RevolutionRace. They are made of elastic material which makes them very comfortable. Besides, they are also durable and very affordable!
- Walking shoes: Make sure you have comfortable hiking shoes with you. They need to keep your feet warm and need to be breathable. It’s best to take waterproof hiking boots to Iceland, as there’s always a chance of rain. In the winter your feet will be dry, even when walking through some snow.
- Hiking socks: Yes, I’m coming back to the merino wool. I just absolutely love this material. Also for socks! Wool doesn’t only keep you warm when it is cold, but it also works the other way around. Yes, you get that right, wool is able to very breathable and it keeps you cool even in warmer circumstances.
- Hiking shirt: Also for a hiking shirt I would recommend merino wool. When hiking you want to pack as lightweight as possible, and merino wool will not smell, even after wearing it a couple of days hiking.
Related content: Iceland Hiking Guide Everything You need To know + Routes
Iceland camping packing list
Camping is incredible in Iceland! It is the perfect way to explore nature. Laying down in your tent, listening to the waterfall running down into the river, smelling the cold, but super fresh air, and seeing the northern lights above your head through the small ventilation window.
So, if you are planning a road trip around Iceland with camping, either in a camper van or a tent, make sure you are prepared for some really cold nights and pack the following items:
- Tent: No matter when you go camping in Iceland, make sure you don’t bring a summer vacation tent. Such a tent won’t be able to keep you away from the elements. From spring until autumn, you are able to camp in a 3-seasons tent. But if you dare to camp in the winter, make sure to bring a 4-seasons tent. These tents have a better waterproof coating and are able to keep the warmth from your body inside the tent.
- Footprint: A footprint, that goes with your tent, is optional. I really loved it that we had it with us. Especially during some wet nights, the footprint kept the tent floor dry.
- Sleeping bag & liner: A sleeping bag is a must to stay warm during the Icelandic nights. Make sure to check if your sleeping bag is able to keep you warm in the temperatures you expect during your trip. You can always bring a warm sleeping bag liner for extra warmth and to extend the comfort temperature of your sleeping bag.
- Sleeping pad & insulation: When camping in Iceland you should also add a sleeping pad with insulation to your Iceland packing list. Some sleeping pads, like the pads from exped, already have insulation in them. But it can never harm to bring some extra insulation to keep the cold air from the ground away from you.
- Camping stove & lighter: A real camping experience isn’t complete without a self-cooked meal on a camp stove. The ultralight camping stove from BRS only weighs 25gr and is super cheap. Just flip the support legs out, twist it on your canister and you’re good to prepare a meal! Don’t forget to bring a lighter to lit the fire!
- Headlamp/torch: I prefer a headlamp, as using this will keep both hands free. It comes in handy when you want to set up your tent in the dark!
- Earplugs & sleeping mask: The sleeping mask is especially useful when you go camping during the summer. It barely gets dark during the summer months, so a mask might help to get some sleep. And don’t forget a tent is just a piece of cloth and doesn’t keep any sounds outside of the tent. Listening to a waterfall sounds nice, but it can be really loud as well! So, if you need it to be quiet to get some sleep, make sure to bring earplugs.
We love to hear from you!
After spending more than 6 months in Iceland we experienced all the seasons and created this list for you. If you have any suggestions or any questions, please let us know in the comments below.
Are you ready to discover more about Iceland? Check out our Iceland page to read all our Iceland articles.