The adage, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” applies to visiting Iceland in November as much as it does in July. An Iceland packing list must take into account weather conditions, but also how to dress for comfort in a rugged environment.
Over the course of a year, both Mavens spent several weeks exploring all of Iceland. Malerie wrote about Iceland in November and shared her 8-Day Iceland Itinerary. All told, Sandra spent a month in Iceland, including a 10-Day Iceland Photography Tour and a NYC to Reykjavik getaway with her husband.
They’ve gathered their combined experience, with additional expert advice from tour operators, to put together this comprehensive packing list and links to their favorite outdoor gear.
We’ve also included an Iceland Outdoor Gear Shopping Guide in case you forget something. But do download this free printable Iceland Packing Checklist for planning your trip to Iceland so that you don’t.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
What To Wear In Iceland
When packing for Iceland, it’s essential to think in layers. The country’s weather can be highly variable, with the possibility of experiencing sunshine, rain, and wind all in one day. Base layers made of moisture-wicking fabric are a good starting point, followed by insulating layers like fleece or down jackets.
A waterproof and windproof outer layer is crucial, as conditions can change rapidly. Don’t forget thermal leggings or long johns for extra warmth, especially if you plan to engage in outdoor activities. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are advisable for navigating Iceland’s rocky and often wet terrain.
Accessories such as wool or thermal socks, gloves, a hat, and even a buff to protect your neck can make a significant difference in comfort. Finally, if you plan to take a dip in one of Iceland’s many geothermal pools, a swimsuit is a must. Overall, durability and versatility are key when choosing your wardrobe for this fascinating Nordic destination.
Packing For Iceland Weather
Surprisingly, Iceland is not as wintry as one might imagine. Although the Arctic Circle passes near Iceland, a strong Gulf Stream moderates temperatures. In summer, Iceland can be quite chilly with temperatures ranging between 50-59° F.
But at least the winters in Reykjavic and the South Coast aren’t all that frigid with temperatures hovering around 32° F. (It’s a different story in northern Iceland where it is a freezing -13° to -22°F.)
And yet, temperatures don’t tell the whole story. It rains frequently in Iceland, and even when not actually pouring, it feels colder on overcast days. And then there’s the wind. When the wind picks up, it takes a hardy soul to brave the wind chill.
The bottom line, it’s best to be prepared for a wide range of conditions, even in the summer. Start with what to wear on a long flight and then check the following seasonal lists.
What To Pack For Iceland
Iceland Packing List – Summer
- Lightweight windproof, waterproof, and breathable jacket, ex. Rab Kinetic 2.0 (women) and men’s.
- A water-resistant insulation layer, ex. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket (women) and men’s. The Ghost Whisperer is super light, super warm, packs down small, and its hydrophobic down resists moisture.
- Zip-up fleece for layering.
- Lightweight long-sleeved merino wool base layers, ex. Icebreaker Merino Half Zip Top (women) and men’s.
- Rain pants are important to have for emergencies, such as a sudden downpour on a hike. So you’ll want a lightweight pair that can be kept packed away in your daypack. The lightest ones we’ve found, Vertice Rain Pants, have to be ordered directly from Zpacks.
- Hiking pants/leggings.
- Sturdy pair of waterproof shoes, ex. Sportiva Goretex hiking boots (women) or men’s.
- Lightweight Smartwool socks and/or waterproof socks.
- Windproof and waterproof gloves are best for outdoor recreation, but we also like to keep lightweight touchscreen gloves handy in coat pockets.
- A warm hat like this Smartwool Beanie fits easily under a rain jacket or shell parka and takes up almost no room when packed away in a daypack.
Iceland Packing List – Winter, Fall, and Spring
The same layering concept, even some of the same clothing items, worn in the summer months can also work in the winter. Except that you might add more layers or thicker-weight base layers.
- Windproof and waterproof shell parkas such as those in the North Face Futurelight Collection.
- Consider a waterproof down coat such as the REI Co-op Stormhenge Down Hybrid Parka instead of layering.
- Down insulation layer, ex. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket (women) and men’s.
- Fleece jacket mid-layer.
- Thicker thermal layers such as Hot Chillys Heavy Weight Base Layer.
- Fleece-lined and/or Smartwool leggings (women) and Sport Fleece Tight (men.)
- Insulated pants to wear as a thermal layer, or on their own, such as the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Pants (women) or men’s.
- Instead of lightweight rain pants, opt for waterproof snow pants.
- Winter hat, baklava, and/or scarf.
- Winter-weight wool socks.
- Waterproof and insulated hiking boots, ex. Keene Women’s Revel Snow Boot or Oboz Men’s Bridger Boots (available in 8″ and 10″ heights.) Or perhaps taller boots such as those by Lacrosse (available in men’s and women’s sizes, these are handy for wading into rivers to photograph waterfalls.)
- Ice cleats such as Yaktrax Spikes.
- Hand and Foot Warmers like the ones from Hot Hands.
Iceland Packing List – All Seasons
- Pajamas (base layers might be TOO warm to serve as PJs in rooms without adjustable heating.)
- Warm hut slippers, such as the North Face mules, for walking around your hotel after a day of trudging around in boots.
- Dress casual outfit for going out in Reykjavic or changing for a hotel dinner after a touring day.
- Bring a bathing suit and flip-flops (to use in showers) for the geothermal pools or hot springs. A quick-drying towel can be handy too, but you won’t need it at the Blue Lagoon. Towels are provided when you leave the pool, and even robes are available (for a price.)
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, and chapstick.
- Collapsible water bottle like this one. Cold tap water is quite good in Iceland; the hot water is also safe to drink but might smell of sulfur.
- Luggage – If you’re traveling on a tour bus, you may be asked to use a duffel-style bag. The wheeled water-resistant Osprey transporter proved itself on the month-long tour of Iceland. Another option is to stick to only carrying what you can take on your back; for that you may do well to check our friend’s backpacking Europe packing list.
- Daypack – Toss in a tiny packable water-resistant daypack, it’s handy when shopping too. Alternatively, you could use your underseat luggage as a daypack.
Packing For Tours
Check tour information for specific items needed for day tours.
- Icelandic Horse Rides – Gear may be provided for horseback rides to avoid transmitting disease. Used riding equipment is strictly prohibited at Laxnes Horse Farm, but there was no issue with using sneakers or riding shoes. Helmets, overalls, and gloves were provided, but only the first was mandatory.
- Hiking poles.
- Adapter(s) with European two-pin plugs; Simple plugin version and/or one with more features and a longer cord.
- Mobile phone.
- Battery Pack and charging cords.
- If you want to pack a hair dryer make sure it’s dual voltage like the Conair Worldwide Travel Hair Dryer, but they’re generally available at hotels as well as at the Blue Lagoon.
Iceland Photography Packing List
- Wide Angle Lens (This is probably the most useful lens for all the waterfall shots.)
- Infrared Head Lamp (use to let eyes adjust to dark when photographing Northern Lights.)
- Telephoto and Macro lenses add more options but aren’t as crucial as the wide angle.
- Circular Polarizer Filter
- Neutral Density and Graduated Neutral Density Filter
- Sturdy Tripod – It’s absolutely necessary for capturing the Northern Lights and smoothing out waterfalls. Heavy-duty tripods are best, but a lightweight travel tripod can do the job too.
- Rain cover for camera and lenses (shower caps work in a pinch.)
- Small microfiber towel to dry gear after rain or waterfall photography
- Extra batteries plus the charger; even more in winter as they tend to finish faster in cold weather.
- Extra memory cards because you’ll take more photos than you can imagine.
- Winter photography gloves – ex. Valleret Gloves
Iceland Shopping Guide For Outdoor Gear
Don’t worry if you forget something. Gas stations on the Ring Road carry many essentials such as hats, gloves, and ice cleats.
The popular South Coast destination of Vik has a well-stocked grocery store as well as an enormous Icewear shop. And Reykjavic has several outstanding outdoor gear shops.
Prices for good-quality items are comparable (or just slightly higher) to what you will pay for the same outdoor gear in the US. And since tourists can get the 11-14% VAT refund at departure, it’s tax-free too.
Known for their Icelandic wool clothing and outdoor gear, Icewear produces some of the best quality merino wool base layers.
We also like their Hengill Wool Insulated Trousers (available in men’s and women’s sizes.) They’re lightweight, warm, water-repellent, and reinforced at the knee. So, they can be used as winter pants, as well as an insulating mid-layer.
Icewear has shops–carrying a variety of brands, not just their own–in Vik, Akureyri, and several locations around Reykjavik. Their products can also be found at Iceland gas stations as well as online.
66 North° makes excellent parkas, snow pants, and jackets. Their Goretex rain jackets reminded me of the 90s North Face Summit Parka, but ultimately I opted for the new Futurelight. Instead, I picked up a beautiful Gortex-lined Icelandic Wool Sweater that’s my first choice to wear in Iceland on frigid days.
66 North° has multiple locations in and around Reykjavik and Akureyri, and items can be ordered online.
The North Face
For decades, North Face has been producing some of the best expedition gear. We’ve used the same his-and-hers Summit-series waterproof jackets for over twenty years but were hesitant to trade in Goretex for the new lightweight breathable Futurelight technology.
However, I tried the Dryzzle Futurelight Parka and now I’ll never go back to jackets with armpit vents.
The North Face has a well-stocked store in Reykjavic that carries all their latest styles, plus shoes and boots. It’s next door to the 66 North shop located near the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Items can also be ordered directly and on Amazon.
Nordic sweaters never go out of style, and you can’t go anywhere in Iceland without running into them. Some of the best quality Icelandic sweaters can be found at (or ordered) from the Handknitting Association Iceland.
Be aware that Icelandic wool is very, very scratchy. A softer alternative is the ponchos, hats, and gloves found at Muk Iceland. Find their shops around Reykjavik’s Rainbow Street, or at the gift shop by the Seljalandfoss waterfall.
Items are available to order directly online too. FYI, their blankets make wonderful gifts (if you can bear to part with them.)
Salomon makes some of the best waterproof shoes, but it can be difficult to find them. Alparnir carries them, as well as a good selection of outdoor equipment from a variety of brands.
There are two store locations, one on Rainbow Street in Reikjavic and another on the cruise harbor.
It’s worth investing in gear you can rely on for years. For those of us living in the Northeast USA, this is what we wear season after season.
Better-quality outdoor gear makes for much more enjoyable winter hikes, ski trips, and just running around town.
Iceland Travel Guides
- Iceland In November
- 8-Day Iceland Itinerary
- NYC To Reykjavik; Easy East Coast Trip
- 5 Date-Night Reykjavik Restaurants (& 3 Bonus Brunch Spots)
- 5 Best Hotels In Reykjavik You’ll Love
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.