Packing is one of my least favorite parts about traveling, but packing for a trip to a country as wildly diverse as Iceland had its particular challenges. We were heading to Iceland in June, on the eve of the summer solstice, when we could enjoy six “nights” of daylight and five days jam-packed with adventure, and I really had to plan ahead what to pack for Iceland.
On our itinerary were activities and tours like a puffin boat tour, glacier hiking, a zodiac boat tour through the glacier lagoon, a trip to the Blue Lagoon, and dog sledding on the glacier. One thing was clear from the beginning, this was NOT going to be a carry-on only type of trip.
Summer temperatures in Iceland in July range from highs in the mid-50s and lows in the mid-40s F. So, sort of like March in New England where one minute you could pull on a hat to combat a chilly wind and then the sun comes out and you are stripping off layers to cool down.
After reading plenty of blog posts that said to buy what you need when you get there, I decided I was going to be prepared in advance and shop at outlet prices versus pricey retail shops in Reykjavik (although I admit buying a hat and microfiber gloves at 66° North just because I liked them.)
Being prepared for a trip to Iceland is critical. On our day in Reykjavik we dressed in long sleeve shirts and fleeces or weather-proof shells, carrying along hats and thin gloves “just in case” we needed them out on the water for our puffin cruise. Turns out, it was an absolutely gorgeous day and we ended up taking off the jackets and pushing up our sleeves.
Yet the next day on our drive through South Iceland, it was overcast and windy, causing us to switch from a thinner fleece to an insulated down jacket and hat later in the day. And thank goodness we were advised to bring full rain gear or our trips to the Selandjafoss and Skogafoss waterfalls wouldn’t have been nearly as fun as you will get totally soaked. We also lucked out with great weather for our times dog sledding and glacier hiking, but we were prepared just in case the weather changed.
With all our overpacking and over-preparedness, I learned a few lessons and what was needed and what was not when packing for Iceland. To make it easier for you, I’ve put together the following Iceland packing list.
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, I’ve also created downloadable, detailed PDF 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day Iceland itineraries for purchase based on everything that I have learned from my trips and planning trips for others. They will be available through the site soon, but if you are interested, contact me to learn more.
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Iceland Packing List
Note: This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase of clicking on a link, I will receive a small commission. I happen to love Columbia products and wore their raincoat, rain pants, omniheat down jacket and hiking pants while in Iceland and highly recommend them!
I’ve left out the basics, because I think you can figure out if you need underwear, but these are things that you may or may not have considered:
- Waterproof hiking boots — but don’t bother with packing them, just wear them because they are likely the only shoes you’ll need unless you want to sample the nightlife in Reykjavik.
- Hiking socks — wool or synthetic blends — cotton traps the moisture and your feet will get cold
- Quick-dry hiking pants — don’t pack jeans, they are heavy and will just make you cold if they get wet.
- Waterproof rain jacket with a hood — if you plan on visiting the waterfalls, the spray from the falls will drench you head to toe. A good waterproof (not water resistant) jacket with a hood that fits snuggly around your face is essential.
- Waterproof rain pants — we had a hard time finding these for the whole family but Columbia came through, as it did for our insulated jackets, rain coats, and hiking pants. Trust me, you’ll want these at the waterfalls unless you want to get soaked to the skin. It is a good idea to bring them along on glacier walks too, just in case it starts to rain while you are out on the glacier.
- Long-sleeve shirts (thin and/or thermal) — the temperatures are going to vary, as will the weather. It is best to be prepared with a selection of long-sleeve shirts.
- Base layer — if the weather is chilly, you might want to layer in a base layer if you are doing activities like glacier hiking or ice climbing. Otherwise, unless it is really windy, you should be fine.
- Down jacket — we only needed our down jackets a couple of times on this trip and probably could have gotten away with layering a fleece and a rain jacket on the windier summer days but it was good to have something that insulated and cut the wind.
- Fleece and/or weather-resistant shell — in Iceland, it is all about layering and options. You can either layer up with a fleece or weather/wind-resistant shell on top or have a fleece for the warmer days and a warmer jacket for the chilly days.
- Swimsuit — if you plan on taking advantage of any hot springs, public geothermally-heated pools, or hot tubs, don’t forget your swimsuit! Unless you are springing for the Premium package at the Blue Lagoon (I don’t recommend it), you may also want to bring along a towel and/or robe.
- Flip flops — again, if you are visiting any hot springs or pools, a pair of flip-flops will come in handy.
- Sleep mask — Icelanders are prepared for constant summer daylight with blackout shades in bedrooms, but it still might come in handy to get to sleep when it is bright as day outside.
- Polarized sun glasses — it may often be grey and rainy in Iceland, but when the sun shines, it is bright, especially when you are out on the glacier. A good pair of sunglasses, ideally with a neck strap so they don’t get lost, are a necessity.
- Hat / beanie — for windy days, especially out on the glacier or out by/on the water, you’ll probably want to have a wool or thermally-lined knit or fleece beanie.
- Thin gloves — just like the hat, when it is windy you might want a pair of thin microfiber or fleece gloves.
- Back pack — with all the activities you will be doing, you are going to need a place to stash your layers, rain gear, camera gear, etc.
- Camera gear — I’d recommend investing in a good camera to capture images of the gorgeous Iceland scenery. Some gear to include: mirrorless or DSLR camera, extra batteries, extra SD cards, rain cover, tripod, smartphone with waterproof case, selfie stick (for those waterfall shots), GoPro with extra batteries and waterproof casing, GoPro chest harness, GoPro helmet mount, GoPro suction cup mount for the car.
- Car charger — you’ll probably be using your phone for GPS and, if you get a MiFi device like I advised in my Iceland tips post, a whole lot more. With all the long drives, you’ll want to have your car charger along.
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