It can be hard to pack for a summer trip to Iceland, or when visiting a country with only 4 hours of daily daylight. Fear not! This is why we created the ultimate Iceland packing list.
In this article, we discuss everything from what to wear in Iceland to how to pack for Iceland in various seasons. So, if you’ve got an upcoming trip to the island scheduled, read on.
Packing for Iceland in Summer
Summer in Iceland (from June to September) is the busiest time of the year here on the island, and with good reason. Temperatures are nice and toasty (in Iceland terms) and you can look forward to anything from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius.
You will no longer be subjected to any temperatures below the 0-degree mark. All the harsher weather elements of the colder months are a thing of the past. There will be no snow, and those legendary Iceland winds that threaten to rip your car door off its hinges have also drastically calmed down.
With long summer days and favorable weather, it's no surprise that outdoor activities abound in Iceland during this season. From activities such as horse riding and ziplining in Akureyri to camping, hiking, and much more, you will undoubtedly find one that takes your fancy. Some activities such as ziplining will include gear, but others such as hiking won’t, and you’ll need to pack accordingly.
Summer in Iceland Requires Some Extras
All the daylight hours allow you to experience a natural phenomenon called the Midnight Sun, where the sun never really quite sets. And it allows you to have a pretty jam-packed itinerary, it has proven to cause difficulty for some. Many find that the lack of darkness really messes with their sleeping patterns.
There are certain things you can pack to counter or manage this. And since you don’t know whether you’ll form part of the statistic that struggles with sleep, it’s always a good idea to pack these items just in case.
What to add to your Iceland packing list during a summertime trip:
Earplugs (you’ll be surprised how many people see the extra daylight hours as extra party hours or the perfect time to suddenly do construction)
Any gear or clothing that you will need for some of the activities on your to-do list
Packing for Iceland in Winter
Winter in Iceland is between December and March and really puts the ice in Iceland. Temperatures range between -30 to 0 degrees Celsius depending on where you are on the island. And you’ll need to brace yourself for some pretty extreme weather elements such as blizzards, rainfall. And let's not forget about winds that sometimes feel like they want to drive the car instead of you. Needless to say, the winter weather will impact packing for Iceland.
Ironically, it is this Iceland weather that allows you to experience some pretty unique activities on the island, such as ice caves. But don’t worry, you don’t need to pack anything extra for this.
Daylight hours have also dramatically decreased from the warmer months. In fact, mid-winter, you’ll only have about 4 hours of daylight each day. This is also why it is recommended that those who have the Northern Lights on their Icelandic bucket list visit Iceland in winter. But all the extra hours of darkness will also impact what to pack for Iceland.
What to add to your Iceland packing list when visiting the island during the winter months:
Long, waterproof winter coat
Headlight and a torch
Ice scraper & foldable snow shovel (very few rental agencies offer these, and you’ll soon realize that they are absolutely essential)
Iceland Packing List
Below is the ultimate Iceland packing list that you simply need to add the above-mentioned items based on the season you’ll be visiting:
Fleece/woolen sweater. (Bring just one or two, so you can purchase a couple of real authentic woolen Icelandic sweaters)
Waterproof hiking boots. (Whether you’re planning on going hiking or not)
Casual shoes. (For the days you’re out and about in the city)
Warm woolen socks
T-shirts & long-sleeved shirts
Casual pants. (Also for the days out and about in the city)
Warm hat (beanies work very well)
Bathing suit (for when you’re visiting Iceland’s hot springs or geothermal pools)
Quick drying towel (trust us, you don’t want to be lugging around wet stuff all day)
Flip flops (to use at the hot springs and other public changing rooms)
Lip balm. (Cracked lips are a common occurrence here in Iceland)
Toiletries & medications. (Remember to double-check flight restrictions so you don’t end up having to leave your vanity behind at the airport)
Water bottle. (Iceland has very high-quality tap water, so you only need to refill as you go here on the island)
Backpack. (Suitable for both outings and hikes)
Electronics: chargers, cables, a power bank, an adaptor, etc.
A Few Helpful Packing Tips for Your Iceland Trip
If this is your first visit to the island, the following tips will ensure that your trip is a memorable and enjoyable one:
Always Pack Waterproof Gear & Clothing for Day Outings
We have a local saying on the island that says, “you can experience all four seasons in a day in Iceland”. Needless to say, with a saying like that, keeping waterproof gear and clothing close can come in quite handy. But this is not the only reason why this is a good tip.
As we’ve already mentioned in our packing list, waterproof hiking boots are the shoes to wear in Iceland. And as you traverse muddy trails around hot springs, you’ll understand why. Waterproof clothing is a must in Iceland. As you'll observe when sitting dry near local waterfalls while others get soaked by the falls' mist and spray.
Pack for the Space You’ll Have and Want to Have
Irrespective of the weight restrictions you have on your luggage, you need to pack for the space you will have to work with here in Iceland. There’s a big difference between staying in a big Airbnb and renting a campervan in Reykjavík.
Packing too much stuff can cause great inconvenience. You’ll also need to decide what and how much you intend to take back home with you. If you pack your suitcase to maximum capacity, you won’t even be able to take back those woolen Icelandic sweaters we were talking about.
Properly Plan & Pack for Activities
As we touched on earlier, even though most activities will provide you with gear, you will need to pack certain things for certain activities. For example, you will need your diving license to dive the Silfra Fissure and you will need snacks for a hike.
But this is also where proper planning is essential, especially in the more remote regions. You won’t find all sorts of shops and gas stations along the road the way you might back home, so you’ll need to stock up wherever possible. Opting for a motorhome rental in Iceland can be a great solution, as it allows you to carry your essentials with you while exploring the country's stunning landscapes.
Always Stay One Step Ahead of What You Might Need
There are other ways to ensure that you’ve packed everything you might need for the day. Keep an eye on the Iceland weather forecast and the Iceland road conditions. This ensures that you’re always one step ahead in knowing what you may need before heading out on daily excursions or road trips.
Always Wear Layers in Iceland
Sometimes it’s not just your bags that you need to pack. In Iceland, you need to pack on the layers too. Remember our local saying? You never know when you might need to take things off or put things on.
The temperatures between the outdoors and indoors can also drastically differ, especially during the winter months. So, you’ll need to be able to take things off and put them back on based on the circumstances. The clothes mentioned in our packing list are also mentioned with this in mind.
Solutions to the Forgetful
If you found that you didn’t pack everything that you were supposed to, don’t worry. We have many stores on the island that sell everything from apparel to outdoor gear. And if you’d like to replace things in a more inexpensive way, you can opt to visit one of our second-hand thrift stores that carry many high-quality items.
Packing for Iceland Made Easy
By using our article as a guide, you will know exactly what things to pack for Iceland, irrespective of what season you are planning to visit the island. If you consider your Iceland itinerary, the weather, and available space, packing for the trip becomes easy.