What To Pack for Iceland for All Seasons

Verifisert ekspert

A mountainous landscape in Iceland

Learn what to pack for Iceland, whether you’re planning to stay in Reykjavik, travel the entire Ring Road, or hike remote areas of the Highlands. Regardless of when you plan to travel (summer, winter, spring, or autumn), this guide covers all you need to know about packing for Iceland. Read on for Iceland packing lists for every season and more.

Naturally, the name Ice-land has given you some indication of the clothing that might be required. However, one of the first things you learn when researching Iceland is to expect all kinds of weather in Iceland, no matter the season. You can begin compiling a list of what to bring to Iceland from this fundamental assumption.

What you pack for Iceland is entirely dependent on certain factors; what will you be doing while you're here? In which season will you be arriving? How long will you be staying in Iceland, and are you planning on sleeping in a hotel or camping? Will you be purchasing outdoor gear when you arrive or are you bringing it from home?

Thankfully, you don't have to answer these questions alone. Below, we have included a checklist of what to wear in Iceland for each season and recommended things to pack. So what are we waiting for? It's time to discover what to take to Iceland.

Essential Things To Pack for Iceland

When preparing your packing list for Iceland, your mind is likely focused on all the fun and adventure that awaits.

Regardless of whether you plan to stick to sights of the Golden Circle, or you decide to explore more remote areas such as the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords or Thorsmork Valley in South Iceland, it can be hard to know what to take. Whatever you pack will be dependent on your travel plans and outdoor activities.

However, some things are Iceland essentials to pack, no matter what season you choose to arrive or what you plan to do when you get here:

  • Sturdy Boots
  • Layers of Clothing
    • Base Layers
    • Jumpers
    • Thermal Tops and Leggings
    • T-Shirts
    • Long-Sleeved Shirts
  • Windproof/Rainproof Coat
  • Swimming Gear
  • Passport
  • Boarding Pass
  • Credit/Debit Card
  • Driving License
  • Tour Vouchers
  • Electronics
    • Mobile Phone
    • Camera
    • Hairdryer
  • Adapters

Unfortunately, since you can expect all kinds of weather in Iceland no matter which season, this makes packing a bit more complicated. Packing light, at least.

Whatever else you do, don’t forget the basics. Passports, tickets, credit cards, your driving license, and tour vouchers are easy to forget amid the chaos of packing for an exciting trip.

If you plan on renting a car in Iceland, bring a license with Latin characters or an English translation.

If you are planning to rent a car or take a self-drive tour, you’ll, of course, need your driving license with you. Specific tours, such as ATV & buggy tours or snowmobiling, also require you to see your driving license before they’ll let you take charge of the vehicle.

You’ll also want to make sure you bring all the electronics you need, plus adapters for Iceland’s Europlug sockets (typical European sockets).

As for clothing, regardless of what time of year you plan to arrive in Iceland, you’ll want to pack plenty of layers of clothing, a wind/waterproof coat, and some sturdy hiking boots.

Come rain or shine, you’ll find locals enjoying the swimming pools and geothermal baths. A swimsuit should be brought with you wherever you travel to Iceland. After all, you never know when a hot pool might turn up. Of all the things you need in Iceland, a swimsuit is often overlooked.

You obviously will not want to miss out on a visit to Iceland’s stunning Blue Lagoon on your visit, or even the Myvatn nature baths traveling round in the north. Relaxing in these geothermal hot spots can be the perfect way to start, break up or end your trip, so don’t forget your swimsuit.

Of course, this is merely a summary of some critical things to bring to Iceland. Read on for more specific recommendations for each season and activity, tailored to when you plan to travel to Iceland and what you intend to do when you arrive.

What To Pack for Iceland in Summer

Summer in Iceland provides a welcome respite from the dark winters that only start to brighten after the winter solstice (Dec. 21). The changes in the weather give some stark seasonal contrasts.

The midnight sun is one of the summer's most significant natural attractions you could witness. This spectacle begins after the summer solstice around June 21. As you can imagine, this makes traveling to Iceland in July extremely popular.

Kirkjufell, in West Iceland, at sunset

If you’re traveling at this time, you’ll want to make sure you book your airport transfer well in advance to provide a smooth start to your trip to Iceland.

During the beautiful summer months, visitors can expect 24 hours of sunlight because although the sun does set for an hour or so, the daylight lingers.

Though the weather doesn’t always feel traditionally like summer in Iceland, summertime runs from June through August.

Summer packing is not easy, given that Icelanders are used to experiencing all four seasons in a day. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst when visiting our shores.

There are some obvious items you’ll want to take with you: trousers, t-shirts, socks, underwear, shoes (you’ll want boots if you’re leaving Reykjavik), jumpers/sweaters, and don’t forget your best party outfit for the Reykjavík nightlife.

It’s also worth noting that summer in Iceland is the only season in Iceland that it’s worth bringing over any formal “going out” shoes with you. If you bring this type of footwear in other seasons, you may be prone to slipping (or worse, falling) in both the city and countryside due to the frequently icy ground. In all other seasons, footwear should consist of practical, sturdy shoes with excellent grip to help avoid unnecessary accidents.

Iceland Packing List for Summer

HATS/CAPS - Although it's summer, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be warm. Caps can also be helpful when it comes to blotting out the sun’s gaze on sunny days.
SUNGLASSES - Practical and stylish, your summer holiday is the perfect time for your best Elton John impression. Flick out the Hollywood shades for extra protection and extra swag.
SUNTAN LOTION - This one might come as something of a surprise given the climate. However, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are just as concerning here as anywhere else. However, try telling that to Icelanders; come the sun, the local population leaps outside like flies on honey.
RAINGEAR - Even when the weather plays along, it's still convenient to have some rain gear with you. When visiting mighty waterfalls such as Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, or Dettifoss, the mist from the waterfall can quickly soak you.

What To Pack for Iceland in Autumn

Fall, or autumn, in Iceland is short but sweet. By the end of August, the trees start to turn orange and brown, and by the end of September, the country will be braced for the winter ahead.

The temperature will likely be cool (below 50 F or 9 C), and the winds usually pick up, making it feel colder than you might expect. This season, in particular, can be tricky when deciding on what to bring to Iceland.

Thingvellir is a beautiful National Park in South Iceland.

Packing for Iceland in autumn is tricky because the country tends to get a lot of “window weather.” This means it can look like a pleasant day from the inside when it’s much cooler outside, often due to wind chill.

If you’re planning a visit to Iceland in autumn, this is a list of the items we highly recommend you bring with you when visiting our shores:

Iceland Packing List for Autumn

WATERPROOF JACKET - During autumn, statistically, the rainy days start to return, and the temperature drops again. You’ll need to make sure you have a waterproof coat with you at all times should the weather not be favorable to you.
JUMPERS/SWEATERS - You’ll need a warm jumper when exploring Iceland in autumn. The temperatures start to drop quickly as Iceland transitions into winter, so you must pack for the cold.
WATERPROOF SHOES - As there’s an increased likelihood of more rainfall and if you’re planning on exploring Iceland's stunning waterfalls, it’s essential to keep your feet warm and dry, particularly during autumn.

What To Pack for Iceland in Winter

Icelandic winters usually are around 32 F (0 C), though temperatures will vary between 14 F (-10 C) up to 50 F (10 C).

The winter winds can be cutting and cruel. Whether it's a gentle breeze or a full-blown storm, gusts are in no short supply here, and they can make it feel a lot chillier than the temperature would initially suggest.

Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, in Winter

Winter in Iceland tends to last from October through to March. Although the midnight sun is long gone, the Icelandic sky is still alight with the northern lights’ splendor, making travel to Iceland in December particularly popular.

Golden Circle Tours, in particular, are in high demand in these months, so it’s worthwhile to book ahead to ensure you get to see the best spots in the country.

Icelandic horses cross a snowy field in Iceland in winter.

There are so many things to do when visiting Iceland in winter that you won't want to miss out because of inadequate clothing. From Adventure Tours to Ice Cave Trips; you will want to make sure you're well prepared for your Iceland vacation.

It’s much more important to focus on bringing layers of clothing with you than an expensive parka jacket. Using layers helps to keep you fully insulated and also allows you to remove or add layers when needed, based on the winter conditions you encounter.

Iceland Packing List for Winter

WINDPROOF/RAINPROOF COAT - This is an essential purchase. Numerous outlets in Reykjavik sell quality outdoor gear designed to withstand the harsh Icelandic elements. You'll want a super cozy fleece-lined one if you plan to stay out late to catch the northern lights.
WOOL SOCKS - There’s nothing worse in the world than cold feet. Wool is the best material for heat insulation, so make sure to bring enough pairs to last you throughout the trip. If you’re planning on hiking or spending elongated periods outdoors, you’ll want to wear two pairs of socks every day. So be sure to prepare and pack double the number of socks.
WINTER HAT, GLOVES, SCARF - Oh, these are far more than fashionable accessories in Iceland. They’re lifesavers, the difference between comfort and pain. Make sure to get practical items (i.e., no fingerless gloves, bandanas, or satin scarves), and be sure to take them wherever you’re heading.
JUMPERS - In terms of torso coverage, don’t forget the obvious stuff like T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and vests. However, the most important thing is, of course, the jumpers. Try to bring a few woolen sweatshirts with you. Alternatively, the traditional Icelandic jumper, the lopapeysa, can be purchased in stores around the country and makes for a beautiful souvenir.
THERMAL LAYERS - Specifically designed thermal wear, be it leggings or a tight pullover, are a must during the wintertime. They provide levels of insulation impossible to achieve otherwise. It’s always a good idea to bring several thermal layers with you as they can make the difference between enjoying your holiday or not.
LIP BALM - During the wintertime, people’s lips will often dry out and become irritated. A handy chapstick will make this a non-issue from the get-go. Pack moisturizer and sunscreen, too; both can protect your skin on windy, cold, and sunny days.
BATHING SUIT - You might not be thinking of packing a bathing suit for a winter trip to Iceland. However, it's helpful in Iceland. The country has numerous hot springs, spas, and swimming pools, an integral part of Icelandic culture. Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, anyone?
BOOTS - The combination of Iceland's varied terrain and the strong likelihood of a snowy forecast make packing a sturdy pair of boots a good idea. These could be snowshoes, waterproof hiking boots, or other winter boots. And don't worry - Icelanders prefer casual dress, so you won't look out of place wearing these out in the evening, too.

What To Pack for Iceland in Spring

Spring in Iceland is almost as short as fall; it starts in April and continues through May and June. During this time, the North Atlantic puffins begin to make their way to the island and nest in cliffs by the shore.

The temperature is a cool 32 F (0 C) to 50 F (10 C), and you can expect some rain and wind and even occasional snow showers. However, the country is beautiful at this time of year.

The sun rises on Vestrahorn in Spring.

Spring is the perfect time to take a self-drive tour around Iceland’s Golden Circle and Snæfellsnes Peninsula or venture out on the water with a boat tour. With these boat excursions, you can explore glaciers, sea animals (such as whales and seals) and experience some more hard-to-reach areas of Iceland.

In May, it’s common to start seeing the famous purple lupin plant appear. This will blossom throughout the summer months of June and July and can make for some stunning colors as you travel around the country.

Also, while the weather is still cool, you can enjoy glacier hiking on some of Iceland’s staggering ice caps. However, if you plan to take advantage of activities such as these, you’ll need to prepare the correct packing list for Iceland.

Iceland Packing List for Spring

HIKING BOOTS - Spring is the season when Iceland’s snow starts to melt away with the rising temperatures (though we still get snowfall sometimes!). This usually means the roads are clearer, the light lasts longer, and the winds are less volatile, making it the perfect time to explore Iceland’s nature.
ANTIHISTAMINES - Though Iceland doesn’t have a lot of forests, we still have plenty of pollen. For those of you with springtime allergies, in particular, this is the season to bring your antihistamines from home.
BASE LAYERS - Base layers are essential for most seasons in Iceland due to our lower-than-average temperatures. However, Icelanders notoriously see spring as a small window between winter and summer, meaning you’ll usually need to be prepared to keep wearing the warm clothes of winter during this time.
WARM/WATERPROOF JACKET - Spring in Iceland always has a likelihood of rain, as well as some days of snow showers. To make sure you’re prepared, always remember to bring a warm and waterproof jacket on your journey over.

What To Pack for Hiking in Iceland

Hiking is an incredibly popular activity during the summer, given it's the only time of the year that the spectacular Central Highlands are accessible to visitors.

Of course, there are numerous places to go hiking in Iceland. Quite frankly, there are far too many to name.

The colorful landscape of Landmannalaugar draws wanderers and ramblers from around the world, providing a cheap and natural experience that is authentically Icelandic. But prospective walkers could choose to explore the spectacular Reykjanes Peninsula or trek the remote trails of East Iceland.

Landmannalaugar, Iceland Highlands, is a great location for hiking

Packing List for Hiking in Iceland

MAPS - Using a hard-copy map seems outdated nowadays, given the explosion of digital navigation and GPS. However, using an actual map is an excellent way to stay safe and on track should you get lost on the trail, or your digital GPS fails. Google Maps are also not very up-to-date regarding Icelandic trails and many of the roads outside of the Ring Road.
COMPASS - This is not an essential item as the trails in Iceland are generally signposted and easy to follow. If you happen to fancy yourself a true adventurer, then a compass should be integral to your kit. 
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE - Don’t let dehydration get the better of you. Start the day with an entire bottle of water that you can then refill in one of Iceland’s rivers and streams that are clean and drinkable.
ENERGY SNACKS - Having a few granola bars is never a bad idea. Make sure to bring snacks that will fuel your body throughout the hike. Shops are very few and far between in the Icelandic highlands and along hiking trails.
STURDY HIKING BOOTS - This is, arguably, the most crucial thing to pack for a trip to Iceland. Even during the summer, attempts to hike in flip-flops, heels, or work shoes will almost always end in disaster. A good pair of hiking boots will allow you to tackle the terrain with ease and save you from any potential injuries.
YOUR MOBILE PHONE - What are the chances you won’t have this anyway? Be sure that your mobile is fully charged before setting out. You may want it for photographs or need it for navigation or calling people (mainly if an emergency arises).

Man sitting looking at the landscape at Landmannalaugar

If you’re going hiking with ambitions to spend some time overnight, you must bring camping equipment.

Remember, there are no shops, permanent homes, or gas stations along most of the hiking trails in Iceland. This means that everything you could need will have to be brought with you in your waterproof hiking pack.

A TENT - Any overnight stay requires shelter. Take extra care when choosing a tent that you want, one that can stand up to the ferocity of Icelandic nature.
SLEEPING BAG - This one goes without saying. Camping is not the most comfortable activity in the world, so there’s no reason to skimp out on any small comfort available. After all, a good night’s sleep means a great day of hiking tomorrow.
CAMPING MATTRESS - This item slips into the tent and provides the comfort of a regular mattress while also elevating you from the cold ground. Camping mattresses can be folded, packed, and carried with relative ease.
FOOD/COOKING UTENSILS - You’ll need to bring everything you want to eat and drink (save the glacial spring water) on the hike. Ensure that you have enough food to last you for the whole trip. It is wise to bring a cooking stove, pans, cutlery, cups, a spatula, and plates. 
TOILET ROLL / PLASTIC BAGS - Public toilets on the hiking trails in Iceland are sparse, if not non-existent. That, naturally, means one must do the business out in the wild. However, Icelanders are incredibly proud of their environment and appreciate when guests clean up after themselves; the plastic bags are for doing just that.

Extra Gear Needed When Camping on Hiking Trails

The Northern Lights displaying over a mountain range in Iceland

So, you're feeling pretty prepared, but there's no shaking that overlying feeling that you've forgotten something important.

Well, fear not because we've yet to run through some of the essential items for your trip. We recommend that the below details are kept safe and secure at all times so that no hiccups occur during your trip:

PASSPORT - You’re going to feel like a right silly sausage if you arrive at the airport without this bad boy. And that’s putting it lightly.
BOARDING PASS/TICKETS - Make sure you have your e-ticket ready or a physical ticket. It's always good to know your exact boarding and departure times, and remember to check from which terminal (and which airport) you're departing.
TOUR VOUCHERS - A fundamental part of the Icelandic experience is participating in one or more of the country’s popular activities. Whether it's scuba diving, glacier hiking, or horseback riding, make sure to bring a confirmation of your booking.
ELECTRONICS - Nowadays, we’ve all become slaves to machines. Out of respect for their global dominance, make sure to pack all of your chargers, adapters, cameras, Kindles, iPads, iPhones, laptops, MP3 players, tape-decks, Google Glasses, microchips, etc.
ICELANDIC PHRASEBOOK - This one certainly isn't essential given that Icelanders speak fluent English. However, you're sure to be respected for your effort.
CREDIT/DEBIT CARDIt's common in Iceland to pay by card, although most places will take Icelandic Krona in cash. The Icelandic tradition of being "a plastic player" is now catching on with tourists. If you rent a car, you must present a valid credit card.
DRIVING LICENSE - If you are planning to rent a vehicle and drive around the island, you’ll, of course, need your driving license with you. Even specific tours, such as ATV & buggies, or snowmobiling, also require that you display your driving license before partaking. 
SWIMMING GEAR - Swimming gear is essential in Iceland in the winter and the summer. Whether you'll be bathing in a natural hot pool or spending time in one of the city's swimming complexes, make sure to pack your bathing suits. These should be brought with you wherever you travel to Iceland; after all, you never know when a hot pool might turn up. 
LAYERS OF CLOTHING - No matter the season, you can't go wrong with more layers of clothing. From outer layers of clothing to mid-layers and base layers. The weather is so fickle in Iceland that you'll want layers that you can put on or take off.

Hvitserkur in Northwest Iceland.

Did we forget something? What did you find were the most valuable items that you packed for your trip to Iceland? Is there anything that you wish you had brought that you forgot? Please, make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Comment box below.

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