Iceland Packing List: What to Pack for a Trip to Iceland (in Summer or Winter)

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In recent years, Iceland has suddenly shot to the top of many travel bucket lists. The little island country is unlike any I've ever been to; sometimes in Iceland you'll feel like you're on a completely different planet.

But traveling on what feels like another planet means that you have to prepare for it – and that means packing the right things.

I myself have been to Iceland four times at this point – twice in the winter, and twice in the summer. Each season is a little different (in summer, you have long days and slightly more mild temperatures, whereas in winter the days are short and the weather can be colder), but the basics of what you want to pack for Iceland remain the same whether you're going in June or January.

Can you tell what season it is here? (Spoiler: it was August)

After my four trips there, I'm ready to share with you the ultimate Iceland packing guide, which includes everything you definitely need to pack for Iceland in any season.

(Scroll further down for detailed packing lists!)

5 Iceland packing essentials

Like many other islands around the world, the weather in Iceland actually doesn't vary *that much* across different seasons.

In January, low temps in Iceland are around 27 degrees F, with highs around 35-37 degrees F. (So, honestly, not that cold for winter!) In July, high temps on average top out around 55 degrees F – so no, you probably won't ever need to pack shorts for Iceland.

Because the temperatures don't vary all that much, there are a handful of items that I feel like are essential to pack for any and every trip to Iceland. Items like:

1. Rain gear

Amanda in rain gear at Studlagil Canyon
Hiking in the rain sucks less if you have rain gear.

A good waterproof coat and waterproof pants are musts in Iceland, especially if you'll be doing any hiking, visiting waterfalls, or just plan to spend a good amount of time outdoors.

Rain in Iceland usually comes paired with wind, making umbrellas all but useless. When it's raining sideways, you'll be happy to have waterproof clothing on!

My go-tos are my Columbia Arcadia II jacket (buy a size up if you'll need to layer warm items under it), and my Columbia rain pants (though in winter I've taken these ski pants for added warmth).

My husband Elliot also has a Columbia rain coat, rain pants, and insulated pants.

Amanda behind Kvernufoss waterfall
Wanna go behind waterfalls? Then wear rain gear!

2. Waterproof boots

Just like you need a waterproof outer layer, you also need waterproof footwear for Iceland! Rain boots are never a bad idea, and waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support are essential if you plan to do any hiking.

I love my Xtratuf tall rain boots, and recommend the following hiking boot options for women:

Amanda's boots looking down into Studlagil Canyon
My wet and muddy Columbia boots – feet still dry!

For men:

3. Warm base layers

In order to stay warm and dry in Iceland, it's all about layers. You'll want a couple sets of base layers for both summer and winter trips.

I recommend splurging on merino wool layers, as they are breathable and sweat-wicking when it's warmer, yet thing and insulating when it's colder. Merino also is more odor-resistant than any other material, meaning you can wear your base layers multiple times before needing to wash them!

Amanda, back turned to camera, looking down at a small erupting volcano
Me in an Unbound Merino top at at active volcano

Elliot and I both have merino pieces from Unbound Merino, and we LOVE this brand. Their designs are classic, and their merino silky soft. Shop their items here. (I love the women's leggings, and both Elliot and I wear their men's long sleeved tips!)

If you don't love merino (or the price tag of it), silk leggings can also be a good base layer, as can fleece-lined leggings. I also still love my Terramar Women's Cloud Nine Turtleneck, which I've had for years!

4. A solid outer layer

With high summer temperatures only reaching into the 50s (and wind/rain often making it feel a lot colder), you'll need some mid-layers and a warm outer layer no matter the season.

For non-winter Iceland trips, a packable down or down-alternative coat is always a great item to pack (I love this cheap one from 32 Degrees that comes in lots of bright colors).

Amanda at the rainbow street in Seydisfjordur
Me in my packable jacket – yes, I needed it in August!

And in winter, I'm always a fan of tri-climate coats, which usually consist of a fleece or down inner jacket with a waterproof shell on the outside. Many brands make these for both men and women, including Columbia and North Face.

4. Swimsuit(s)

Iceland is known for its hot springs and geothermal pools, so if you're planning to visit any, be sure to pack a swimsuit or two!

If you're planning to visit multiple hot springs, more than one swimsuit is good to have, as the high humidity in Iceland can mean that wet items may take more than just an overnight to dry. (I packed 3 on my recent summer trip to Iceland, but would have been fine with just 2!)

Amanda in a hot pool at Hvammsvik
Swimsuits are a must!

5. A quick-dry towel

Whether you're planning to camp or just planning to visit several hot springs, bringing your own towel to Iceland is a good idea. (Otherwise you'll have to pay to rent one at every hot spring!)

I recommend a quick-dry towel like this one, which comes in extra large sizes. This is a large towel, but won't take up a ton of room in your suitcase.

Iceland packing list (for women)

Here's a more detailed look at what I recommend packing for a trip to Iceland! This list can be used for any season, though there are some notes on additions/substitutions if you're traveling in winter at the end.

In my backpack/suitcase

I've traveled to Iceland with all sorts of luggage: a backpack on my first trip in 2012, my Osprey wheeled bag on trips in 2015 and 2018, and in a carry-on rolling suitcase in 2022.

I always use packing cubes to organize my things, and always roll my clothing (which helps save space AND avoid wrinkles).

(Iceland is a suitable destination for a suitcase or rolling bag since you're likely to either be basing yourself in Reykjavik, or self-driving. See all of my favorite luggage here.)

Backpack Iceland
Trip 1 to Iceland in 2012

Here's a look at my packing list for a weeklong(ish) trip to Iceland:

In winter, I would add or substitute:

Pro tip: Need to pack bulky winter clothing but don't want it to eat up space in your luggage? Use vacuum spacesaver bags (that you can ROLL the air out of) for the bulkiest items. I have these, and they work great!

Columns at Reynisfjara beach
Decked out in my winter gear in Iceland in 2015

In my carry-on

My carry-on these days is photography focused – I usually carry a backpack with a dedicated compartment for camera lenses and gear (like this Thule camera backpack or this one from Lowepro).

(Not too concerned with photo gear? Then my carry-on pick is the Pacsafe Venturesafe, which is a great carry-on-friendly backpack.)

In this bag:

Packing for Iceland
My Pacsafe Camsafe V25

Iceland packing list (for men)

My packing guidelines for men are pretty much the same: Warm, waterproof layers are where it's at, no matter what time of year you're traveling!

Here's a look at some of the things my partner, Elliot, had in his bag when we went to Iceland together:

In winter, I would add or substitute:

Amanda and Elliot at Skogafoss
Elliot and I at Skogafoss (Nov. 2015)

Iceland is filled with mini micro-climates – it could be clear and sunny in one area, but then sleeting sideways 30 minutes away. So no matter when you go, just be prepared!

A couple other miscellaneous things that are always a good idea to pack include some plastic bags for wet things, and laundry detergent packets in case you need to do some sink laundry.

And, even though it's not a tangible item, I also always recommend packing a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.

Have you been to Iceland in winter? What else would you suggest packing?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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64 Comments on “Iceland Packing List: What to Pack for a Trip to Iceland (in Summer or Winter)

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  1. What about for summer????

      I haven’t been to Iceland in summer yet! (Though I’ll actually be going next month!) Iceland’s summer weather can still be wet and cold, though, so I honestly wouldn’t change many of these recommendations. You’ll still need warm layers, a waterproof coat/pants, and solid boots that will keep your feet dry!

    Thanks for sharing this useful information through this blog. I was also planning to go to Iceland in this upcoming winter. It will really help me in my packing.

    This was very helpful, thanks! My friends and I will be in Iceland for three days next February before we go on to Paris, and even though I live in snowy Colorado, I’m a bit scared I’ll be unprepared. I hear the wind can really howl over there!

      Definitely bring lots of layers, as you just never know what you might run into!

    Amanda! Thank you for this great, detailed pack list. I LOVE the pictures you included and the Amazon picks. You’ve made me feel a lot more confident in my choices for the trip I’m taking to Iceland this January. If you ever make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, look me up!!

      So happy to be able to help, Kim! I hope you have a great time in Iceland!

    Great post and THANK YOU for actually posting links of everything. We’re going this September 23 – October 4. Do you think a pair of LL Bean Boots (the traditional 6-inch Bean Boots) will be enough of a hiking/waterproof boot? I am also planning on taking my Roxy snowboarding pants and Pulse snowboarding jacket and my husband is worried they won’t be enough waterproofing. P.S. Here is my packing list so far:

      I think that should be fine. And, honestly, you may not even need super cold-weather gear at that time of year; they usually don’t start getting snow until the end of October. You might want to go to your local outdoor/sporting goods store and see if they have some waterproof over-pants you can pick up for a decent price. That’s what I bought for a hiking trip in Utah earlier this year, when it was chilly but not cold enough for ski pants.

    Excellent!Hoping to visit Iceland this year..which backpack did you carry as your main luggage?

    LOVE this post, especially the photograph of what you packed. we are light packers as well choosing to only take one rolling bag (carry on size) and a backpack each. we are cruising out of copenhagen in early may with a stopover in keflavik on the way over. this will be my packing guide. i know it might be a bit warmer then, but research shows that the wind and rain are ever present. i so enjoy your blog, fellow buckeye (though i am now transplanted to sw fla).

      I’m so glad you’ve found this helpful, Sheri! And yes, it’s always a good idea to pack layers whenever Iceland is involved!

    Nice photos! Great advice on whats inside your pack.

    More of a question: Is there anything you packed that you wish you wouldn’t have or anything you wished you had packed and didn’t? I’m heading there in March. Will be a part of an organized “Northern Lights Tour” and many activities on the itinerary are outside. Your post has been most helpful so far. I’m completely stressed out about packing!
    Thank you!

      On this list, no there wasn’t anything that I didn’t use, or that I was missing. I would just tell you to bring plenty of warm (and perhaps waterproof) layers! I went on a Northern Lights trip to Canada last March and packed quite similarly, but with more layers (including some ski pants). Also bring good, waterproof boots!

    Thanks so much for having a post like this! Andy and I are getting ready for RTW trip next year, and we have started looking a packs and boots for me. But I have seriously been wondering what I will need to pack for a trip like that. I know it’s a little bit of a different situation, but it is still neat!

      I’ve never done a RTW trip, but I can only imagine how daunting the packing would be since you have to take so many different climates into account! Good luck!

    nice job! I too am an overpacker… usually with more than one pair of shoes and outfits to match…. lol

      Yeah, I like to have lots of choices in my wardrobe, even when I travel. So a trip like this is tough!

    Looks like you successfully packed all the necessities! We are headed on a backpacking trip to New Zealand in May, just as winter starts over there. We were getting worried about only having a backpack when we have to bring winter clothes, but this just gave us a bit more confidence! If you can do it, we can do it 🙂

      You can definitely do it! And, for what it’s worth, most of New Zealand doesn’t get THAT cold in the winter. May is actually still autumn, and the weather can be quite nice! (I was there last year in May, and as long as I layered up on the South Island, I was fine). My advice is to bring plenty of things you can layer!

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