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. Hey there! I’m planing a trip to Iceland for June to take pictures. I’m looking froward to getting all night to shoot as I drive around. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip and any recommendations on what to do and see!

      Awesome! I’m sure it’ll be fantastic in the summer, especially for photos! Stay tuned here over the next few weeks — I’ll be sure to share all my suggestions!

    Loved the packing list. Can I just mention that I like the colour of your new backpack?? I’ve never seen a blue one before!

      Thanks, Jodi! I didn’t really care what color backpack I ended up with, but am actually really excited that it’s a pretty blue one!

    Looking forward particularly to your photos and your thoughts on how the new camera is ๐Ÿ™‚ Have an amazing trip!

      I’m looking forward to that, too, Laurence! I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the camera (along with everything else) once I get back!

    Yes, I have been to Iceland. You might want to rethink the jeans and go for something warmer and quicker drying. REI will advise you! Iceland is cold and wet and all the good things to do are outside.

    But it’s a fabulous country and you’ll have a great time.

      Sadly I don’t have the time nor money to go pick up good outerwear pants (nor would I probably ever wear them again!). But, luckily, most of the outdoor activities I’m thinking of doing provide you waterproof gear to wear if you need it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Looks like you have packed everything important! I have never been out of India but then there is so much to see and do in India itself!!
    And I love the color of your purse, its cute!
    Have a wonderful journey:)

    That green purse is adorbs. Cold destinations are the hardest to pack for because everything is so dang bulky — boots take up so much room! The fact that you can fit yours (plus the coat) in your backpack is proof that you’re an expert packer, imo. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Only one pair of pants, though? What happens if/when they get wet?

      LOVE my green purse. And the fact that it can double as my camera bag wins it extra points!

      Cold weather packing really does suck though. I was amazed I fit all of this into a 60L backpack!

      As for the pants, I’ll be wearing one pair of jeans the day I leave. So I’ll actually have 2 pairs of pants total. ๐Ÿ™‚ 3 if you count the yoga pants I’m bringing as pajama bottoms.

    You’re a very neat packer =) How exciting that you’re going to Iceland – over the summer I’m guessing? I’ve always wanted to go there and am hoping that our living in Norway so close will facilitate that. Be sure to wave to us! Look forward to reading about it.

      Haha I’m a bit OCD when it comes to being organized. Though, this is the first time I’m using packing cubes — I’m not sure how I ever survived without them!!

      And no, actually I’m going to Iceland next week! I arrive on Sunday morning. ๐Ÿ™‚

    May I ask why you have gone from the Cannon to the Olympus? I’m trying desperately to find a good camera and have no idea what to get.

      It was actually a tough decision, because I really love Canon cameras. I had an Olympus point-and-shoot a long time ago and actually hated it. But I wanted to get a micro 4/3 camera (almost like a DSLR with interchangeable lenses and everything), and Canon does not currently make any. Out of the options I researched, the Olympus seemed like the best fit for me, both with the features included and the price. Camera shopping definitely is tough!

        Have you ever had any trouble with the cannon camera in low light conditions such as in dark museums or at night? Thanks

          Sometimes at night I’ve had problems, but it’s just a matter of playing around with the settings to get the photo right. There is a manual mode on the camera, so you can really do quite a lot with it to adjust for lighting issues.

            Thank you for your responses. I’d like to develop my photography so it sounds really good for that. I’m hopeing to go to the Harbin Ice festival next year which is the main reason I want a camera that does well at night. Do you think that if I practised before hand with changing the settings that it could be ok for the festival?

              Possibly, but I really couldn’t say for sure, Zoe. My advice is to go online and read reviews of a few different camera, and then go to a store and try some of them out for yourself!

    Love packing posts! I believe we have the same mini hairbrush. I love it. Not sure how cold cold Iceland is this time of year, but for my recent trip to Eastern Europe I really wished I had more cold weather accessories. I ended up wearing a giant coat everywhere and the same hat, gloves and scarf for two weeks. If you have room, I would suggest just two options of these just because they can get old in cold weather places.

      Yay $1 brush from WalMart! I love that thing.

      And I’m not too worried about the accessories since I’ll only be there for 6 days. I think I can cope with 1 hat and scarf for a week. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, it’s not going to be frigid there; I may not even need everything everyday — but I want to have it all, just in case!

    I thought I brought too many gadgets when I travel but you have me beat. Why do you need 2 cameras and a separate video camera? Also why a kindle and an iPad?

      I do have a slight gadget addiction. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      The video camera is waterproof, so I take it everywhere, just in case it’s really raining and I don’t want to risk my camera getting wet. I’m taking the back-up point-and-shoot camera because this trip is a trial-run with my new micro 4/3 camera. If it turns out I hate my new camera, I want to be sure I can still get good shots. And as for the Kindle and iPad, that’s just personal preference — I hate reading books on my iPad. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Can’t wait to see the shots with your new camera and lens, especially in somewhere as beautiful as Iceland.

      I can’t wait either, John! I took some of the photos in this post with it, but I don’t think indoor photos are a good representation of what a camera can do. I also took it outside today to photograph some new flowers, though… and the pictures came out fabulous! Can’t wait to capture Iceland with this baby.

    I’m a journalist and seasoned traveler who hosts digital entertainment conferences around the world. I have to tell you I love your newly discovered blog. You have a fresh, wonderful attitude and the comparison of Chicago deep dish pizzas was absolutely stellar. I like you as presented in your blog…you are going places and I don’t mean just around the world. That’s important because world travel can get boring and exhausting unless you make each trip an adventure. I recommend studying elephants in Thailand and the rainforests in Costa Rica. Drakes bay is special there. I’ve been to Iceland and I know you’ll like the people as well as the amazing terrain. Thank you for freshening a jaded soul.
    Peter Plantec

      Hi Peter. First of all, welcome to my blog! Secondly, thank you so much for your kind words. Honestly, your comment here has just made my night!

      I agree that travel can become just another routine if you don’t approach it with the right attitude. I certainly try to approach each trip thinking positively, no matter how far I’m going! And, I can assure you that this blog is all me; what you see/read here is just me, plain and simple! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Elephants in Thailand and rainforests in Costa Rica sound amazing. Right now though, I’m super excited about Iceland!

    You’ve probably already seen our packing list for Iceland – – and it’s good to see you’ve got all of the essentials! You’ve done really well! ๐Ÿ™‚

    The only thing I would add would be a remote shutter release for your camera to go along with the tripod so you can really get some stunning pics of the Northern Lights. Fingers crossed you get to see them!

      Yes, I did look at your list a few weeks ago! Very helpful.

      I don’t have a remote shutter release for my camera, but I usually just set the timer, which still ensures you’re not actually touching the camera when it begins taking the photo. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In reference to your full size tripod, I have a mini tripod made of 10″ long bendable metal/wire legs….. fits in your pocket and works well but you may have to find a suitable elevated place to set it….. the full sized tripod is much too cumbersome……

      I have a mini one like that, too (though the bendy legs on mine are only about 5 or 6 inches long). Right now my big tripod (which folds up to be just over a foot long) IS packed, but I may take it out before I leave depending on the weather forecast.

    I love “What’s in my bag” posts. Your large travel bag looks really cute, I love the color.

      I always find myself clicking on these sorts of “what’s in my bag” posts, so I figured I’d try writing one myself! I love the planning part behind traveling, and packing is definitely included in that!

      And thanks! I found that bag and knew it would be perfect for traveling.

        How many days is this for Amanda? When I packed for NZ, I overpacked and took crap that I didn’t need and I want to do a better job at that. I’m planning another trip next January….that’s if the world doesn’t end before that ๐Ÿ™

          This is only for 6 days. I know it looks like a lot, but it’s still very much winter in Iceland, and winter clothing (especially boots and coats!) takes up a LOT of room. I also wanted to make sure to take more than 1 pair of pants and extra socks in case I get wet. I plan to pack somewhat lighter for this summer!

            Actually it doesn’t look like a lot for 6 days!

              Haha, no? I was expecting to have seasoned backpackers telling me I’m taking way too much! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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