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A Packing List for Iceland | Don't Ever Look Back

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A Packing Guide For Iceland

A Packing Guide For Iceland

Although our visit to Iceland was booked months ago, we didn’t have the appropriate gear in our packing lists for our visit. The plan was to buy all of it in New York City but then it hit us…

What the hell do we pack for over a week in Iceland?!

We usually stay indoors when the mercury drops below 10 degrees Celsius back home in Melbourne, however our time in Reykjavik had plenty of outdoor activities involved such as whale watching and frolicking on a glacier.

Standing in the snow during our Mountain Taxi tour

Keeping warm in the snow during our Mountain Taxi tour

A couple of weeks before our scheduled arrival in Iceland, we jumped online to do our research but couldn’t find any conclusive lists on what to pack. Some said you definitely needed to bring waterproof pants while others disagreed. After spending time in Iceland, the two of us can now compile a definitive packing guide for Iceland and tell you exactly what needs to be in your luggage for a visit there.

Thermal TopThermals

A long-sleeved thermal top is absolutely essential and the two of us never went outside without wearing one. We both wore North Face Base Layer Crew Neck shirts and they served us very well.

We also took along thermal bottoms but found that these weren’t really needed unless you are planning on spending extensive time outside. They were great for our whale watching tour but we survived all of our other activities without them.

Beanie worn by AmyAccessories – Scarf/Beanie/Gloves

These cold weather accessories helped keep us warm during our time in Iceland. Like with our thermal tops, we rarely went outside without our beanie and scarf on. We highly recommend buying a beanie with fleece lining to keep your head warm and a thermal scarf (such as the North Face Denali Thermal Scarf) to fight off the windchill.

As for gloves, woolen ones that you can wear everyday are highly recommended. We only took waterproof gloves which became somewhat troublesome when trying to do things such as taking photos.

Warm SocksWarm Socks

Have you ever been happy with cold feet? From our experience it’s a quick recipe for misery! A warm winter sock is one of the most important things on your packing list for Iceland – it’s vital to keep your feet warm and toasty when it’s cold outside. The two of us both wore over-the-calf socks from Burton and they worked brilliantly!

These are an investment so be sure to buy more than one pair – it doesn’t take long before they start smelling a little. We learned this lesson the difficult way.

Waterproof ShoesWaterproof Shoes

The only pair of shoes both of us had were our Nike running shoes which just don’t cut it in Iceland. If you’re walking outdoors, you’ll be treading through puddles, dirt, mud and who knows what – and you’ll be thankful when your waterproof shoes fight all of these off.

If you don’t have waterproof shoes yet and need them for your trip to Iceland, we suggest getting a pair of boots that support the ankle and that have good grip.

Waterproof JacketWaterproof Jacket

Don’t even think about visiting Iceland without a waterproof jacket! There’s a saying in Iceland that goes “If you don’t like the weather right now, just wait five minutes” – even if it looks sunny, you could face a sudden downpour just a few minutes later. Sometimes that rain comes horizontally when the weather is really bad (rendering an umbrella useless) – so please, please bring a good waterproof jacket with you.

As for other items we bought, we both took waterproof pants to Iceland which came in somewhat useful. However you can certainly get away without bringing them as most of the people on our tours wore jeans (and some tour companies also provide waterproof gear if required).

We haven’t included the rest of our packing list here as it’s irrelevant – if you possess these 5 things on your visit to Iceland, you’ll definitely be prepared for anything that Mother Nature throws your way.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

For those of you who have traveled in cold climates before, what else would you bring?

Images courtesy of The North Face and Burton Snowboards. These are products we actually wore during our time in Iceland and paid full retail price for.


  1. Posted November 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    This is really helpful, guys. I always travel to cold climates and think I can just get by with layering, but it’s surprising how often I’m proven wrong. 😉
    Christy recently posted..Another Digital Nomad Goes to Chiang Mai

    • Posted November 24, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      That’s what we got told – layer, layer, layer. But ultimately, so long as we had our thermal top and jacket on we were usually ok!

  2. Posted November 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Really handy post guys. 🙂

    My question though: what about pants? I’ve been debating forking out for a pair of ski pants (how trendy of me!) because I fear jeans won’t cut it up there.

    (I think I’m also going to adapt this to “what to take when visiting the UK in January” =P)
    Nicole recently posted..So you want to be a Camp Counselor? – 5 Steps to Rockin’ a Camp Worthy Portfolio

    • Posted November 26, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      We made a little mention on waterproof pants underneath the jacket.

      You can definitely get away without them (ski pants are EXPENSIVE!) but they may come in useful if you’re going glacier walking or up into the mountains. Apart from that though, another pair of jeans would be more versatile.

  3. Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this you two. It’s extremely helpful! We are worried about taking big, heavy coats and then having to carry them around the world. Luckily, Chris’s mom might visit Iceland at the same time and she offered to take any of our heavy winter clothes back with her.
    Tawny recently posted..Score cool prizes for an awesome cause: Passports with Purpose

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Glad that it’s useful for you guys! I would say that you might be able to get away without a big heavy coat (in favor of a thick fleece jumper and waterproof jacket) however since you guys are visiting in Winter and have the option of sending it back, pack as warmly as you can. 🙂

  4. Posted March 14, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks guys, this has really helped us plan what we need for our trip to Iceland this year! You’re right, it’s not easy to find a list of must need items.

  5. alex
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink


    Quick question(s)!! When did you go to Iceland, which month? Any Northern Lights?

    • Posted August 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Hey Alex, we went to Iceland in late October so it was starting to get quite cold. Unfortunately our Northern Lights tour got cancelled due to bad weather (we were devastated!) but we hear that it’s a great time to be seeing them.

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