Without a doubt, Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever visited and one of my favourite destinations ever. Not only are the people a happy, smiling bunch but the food is yummy and the landscape is breathtaking. If you haven’t thought of visiting this magical place before, do some research because it really is a ‘must-do’.
I recently shared a blog post about my Icelandic road trip and a guide on things to do and see in Reykjavik and beyond. One of the hard parts of planning for the trip was deciding what to pack! I come from Brisbane, where our winter temperatures hover just above the Icelandic summer temperatures. Ruh-roh. Unfortunately, airlines don’t take too kindly to you packing 50kg worth of thermal underwear, so not only do you have to pack appropriately for your trip to Iceland… you also have to pack smart!
What you pack will depend heavily on the time of year you visit, so please keep that in mind when reading the list below. It’s also really important to take into account your own health concerns, as the temperatures can get very low.
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland and have no idea what to pack, I’ve put together this quick guide to help you! If you’ve been to Iceland before and have some more tips, please share in the comments below.
But first, watch our Iceland for first-timers video!
What is the weather like and when should I visit?
We visited in July, which falls during the Iceland summer season. The average temperature in the southern parts of Iceland, where we visited, is 10 – 13°C (50–55 °F) and a warm summer day can reach 20–25 °C (68–77 °F). If you are planning on visiting in colder months, the average temperature in winter is around 0°C (32°F).
Low Season: October to April makes travel by road a little more difficult as a number of roads may close due to bad weather. However, the cold does bring with it the possibility of spotting the Northern Lights and fun winter activities like skiing and visiting ice caves.
Shoulder: May and September are on the shoulder of the high season, which makes them a better time to visit if you’re travelling on a budget. The weather is still a little cold, with occasional snow, but the days are longer.
High Season: June to August is the high season and when visitors flock to Iceland, particularly Reykjavik. Accommodation prices increase and it can be expensive and difficult to find somewhere to stay, as we found. But the endless daylight and summer festivals really do make it a beautiful time to visit.
What should I pack?
Warm clothing: You should pack a fleece jacket, woollen sweaters, chunky knitwear and other warm items you can layer, like scarves and singlets/vest tops. Warm legwear is important too, ladies may like to think about packing thick stockings to layer under jeans, and thermal underwear is a good idea. It’s important to pack good quality, warm socks as well as gloves and a beanie. These are especially important to have for outdoor activities like boat tours and glacier hikes. I would also recommend packing one very thick, very warm coat that is, preferably, waterproof.
Smart clothing: The people of Reykjavik are very fashionable! So, if you’re planning on having a nice dinner out you should pack one or two smart outfits to dress up a little bit. Just make sure you can swaddle yourself in warm clothing over the top. If you’re looking for tips on where to eat, visit my Roadtrip Guide post.
Comfortable footwear: Things get pretty slippery when you’re walking up to a waterfall as the gravel and rocks get very wet, so it’s important you wear sensible shoes that have good traction. Not only that, but they should be closed-in to keep your feet warm. Because your shoes can get wet quite easily, it might be a good idea to look at waterproof shoes of some sort or packing a spare pair to change into so you aren’t stuck in freezing cold shoes if your feet get wet.
Swimwear: If you are planning on visiting the thermal pools, which you really should, you’ll need your swimmers to get in. Don’t forget to pack aqua-ear medicine, goggles, swimming cap or whatever else it is you usually like to swim with.
SunSmart gear: You’ll need sunglasses, as it gets quite hazy, and you should pack a hat and sunscreen with high SPF. I always recommend the Cancer Council’s sunscreen. Remember, sunscreen is only as good as its user and it’s up to you to reapply during the day to ensure you don’t get burned. It may sound odd, but it’s important to be sun smart and just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean UV rays aren’t getting through the clouds.
Medicine bag: Pack a small medicine bag with all your prescription medicines and essentials, just in case you become ill late at night or can’t find a pharmacy. My kit always includes paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamine, cold and flu medicine, travel-sickness tablets, Imodium, Hydralyte, pocket tissues, band-aids, hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
Camera gear: If you have one, pack your GoPro as you’ll get some fantastic footage and photographs! I also recommend packing your tripod as there are some truly beautiful places you’ll want to capture to the very best of your ability. Consider packing a spare memory card as well.
Flashlight: Put a mini flashlight in your luggage, just in case you break down and it’s dark. This is especially important if you’re visiting during the winter months.
Day bag: Pack a smaller backpack or day bag you can throw all your gear into for day trips. You’ll probably need to carry a few things around with you, like water bottles, scarves, beanies, gloves, camera etc and will need somewhere to put those things while you’re exploring waterfalls.
Beauty products: You’ll need to pack beauty products that help you stay ahead of the cold. Things like a moisturiser, lip-balm for chapped lips, cracked heel balm and hand balm or moisturiser. I found my hands really dried out and started to hurt, so had to layer on Lush Ultra-balm to moisturise them.
Eyeshades: If you are visiting in summer you absolutely must pack eyeshades or an eye mask to help you sleep! The sun is always up. Always.
Thermos: I really recommend packing a thermos that you can fill up with tea or coffee. While you’re driving around you can pull over and have a lovely hot cup of tea or coffee in front of something beautiful, it’ll be a once in a lifetime experience and a great memory. You might also like to pack some snacks for your road trips and a throw rug from your hotel that you can snuggle up under while you have a picnic.
Power adaptors: In Iceland, they use the Europlug, which is the one with the two round prongs. You can check it out here. Be sure to pack an adaptor so you can charge all your electronics.
If you forget something: There are several outdoor apparel stores and second-hand clothing shops can be found in downtown Reykjavík along with Tiger, a budget variety store with cheap accessories like sunglasses, gloves, ear plugs, batteries, luggage accessories, phone chargers and more. Another good option for toiletries, clothing and other general items is Hagkaup, a large grocery and department store located at Kringlan shopping mall and in the Skeifan area of Reykjavík.
My packing tips and travel hacks
Power board: As freelancers, we travel with a lot of electronics so we can work on the road. This can mean two laptops, an iPad, two phones, a camera and a GoPro! If this sounds like you too, then you’re going to need more than one power point. Buy one power-point converter and take a power-board with multiple plug-ins on it. It makes life so much easier!
Plastic bags: Stash some large biodegradable plastic grocery bags and small sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes!
Tupperware: I use Tupperware or similar clear, hard plastic containers to organise my luggage. I use a separate small container for toiletries, jewellery and electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! This also ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab it in one easy swoop, keep things together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too.
Dryer sheets: Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip, easy! No more musty smelling clothes for you, my friend.
In the market for a new suitcase? Peep my review of the Lojel Cubo!
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.