It can be difficult to figure out what to wear in Iceland and piecing the perfect Iceland packing list can be an especially daunting task. Iceland has extreme weather conditions and even though it might be bright and sunny one minute, the next minute could bring an apocalyptic snowstorm with winds strong enough to transport you to Oz. It is very common to experience every season within the span of a few hours so what you would need to pack for your Icelandic adventure probably won’t vary much month-to-month.
Iceland actually has a fairly temperate climate due to the Gulf Stream current and there is only about a ten-degree Celsius difference between the coldest month of the year (January at an average high of 3°C (37ºF)) and the warmest (July at an average high of 13°C (55ºF)). Long story short, it gets chilly in Iceland and you need to pack accordingly. Luckily, I’m here to help.
What to Wear in Iceland in November, December, January, February, and March
There really is no time of the year where travelling to Iceland is a bad idea, but each season offers its own set of benefits. If you plan to visit during the months of November, December, January, February, and March it’s going to be the coldest and darkest time of year to visit, but you also are going to have the greatest chance of seeing the Northern Lights during these months.
Like I mentioned earlier, the temperature doesn’t vary extremely season-to-season in Iceland, but it’s always good to know the average highs and lows for the months. If you’re going to be visiting Iceland in late autumn and winter, don’t expect the temperatures to reach much higher than about 5°C (41ºF) and that’s only if you’re incredibly fortunate. The lows during these months can drop as low as -3ºC (27ºF) and that is not factoring the freezing wind-chill factor.
If you’re wondering what to wear in Iceland in November, December, January, and February, the best piece of clothing you can bring is a good, sturdy wind-proof and waterproof jacket (click here for a men’s option or browse on REI). The other piece of advice I can give is to make sure you pack a number of lighter tops and leggings that you can layer under your clothes. Layers will keep you a lot warmer than just one heavy coat as they create friction.
Make sure that you bring a couple of pairs of light-weight thermal underwear (for a men’s version, click here) to wear underneath all of your clothes. Wearing two layers on your legs and as many as are comfortable on your body will keep you as warm as possible.
Sturdy, waterproof boots are also essential to wear in Iceland, as it rains and snows frequently during these months. There is nothing that could take away from the experience of seeing the natural beauty of Iceland more than cold, wet feet. These boots are a great option (click here for men’s or browse on REI).
What To Wear In Iceland In April, May, June, July, August, September, and October
To be completely honest, if you’re wondering what to wear in Iceland in spring, summer, or autumn, it doesn’t change much from what to wear in Iceland in winter. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the climate stays largely the same throughout the year.
If you’re travelling to Iceland outside of the winter months, you can expect it to be marginally warmer (only about 5 – 10ºC warmer, depending on the season) and the days will, undoubtedly, be longer. Travelling during this time also limits your likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights.
Even if the weather is a bit warmer than in the winter, it is still very windy and can always be rainy in Iceland, which will make it feel colder than it actually is. So, make sure you pack plenty of layers so you can stay as warm as possible, but also strip off if you get too toasty.
What to Pack for Iceland in Winter or Summer
These are the essentials that you’re going to need whatever the season. Probably the best rule of thumb to stick by for any Iceland packing list is that practicality trumps fashion. It’s better to be prepared for the extreme weather that this island nation can throw at you than to look super cute in incredibly impractical clothing. This is what I brought on our one week trip through Southern Iceland, but it could just as easily last you for a longer time period.
- 3-4 long-sleeved t-shirts (men’s click here)
- I would strongly suggest at least a couple of these shirts be thermal base layers to keep you nice and toasty
- 2-3 pairs of pants
- Jeans or warm hiking pants will do
- 3-4 pairs of leggings/thermal pants (men’s click here)
- You will want to wear these under your jeans, believe me. If you can get fleece-lined leggings they would keep you extra warm!
- 1-2 flannel shirts
- A nice, warm outer layer to wear over a long-sleeved t-shirt shirt. Add bonus is that it’s easy to strip it off if you get too warm.
- 1 warm sweater
- Preferably wool — it stays warm even when wet!
- 1 swimsuit
- Iceland has a lot of hot springs and geothermally heated pools so you’re going to want one!
- 5-10 pairs of underwear. Include a couple of pairs of thermal underwear (men’s click here)in winter!
- Really depends on your trip length and if/how much you want to do laundry.
- 2 bras
- For women, either two sports bras or 1 regular and one sports. Depends on how active you plan to be.
- 5-10 pairs of socks (men’s click here)
- Get warm, thick (preferably wool) socks. You won’t regret it.
- 1 pair of PJ’s
- Bonus for cosy flannel!
Accessories and Outerwear
- 1 fleece pullover (men click here)
- A good outer layer
- Also available on REI here
- 1 Ultra-Light Down jacket (for men’s click here)
- I swear by these jackets for travelling everywhere, they’re super lightweight, pack down really small, and very warm.
- 1 waterproof/windproof jacket (click here for a men’s version)
- This might be the most important thing on this Iceland packing list. Something of good quality that is wind and water resistant will be your saviour and you’ll wear it every day. Trust me.
- It is also available on REI here
- 1 fleece-lined beanie
- This will keep you warm when the freezing Icelandic winds pick up!
- 1 pair of fleece-lined gloves
- If there is one thing I regret from my own Iceland packing list is that I didn’t bring a good pair of gloves. My hands were freezing a lot of the time and it was unpleasant. Learn from my mistakes.
- 1 pair of waterproof hiking boots (men, click here).
- These are really the only shoes you will absolutely need, especially considering most of the sites in Iceland require at least some walking through snow/mud.
- They are also available on REI for women and men
- 1 pair of rubber flip flops
- Perfect for the showers at the pool and in hostels.
- Camera + extra battery
- You’re going to be taking a lot of photo’s in Iceland, and that’s going to suck up your camera battery pretty fast. Best to have an extra, fully charged battery so you don’t miss out on a great shot!
- Michael is the photographer among us and he travels with a Sony A6000. It’s a mirrorless camera that is lightweight and a good entry-level camera for budding photographers.
- If you’re travelling in the months of October – April, you’re probably going to want to spot the Northern Lights. Make sure you have a light so you can easily find your way.
- Power bank
- This is especially useful if you’re camping, but it’s really a great thing to take travelling anywhere to make sure that all your devices stay charged!
- Universal plug adaptors
- I use this adaptor for all my travels and it has two USB ports meaning you can charge multiple things overnight!
- Small first aid kit
- I recommend packing this, particularly if you plan to do a lot of hiking!
- Lotion/hand cream
- The cold, windy climate in Iceland means that it gets really dry, and so will your hands! We learned this the hard way and spend £15 on petrol station hand cream. Learn from our mistake and bring some from home.
- Lip balm with SPF
- For the same reason you’re going to want hand cream, lip balm will also be essential for your Iceland packing list. Get one with SPF to protect your lips from the sun’s harmful glare!
- Packing Cubes (also available on REI)
- These are great for packing down your items. I never travel without them!
- Microfibre towel
- These towels pack down small and are super light-weight and quick drying. Super handy if you’re planning on hiking to some hot springs!
- Reusable water bottle
- You can drink the tap water in Iceland so help the environment and bring your own water bottle!
It can be tricky trying to figure out what to bring and what to wear in Iceland, but this list should be sufficient to keep you warm and toasty no matter the season! Just remember that it’s best to pack for all seasons because, among many other things, Iceland is famous for its constantly changing weather patterns!
Have you been to Iceland? Are you planning a trip? What was/is on your Iceland packing list? Let us know in the comments!