The Ultimate Packing List for Iceland, According to Tour Guides

Here’s our list of the best gear, accessories, and clothing for an Iceland trip.

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Ultimate Packing List for Iceland, According to Tour Guides

Rei / Amazon

There’s no other country in the world quite like Iceland. From chasing waterfalls during the day to hunting for the northern lights at night, there’s so much the island has to offer visitors. It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise, which means you need to be prepared for everything Arctic Mother Nature throws at you.

I road-tripped around Iceland in October and, although I thought I was prepared for the weather, I should have been a bit more thorough in my packing list. To help you avoid my costly mistakes, we chatted with the co-owner of tour company Hidden Iceland, Ryan Connolly, and general manager of Intrepid DMC Europe, Kristijan Svajnzger, to get recommendations for must-have packing items. Keep reading to find our comprehensive guide to packing for a trip to Iceland, as well as tips and tricks for getting the most out of your visit to the island. 

Packing Checklist for a Trip to Iceland

Below, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about packing for your next trip to the land of fire and ice. From clothing and shoes to accessories and luggage, use our complete packing list so you arrive prepared to enjoy everything Iceland has to offer. 

Clothing

Shoes

Accessories

Luggage and Bags

Our Top Picks

Clothing

When packing clothes for Iceland, it’s imperative that you take common weather conditions into consideration. While there are lots of indoor activities, the majority of landmarks are outside so arriving equipped for rain, shine, or snow is the best way to stay safe and warm while visiting. “Because of that gulf stream and winter, you get cold days and then there will be other days where, believe it or not, you could be in a T-shirt,” Connolly says.

To start, focus on clothing that will keep you warm and dry like thermal underwear and fleece layers, and then move on to packing outerwear like waterproof pants, jackets, shoes, and gloves. “First, have lots of layers and most of them should be waterproof — no question about that,” Svajnzger stresses.

Best Waterproof Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Jacket

REI

Both of our Iceland experts are in agreement that a waterproof jacket is essential for visiting the country. The women's Patagonia Torrentshell jacket is water- and windproof, which is ideal for weather in Iceland that can often be both damp and windy; it also comes in an identical men's option. “When it's windy, it's windy, like there are limitations on vehicles which can drive,” Svajnzger says. “For example, tourist buses and stuff like that, if it's very windy, are not allowed to drive because they can get toppled over.”

Price at time of publish: $149 (women) or $149 (men)

Best Fleece Layer

Cotopaxi Abrazo Half-Zip Fleece Jacket

Cotopaxi Abrazo Half-Zip Fleece Jacket

Cotopaxi

Connolly explained that while the weather temperature in Iceland varies by season, you’ll always want to pack layers like this fleece half-zip from Cotopaxi, which comes in an option for women or for men. “Except for the number of layers that you're wearing, and maybe the thickness of some of them, winter is not that different from summer or autumn and spring,” he says. It’s important to visit prepared for warmer and colder days so bringing a lightweight fleece layer is ideal for staying warm.

Price at time of publish: $110 (women) or $110 (men)

Best Rain Pants

Marmot PreCip Eco Pant

Marmot PreCip Eco Pant

Backcountry

Trust me, you will be miserable without a pair of waterproof or water-resistant pants in Iceland. I didn’t wear mine on a hike thinking it wouldn’t rain and guess what? It rained and I was miserable. These Marmot men’s and women’s rain pants are made out of 100 percent recycled nylon and will certainly keep your legs dry and warm in return.

Price at time of publish: $80 (women) or $80 (men)

Best Thermal Underwear

TSLA Thermal Underwear Set

Thermal Underwear Set

TSLA

A basic set of thermal underwear is exactly what you need to wear under your outerwear to stay warm and dry while you’re enjoying your Icelandic adventure. Connolly recommends wearing a pair of long underwear made of a synthetic material that has moisture-wicking abilities like this men's set of polyester thermal underwear from Amazon (which also comes in women's). “Anything made of cotton on the bottom layer is not good for wicking away sweat. So that kind of bottom layer staying warm and close to your skin keeps the insulation really well,” he shares.

Price at time of publish: $34 (women) or $40 (men)

Best Fleece-lined Leggings

Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Fleece Tight

4.5
Lululemon Fast and Free High-rise Fleece Tight

Lululemon

I wore these fleece-lined leggings every day I was in Iceland and I was pleased that the water-resistant fabric prevented my legs from getting wet during a hike where it began to drizzle at the end. They’re also extra warm under a pair of waterproof pants on extra-chilly days as needed.

Price at time of publish: $138

Best Packable Jacket

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0

REI

Depending on the temperature outside, you may or may not need all the layers you bring but the most important thing is having them on hand just in case. These REI Co-op packable men's and women's puffer jackets are the perfect layer to toss in your day pack or rental car when you leave your hotel for the day. They’re compact and will add an extra layer of insulation and warmth for a day of exploring the island.

Price at time of publish: $100 (women) or $100 (men)

Best Parka

Tentree Daily Parka

Tentree Daily Parka

Moosejaw

Whether you’re visiting the Saga Museum or searching for the aurora borealis, a parka is one of the best outer layer pieces to bring to Iceland. The Tentree Daily Parka (for women and for men) is made with water-resistant, 100 percent-recycled polyester and it has cozy insulation to protect you from the wind chill in Iceland.

Price at time of publish: $328 (women) or $328 (men)

Best Swimsuit

Cupshe Women's Bikini

CUPSHE Women's Bikini

Amazon

Although it feels weird to pack a swimsuit for the Arctic, you won’t want to forget an option like this Cupshe bikini (or these Kanu Surf Swim Trunks). Iceland is home to dozens of natural hot springs, including the Blue Lagoon, which is one of National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world. “When you come to Iceland, one of the main things you’ll want to do is the Blue Lagoon and then you have another one called the Sky Lagoon, which is a newer one that's also an amazing experience,” Svajnzger says.

Price at time of publish: $30 (bikini) or $20 (trunks)

Best Socks

Smartwool Classic Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

Smartwool Classic Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks

REI

Bringing a pair of thick, wool socks are the best way to prevent your toes from getting cold, and these Smartwool hiking socks (for men and for women) are a solid option for hiking or sightseeing. We love that Smartwool uses recycled nylon material and wool that is ZQ-certified, meaning the wool is sourced ethically and sustainably from the farm to the final production of each pair.

Price at time of publish: $22 (women) or $22 (men)

Best Sweater

Quince Women's Mongolian Cashmere Crewneck Sweater

Quince Mangolian Crewneck Sweater

Quince

After a day of sightseeing, you may want to unwind with a nice meal at one of the many delicious restaurants scattered between the island’s cities. A cashmere sweater (like these from Quince in men's and women's sizes) is the perfect cozy layer that looks dressier than a fleece jacket, but will still keep you warm.

Price at time of publish: $50 (women) or $60 (men)

Best T-shirt

Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer T-Shirt

Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer T-Shirt

REI

While outer layers are certainly important to stay warm, you can’t forget about a basic tee to wear under your outerwear. The Smartwool Merino Base Layer T-shirts (for men and for women) are the perfect base layer for regulating temperature on cold days and for wicking away moisture from hiking or other high-intensity activities where you might sweat a lot.

Price at time of publish: $75 (women) or $75 (men)

Shoes

Our experts both emphasized the importance of having waterproof shoes in Iceland year-round. Whether you’re hiking on a glacier, walking behind a waterfall, or strolling through the city center, dry feet will make your experience much more enjoyable. However, if you stumble upon one of Iceland’s off-the-beaten-path thermal pools, having a pair of flip-flops to slide on will be more comfortable than putting your wet feet back into socks and boots.

Best Hiking Boots

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots

La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

REI

Because the majority of activities in Iceland are outdoor in nature, Svajnzger says it’s crucial to have a pair of sturdy shoes like hiking boots. “Almost nothing is indoor and you need proper footwear. There is a lot of loose rock, gravel, volcanic rocks, [and] sharp edges so footwear is essential,” Svajnzger says. These lace-up La Sportiva hiking boots (for men and for women) have a leather upper lined with the brand’s Gore-Tex, Nano-cell mesh membrane for superior waterproofness along with that durable stability.

Price at time of publish: $229 (women) or $229 (men)

Best Flip-flops

Crocs Classic II Flip Flops

Crocs Classic II Flip Flops

Amazon

A pair of flip-flops is also essential if you plan to visit one of Iceland’s many thermal pools. Connolly says that “these will all be very handy when you find a random hot pool in the middle of nowhere. And there's no good changing rooms so if you find one that's just outdoors, then a nice pair of flip flops will probably keep your feet from soaking wet and freezing immediately.”

Price at time of publish: $25 for size 9 (Women's)/7 (Men's)

Best Walking Boots

Blundstone Women's BL500 Original 500 Chelsea Boot

Blundstone Women's Originals Chelsea Boots

Blundstone

Whether you’re walking through Rekjavik’s city center or driving Ring Road, a pair of versatile Blundstone boots are a must-pack. My boyfriend and I wore our waterproof Blundstones for sightseeing, light hiking, and going out to a nice dinner in Reykjavik.

Price at time of publish: $200 for women's size 7.5 in black

Best Walking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Zappos

The Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoes (for men or for women) are ideal walking shoes for Iceland with their waterproof uppers and sturdy Vibram rubber sole. If you don’t want to wear a bulky hiking shoe, these sneaker-like walking shoes provide the same waterproofness as a hiking boot but don’t take up as much space in a suitcase.

Price at time of publish: $135 (women) or $135 (men)

Accessories

No matter what time of year you’re visiting, it’s important to be equipped with all the small accessories that make a big difference during your stay. For example, Iceland can have up to 24 hours of sunlight in the summer and, while your accommodations might have black-out curtains, consider bringing an eye mask to ensure the bright rays won’t disrupt your sleep. Iceland also uses a type “C” adapter for plugging in electronics so you’ll want to pack a few outlet adapters as well.

Best Quick-dry Towel

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel

4.3
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel

Amazon

Iceland has plenty of thermal pools to enjoy and, while some of the more popular ones like the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon include towels, ones off the beaten track won’t have towels on hand. Your best bet is to keep a quick-drying pick like this tested-and-approved Rainleaf towel in your backpack at all times just in case you want to take a dip.

Price at time of publish: $15 for size small

Best Hiking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

REI

If you’re planning on hiking with a group tour, you’ll likely get certain gear like hiking poles or crampons through the tour company. For self-guided hikers, consider bringing a pair of portable and easy-to-pack hiking poles like these Black Diamond ones. They break down to a length that easily fits in a checked bag (as they’re banned from carry-ons), and they’re made with lightweight aluminum and cork for little added weight.

Price at time of publish: $140

Best Gloves

The North Face Apex+ Insulated Etip Glove

The North Face Men's Apex+ Insulated Etip Glove

Amazon

I didn’t bring a pair of gloves to Iceland and, while it wasn’t too cold in October, I would still recommend bringing a pair. My hands got really cold during a windy volcano hike when it started raining and that’s when I wished I had a pair of gloves like The North Face Apex+ gloves (for women or for men) in my day pack. They’re water- and wind-resistant, making them the perfect shield for when the Icelandic weather takes a turn.

Price at time of publish: $60 (women) or $60 (men)

Best Beanie

Carhartt Knit Cuffed Beanie

Carhartt Men's Knit Cuffed Beanie

Amazon

Keep your noggin protected from the cold with a cozy beanie like this knit one from Carhartt. Even if it looks nice and sunny out, the weather in Iceland can change quickly so having a hat with you just in case can be a game-changer for staying warm.

Price at time of publish: $20

Best Eye Mask

Sutera Hydroluna Silk Eye Mask

Sutera Hydroluna Silk Eye Mask

Sutera

Visiting Iceland in the summertime? Consider bringing an eye mask to avoid the bright sun from trickling in and disrupting your sleep. “Especially [with] 24-hour sunlight in summer…having a sleeping mask helps with the light coming through the windows. Even with the blackout curtains, they don't really block the sun out,” Connolly explains. I prefer the soft and comfy Sutera silk eye mask which also works to eliminate bright city lights at home and on red-eye flights.

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Outlet Adapters

BESTEK Worldwide Travel Plug Adapter

Travel Plug Adapter

BESTEK

Whenever you travel to another country, it’s important to double-check which kind of outlet you’ll find in your hotel room. Iceland, like most European countries, uses the standard Euro-plug or C-shaped adapter that’s different from the A-shaped outlet used in the U.S. This set of two converters has outlet prongs for over 150 countries including those in Iceland, Australia, and Japan.

Price at time of publish: $12

Best Water Bottle

Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle Flexible Water Bottle

4.2
Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle

Platypus

Both of our experts stressed the importance of reducing your consumption of single-use products while visiting Iceland by using a reusable water bottle. “Bring a water bottle and don't buy plastic water [bottles]...because you can drink the water and it will taste the same. It has a slight sulfuric taste but it's probably one of the cleanest waters you can [get],” Svajnzger shares. The Platypus DuoLock SoftBottle is one of the best water bottles we’ve tried and it’s lightweight enough to carry around with you during all of your Icelandic adventures.

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Neck Gaiter

Smartwool Merino 250 Neck Gaiter

Smartwool Merino 250 Neck Gaiter

REI

Because of the strong winds that can occur throughout the country, Connolly recommends that visitors stray away from bringing scarves or umbrellas that can easily be taken by the gusts. Instead, he prefers a buff or a neck gaiter that stays secure around your neck like the Smartwool Merino 250 Neck Gaiter. I use this one to ski in the winter and it always keeps my neck warm and toasty.

Price at time of publish: $32

Best Sunglasses

Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Sunglasses

Ray-ban Original Wayfarer

Amazon

No matter the season, you’ll be thankful to have a pair of UV protection sunglasses with you. “Sunglasses are something that you would absolutely need in summer,” Connolly says, “but weirdly, in April, October, and even in the middle of winter, the sun is always so low in the sky. If it's shining directly on you, you're going to be driving directly toward the sun for hours.” You can’t go wrong with a pair of classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses with UV-protective coating and a sharp crystal lens.

Price at time of publish: $213 for 50mm

Best Sunscreen

EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF50

EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF50

Even in rain or shine, the rays in Iceland are still strong enough to cause sun damage to your skin. Connolly shared that it’s easy to forget sunscreen when you’re enjoying all the nature Iceland has to offer but it’s imperative to “sunscreen up. Always,” he adds. The EltaMD SPF 50 sunscreen is designed for outdoor activities and it comes in a compact 3-ounce bottle so it’s TSA-approved and easy to travel with.

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Portable Wifi Hotspot

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

Amazon

I rented a car in Iceland and did a lot of self-drive tours to hike and sightsee, and having a portable Wi-Fi device was a life saver. While a physical map is helpful to have in the car, too, I found that it was ideal to have access to the internet to research destinations and restaurants along the way. Keep in mind that you’ll have to add a data plan to this mobile hotspot, but it isn’t carrier-specific so it’s a breeze to add one.

Price at time of publish: $170

Luggage and Bags

While it ultimately depends on how long you’re planning to stay in Iceland, we recommend two T+L tested and approved suitcases to make packing a breeze. For long-weekend trips to Iceland, carry-on luggage will likely hold everything you need and the Travelpro Platinum Carry-on is your best bet for a durable and spacious cabin-approved piece of luggage. If you’re planning on visiting the island for over a week, opt for our favorite checked suitcase, the Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Spinner for extra room. Don’t forget to check your airline’s bag restrictions and fees to make your travels smoother when you arrive at the airport.

Best Carry-on

Travelpro Luggage Platinum Elite 21-inch Expandable Carry-on Spinner Suiter

4.7
Luggage Platinum Elite 21” Expandable Carry-on

Amazon

While I’m generally not a light packer, I was able to fit everything I needed for a four-day trip to Iceland in a carry-on suitcase. The best softsided bag we tried during our carry-on luggage tests, we love that this suitcase has expandable zippers to add more room in the main compartment as needed.

Price at time of publish: $370

Best Checked

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels

4.8
Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels, Charcoal

Amazon

If you’re planning to spend a week or longer in Iceland, a checked bag might be the only way to fit all of your warm layers and accessories. This Samsonite suitcase is our favorite checked bag we’ve tested thanks to its spacious interior and sturdy polycarbonate exterior.

Price at time of publish: $310

Best Day Backpack

Exped Typhoon 15 Pack

Exped Typhoon 15 Pack

REI

For storing extra layers, snacks, or water, a day pack like this Exped one is essential. And, yes, you guessed it: The bag is completely waterproof. It features a waterproof lining and top-rolling opening to help you avoid a soggy mess on your hands after a day of hiking or sightseeing.

Price at time of publish: $80

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the weather like in Iceland for each season?

    The weather in Iceland is a bit all over the place, making it particularly difficult to pack. “You can actually experience all four seasons in one day… you're gonna get a snowstorm on the same day; you're gonna see the aurora borealis. So, that's why it's important to be properly clothed when you go there,” Svajnzger stresses.

    Because Iceland is located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, you can expect temperatures of 30 to 33 degrees F in the winter and up to 70 degrees F in the summer, with humidity and wind chill thrown into the mix as well. “Iceland is never as cold as people think. And it's probably never as hot as people think as well,” Connolly explains.

  • What’s the difference between water-resistant and waterproof gear?

    When you’re buying clothing for a trip to Iceland, you’ll want to look for gear that is advertised as waterproof, not just water-resistant. Waterproof means that the clothing is designed to repel water no matter how much rain or water is getting on the outerwear. Water-resistant means that the fabric can ward off a certain amount of water but eventually it will seep through.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

T+L commerce writer Anna Popp tests and writes about the best travel products to make your travels easier. Anna visited Iceland in October 2022 and used her own experience packing and traveling in Iceland to write the article. She also consulted two tour guides who are experts in all things Iceland to give tips and tricks on how to best pack for your next trip to the island.

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