Iceland has become one of the world’s top travel destinations, and with good reason. It’s a land of never-ending wonder. From milky, turquoise lagoons to bubbling geysers and rushing waterfalls to sprawling, grassy hills, the natural beauty is unmatched. If you’re planning a trip to this breathtaking country, or even a journey to Greenland, Northern Scandinavia, or Northern Canada, packing can be overwhelming. Here’s a packing list of all the essentials you won’t want to forget on your next trip to Iceland!
Ice cleats (only in colder months)
If you’re traveling to Iceland in the colder months, ice cleats are a must. If you live in a snowy climate, chances are you’re used to sidewalks and parking lots being lined with salt to prevent icy patches—that’s not the case here. Although not always mentioned on Iceland packing lists, ice cleats will soon become your favorite accessory, allowing you to walk anywhere and everywhere without slipping. You can always rent Ice Cleats when you arrive in Iceland, if you don't want to make them in your suitcase.
When packing clothes for Iceland, waterproof is key. You’re likely to hear the famous saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Iceland, just wait 5 minutes.” The climate is constantly changing, and it can rain at a moment’s notice—as it often does. Rain gear is extremely important, otherwise you’ll be sodden, cold, and miserable. A raincoat, waterproof hiking pants, and water resistant boots are all items you’ll want to bring, along with wool socks. Not only will wool socks regulate your temperature, but they’ll absorb and wick away moisture, keeping your toes dry. Cotton has the opposite effect, so leave those socks behind in favor of wool.
With so many sights to see in Iceland you’ll be doing a lot of walking, and a pair of hiking boots will make all the difference. Other kinds of shoes, such as athletic sneakers, will be no good on long journeys and are guaranteed to give you sore feet. Proper hiking boots will keep your feet warm and comfortable, giving you the endurance to make the most of your days. Pro tip: before you pack your bag for your trip to Iceland, wear your boots around the house with thick socks to break them in and ensure ultimate comfort.
When it comes to packing clothes, think layers, layers, layers. The unpredictable weather in Iceland can be difficult to dress for, but layers are the solution. Long sleeves, short sleeves, fleeces, and water and wind resistant jackets are the way to go. You should also invest in thermal base layers, especially if you’re traveling during the colder months. Thermal shirts and underwear will keep you warm and dry, and are easy to build upon.
In the summer in Iceland, the sun sets for just 4-5 hours a day (and only for 3 hours on the longest day of the year). Even when it sets, the sky is still painted with dusty colors, and it’s easy for your body to be thrown off by this endless sunlight (known as the midnight sun). To ensure a good night’s sleep, bring a sleep mask. It’ll help block out the rays and keep your system on schedule.
Iceland’s numerous natural hot springs are a favorite destination of many travelers. If you’re planning on relaxing in the toasty waters, make sure to pack a bathing suit.
If you’re traveling to Iceland from anywhere outside of Europe, you’ll need to pack a European power adaptor to charge your electronics. While you can usually find them in the airport and Icelandic shops, you’ll save some money if you buy one ahead of time.
No matter the season, it’s always important to protect yourself from the sun! Sunscreen is necessary year round in Iceland, as the sun is always out. Even though you may not think you need it in the winter, the sun is always a risk, especially when reflected off snow and ice. Packing sunglasses can be helpful too, to protect your eyes from UV rays and make hiking easier.
Reusable water bottle
It’s essential to stay hydrated, especially when doing any kind of physical activity. Pack a reusable water bottle so you can fill up on the go. Iceland’s tap water is pristine, so feel free to refill whenever possible.
A sturdy backpack will help you explore Iceland with ease, whether it’s a small day bag or a larger hiking rucksack. Think about how you plan on spending your time when choosing what kind of bag is best for you; smaller bags are ideal for day trips, but if you plan on doing a lot of hiking definitely invest in a good quality hiking bag. You’ll be able to fit everything you might need as you set out on exciting adventures.
If you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, the sun rises late and sets early. In midwinter, there’s only 5 hours of effective daylight. A flashlight is useful for everyday situations, and if you plan on hiking, you should strongly consider a headlamp. This hands-free option is much more convenient than a handheld flashlight and will allow you to clearly see in front of you.
Perhaps one of the most important additions to your luggage is a camera. Iceland is known for its year-round striking beauty and stunning views. Whether you’re marveling at the neon northern lights, gazing upon endless rolling hills, or standing beside a towering glacier, you’ll want your camera ready at all times!