If you’re like me, a trip to Iceland is a bucket list dream. I said yes to this trip so fast, it didn’t even occur to me what I was going to pack or how much gear I might need to purchase for this trip. But once my plane tickets to Iceland were purchased, I found myself staring at my closet wondering how to pack for Iceland.
I went back and forth a lot when I was choosing what to pack for Iceland. I had several priorities for my Iceland September packing list:
- Weather Appropriate – Our trip to Iceland is in the fall, when temperatures feel a lot like winter to this southern girl and I did not want to skimp on weather appropriateness in order to buy fewer clothing items or save space in my luggage. I focused on items to layer all together at the expense of having a wide variety of items to wear throughout the week.
- Compact – Packing winter items and lots of layers can be tricky when you have limited suitcase space.
- Budget Friendly – Iceland can be an expensive place to visit so I wanted to minimize my clothing expenses as much as possible.
- Cute and Colorful – Granted, this was my lowest priority, but I wanted my photos of Iceland to pop with colorful jackets. And I wanted to feel cute even while very bundled up.
These priorities felt like they were competing with each other just a bit. Top notch packable clothing is not always budget friendly and what I had in my closet was not necessarily weather appropriate for September and October in Iceland when it is cold and rainy.
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What to Pack for a Week in Iceland
Wool or Polyester, Not Cotton
One piece of advice I saw given over and over about Iceland was not to wear anything cotton or jean. Instead, you want fabrics that are moisture wicking or quick drying and that will help build warmth when worn in layers. If you get sweaty or rained on and your clothing doesn’t dry quickly, you will be very cold and miserable on your adventures in Iceland. My shirts are mostly cotton, so this piece of advice was a little stressful to hear. I bought a couple long sleeve quick dry athletic shirts and a fleece jacket since I don’t own any nice heavy sweaters.
Layering is the key to being warm and cozy when visiting Iceland. Your Iceland packing list should have shirts, sweaters, vests or fleece jackets, and coats you can zip up over all of these layers. This might require buying a new winter coat a size larger. We’ll get into more specific layering details below.
Waterproof Not Water Resistant
It rains a lot in Iceland, so having good rain gear is important. And not just a rain coat, you’ll want rain pants too! Additionally, it’s almost always windy, so if you’re near a waterfall or out on a boat tour, you’re likely to get pretty wet.
You want your photos of Iceland to pop, right? If you’re buying a new winter jacket for Iceland anyway, pick a bright color like red, yellow, or pink. The Icelandic landscapes are full of green, blue, black, and white if there’s snow, so I went with purple (my favorite color) for my 3-in-1 waterproof jacket and fleece and a mustard yellow for my packable down jacket.
Iceland Shopping List
Waterproof Jacket – I love this 3-in-1 waterproof ski jacket with fleece layer.
Mid-layer – Fleece pullover, vest, wool sweater, etc.
Quick Dry Shirt – I chose long sleeve athletic shirts, but if you’re going to Iceland in the summer, you might prefer short sleeves or even tanks.
Leggings – These leggings from Aerie are my favorite. Fleece lined leggings would also be a good choice for Iceland in the spring or fall.
Base Layers – I’m erring on the side of cold weather and I know I’ll wear these on Northern Lights night. I chose a polyester set, but you could also invest in a wool base layer top and wool leggings.
Wool Socks – Because nobody wants cold feet.
Sneakers – I love these Asics running shoes and have them in 2 colors. Make sure you can wear thick wool socks with these if you’re going in the spring or fall.
Hiking Buff – I did not take one of these, but some of my travel companions did. A buff sits higher on your neck than a scarf and can easily be pulled over your chin and mouth if it’s extremely cold and windy. It can also be worn in more of a headband style to keep your ears warm.
Winter Gloves – These are water resistant and have the touch screen fingers so you can use your phone while wearing them.
Swimsuit – This two piece set is so flattering!
Packing for Iceland
Now you know what to wear in Iceland, but how do you make all this fit into your suitcase? Here are 3 tips that made a HUGE difference in my Iceland packing list.
Like you saw above, you can consolidate your need for a winter coat, a raincoat, and a mid-layer item all into one 3-in-1 winter ski jacket. I also decided to wear my base layers as my pajama pants with a thin t-shirt instead of packing a separate pajama outfit. The more multi-purpose clothing items you can pack for your trip, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to zip up your suitcase.
Plan Your Airplane Outfit Carefully
They say to wear all your bulkiest items on the plane, but that’s not always completely practical. For example, I was not wearing my hiking boots on the plane. Those are not easy to take off and put back on in security! But that doesn’t mean you should choose an airplane outfit out of entirely new items either.
Here’s what I wore on the plane: long sleeve quick dry shirt, leggings, the fleece jacket piece of my 3-in-1 jacket, and sneakers. This outfit was not temperature appropriate for our departure city of Baltimore in September, but it wasn’t too bad in just the long sleeve shirt. And airports and airplanes are cold anyway.
I packed 2 pairs of leggings and wore 1 on the plane. I packed 1 long sleeve quick dry shirt and wore 1 on the plane. Same with my bra: pack 1, wear 1. I wore sneakers on the plane and packed my hiking boots. If you decide to take only one pair of shoes to Iceland (I don’t recommend this unless you’ve worn them a lot and they’re extremely comfortable), definitely make it hiking boots. Anytime rain is expected, you’ll want to have waterproof shoes and hiking boots will also keep your feet warmer than sneakers.
That said, it’s worth it to have duplicates of a couple of smaller items. I packed two swimsuits because our Airbnb had a hot tub and we planned to use it often. You might also like having a spare winter hat, pair of gloves, or set of wool socks.
Re-wearing your clothes (or handwashing overnight… it’s quick dry after all!) is a really practical way to cut down on your packing for Iceland. Besides, you won’t even see what you’re wearing under your coat in your photos anyway!
One quick note, though, that buying clothing locally is very expensive. Purchasing smaller items like socks, a hat, or gloves won’t break the bank, but don’t plan to buy larger winter gear items when you arrive or you might find yourself with a $600 winter coat.
How to Layer for Iceland
If you are planning a trip to Iceland in the spring, summer, or winter, here’s how I recommend layering your outfits. For reference, most days of our trip were a high of 40-50 Fahrenheit and I hate being cold.
Layering Bottoms for Iceland
On colder days, I started with a fleece-lined polyester base layer legging, also known as thermal underwear. Wool base layers would be an even better option, if you want to invest in winter weather gear. I topped that with my favorite black leggings.
Other days, I wore leggings with a pair of water resistant hiking pants to add on top as a rain layer or on windy days (like the night we were out watching the Northern Lights). I rolled these up and carried them in my backpack so I could put them on if it started raining.
Layering Tops for Iceland
For September in Iceland, I wore a long sleeve quick dry athletic shirt and a fleece jacket with a packable down jacket or a waterproof ski jacket on top. I also had the option to add a fleece lined base layer top under my long sleeve moisture wicking shirt.
Accessories for Iceland
A good winter outfit isn’t complete without your cold weather accessories. You’ll want to add a knit winter hat, warm scarf, thick wool socks, and good winter gloves with your layered outfits.
Iceland Gear to Pack
Sleep mask – Iceland in September has pretty ‘normal’ daylight hours, but if you’re going in the summer, you’ll probably want an eye mask.
Travel outlet adaptor – Works with the 4 main international outlet options. Iceland uses the European style plug, but this adaptor also works for the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Travel power strip – So I can charge all my devices at the same time.
Wetbag – For my swimsuit.
Quick dry towel – For taking to the hot springs.
Waterproof phone case – So I can take photos at the hot springs.
Waterproof camera cover – To protect my DSLR camera in light rain or near waterfalls.
Collapsible Travel Camera Tripod – I did not actually bring this, but I would have if we didn’t have a tour guide who could take group photos for us or if Ryan and I had been traveling alone. It’s sturdy enough for my DSLR and lens, but folds up really well to fit inside a carry-on suitcase. It also fits nicely in the side pocket of my camera backpack, but I’ve heard airlines don’t love tripods as a visible carry-on item, so I always put it inside my carryon suitcase.
The camera backpack I have is similar to this one with tripod pocket, side or top camera access, laptop sleeve, and a separate top compartment to pack other things in.
Now you know what to wear in Iceland! If you pack these 20 things you need for Iceland and follow these tips, you’ll feel prepared to have the adventure of a lifetime in Iceland.