What to Pack for Iceland in Winter (9 days)
Have you finally decided to book a trip to Iceland in winter and have no idea what to pack? You’re not alone. The land of fire and ice may literally blow you away if you aren’t prepared. Don’t fret. You’ve got me and a whole host of other blogs that will tell you exactly what to pack.
First off, Iceland in winter really isn’t as cold as you may think. In the southern regions, it can get to 0 and in the northern regions, temperatures can dip to -10. For those coming from warm weather year round, this may be a shock to your system. For me, I’m coming from a city nick named, ‘Winterpeg‘ – one of the coldest cities on the earth.
What to expect – weatherwise
The first thing you’ll probably come across on anything you read about Iceland is that it can be Windy AF. This is no joke. There were a couple of nights where the wind was howling so loud it was so difficult to sleep because we thought our cabin was going to blow away. It didn’t.
You’ll also read that the weather can change drastically so fast. One moment it’ll be dark and rainy, the next, it’ll be sunny and warm, and then it’ll be chilly with blowing snow. It’s pretty wild.
Although -10 may not seem cold to some, it isn’t especially when you’re hiking hours on end. But, when you’re chasing the northern lights and are sitting outside at night, it gets cold fast. So don’t be a tough guy and think jeans is enough to wear. Also, -10 feels much colder when there is wind.
The weather will definitely make the adventure that much more exciting and as long as you pack the right good quality gear, you’ll be fine. With this in mind, layering up your clothes will solve a ton of issues. Layering will help you adjust to the changes in weather as you can remove clothes when you get warm.
What to pack
If you’re like me, I’m not on vacation to impress people with what I wear and I am not a photographer so I’m not carrying a bunch of gear. I also travel quite minimally with just a carry-on luggage (I don’t want to pay extra for check-in because I am cheap). Check out the Osprey 40L backpack. I take it with me on all my trips. It opens up like a suitcase and it fits a load of stuff!
With that being said, the list below are necessities. The amount you bring of each item is entirely up to you. The spreadsheet you find at the bottom of this post is what I packed for my 9 day trip to Iceland in Winter.
1. Windproof/water resistant gloves.
When it rains, you’ll want your hands dry and warm. Having cold fingers is the worst. Bring two pairs just in case one pair soaks through. These gloves will allows you to operate your phone while keeping your fingers warm! There were a couple of times our toques, mitts, and boots sat near the heater to dry off for the night. Don’t cheap out.
2. Warm toque
I don’t think you need to go as far as getting earmuffs but I do suggest a lined toque for you head. We need to cover our heads just as much as we cover any other part of the body.
3. Neck tube
These are inexpensive pieces that will help keep your neck and face warm. They’re fairly thin but they do the job just fine. What’s great about this item is that it has multiple purposes: neck gaiter, face mask, a hood, and a headband.
I also brought along with me a Vinyasa Scarf. I bring this along with me on every trip because it is so versatile. It acts a scarf, a towel, a blanket, a shawl, and even a t-shirt. I very strongly recommend this product.
I had bought a bunch of super warm socks but didn’t really care for them because they made my feet too warm. I brought my soccer socks because they’re knee high and the rest were regular socks. If it gets too cold, you could layer up. I knew going in that we wanted to do a lot of hiking so I made we brought moisture wicking socks that had some padding as well.
5. Wind/Waterproof Jacket
A waterproof jacket (not just water resistant) is essential in your packing list for a winter getaway to Iceland. You will most definitely encounter rain, snow and being sprayed from waterfalls.
I went with a waterproof rain jacket and a thin lightweight down-filled jacket that I wore underneath. I also brought a cozy warm fleece if it were necessary. It rarely ever was. If you’re not into hiking much, then I would suggest a long warm jacket that covers your bum.
6. Wind/Waterproof Pants
Do not forget to bring waterproof pants. No one wants to wear damp pants. Your legs will freeze and you’ll have the worst time of your life.
I highly recommend the waterproof Precip pants from Marmot. These are waterproof, breathable and come in two lengths, Regular (I’m 5″2 and did not have to alter them) and Long. I layered a pair of sweats and long underwear under these and they were great and kept me dry! My friend brought a pair of thick ski pants that she never ended up using because the Precip was that great! I wear mine on my walk to work in the winter every day.
Aside from when we were in Reykjavik and Akureyri, I wore these pants every day – morning till evening. They are amazeballs.
7. Waterproof Boots
I was unlucky in this department. I had brought a pair of Sorels that I wore regularly on my walk to work and they kept my feet warm and dry. Before we left, I even sprayed them with protectant to be sure. After the second day, I had to leave my boots by the heater every night thereafter. My feet were not happy.
One of my friends wore a pair of Keen hiking boots, and the other Keen hiking shoes. Their feet were always dry and warm. Another friend wore these UGGs that kept her feet super dry and warm as well.
If you decide to bring a pair of hiking shoes (vs. boots) I suggest bringing a pair of gaiters in case you have to trudge through snow (there’s really not that much).
8. Long Underwear/Base layers
I cannot express the importance of layers. Long underwear or tights and long sleeve shirts such as these work well. These layers should be breathable and moisture wicking.
Merino wool products are great but can get pricey. Costco also has some fairly inexpensive merino blend options like the Paradox brand which I like to use.
Sweats and Sweaters. I don’t recommend jeans as they are heavy, slow to dry and not as comfortable as sweats. Long sleeve shirts and/or thin fleece zip-ups is more than enough to put over the baselayer.
10. Waterproof hiking backpack
I have yet to find a waterproof small backpack. Not a huge deal for this trip as you can just put everything into a large ziplock bag which you then stuff into your pack. I used something similar to this and although it is water resistant, my stuff got soaked during our 2 hour hike where it rained and snowed pretty heavily.
With all the hiking and explorations, a small backpack is quite necessary. You’ll want to carry snacks, a tiny first aid kit, your phone and wallet, a towel (if you go into a thermal pool) and be able to have a place to store your layers once you start getting warm.
11. Bathing suit and Towel
If you plan on going to the thermal pools or spa, which I highly recommend you do, you’ll need a bathing suit. Also, some places don’t provide towels it may be wise to bring a
- Face moisturzer with SPF
- chapstick – no makeup necessary (your face is covered by a scarf and toque anyways
- playing cards
- water bottle – water is safe to drink out of the tap. Save your money and the environment by not buying bottled water.
- packing cubes – these will save you so much room in your suitcase and keep things organized!
- snacks (if you’re wanting to save money and your bag has enough space, bring snacks – food is expensive in Iceland)
- crampons: (I never ended up using these)
- hand/toe warmers (not necessary but may be nice to have when outside at night)
- quick dry towel
- travel adapter – we brought one for all of us to use
- flip flops – if you’re staying in hostels or have shared bathroom facilities
- Useless things to bring: Umbrella, purse, hair straightener.
Pro tip: find a place mid way that has a washer/dryer
Here is what I packed for my 9 day trip to Iceland in Winter (February):
Don’t know what your budget is for you trip to Iceland? Check out my post on my budget breakdown of my 9 day trip to Iceland here.
Don’t know where to start with planning your itinerary for your trip to Iceland? Check this post to see the daily route and activities I planned for my friends and I on our 9 day trip to Iceland in the winter here.
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