Throwing random clothes in a bag, hours before a flight, usually doesn’t work out well. I am notorious for doing this before trips, and one particular instance where I packed more pants than underwear sticks out in my memory. If you are headed to Iceland this summer, you don’t want to pack last minute. Rain jackets, wool socks, the right shoes or boots, and a host of other outerwear will be integral to your trip. To make your life simpler I have compiled the essentials that you will need on your journey in this Iceland summer packing list.
First, congratulations are in order: you are going to Iceland! You have made an excellent choice for a summer getaway. The sunshine seems infinite during the summer, the days are brisk and the nights are cool, but most importantly, summer is the best time to travel through Iceland. There is a reason that peak tourism is during summer. However, most people have a skewed version of this time of year. Ideas often include sweltering heat, tank tops, and shorts. The items mentioned above are indeed typical of summers in other countries, but not in Iceland.
While you will be visiting one of the most stunningly beautiful countries in the world, it’s weather can be unforgiving. It can go from being sunny with a slight breeze, to thunderstorms in the blink of an eye. Your clothes need to adapt to your environment. So, let us take a page from Toronto native, and hip-hop superstar, Drake’s book to “start from the bottom” and work our way up.
What to Pack for Iceland – Socks
Socks. They are like little sleeping bags for your feet. They are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping you warm. If you invest in anything, it should be a good pair of socks. The temperatures in Iceland can vary greatly. I highly recommend a decent pair of wool socks. The most popular socks are made from merino wool. Merino wool is incredible. It is a nonsensical, paradoxical, miracle material. When the weather is hot, it breathes well, when its cold it keeps you warm. Merino wool air dries quickly, wicks moisture well, and is durable. They may be a little more expensive, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Smart Wool is the go-to brand when it comes to merino wool socks. Buy a few pairs and never look back.
What You’ll Definitely Need – Shoes, Boots, and Flip Flops
Before you get too excited about the flip-flops named in the heading, I’ll just come out and tell you the truth: you’ll probably wear them about 5% of the time during your trip to Iceland. They will be used mainly at the hot-springs and pools you visit. Despite famously bleak winters and temperamental weather, it should be noted that pools and water activities are an integral part of Icelandic culture. Now that we’ve cleared up the situation with the flip-flops, let’s talk about shoes. I would argue that most people don’t have a suitable pair of shoes for visiting Iceland. The shoes you wear on your daily commute are not built for Iceland’s rugged weather.
Sounds melodramatic, but it is true. I don’t know if you guys have heard, but Iceland is pretty awesome. If you are planning on staying in the city center, invest in water-resistant walking shoes. Merrell and Keen are two companies known for making high quality and dependable shoes. They are not the most stylish, but they will keep your feet nice and warm.
If you plan on hiking, then hiking boots are a must. There are a ton of brands and styles of hiking boots. Just make sure they are comfy and waterproof. Hiking with water rushing in and out of your boots is a good way to have a bad time. It is also a great way to accrue size-able, angry looking, blisters on your feet. Pretty bad souvenirs if you ask me.
The Best Pants and Underwear to Pack for Iceland
From the beginning of time, pants and underwear have been the sworn enemy of babies and nudists alike. For the rest of us, they can be a bother, but we carry on anyway. Like the previously mentioned articles of clothing, your pants and underwear should be able to withstand Iceland’s unpredictable weather. If you are confined to city limits then jeans and regular underwear should suffice. Regardless of if you plan on hiking or not, purchasing a rain suit never hurts. Check the weather before you go and make a judgment call.
If you do plan on going on excursions or longer hikes I recommend hiking pants and compression shorts (or thermal underwear, depending on your region of travel). Hiking pants are durable, flexible, and they make you feel like a ninja. The first two aspects of hiking pants are important, the last one is just an added bonus, because who doesn’t like feeling like a ninja?
Compression shorts reduce chafing. Simple as that. Hiking while chafing is terrible. I’m pretty sure Dante references this as a punishment in the lower levels of hell in his classic poem “Inferno.” In summary, jeans and underwear for staying in the city, and hiking pants and compression shorts for excursions and hikes.
Iceland Summer Packing List – Don’t Forget Layers!
For your upper body, layering is essential. Layering, for the uninitiated, is combining different garments that have various functions to suit your environment. You would be surprised how many people come to Iceland and are unprepared for the weather. They end up having to purchase clothes here, and that isn’t always in a traveler’s budget. Pack to layer your clothing. There is a reason athletes and outdoor enthusiasts layer their clothing: because it works.
The first layer(s) you want to pack before you leave on your Iceland trip are warm base layers. Base layers are often either made of wool or synthetic material. They retain body heat incredibly well. A good base layer is worth its weight in gold. Pack a few base layers, and research what region of the country you are visiting. If it’s going to be slightly colder at night, you may want to have a daytime base layer and a nighttime one.
Next, t-shirts. Don’t go crazy with the t-shirts. I would bring a few that you can wear over your base layer(s). They are also a good option if you plan on going out at night. A t-shirt with a base layer underneath is a good starting point for any day during your travels. Another great option besides t-shirts are chambray button-down shirts. They look classy, and they breathe well.
Finally, a sweater or down vest/jacket are necessary for your trip. They will lock in the heat from your body and will reduce any cold from wind chill. Sweaters tend to be bulkier, while down jackets and vests compress very well. A word to the wise: when down material gets wet it smells terrible. As in, really bad. Being soaked to the bone is terrible enough, so don’t compound the problem by smelling like a geothermal hot spring on a humid summer’s days.
Summer Packing List for Iceland – The last rain jacket you will ever buy
My favorite garment in my possession is my rain jacket. I had nowhere near enough funds in my bank account when I bought it, but I pulled the trigger, swiped my card, and never looked back. The jacket is bullet-proof. It is fully waterproof, has tapered seams, is light yet durable, and it possesses quite the distinguished and understated hue of blue. When people see me in it, I like to imagine they think I’m a professional alpine athlete or an established author. More often than not though, they probably are saying to themselves, “Wow! Did you see that guy almost trip and fall over that curb? He’s very uncoordinated but devilishly handsome! What a nice jacket he has as well!”
My longwinded love letter to my rain jacket has a point. Your summer trip to Iceland is the perfect excuse to spend a little extra and treat yourself to something you may have otherwise not have purchased. A high-quality rain jacket will not only last you a lifetime, but it will be one of the most useful pieces of clothing you own.
You can wear a quality rain jacket in the fall with a sweater underneath it. You can layer sweaters and base layers underneath it in the winter to protect you from the wind and snow. Before coming to Iceland, especially if you plan on hiking, invest in a hardshell *fully waterproof* rain jacket. It will surely come in handy for your trip. One last pro-tip about rain jackets: hardshell jackets hold in heat and are waterproof, softshell jackets are *water resistant* and breath a little bit easier. Keep that in mind
Loose Ends for What to Pack for Iceland
The longer days are an excellent opportunity to soak up vitamin D., but it can make it difficult to sleep. It can be maddening if you are trying to fall asleep at 10:30 PM and you feel like its 11:00 AM. A sleep mask can help alleviate nights when you are trying to fall asleep, but sunlight is pouring into your room. Also, remember that with the extra sunshine comes extra danger to your skin. Sunscreen is incredibly expensive in Iceland so pack your own.
The same can be said for over the counter medicine. Our laws and regulations are different than most other countries. If you regularly take any over the counter medication remember to bring it with you. Besides that, it’s a European country so bring appropriate adapters. I would say bring a camera, but I respect you too much to think you wouldn’t.
Summer Packing List for Iceland – Must Have Items for Your Trip
Iceland is unlike any place you have ever been! So, follow my list as outlined above, plan, prepare, and you will be all set for your adventure!
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