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What to pack for a summer in Iceland can be a daunting task even for the well-traveled. You might be wondering, does Iceland even have a real summer? Yes, it’s called 55 and chilly (F), which makes it a great time to visit. The days are long, and although the weather is unpredictable, much of Iceland’s summer temps are in the mid-50s-to upper 60s with some days in July reaching the mid 70’s.
I was so excited to book my first (and only (so far) ) trip to Iceland in June 2017; it was a fantastic experience and the one that inspired me to create this blog (although I didn’t start it until three years later). Being a Florida girl well versed in flip flops and bathing suits, I quickly realized I was clueless when it came to packing for a country with the famous saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”
I had trouble finding the perfect packing list which led me to bring all of the wrong things. I’ve gotten a few things right since then, and have now compiled all the “right” things (when it comes to summer packing for Iceland) into this complete packing guide, The Perfect Iceland Packing List -Summer Edition.
During summer some days are gorgeous and clear while others are misty, dreary and rainy. Different areas of the country have different weather patterns, so make sure to check the weather in the regions you are planning to travel to. Regardless of where you are going, I bet waterfalls will be in your future. Whether you are hiking or just viewing, you are bound to get wet, so a few waterproof layers are a must!
First things first- don’t go to Iceland without a waterproof jacket! It is an absolute must- make sure it is waterproof, NOT water-resistant. I love my Marmot Essential Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket, layered over fleece (if extra warmth is needed). I especially love the length, it covers the booty and keeps it dry.
Fleece is a great cozy option to wear inside, by itself, or layered under a waterproof jacket. I now have a few of the Osito fleece jackets (and vests) from North Face which is linked below (many color options available). Recently I tried out the Northface Shelbe jacket; it’s water-resistant, fleece-lined, and doesn’t shed, I loved it!
Packable Down Jacket
Had I know about these back then, I definitely would have packed one. I recently purchased a similar CK down jacket like the one linked below for a winter trip to NYC; I now wish I bought in multiple colors. The best part about these packable jackets is they take up zero suitcase space. They are so warm and so light; it sure does beat lugging around a heavy coat.
When it comes to tops, leave the fashion element at home. I promise you won’t be thinking about how stylish your outfit is when snowmobiling on Europe’s largest iceberg, hiking to massive waterfalls or soaking in geothermal hot springs. I’d recommend bringing some synthetic base layers and flannel options that fit easily under fleece and rain gear. If you are planning to centralize yourself in the city and don’t think you will be adventuring too much, a few cozy sweaters will do, but don’t forget rain could happen at any time, always be prepared!
I love Patagonia’s Cool Shirts. They help wick moisture away, are UPF+ 50, and utilize an odor control technology. They make a great base layer when hiking or in cool climates when layering. If you tend to get chilly a wool base layer may be best. Wool can be itchy but if it’s cold enough you won’t notice.
Another must-have when packing for Iceland in summer is a quality waterproof & wind-resistant pant option. I bought a pair of cheap waterproof pants (ill-fitting and straight-up ugly) for my trip thinking I wouldn’t need them much and ha- jokes on me; I lived in those things. One of my biggest regrets is not investing in a pair of well-fitting, comfortable waterproof pants. They not only keep you dry but will keep you warm by blocking the heavy winds you most definitely will encounter.
Pro Tip: Make sure your pants remain over your shoes in the rain or when hiking to waterfalls (the mist is just like rain) to avoid getting the inside of your shoes and socks wet.
In addition to waterproof pants, fleece-lined leggings and water-resistant everyday pants are a great option. The Columbia Everyday pants I have are boot cut, so fit perfectly over clunky hiking boots. They are roomy with enough stretch to add on top of a warm base layer if needed. On sunny days denim is a good option but pack denim sparingly. Unless you plan to spend more time in museums and cities like Reykjavik it’s better to stick to bottoms made from materials that dry faster and offer a water barrier.
You wouldn’t be enjoying all Iceland has to offer without experiencing a hot spring. Geothermal heat is kinda Iceland’s thing! For that reason, a perfect Iceland packing list has to include a swimsuit.
Deciding whether or not to pack hiking boots when I am not necessarily going on a hiking trip is always one of my biggest dilemmas. They are bulky and take up a lot of valuable suitcase space. My recommendation when packing for Iceland is to bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots with good tread, avoid tennis shoes. It doesn’t have to be a pair of hiking boots if you are not planning on hiking long distances, as long as they have a sturdy sole, thick tread, and repel water.
I knew we would be walking a lot so I bought my 1st pair of hiking boots The Columbia Newton Ridge Plus, (linked above) for the trip and I am so glad I did. I thought hiking boots were supposed to be uncomfortable until you broke them in, but I have never felt anything but comfort in these.
Casual Day Boots
I also packed a casual day boot, less bulky and more aesthetically pleasing, and a pair of tennis shoes, which I would recommend leaving at home. Tennis shoes weren’t warm or sturdy enough and got damp so easily.
I ended up ruining my “day boots.” As I said, we walked a lot, and some of the ground was wet and muddy, plus they were a light khaki color (see them in the photo below). They became so dirty with caked on gunk it wasn’t worth keeping them to go through the removal process; they were old, so I didn’t mind letting them go. Remember to bring footwear that you don’t mind getting dirty!
Suggesting to pack water shoes may come as a surprise, It did for me, but I’ll tell you why. Assuming you are going to experience one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, geothermal hot springs, water shoes will come in handy. There are many hot springs sprinkled throughout Iceland and most have changing facilities, lockers, and showers. If you are not a fan of wet slimy surfaces (that’s me all day) bring a pair of flip flops or water shoes to comfortably walk about whike enjoying the hot spring facilities.
When it comes to socks I always recommend wool socks or some kind of synthetic blend, they are the best at keeping your feet dry. I love Smartwool’s light cushion knee socks with added calf warmth but also use the crew version as well.
Headwear is optional. It didn’t get cold enough to where I wanted to wear a beanie every day, but I love using my ear warmer headband. It is perfect for ponytail & bun head days. I also packed a baseball cap and used it frequently to keep the misty rain off my face; it was a great addition!
Scarves are another optional item to pack. I recommend bringing at least one since they are not only functional but fashionable too.
Gloves are another good option, although not necessary. I only wore a pair of thinly lined leather ones when I was hiking around waterfalls. Skip knitted gloves in favor of water resistant.
In addition to clothing and accessories, I have a few other suggestions to add to your packing list. All of these things came in handy during my summer vacation to Iceland and are great for a plethora of other destinations.
GoPro Camera + Accessories
I LOVE this tri-pod/selfie stick. I use it ALL the time with my iphone and a blue tooth remote when I travel solo.
This remote is a must! It makes taking group photos or selfies (without the awkward arm extend) possible!
I went through 3 GoPro brand casings before I switched to the above brand. I’ll never go back!
It is safe to drink water from the tap in Iceland so make sure to bring a reusable water bottle and save $$ buying bottled water.
I currently use this one and love how much space it saves! I do wish it kept water cool though.
If you only want to buy one travel water bottle buy this one. The best tool to insure safe drinking water anywhere you go!
Iceland has some of the healthiest and cleanest food you can eat. But because of how isolated it is, if you are road tripping, quality meals may be problematic. We spent many meals at gas stations and quick marts during our 10-day road trip and ate way too much Krap (Icelandic for custard slushies). I was happy to have some snack/protein bars to nibble on during long drives.
Not the healthiest but the best tasting.
The healthiest by added sugar standards.
Wet Bag- for wet bathing suits or shoes
Best for long travel trips- helps combat bacteria growth and odor from wet clothes.
Perfect Iceland Packing List Recap
Ok, that was a lot of stuff, lets recap! My exact suggestions for a 10-day (ish) packing list when traveling to Iceland during the summer months (May-July) is below.
- (1) Waterproof jacket
- (1-2) Fleece zip-ups or fleece vests
- (1) Optional additional outerwear piece, preferably water-resistant and more stylish
- (5) base layer long sleeve tees, preferably synthetic for moisture wicking
- (2) Flannel or sweater tops
- (1) Pair of waterproof pants
- (2) Pairs of fleece-lined leggings
- (2) Pairs of boot cut everyday water-resistant pants
- (1) optional wool long-underwear legging (great for underneath waterproof pants or everyday pants if needed)
- (1) Pair of jeans
- (1) Bathingsuit
- (1) Pair of sturdy hiking boots
- (1) Pair of less bulky day boots, preferably water-resistant
- (1) Pair of flip flops or water shoes
- (7) Pairs of socks, preferably wool or synthetic to combat odor
- (1-2) Hats or beanies
- (1) Scarf
- (1) Pair of water-resistant gloves
- (1) Waterproof day pack
- (1) Waterproof action camera
- (1) Reuseable water bottle
- (a few) Snack bars for the road when restaurants and grocery stores are not close
- (1) Wet bag for wet clothing or bathing suits, preferably one with odor and bacteria protection
Plus don’t forget your Carry on Travel Essentials and any other personal items.
Woooo, what a list! I hope you will find this Perfect Iceland Packing Guide useful for your next summer vacation to Iceland and avoid all the packing mishaps I made!
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