Complete Guide to Packing for Iceland in Summer

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Knowing what to pack for Iceland in summer can be a daunting task even for the well-traveled, especially since Iceland is known for the famous saying, “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” The Icelandic summer might be short, but it’s a great time to visit with temperatures in the 50s and 60s starting in mid June through August.

Summer in Iceland brings long days, and unpredictable weather, with some days reaching the 70s ℉ in July. The summer is the perfect time of year to drive Iceland’s Ring Road, visit the black sand beaches, go on a glacier hike, float in the famous blue lagoon, see the puffins on Grimsey Island or go whale watching.

Iceland Packing List

In this Iceland summer packing list, I’ll share the most important things to bring to stay warm and dry during all the amazing outdoor activities you might get into during your summer visit to Iceland. The most important thing to remember during your summer in Iceland is that the weather changes frequently, so having plenty of layers is key to staying comfortable and having a happy trip.

Don’t have time to read the entire post? Below are the top essentials you should pack for a summer trip to Iceland.

Packing Checklist

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Top Layers

Layering is key in Iceland. When it comes to tops, using a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer is the perfect combination.

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 check the weather in the regions you plan to travel to.

Regardless of where you are going, planning for cold and wet weather but hoping for sunny days is best. Your outer layers are the most important. Well-made, solid, waterproof clothing is key. Water-resistant material is not strong enough when doing outdoor activities for long periods of time. With Iceland’s beautiful scenery and stunning natural landscapes, I doubt you’ll want to stay indoors even on rainy days. 

Waterproof Jacket

First things first-don’t go to Iceland without a waterproof jacket! It is an absolute must. Make sure your outer layer is waterproof, NOT water-resistant. I love my Marmot Essential Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket layered over fleece. I especially love the length; it covers my booty and keeps me dry even when sitting.

Fleece Jacket

Fleece is a cozy option to wear as a mid-layer, under a waterproof jacket, or as a top layer on sunny days. I love the Patagonia Better Sweater in a full zip (or 1/4 zip). It’s not too bulky, so it fits well under a waterproof layer and keeps me warm.

Packable Insulated Jacket

Another option, as a mid-layer or outer layer, is a packable insulated jacket. These are so lightweight and pack well in a suitcase. The Patagonia Nano Puff (or North Face ThermoBall jacket) is the best for keeping warm and packing light. I travel everywhere with this jacket. Its warmth is impressive for how thin it is. It’s not as cozy as a fleece jacket, but this style of jacket works well in Iceland during summer.

Bottom Layers

Depending on the length of your trip, you will probably only need 2 to 3 pant options for the week. Bring a mix of casual bottoms like denim, water-resistant hiking pants, or fleece-lined tights in addition to waterproof pants or shell.

Most days, I was in fleece leggings or water-resistant hiking pants with thermal underwear underneath, but I needed an additional wind barrier. A waterproof shell was the best item to layer on top in these cases.

Waterproof Pants

Waterproof and wind-resistant pants should be at the top of your Iceland summer packing list. There are a few options when it comes to waterproof pants.

Most waterproof pants will be roomy enough (and may even come with side zips) to easily pull on and off as needed. Some styles (like the ones I wore) are baggier than others. After seeing photos of myself in them, I completely regret not buying a more expensive, better-fitting pair of waterproof pants. While my pants were not flattering, they did work and were the best budget-friendly option. I bought them on Amazon, but they are no longer for sale-probably for the best – lol.

Alternatively, you may want a pair of water-resistant pants that are more form-fitting and not made to be taken on and off. Although many brands advertise this style as waterproof, I have yet to find a pair that is actually waterproof. They are all water resistant, which means they will stand up to light drizzle but will become damp and wet with prolonged exposure to rain. 

I needed wind protection more than rain protection during my June visit to Iceland, so fleece-lined wind-proof & water resistant pants worked well for me, especially since I had a rain jacket that came to mid-thigh. A rain jacket pulls double duty as a windbreaker.

Snow pants are another great option for wind and rain protection bottoms.

Pro Tip: Make sure your pants remain over your shoes in the rain or when hiking near waterfalls to avoid getting the inside of your shoes and socks wet.

Casual Pants & Hiking Pants

In addition to waterproof pants, bringing some fleece-lined leggings and casual everyday pants is a great option for those times you want to be more stylish.

I wore boot-cut Columbia Everyday Outdoor Pants that fit perfectly over clunky hiking boots. They are roomy with enough stretch to add on top of long underwear if needed.

On sunny days in town, denim is a good option but pack denim sparingly. Unless you plan to spend more time in museums and cities like Reykjavik, sticking to bottoms made from materials that dry faster and offer a water barrier is better, denim does neither.

Sweaters and Long-Sleeve Tops

When it comes to tops, leave the fashion pieces at home. You won’t be thinking about how stylish your outfit is when snowmobiling on Europe’s largest iceberg or soaking in a natural hot spring. I’d recommend bringing some long-sleeve t-shirts, synthetic base layers, or long underwear (if you run cold) that fit easily under your jackets and rain gear. If you are planning to centralize yourself in the city and don’t think you will be adventuring too much, a warm sweater or two will do, but don’t forget rain could happen at any time, so always bring a rain jacket with you. 

the scenery of Iceland with waterfalls and volcanoes in background

I run hot, and only needed two layers: a long sleeve base layer and a fleece jacket or sweater to stay comfortable in Iceland during summer. I often use a Patagonia Cool Shirt as a base layer or their mid-weight version for cold-weather hiking. If temperatures drop below 30℉, I’ll wear a wool base layer, but the Patagonia Capilene midweight shirts were the perfect weight for the range of summer temperatures I experienced in Iceland in July.

These cool shirts come in two thicknesses. They help wick moisture away, are UPF 50+, and utilize odor control technology. If you tend to get chilly, wearing thermal underwear made from wool is the warmest option to layer on under sweaters or a fleece jacket. Wool can be itchy but fine Merino Wool is not itchy in cold weather. Woolx, Smart Wool, and Kari Taari are three of my favorite brands that make quality wool garments that last years. 

Bathing Suit

This is a must if you plan to enjoy the iconic Iceland hot springs. Geothermal heat is kinda Iceland’s thing! Therefore, a summer Iceland packing list must include a swimsuit. You’ll want a quick dry towel and a wet bag to make your life easier after visiting the geothermal pools. You can store your damp suit in the wet bag and keep it separate from your other clothing until it dries.

Shoes

Plan to bring a rugged pair of shoes you do not mind getting dirty and are comfortable hiking in. A casual day shoe but not a tennis shoe (unless it’s waterproof) and a water shoe or flip flop for special activities are ideal.

Hiking Boots

I am always hesitant to pack my bulky waterproof hiking boots if I am not going on a heavy hiking trip. My hiking boots take up a lot of room in my suitcase. For that reason, I love the Sorel Emelie Lace Up boots for light hiking. They are comfortable, have good tread, are easy to walk in, waterproof, and not as bulky as my Columbia Newton Ridge Plus hiking boots. 

Wether you bring hiking boots or not, you need to bring a pair of comfortable waterproof boots with good tread, avoid wearing standard 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 your main shoes have a sturdy sole, thick tread, and repel water. 

Casual Day Shoes

You’ll probably want another pair of casual shoes for walking through town, having dinner out, and feeling more stylish after long adventure days. 

I recommend leaving tennis shoes and trainers at home; I packed a pair and barely used them. They weren’t warm or sturdy enough, got damp easily, and didn’t have good tread, so they were slippery on slick surfaces.

Water Shoes or Flip Flops

Suggesting to pack water shoes may come as a surprise, but 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 while enjoying the hot spring facilities. 

Accessories

You may want to bring a few accessories like a beanie, warm socks, and a cozy scarf. 

Socks 

When it comes to socks, I always recommend wool socks or some kind of synthetic blend that is best for keeping your feet dry. I love Smartwool’s light cushion socks with added calf warmth, but I also use the crew version as well.

Hat

It didn’t get cold enough in summer to where I wanted to wear a beanie every day, but I love using my fleece headband. It is perfect for a ponytail or bun. I also packed a baseball cap and used it frequently to keep the misty rain off my face; it was a great addition!

Scarf

Scarves are great at keeping you extra cozy. I packed one and used it a few times when walking around Iceland’s towns. It makes a great accessory to a casual day outfit and will help keep you warm. 

Gloves

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 ones. 

landscape view of a black sand beach along a rocky coastline

Additional Items

All of these items came in handy during my summer trip to Iceland and are great for many other destinations.

Day Backpack

A hydration pack is a good idea for long hikes or day use. I use the Osprey Sportlite 25 L pack when I travel. I also have a camera backpack that doubles as a day pack if I bring more camera gear than can fit in the Osprey. Regardless of what kind of backpack you use, it’s a good idea to bring a day pack to carry extra layers, snacks, and personal items when you are adventuring away from your car.

Camera Gear

Iceland is a photographer’s dream. It’s stunning! Make sure to bring something along to capture your trip.

I used a GoPro and my iPhone as I didn’t have a mirrorless camera yet. But I would absolutely recommend a camera and a few lenses. In addition to a standard lens (25-70mm), I would recommend bringing a zoom lens (100-200mm) to get some close-up shots of wildlife like puffins or whales and to give some landscape shots some good compression.

Reusable Water Bottle

Drinking water from the tap in Iceland is safe, so make sure to bring a reusable water bottle to save $$ from not buying bottled water.

Snacks

Iceland has some of the healthiest and cleanest food you can eat. But because of how isolated it is, quality meals are hard to find if you are road-tripping through the country. 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 healthy snacks and protein bars to nibble on during long drives.

Outlet Plug Converter

Iceland uses the standard Europlug socket with two round prongs. Use adapter types “C” or “F” for these plugs.

***

Don’t forget other things like your toiletries, undergarments, and your carry-on essentials for the plane. Iceland is one of the most spectacular destinations on the planet. Iceland’s natural beauty, geothermal wonders, cultural richness, and welcoming atmosphere make it an appealing destination to travelers worldwide. Enjoy your trip to Iceland!

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Sam wearing backpack and hat walking through town.

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