The key to your winter packing list for Iceland can be summed up in 4 Ws: Warm, Waterproof, Windproof and Woolen. Keep this in mind and you’ll be perfectly prepared for you winter adventure in Iceland.
Winter in Iceland starts in late October or early November and lasts throughout March. Visiting Iceland earlier than this period? Check out the packing list for an autumn trip for Iceland.
Apart from your toiletries, personal belongings, pajamas, in flight entertainment and noise cancellation head phones, what is the most essential items to pack in roder for you to get through a trip to Iceland during the winter?
Starting off with the absolutely most important items for you to bring to Iceland during winter: the outerwear. If you don’t have proper outerwear nothing else is going to matter much, because you will be cold in no time from the wind and wet from the rain or snow.
Bring a warm parka. The longer the better as it will keep your legs warm as well. Make sure that your parka is windproof, waterproof and has a hood in case it is really windy and rainy or snowy. The parka is perfect for you to wear when exploring Reykjavík and going on less active sightseeing trips to the Icelandic countryside.
… or other warm active wear that will serve you perfectly as you go on more active adventures in cold Icelandic nature. Of course you can wear your parka for this as well, but depending on what kind of activities you plan on doing, you might want to pack a winter jacket that is more suitable for you to be active in. Ice climbing for instance is not great to do in a long parka.
… or other type of warm and waterproof pants that will keep your legs warm and dry. Overalls can be recommended if you want to make sure not to get cold on your back or lower part of your upper body.
They don’t take up much space in your suitcase and are easy to slip over your jeans or fleece- or thermo pants. It really is too bad to get caught in the rain and having to wear wet pants for the rest of the day. Therefore, bring rain pants that you can put on over any pair of trousers that isn’t waterproof.
Making sure that body parts, not covered by your outerwear, doesn’t get cold is crucial as well. Here are the most important winter accessories for your winter packing list for Iceland.
Bring both inner- and outer gloves to make sure that your hands don’t get cold. Some prefer inner gloves with smartphone friendly fingers combined with wind- and waterproof mittens that allow your fingers space to warm each other.
Socks that are woolen are by far the best means of keeping your feet warm and dry the whole day. Use thin woolen ones for days in the city and thick woolen ones for days where you will be out exploring as long there is daylight.
Always keep your neck warm. Bring a woolen scarf or invest in a Buff that can be used as both a scarf, a headband and a beanie. You can get different types – both fleece-lined and merino wool ones.
Winter in Iceland is really windy, so you will want to make sure that you protect your ears from the cold air. Often it can get too cold to just wear a headband so it is advisable that you pack a woolen beanie, that has a tight fit on your head, so you don’t get any cold air in or loose your beanie in the wind.
Crampons are metal spikes that you attach or strap onto your shoes in order to stay steady when walking on ice. You can get many different kinds. Some are braces with large spikes that can be used for glacier hiking and ice climbing. Others are with smaller spikes and can be easily slipped onto your hiking boots, when you are walking around on icy surfaces during the winter.
Bring crampons to make sure that you are going to be able to walk around safely when you go to see waterfalls. The water spray from the waterfalls creates a thin layer of ice that covers everything. It can get quite dangerous if your shoes are not able to get a grip onto the ground.
Layers are always key to packing for a trip to Iceland – no matter which season. However, in winter you will want to pack thicker layers and bring more than you would for a summer trip.
Merino wool base layer leggings
Basically ski underwear. Make sure to invest in a warm, woolen base layer to wear underneath your ski pants or anything else for that matter. Wool is recommended because this material can keep you warm even if it gets wet.
Thermo or fleece pants
To wear over your base layer leggings or under your ski pants – or both if it is a three layer kind of day. Thermo pants are a great investment to keep you warm on long days of exploring. Make sure that the material dries quickly and is light weight and stretchy so you’ll be comfortable all day.
For days in the city or when going out for dinner or a drink in the evening jeans will do just fine. It can of course get a bit cold, but this is why you are packing that long parka that is of course also on your winter packing list for Iceland.
Down or thermo vest
A packable down or thermo vest is perfect for you to wear underneath your ski jacket – or any layer basically – for extra warmth. Bringing a packable version makes it highly convenient for you to bring it along on the road.
Merino wool base layer tops
Again, basically ski underwear. Wear a thin woolen shirt to have a warm and comfortable layer closest to your skin. On cold days you can wear more than one.
Fleece or thermo mid-layers
On top of your base layer(s) you need a fleece shirt or light thermo jacket for insulation. Half zip or full zip mid-layers are good choices as they are easy for adjusting the temperature by zipping down and letting out some warmth or zipping up and keeping out the cold.
Whatever you prefer to wear you will want some sort of shirt(s) you can wear when going out to dinner or for a drink. You will probably wear this under your cosy sweater of choice.
Bring your cosy sweater of choice. Hoodie or woolen sweater – it is up to you. Make sure that it is warm and easy for you to wear underneath your parka. You will mostly be using it when in the city.
If you plan on buying a traditional, Icelandic woolen sweater (lópapeysa) while in Iceland, you might want to do this on one of the first days of your trip, so you can use the sweater during your stay in Iceland.
Having the right footwear when visiting Iceland is essential at any time of the year. Winter primarily requires that you make sure not to get cold or wet feet or have a hard time staying sturdy on icy surfaces. Here is what you need on your winter packing list for Iceland.
As always you should bring waterproof hiking boots to wear when you go exploring in Iceland. Make sure that there is room for thick woolen socks in your hiking boots.
Apart from your hiking boots you will want to bring another pair of footwear to wear on days in the city. It can be snow boots or something more stylish – just make sure that you are certain that they will keep your feet dry and warm both on snowy and rainy days.
This one is optional, but many prefer to bring a pair of slippers for when going for a geothermal dip. The floor/ground around the pool/water can be pretty cold to step on, but there is rarely a far distance to the warm water. Slippers or flip-flops are nice to have, but if you are running out of space in your suitcase this is something that you don’t necessarily need to bring for your trip to Iceland.
For excursions you will need a backpack for your lunch and an extra layer and possibly also your packable down or thermo vest. You will be bringning a camera, a powerbank and/or extra batteries and other stuff with you, so you will want to bring a backpack. As always, it is best to choose one that is waterproof or can be covered with a waterproof cover.
Re-usable water bottle
Icelandic water is the best in the world so don’t buy bottled water while in Iceland. Bring you water bottle with you and refill it in a river, spring or from the tap.
Yep, you might get lucky and catch some nice winter sun while in Iceland. Bring your sunglasses just in case – they don’t take much space in your suitcase anyways, so why not add them to your winter packing list for Iceland.
Don’t miss out on the geothermal water experiences that Iceland has to offer. The weather might be cold, but the water is always nice and warm in the swimmingpools or in the geothermal places, where you can go for a dip.
Since you will be going swimming you will also need a towel. It is highly recommended that you bring a fast drying, low-weight hiking towel. First, because it takes up way less space in your suitcase. Second, because it dries super fast and doesn’t take up too much space in your backpack when you are on the road.
If you literally only plan on going for a dip at The Blue Lagoon you don’t need a towel as they supply you with one. Basically anywhere else you will need to bring your own towel or rent one.
Waterproof phone cover
Make sure your phone lives through your trip to Iceland. If you use it for pictures you should definitely get a waterproof cover for it. Just taking pictures by the waterfalls will spray a lot of water on it. Also, if you want to take pictures while in a nice geothermal spring or lagoon making sure that your phone is waterproof is a huge relief.
Iceland is extremely beautiful and you will want to take pictures. Bring the equipment of you choice (camera, GoPro, smartphone or other) and remember to also bring a power bank and/or extra batteries. You also might want to bring an adaptor depending on whether or not Icelandic power outlets match your devices.