What to Pack for your Winter Trip to Iceland: The Ultimate Iceland Winter Packing List

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What should you pack for your winter trip to Iceland? Do you need a packing checklist for our trip to Iceland this winter? Are you wondering what to wear and what to pack for your winter trip to Iceland? You are at the right place – read on to know everything you need to bring to Iceland and download the FREE winter packing list checklist!

Winter in Iceland runs through November to March. These are the chilly, dark months perfect to cuddle up indoors over a cup of hot chocolate, or lounge in hot springs, and the geothermal hot pools you can find all over Iceland. The time is even better for the tourists to explore this majestic land of fire and ice when the entire country is surrounded by ice and snowcapped mountains. On the shortest day of the winters, December 21st, Iceland gets only four to five hours of daylight. The time around Christmas is filled flickering fairy lights on every street and it makes it even more cozy and lovelier place to be in. Winters in Iceland are indeed incredible, especially for the Northern Lights and natural ice caves beneath the glaciers. Icelandic Winters and Northern Lights are like a godsend couple, winter here are the best times to spot the elusive aurora borealis or the Northern Lights. In winters the daylight hours are decreased and the solar phenomena that cause the Northern Lights are always going on above, so always keep your eyes skyward to catch a glimpse of this magical phenomenon.

Over the years, Iceland has shot to the top of travel bucket lists. Although spectacular, the winter travel in Iceland has its challenges and requires wise and exhaustive packing than any other vacation to warm islands or beach countries. Iceland is a bit expensive too, so you might want to bring all your essentials to avoid making any pricey purchases. Based on our experiences traveling in Iceland in winter, we have put together an all-inclusive guide to what you should pack, from clothes to footwear, accessories to photography equipment, for your winter trip to Iceland. 

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two people standing in front of Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon wearing yellow and red jackets

Know the Winter Weather in Iceland for Packing Suitably

The weather is a significant factor in deciding what to wear in Icelandic winters. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable although winter can be quite rough. Therefore, it is important to pack aptly. As stated earlier, Iceland’s winter can last from November through March. Usually the temperature sticks around the zero-degree mark 0°C (31°F) between December and March, the chilly wind can make it even colder. Winter in Iceland also sees an abundance of snowstorms and freezing rain that is important to consider while packing for your trip.

Temperature

The average temperature in Iceland in Winters hovers between 1°C-8°C (33°F-46°F), gaging even lower in the Icelandic highlands at the high altitudes. In November, the temperature is pretty steady throughout the month, December can be seen as the coldest and January gets most of the snow.

Precipitation

You can expect good rainfall in winter. There’s an average of 97mm of precipitation and about 10 days of rainfall in the form of sleet or snow. There are about 42% chances of snowfall. The wind speeds also pick up at about 24 mph. The precipitation in Winters naturally decorates the ice caves and glaciers. Packing plenty of heavy layers is advised as the weather can get even more chilly with the rain.

Daylight Hours

Another important factor to consider is that Iceland has super short days which need a little bit of getting used to and full prep while packing. During this time of the year, the amount of sunlight gets decreasing. There aren’t many daylight hours during winters. Towards the beginning of December, the days see only 4-5 hours of sunlight. After mid-November, you can expect sunrise at 10:00 am and sunset at 4:00 pm. In January, the sun rises at 11:29 am at the beginning of January and sets at 3:43 pm.

Goðafoss in winter in Iceland, Iceland in January

When Packing, Do Consider the Activities you Plan to do in Iceland

It is also very important to consider what activities you are planning on to do when deciding what to pack to Iceland for your vacation in winter there. The best activities are snowmobiling, hiking, glacier walking, soaking in hot springs, snowshoeing, ice-caving, and of course chasing the Northern Lights. Outdoors in Icelandic winters are just the best, but subjected to harsh weather, so it’s important to pack appropriately for your stay and planned and unplanned adventures.

Packing List Items for Icelandic Winters

Clothes:

Windproof Outer Shell

The first important item that you need is to carry wind and waterproof outerwear. The weather conditions in Icelandic winters not only indicate the chances of snowing but also heavy rain. So, to protect yourself from the chilly wind and getting drenched in the rain you should surely get an insulated windproof and waterproof jacket for the trip. It would be an amazing deal if you find a warm yet lightweight jacket. Just make sure your jacket dries up quickly and comes with an adjustable hoodie and handy pockets.

Waterproof Down Jacket

Now that you are all set with your windproof outer shell, you should take care of the inner layers next. Down jackets are mostly nice and keep you warm enough, which makes them a good addition to your packing list. The best thing about down jackets is that everyone has a down jacket lying in their wardrobes, so you don’t have to worry about going out to buy it. These jackets not only make you comfortable in the cold weather but also add a sense of style to your outfit.

Icelandic Sweater

Icelandic Sweaters or ‘Lopapeysa’, as called by the locals, are one of the best options that you can opt for. These can be considered as the perfect layer for the cold weather. Fine fibers are used to make these water-resistant sweaters. These are available in a variety of colors and styles for you to choose form.  Icelandic Sweaters are a kind of an Icelandic token, so you might want to pack a few to enjoy the feel of Iceland just like the locals.

Long Puffer Jacket

Another option that you should add to your list is a Long Puffer Jacket, which is stylish as well as warm, decent enough for protecting against mild winter. Puffer jackets are usually helpful in keeping you warm from below the waist.  

Thermal Top & Thermal Pants

You should not think that a heavy outer jacket would suffice and keep you protected from all the rough weather conditions. Top layers are most important they provide a shield to your body and thermals are the essentials that you do not want to miss out on. Merino wool is the best option for Icelandic weather in terms of both comfort and warmth, it also quickly dries out your sweat. So, for both of your base layers i.e. top and bottom, merino wool works the best.

Fleece Pullover

You need to wear the appropriate innerwear to keep yourself comfortable in Iceland’s winter climate. For the weather as one in Iceland, Fleece Pullovers are considered as the perfect layering option over your thermals. Fleece pullovers are most helpful on cold days as they are light, thin, and provide great insulation.

Wool Sweater

Again, in the ever-changing climate like that of Iceland’s, you need to focus on layering, and packing warm woolen sweaters is a good option. Although fleece sweaters are also an option for layering, there is nothing that can beat wool. For when the weather is extremely cold you will need a woolen sweater to keep you warm throughout the day. Apart from being the best winter clothing material, woolen sweaters are also stylish enough to complete any outfit for you to go out and enjoy the beautiful Iceland locations.

Down Vest

Another option that you should add to the list of layering is Down Vests. Since you are heading out to Iceland, there will be times where you will have to set out for a hike, and for this Down Vests seem to be helpful because they are mostly used as activewear. These also tend to serve as the best mid-layer between your thermals and outer jacket.

Flannel Shirt

In order to keep up with Icelandic weather and make a fashion statement, you can pack a stylish plaid flannel shirt, match it with your outer jacket and complete your outfit. Flannel is a good choice as it is made of either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers so you can have your pick based on what type of other layers you already have.

Long Sleeve Tops for Layering

Take a few long sleeve lightweight tops in different colors and patterns, so you have a decent base layer. While making sure you cover yourself up nicely, you would not want to miss out on having different looks during your trip.

Waterproof Pants

With irregular rain and chilly wind, all you have to do is to make sure you get a perfect pair of wind and waterproof pants. These are certainly the essentials while packing for Iceland. A simple pair of woolen pants will not keep you warm enough in Icelandic weather and so you will need a set of such outdoor pants.

Fleece Lined Leggings

For your bottom base layer Fleece Lined Leggings are the best option. Fleece is a warm material, it keeps the heat in and dries quickly, all these properties make it suitable for Icelandic weather.

Also, always pack a couple more than the required pair of undergarments.

Shoes:

Waterproof Boots

The best footwear that you should carry for your trip to Icelandic winter is a pair of waterproof boots. It is much likely for you to be walking through the ice while you are in Iceland, and so boots act as a real helping aid. Even when you do not have to walk over snow, these boots will protect you against the irregular rains. Your boots should also be warm enough to keep your feet from freezing. Waterproof, warmth and sturdiness are the main features that you should look in the boots that you will be packing.

Casual Shoes and Flip Flops

Do add a pair of flip flops for the times when you plan to lounge in geothermal pools and hot springs of Iceland. Also, a pair of your favorite casual shoes will be breezy for your hotel stay.

Crampons

We recommend adding crampons on your packing list as crucial on icy surfaces, do not take much space, and are easy to slip on. Also known as ice cleats, crampons are a must for safe walks on slippery paths.

Eyjafjallajokull Super Jeep tour during winter

Other Clothing Accessories:

Warm Woolen Socks

For a happy, calm, and warm vacay in Iceland, don’t forget to pack warm and moisture-wicking socks. Include an assortment of woolen socks, warm and comfortable enough for your winter boots, fleece socks for lounging in the hotel, and thick hiking socks. Make sure you ensure ample pairs needed during your stay in Iceland.

Warm Hat or Beanie

When packing your clothing, do add some warm beanies even if you have packed hoodies. Sometimes, it’s too cold that a jacket’s hood can’t save you from the chilly wind and so it’s important to carry along a well-fitting warm hat.

Gloves

Winters in Iceland are crazy freezing and windy most times. Make sure you pack the required number of warm gloves, waterproof and thick ski mittens. You might also consider carrying the kind of gloves with the slide off hood over finger tops that expose the fingers so you can handle your smartphone and camera easily.

Warm Scarf or Buff

A warm scarf will be a perfect add on to the suitcase to keep you well and warm. You can also carry a buff as it rains often.

Swimwear

Iceland is a hub of geothermal pools and hot springs. Lounging in the hot springs is one of the main attractions of Iceland and you might not want to miss your chance at this, so do pack a bikini or your preferred swimwear to enjoy there.

Sunglasses

Although there are minimal daylight hours during the Icelandic winters, the sun does shine and you should be ready with your sunglasses on when it does. 

man in yellow raincoat watching over Reynisfjara black sand beach from Reynisfjall mountain

Tech:

Camera Essentials

Every part of Iceland is photogenic, and you’d want to take snaps of everything. To capture the beauty of Iceland, do pack a good-quality camera that can fit in your day-out bag. You can also carry a tripod for capturing the long exposure Northern Lights shots. If you’re planning on ice water swimming or snowmobiling, you can also carry GoPro which is just perfect to record your vacation adventures.

Universal Adapter

The prevalent plug types used in Iceland are Types C (two round pins) and F (two round pins on the side, earthing clips at top and bottom). You should bring a universal adapter if your devices have different plug types.

Power Strip

Just to ensure all devices remain charged, do pack a power strip if you’re bringing a lot of electronics to Iceland.

Car Charger

A car charger is as indispensable as your smartphone. You might run out of battery while using Google Maps or clicking pictures, so keep the car charger handy to charge your phone when driving to the next location.

Power Bank

Also, pack a power bank yet another important tech accessory to charge your phones on-the-go.

Toiletries:

Refillable bottles: Carry along these bottles as using refillable toiletry bottles is perfect for reducing the consumption of single-use plastics. Plus the tap water in Iceland is the best in the world. 

Hanging toiletry bag, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, moisturizer, lip balm.

Miscellaneous:

Packable Quick Dry Towel

Thermos

Sleep Mask

Travel Pillow

Mini Flashlight

Umbrella

Backpack with Rain Cover

Rucksack for Daily Essentials in an excursion or picnic trips

Medication

First Aid Kit

All Essential Documents

Some Additional Tips:

  • When hitting the town: Reykjavik is a cosmopolitan city with an amazing nightlife. So, if you wish to explore it, you might want to consider packing a nice party outfit and shoes.
  • Special Note for Horse Riders: It is forbidden to bring any horse gear from other countries in order to protect the Icelandic horses from any potential infection. All the gear including helmets and boots is provided at the tour location only.
  • In case you forgot something: No matter how thoughtfully you pack, there’s something or the other you might forget. But not to fret, there are several apparel stores and all-purpose shops in Reykjavik. You will find an H&M store at Austurbakki 2 in downtown Reykjavik if you want to buy more socks or undergarments, and the Kringlan shopping mall near the city center for high-street brands. You will find a budget range second-hand thrift shops around the downtown.

When you plan your next trip to Iceland, just follow our guide for winter packing and let yourself focus on the fun and adventure awaits. Happy Vacation!

Download the FREE packing list here!

woman in red coat next to the cave at Reynisfjara black sand beach in south Iceland
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