Complete Packing List for Iceland in Winter
Iceland, what a deceiving name! The name alone would scare most people from visiting in winter. Yes it is cold in Iceland, but it's not as cold as you would think for how north the country is. The gulf streams helps to keep the weather much milder than its neighbour, Greenland.
The temperatures in Iceland in winter averages from 0°C (32°F) in the southern parts and -10°C (14°F) for the northern parts. We stayed in Iceland in mid-November to early December for 14 days with the warmest at 6°C (42.8°F) and the coldest day at -8°C (17.6°F). The weather in winter can really vary and you can expect to encounter some winter storms and strong winds. The car rentals warn you to hold onto your door as the wind can take your door right off the hinge! So what should your packing list entail for winter in Iceland? Below are some essentials to pack that we found useful on our trip to Iceland in winter.
The Must Haves
Layers layers layers! It never hurts to prepare for the coldest day possible. We packed so that we had at least 3 layers under our jacket. The key is to get a jacket that cuts the wind & rainproof. For the bottom, we had a thermal layer under our fleece lined pants. We wouldn't be able to enjoy our trip as much as we did if we were cold.
1. Thermal layer (Top & Bottom)
Sure they aren't the sexist clothing item, but you'll be glad you're wearing them. A lot of companies make great base layers, but the best find was the Heattech leggings & top from Uniqlo at a good price point. You'll need to wear this underneath your dry suit for any diving or snorkeling.
2. Layering shirt
Lightweight shirt to go on top of your thermal layer. Cotton might not be your best friend. Try to find something that will wick away moisture and keep you dry.
3. Wool or Fleece Top
Wool or a fleece layer is a must for the extra cold days.
4. Windproof & Rainproof Winter Jacket
Down jackets are great but make sure yours is windproof and waterproof. The weather is fairly mild but it's the windchill that make it feel much colder. You'll definitely want to chase waterfalls and need a jacket that can handle a little drizzle.
5. Fleece Lined Pants/Leggings
Fleece lined pants make such a big difference. After wearing the fleece lined pants, I could not go back to regular pants on top of the thermals.
6. Hat, Scarves & Gloves
Hats & scarves are definitely a must to keep you warm! If you absolutely hate hats, go with a cute knit head wrap. Bring extra gloves in case you lose one. A lot of large gas stations will sell these if you lose yours!
7. Wool Socks
One of the best buys on our trip are the wool socks from Amazon Prime sale ($5 for 3 pairs!). They were surprisingly comfy and just as good as the other pairs we bought at sporting stores. Wool dries quick and keeps you warm. You can also purchase fleece rain boot liners.
8. Hiking Shoes/Winter Boots
Hiking shoes or winter boots are great for hikes and just exploring. We opted for hiking shoes since we live in the Caribbean. It would be a pain to store a pair of winter boots that would collect dust at home. A great pair of waterproof winter boots may eliminate the need for the rain boots but it really still helps to have a second pair of shoes in case a pair of them gets wet. Click here to see the pair we bought for our honeymoon last year.
9. Rain boots/High Waterproof Winter Boots
While packing it was a huge pain to bring these big bulky rain boots but it definitely paid off. Though they are not completely necessary, they were great for wading into little streams to get to a beautiful hidden gem like Gljúfrabúi Waterfalls & getting extra close to the blue icebergs in Jökulsárlón Lagoon. It's just great not worrying if you're stepping into a mud pit under snow on a hike. Kamik rain boots were a great buy for $36 on Amazon.
10. Ice Traction Cleats & Hiking Stick
Our second favorite buy for our trip were ice traction cleats. Especially around waterfalls, it can get quite icy. The cleats are perfect for griping onto icy surfaces which were all over - next to waterfalls, geysirs and hotsprings. They are much smaller than the heavy duty crampons you would use for a glacier walk & easy to pack. Hiking sticks are also great for icy surfaces and very compact.
Don't forget to bring a swimsuit! No matter the season in Iceland, there's always time for a dip!
12. Power Converter Iceland uses 200V so bring a converter. We found ours on Amazon with interchangeable world wide plugs so we can use it for future trips around the world! This was a life saver also when we needed to charge more than one device at a time.
1. Microfiber Towel
Since we were living in a camper, these microfiber towels were perfect - compact and dried super fast. The only drawback was the colour comes off so wash them thoroughly before use!
2. Flashlight & Head Lamps
With only 5 hours of sunlight in the November, it helps to have a flashlight or a head lamp handy. They're also great for photos!
Keep warm with a warm drink & keep hydrated. Iceland has the cleanest tap water and is completely safe to drink. Be sure to turn the tap to cold! Geothermal water is pumped directly to households and business as hot water, so it may smell rotten eggs.
4. Shampoo & Conditioner
Oddly enough, I have put this under essential because of the two places we stayed at Buuble hotel & Silica Hotel, there was no shampoo. There was no conditioner at Buuble hotel and you will need conditioner for long hair. It will help take out some the tangles from the wind.
You'll need a backpack to carry your essentials. We love our compact CamelBak backpack & also another to carry our camera & drone.
6. FM Transmitter
No road trip is complete without music! There are many areas of Iceland where this is no radio reception so do yourself a favour and bring the FM transmitter.
7. Heat Pack
No we actually didn't use heat packs for ourselves to keep warm. They are great if you really need them but what you really need them for is for your electronics. More than once, our camera, drone or iPad just couldn't take it anymore and shutdown. This can be a real problem when you're on a tight schedule with only 5 hours of daylight. Bring these to keep your electronics warm & functional.
Iceland is such a beautiful country with so much scenic views all in one place, so don't forget your camera. I cannot stress this enough, you cannot take an ugly photo & there will be many Instagram worthy shots! Let us know what you packed for your trip to Iceland. We can't wait to come back to see Iceland in Spring/Summer someday.