Packing for Iceland can be a challenge, particularly for a spring trip when the weather can be even more unpredictable than normal. Also, it’s Iceland, so chances are you’ll be doing a lot of outdoor activities that you want to pack the right gear for. And, if you are like me, you are probably flying with a discount airline like WoW Air (although I’ll never fly with them again, but that’s a whole other story!) and so you have to be selective with what you can fit in your small carry-on bag. Well, I’ve got just the packing list for you!
My Trip Details:
- Travel month: Mid-April
- Season: Spring
- Length of travel: 1 week
- Travel type: Adventure! We spent most of the time outdoors and camped in a van at night.
- What the weather was like: On some days during the trip, in the period of 5 minutes, I saw and felt all four seasons – from wind, to hail, rain, snow, and even sun! The average temperature during the day was 45 F (7 C), and 32 F (0 C) during the night, but there was also a lot of variation.
Here is my packing list for Iceland, with links to some of my favorite items. This list is particularly useful if you will be seeing Iceland by van.
Apart from waterproof shoes, a warm jacket and a waterproof outer layer are the most important things you can pack for a trip to Iceland at any time of year, outside of maybe summer.
- Packable warm down jacket: It will be cold, so if you don’t have a warm jacket, I’d invest the money in getting one. A down jacket is particularly a good investment because it can stand on its own when it’s not raining but it can also be used as a mid-layer, that isn’t too bulky, under a waterproof outer shell jacket.
- Rain jacket: It will definitely rain at some point while you are in Iceland and I’d have either a rain jacket or, at the least, an umbrella.
- Down or fleece vest: A vest is probably optional, but it is nice to have during those more sunny moments.
Given that the weather in Iceland is so unpredictable at all times of year, but especially in spring, the best thing you can do is to bring layers. I was constantly taking layers on and off, and I was glad to have lots of options.
- Thermal top and pants: I like to have a thin pair of thermals to put under my clothes on really cold days, but also to sleep in at night. They are so soft!
- Fleece jacket: I’d recommend a zip-up fleece, which is easier to put on and off (something that you will be doing a lot of during a spring visit!).
- Sweater: I had a fleece, turtleneck and plenty of layering tees and jackets so I didn’t take any additional sweaters, but having one could be another useful layering option.
- Warm turtleneck: This is nice to have for some extra bundling up and can also be used for a more stylish look for a day out in Reykjavik.
- Layering tees: I’d pack a few of these long sleeve tees for extra layers, and they can also be good under a vest on a warmer day.
- Flannel or denim shirt: A flannel or denim shirt is also perfect for layering and can be used under a vest as well.
- Dark denim: I prefer black denim over traditional denim and find it more versatile while traveling.
- Leggings, fleece lined ones are even better: I only brought regular leggings with me (which I wore a lot!), but I really wished I had brought some fleece lined leggings too.
- Waterproof / water-resistant pants: I didn’t bring these with me either, but it rained a lot and there were moments when I sure wish I had.
Do yourself the favor and invest in some proper footwear and warm wool socks! If you are buying hiking boots new before your trip, I’d advise you to break in your shoes before leaving. You can see tips on how to do so here. This will prevent blisters, which would certainly put a damper on your trip.
- Waterproof hiking boots: I wore hiking boots as my everyday shoe and having a good pair is a must in Iceland. Whatever shoe you decide, just make sure it is waterproof!
- Waterproof ankle boots: I only brought a pair of hiking boots, but these higher boots could be useful in snow or mud.
- Flip flops: If you are camping, having a pair of flip flips is great for use in the public showers.
- Warm wool socks: Bring several pairs of warm socks! I kept one pair in my sleeping bag that I only used for sleeping at night.
Accessories – Hat, Gloves and Scarf:
- Hat: I was literally just in layers with my black down jacket over top, so I attempted to use my hat and scarf as a way to add some color to my outfits.
- Scarf: An infinity scarf is useful because it won’t blow off with the intense wind.
- Gloves: Bring gloves! I forgot them and luckily I was able to borrow a pair from the friend I was traveling with.
Don’t forget your swimsuit on a trip to Iceland! No matter what time of year, you will need it so that you can take a dip in all of the hot springs dotted throughout the country.
- One piece / two piece: You’ll likely be in a hot spring every day, so bring two swimsuits so that you always have at least one that’s dry.
Versatile travel bags:
- Big travel bag: On most airlines the bag I’ve included here classifies as a carry-on. I like this Patagonia bag because it can fit a lot, is both a duffle and a backpack and is water resistant.
- Daypack: I’d also take another smaller backpack that you can use to put food and water in for day hikes or other outdoor activities, and I’d make sure it is waterproof as well.
- Toiletries bag: If you are camping, a toiletry bag is even more useful to have for taking all of your things to the the shower.
Other useful items:
Here I’ve included a few additional items that I found useful during my trip.
- Camera: My go-to cameras are the GoPro Session, my Canon digital SLR and IPhone 6.
- Fully charged battery pack: I usually always bring this while traveling, and although I didn’t bring one to Iceland because I knew we’d have a car charger, it still could be useful to have.
- Adaptor: This link will show you the type used in Iceland.
- Pack towel: Having a towel is useful for showering but also for the many hot springs around Iceland. A pack towel in particular is great because it generally dries quickly.
- Warm sleeping bag: A proper sleeping bag is obviously expensive but if you already have one and you will be camping or sleeping in a van (many companies charge extra for bedding), I would definitely bring it for the extra warmth.
- Head lamp: In April the sun is already starting to set late in Iceland, but a headlamp is useful if you are seeing the country by van. It’s also useful for night hikes and for those middle of the night bathroom runs.
- Thermal water bottle: I’d take a an insulated water bottle for keeping some tea warm on a hike, but also for use as a water bottle. I always take one of these while traveling!
- Toiletries: In addition to the basics, I would make sure to have good conditioner and moisturizer because the hot springs will dry your skin and hair out! I also took a travel pack of tissues, which I used for many things, including as toilet paper when there wasn’t any available at some of the camp spots. I also took face wipes and my favorite ones are these.
- Snacks: It may sound silly that I’ve included this, but I was really happy that I had stuffed random granola bars and wine gummies into my bag. Iceland is so expensive and it was nice to have some food in the van that was easy to access and cheap.
Let me know in the comments below what items you think are essential to pack for exploring Iceland in any season!