What to wear in Iceland in Spring and Summer

A lot of people have been contacting me lately asking what they should pack for their upcoming trip to Iceland in the spring or summer. I wrote a post about winter attire a while ago which has been very popular and the main theme of that post was that people should bring layers. Well, guess what, I’m going to tell you exactly the same for spring and summer: Bring layers.

A few words about the weather

Iceland, as you may know, lies quite far north but parts of the island actually cross the arctic circle (Grímsey in the north). Despite that proximity to the arctic cold it actually doesn’t get that cold here, not even in the midst of winter. We can thank the Gulf stream for that but without it Iceland would a completely different place and probably a lot less pleasant.

My sister Helga on our trip around Iceland last year

My sister Helga on our trip around Iceland last year

In general terms you could say that Icelandic winters are quite mild and the summers cool but the biggest characteristic of the Icelandic weather is unpredictability. We may know that the average temperature in Reykjavík in July is around 10°C (it usually feels much warmer though) but that doesn’t mean it can’t snow also. It usually doesn’t (although I remember a summer where that actually happened) but my point is that you really never know. Just as you can never know whether you’ll experience one of those amazing Icelandic summer days when it almost feels too warm to wear a T-shirt.

The layer method

Just the other week I experienced one of those typically weird Icelandic weather days where it rained before it became sunny and warm and then it started snowing. How do you dress for that? Well, I can tell you how: layers. Especially in winter when you are out walking in -5°C and then you go in somewhere for a coffee where they have the radiators on full blast  you want to be able to dress up and down so you are neither freezing or boiling. Taking things off and putting them on in a jiffy becomes essential.

The same really goes for the summer and spring when you want to be able to enjoy the sun while it’s out but also be prepared for rain if that’s how the weather dice falls that day. So layers is the way to go.

Preparing for the summer months

One of the things I had to think about when I was launching my new walking tours was what to wear. I needed to be prepared for everything and because people need to recognize me I would have to buy some new stuff that I could have marked (since I’d rather not walk around like a advertising billboard when I’m just hanging out with the family and would therefore not like to use my current wardrobe).

So this is what I bought to last me the summer. Maybe it will help you figure out what to bring but keep in mind that these are all for city wear and I might have chosen differently (maybe not though) if my tours took me on excursions out of the city. The reason I chose Cintamani is the fact that a) I’ve had good experience with their stuff and I like how their products fit me and b) they offered me a good deal which was very welcomed after all the money I had just spent on starting the company. I also like to support Icelandic brands where I can.

Cintamani Jónína Sweater

Jónína Cintamani

I like the Jónína because it’s a fleece sweater but it still looks good and it’s pretty thin. In general when I’m doing something that requires me to move I like my middle layer to be tight so it won’t be in my way. I also don’t like to wear bulky stuff under an outer layer because, well, it’s not very attractive or slimming.

Actually now that I think about it mine is called Jóna (not available on their website anymore) and it doesn’t have a hood but is more or less the same. I should have noticed that earlier since I’ve practically lived in this sweater since I got it.

Cintamani Hallþóra Soft Shell Jacket

Hallþóra Cintamani

I bought this Hallþóra jacket from Cintamani because I needed something that was not quite a proper jacket but would still keep me warm when worn with the fleece sweater or a base layer. It’s really comfy (it’s really stretchy) but because it’s been raining a lot I haven’t worn it much yet. I have a feeling though I’ll use this a lot in the summer.

This jacket is no longer available, but you could probably go with the Úlfa jacket instead.

Cintamani Björk two layer shell jacket

Björk Cintamani

I bought the Björk jacket because, well, it was the cheapest one of its kind that I could find. I also just really liked how simple it is and how it looked on me. I was a bit worried because its waterproof level is not as high as some of the others I looked at but I wore it yesterday in pouring rain (pouring!) and it kept me all dry and nice. Once the rain was gone I just kind of shook like a wet dog and the raindrops just flew right off it. This is a welcomed feature in a city where apparently it rains 200 days a year.

I bought these so they’d work together and they are much more form fitting than the things I usually wear. Of course I also have my lopapeysa but as much as I love it I’m not one of those people who can wear a lopapeysa when it’s warm. If I was camping I would probably wear it at night though underneath a jacket. Another good thing about all of these is that because they’re quite light they are easy to take off and put in your backpack.

You will also notice that these are all tops but that doesn’t mean I walk around naked on the bottom. My legs actually don’t get that cold usually so I mostly wear leggings and a skirt, even in the rain. If it’s really cold I might wear my long johns underneath my leggings but almost never in summer. Coincidentally both my long johns and my wool base layer top are from Cintamani too but I’ve had those for over 7 years now. Because I walk a lot on my walking tours (duh) I invested in super comfortable street/light trekking shoes that also keep me dry (and warm but not too warm) in the rain. Most other days I wear one of my many pairs of Converse All Stars.

In conclusion

Of course you don’t have to spend a month’s worth of salaries in the Cintamani store to stay warm in Iceland but I thought maybe me sharing my outerwear wardrobe could help you figure this out. Of course I’m much more used to the weather here so maybe you’ll feel the need to wear more clothes but I’m also always cold so maybe it evens out.

You should not forget either to bring something light for when it gets warm but if you are out and about exploring on a warm summer’s day, shorts and a T-shirt might become your best friend. The boyfriend puts on a pair of pants he can zip off the legs around the first day of summer and doesn’t take them off again until August or September. Most days the legs are zipped off. He’s on the other end of the extreme though and never gets cold (which makes us look like an odd couple when he’s wearing shorts and I’m wearing mittens).

Obviously if you are a fashion conscious hipster you might not enjoy these suggestions but maybe you can use them to make your own little hipster version of layered clothing. Also I’ve heard that normcore is the new hip anyway (I don’t even know what that means) so there’s that.

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4 thoughts on “What to wear in Iceland in Spring and Summer”

  1. Claudia says:

    Oh… this article made me think about going to Iceland in winter instead of summer. It seems to be „warmer“ 😉 But I guess for horseriding summer still is better – and there’s more daylight.
    This post really helps to decide what to pack. I just hope I’ll remember it till next year 😉

  2. Gwen says:

    Claudia, riding in the winter is great, too. Audur, what about the North of Iceland in July? Lopapeysa-worthy? Layers for sure, but how much like February could it be? Doing waterfalls, day hikes and horses for two weeks.

    1. Amy Leiner says:

      Claudia, I love your trip…..waterfalls, dayhikes and horses. Who or how did you book through. Would love some info. thank you. A. Leiner

  3. Chanun says:

    Hæ Auður,
    Thanks for another practical post. I’m rigorously planning my first trip to Iceland, and your blog comes in very handy. I’m a big fan of wintery cold and layering is my second nature (although I live in a tropical country!). Also, props for mentioning “normcore.” I’m sure I’ll be normcoring pretty hard when I’m there 🙂

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