Dressing like a local: A few things I could not live without during Winter in Iceland

A couple of days ago I posted a few snowy pictures from a particularly beautiful day here in Reykjavík and like always when people see snow, I got some questions regarding how cold it gets in Reykjavík and what to pack for a trip to Iceland. When I’ve been asked this question before I usually tell people to dress in layers and then leave it at that because every person is different. The boyfriend, for example, goes everywhere in any weather in Teva sandals and Lopapeysa (I know, I’ve been trying to train him not to wear socks and sandals but he’s just so damn stubborn) while I on the other hand don’t leave the house without my parka and mittens and headband in my backpack just in case.

Contrary to what you might think, it doesn’t get all that cold in Reykjavík, not even in the height of winter. For example, the average temperature in January from the year 1931 to 2000 was a mere -0,4°C. The reason people keep complaining about the weather is not so much the cold but the wind and rain that seems to come from every direction possible. So the weather is more nasty than it is cold.

Anyway, in attempt to help you decide what to pack, here are a few things I can’t live without during winter in Iceland.

1. My Cintamani Merino Wool Underwear

Cintamani Merino Wool Underwear (top and long-johns)

If you are ever going to buy anything to use in cold weather, this should be on top of your list. Obviously it doesn’t have to be Cintamani but we love this particular set and the whole family has a pair. We don’t just use them in winter, we also use them in summer, for example when we go camping. They are thin enough to be worn underneath other clothes, like jeans, and keep you warm without you feeling hot and stuffy. Plus they really last.


2. My 66°North Vík base layer fleece duo

66 North Vík Base Layer Fleece Duo

Because I normally wear my Cintamani wool underwear as a base layer I don’t need a big and thick fleece sweater on top of that. However, sometimes it’s just that cold that you feel like you need just a little bit more and then it’s good to have thin fleece sweater like the Vík base layer sweater from 66°North. I have the Vík pants too but because they are so smooth on the outside I often use them as leggings underneath my skirts and dresses.

In my experience, these are a little bit too warm if you are somewhere inside where it’s already warm. Our apartment is often quite cold so I sometimes wear the pants when lounging around at home but I only use the sweater outside. Both this duo and the Cintamani pair is something I wear if I’m going to be outside for a while, I probably wouldn’t bother with it if I was only walking to the bus stop and planning on staying inside most of the day.


3. Woolen socks

Ullasokkar - knitted woolen socks

Attempted for the first time the other day to knit my own ullarsokkar out of some scrap yarn and this is the result. They are a bit wonky but I don’t care because I made them.

Woolen socks or ullarsokkar as they are called in Icelandic are essential in winter. I use them in my shoes, when lounging around at home and I even sleep in them when it’s extra cold out. I could not live with out my Ullasokkar.

When I went out that day I mentioned at the beginning of this post I was wearing a pair of ullasokkar, my cintamani top, Vík trousers and Parka and it was just perfect. Not too warm and not too cold.

4. My parka and raincoat

Snæfell parka from 66°North

Next time I have 75.000 ISK to burn I will spend it on the Snæfell parka/coat. Maybe. Probably not.

I have a cheap parka that I bought in H&M in Copenhagen last year and unfortunately it doesn’t hold rain very well. Because of that I bought a raincoat too that has saved my life many times this winter. The fantastic thing about a good parka is the fact that you can be practically naked underneath it and still feel warm. Someday I will have enough money to buy one of those big 66°North parkas but until then I’ll make do with the cheap stuff.

I haven’t had a proper rain coat since I was a little girl and really like wearing it. I have one of those three layer shell jackets too that I use a lot in the summer and one my bike but it just doesn’t work when I’m wearing my little skirts and dresses. It’s also good to have a long raincoat in the Icelandic rain that attacks you sideways.


5. My lopapeysa

Lopapeysa for children

A couple of Lopapeysur (plural for lopapeysa) I knitted for my friend’s two little boys

I actually have a few lopapeysur that I use for different occasions. I have one that is thin and long that is perfect underneath my parka and raincoat. I have another that is quite thick so I mostly use it at home or when I go camping. Most people use them much more than I do and the boyfriend and the princess practically live in theirs. If I was making a list of things they couldn’t live without in winter, their lopapeysa would probably be the only thing on the list.


6. All kinds of woolen accessories

Headband, Ear warmers, woolen accessories

I was bored one night and made about 10 of these in many different colors. Now I have a headband to fit every occasion

 I don’t know if this is Icelanders in general or just me because I like to knit and crochet but I have mountains of woolen accessories that I use almost every day during winter. Scarfs, hats, headbands and mittens – all wool and all very important. Actually, I almost never leave the house without having mittens in my bag because you never know when the weather might turn. I prefer mittens over gloves because I just think they are warmer (sometimes I wear two pairs, one of the other) but again it might also just be because I love to knit them and feel like I have to wear what I make myself.

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48 thoughts on “Dressing like a local: A few things I could not live without during Winter in Iceland”

  1. Anna says:

    66 North products are so expensive! Is it really justified? I’ve heard that some of their products are made in China… 🙁

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t know where the 66°N products are produced, I think at some point at least they were made in Latvia. Some of their stuff is very expensive but other not so much – the gear I have from them was fairly inexpensive for example. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter where the stuff is produced as long as the products are not misrepresented (like the Lopapeysas that were made in China but marked as made in Iceland) and the workers are paid what is fair and their work environment is good. I must also say, where ever their stuff is produced, the stuff I have has lasted for years and is still as good as new.

      As for the prices, would I buy a parka for 80.000 ISK right now? No. Would I buy it if I had more money and that kind of amount wouldn’t hurt my wallet? Maybe. As long as there are people willing to buy the products for that price I guess the only way we can protest against the high prices, if that’s something we would like to do, is by not buying them.

  2. Anna says:

    You are a talented knitter, you should set up an etsy account and people would buy from you. I would definitely purchase some warm socks made from you, wonky or not.

    1. LIssa Griffiths says:

      Thats true, I would buy them too, Anna. And look at the brilliant lopapeysur you made for your friends children. You are a talented lady.

  3. Adam says:

    Thanks for the handy article, though any advice on for people who are allergic to woolen fibres?
    This was a problem I had on my previous visit, wasn’t really able to find much clothing that was cotton/synthetic, mostly wool 🙁


    1. mm Auður says:

      You are allergic to wool? You poor poor thing!

      What about fleece? That’s as synthetic as it gets, isn’t it? Both 66°N and Cintamani have all kinds of fleece products in all shapes and sizes.

      1. Adam says:

        Yep unfortunately!
        So many great wool products in Iceland but can’t wear them 🙁
        Fleece is fine, I remember having a quick look at 66°N in Kringlan but didn’t really find anything, Cintamani website seems to have good choice.

        I’m heading to Iceland for a ring-road-trip in early October and my previous visit in August was quite “fresh” so this info will help me find something warm!

  4. Anna says:

    Same problem for me. Wool on my skin makes me itch like made and go red instantly. Lambswool is the worst. I can only wear wool if its a few layers away from my skin, and things like cuffs and necklines also keep their distance!

  5. Anna says:

    I’m a different Anna from the one who posted in March, by the way…

  6. George says:

    Hey, we are coming up in February. Will I need any of my -30 C clothing?

    1. mm Auður says:

      No 🙂 Bring layers, lots of layers.

  7. Mike says:

    Say, its the 28th an I’m coming to Reykjavik for 2 days to work. Meetings and stuff. Do I need to pack my boots? Will certainly go out in the evening to feed and drink. Is there a bunch of ice and snow in the CBD? I just need to be back home by Friday night. Wish I had more time in your beautiful land. Peace,

    1. mm Auður says:

      No, you don’t need to pack your boots for the city. The pavements downtown are mostly clear and the weather was nice and mild yesterday at least.

  8. Debbie says:

    I can’t wear wool, either. But I have found that layers work pretty well: silk underwear if it’s really cold, a lightweight cotton long sleeve undershirt, cotton blend tights, nice thick cotton/nylon socks, something to insulate (like polar fleece or a cotton sweater) and something wind/rain resistant. Polar fleece scarf and fleece lined hat. I LOVE my hooded down coat and wear it with jeans and a shirt and am just fine. Patagonia and LL Bean have done their homework on cold weather gear, too.

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t know if you are used to cold weather but here in Iceland there’s a rule about cotton (especially as the innermost layer) and the outdoors: never wear it.

  9. Holly says:

    Love your blog! I am coming next weekend, and I have been reading that people recommend bringing rain pants. We are taking a couple of tours, nothing strenuous. I just can’t see myself wearing rain pants for any reason other than my trip. Do you think they are really necessary? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I can’t tell whether you HAVE to wear rain pants but in weather like we have today I’m sure it’s better. I hardly ever wear mine myself but I do think “Dang, why didn’t I bring my rainpants with me?”. If you don’t have them, maybe you don’t need to buy them. I’d definitely take longjohns then and maybe a extra pair of pants on your tour.

  10. Karina says:

    Hi 🙂
    I was visiting Iceland 5 years Ago, lovely country. My biggest regret is that I didn’t buy a knittet cardigan While beeing there. I saw a lot of different nice cardigans (lopapeysa you wrote in a text?), but couldn’t make up my mind, and thought I would wait until I came back home and then buy one over the internet….that is not easy I have experienced. I Found some few sites who sells these … But nothing interesting….and suddenly I Found Your site….I can see you do some knitting yourselfs. Maybe you could guide me to some sites or people who sells those. I remember some small shops place around in the country where the tourist came??? Can you help me?

  11. Jen says:

    Okay, we are coming the last week of May for our wedding with a small group of friends/family. Should we still plan on lots of layers? I’m hoping to still look like a pretty bride while sightseeing in my parka, any ideas? 🙂

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are worried about the photos I’ve been part of a wedding shoot in December where the bride only wore her dress – we just made sure she got her coat in between shots.

      You might be very lucky with the weather in May or you might get really unlucky – no way to tell now I’m afraid.

      Maybe you’d like to take a look at getting a white lopapeysa over your dress – that way you’d be warm but also festive 🙂

  12. Maria says:

    I read that their products often are produced in Bangladesh. For that reason I dont want to buy this clothes. They sell it expensive, but the people who working in this undustries in Bangladesh dont get much money…so, similar to other big names. Sad, very sad!

  13. Virginia says:

    Hello, love your article ! Can you also give us some advice on what to wear in summer ? I’m planning to go to Iceland in July/August and drive all around the country but I really don’t know what to wear and don’t want to look all “rainproof”. Thanks in advance !

  14. Esther says:

    We just spent 2 rainy, cool and windy weeks along #1. It was a great trip, we saw so many amazing landscapes, waterfalls and more!!
    I sure should have brought my rainpants though. I wore leggings under my outdoorpants every day, glad I had them!
    A water- and windproof raincoat, woolly hoody, wristwarmers thick shawl and mittens helped too!! 🙂
    One day, we will be back!

    Greetings from Switzerland(not too warm right now too)!

    By the way: we finished our trip spending 2 days at a villa in Hotel GLYMUR – fantastic!

  15. Tom says:

    Wait isn’t this 66 North stuff so insanely expensive that only the stupidest tourist would buy it? What? I know Icelanders are rich but a six hundred dollar jacket? Really?

  16. Leanne Johnson says:

    Anyone who can’t wear wool – try bamboo! I have a couple of fine knitted base layers (tops and trousers) which are made from bamboo. Very environmentally and animal friendly, and also lightweight and they keep you warm in winter and cool when it’s getting warmer. I wouldn’t be without them. It also does very well for socks, hats and so on.

  17. Heather says:

    I’m from Northwestern Ontario and very used to cold weather (and dressing for it) We will be there the first week of December. I’m not sure which winter coat to bring…… is it a damp cold there or dry cold ? Also is it wet then ? I was planning on wearing my mukluks (suede and fur) but don’t want to get them wet. Thanks for all the great information !

    1. mm Auður says:

      It’s kind of humid and it’s often wet, either because of snow, rain or sleet. But it might be dry the whole time you are here – you never know.

      1. Heather says:

        ok thanks – will prepare for all conditions !

  18. Leticia says:

    Great article! We re planing to come mid March and we live in Vancouver, Canada, so we are use to rainy and wet weather. My main concern will be what kind of shoes to bring. We are looking to do some outdoor activities as the golden circle. Will waterproof gore tex hiking shoes be enough? We are planing to wear some good wool socks to keep the warmth.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, that’s quite enough. I usually only wear my hiking shoes out of the city and most days I’m just wearing Converse or running shoes.

  19. Jessica Massey says:

    Hi, I’ve been travelling for the last 6 months and only have some warm clothing, nothing like everyone advises for Iceland. It’s the last stop on my way home and whilst I’m super excited about everything Iceland has to offer, I don’t have the necessary clothing. Is there anywhere to rent appropriate clothing for the week rather than buy?

  20. Sara says:

    Hi there! I love your blog. I’m coming to Iceland in mid-March: any suggestions for footwear and clothing? Thank you so much!

  21. Matt says:

    I’m traveling to Iceland for the first time in April. During my stay I’d like to do a good amount of hiking and exploring some elevations away from flat lands. Does anyone have suggestions for some day trips? I’d like to spend a few days in Reykjavik as well as some more remote areas in Suðurland, Norðurland and Austurland. Any tips on locations as well as clothing would be most appreciated

  22. tika says:

    Hi … We’ve booked your walking tour in March. We’re coming with our (then) 8 months old baby. Tips or guidelines on how to dress “babies” like locals?
    🙂 thank you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Although I’ve never had to dress an 8 month old baby but my guess would be layers for the baby too. Warm overall, hat, mittens and so forth.

  23. Hope says:

    Hello! We are so excited for our first trip to Iceland. We just booked your tour for March 31. Like many people we’re wondering what the heck to wear. Here in the northeastern part of the US the first week in April is usually unpredictable and wet, and that wet could be rain or wet snow. Will Iceland be similar? Is it more cold wet or warm wet? To me “warm” is anything above 45 degrees.

    1. mm Auður says:

      There’s no way to tell really 🙂 It could be all or none of the above. I would prepare for the cold and wet just in case.

  24. Anita says:

    Hi! My friend and I will be arriving next week. I’ve been watching the weather reports and it looks like we will be arriving in the rain and snow. What do you suggest for footwear? I was going to pack waterproof hiking sneakers, but would Wellingtons and wool socks keep our feet warm? I’m glad I found your blog!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Personally I wear hiking shoes or water proof all-terrain running shoes with my woolen socks if I need them. As long as it is waterproof you are fine but of course it depends on where you are going – if you are going somewhere where there is a lot of snow (up to your calves or higher for example) then you might want to consider something like hiking shoes. Wellingtons are a little bit cold for me but I sometimes see people wear them.

      If this helps you are all I’m going out for my walking tour in about half an hour and it’s snowing outside but I’m wearing my Nike running shoes and wool sock. I usually don’t get cold like this but if it’s extra slushy outside I might get a bit wet by the end of the tour.

  25. cecilia says:

    just throwing in my two cents’ worth on the whole what-to-wear issue and how-cold-does-it-really-get issue… you may be one of those super-tough people who never feel cold (like all the ladies I see going out in the middle of winter with bare legs and no coat) but remember that the cold will affect your body! so wrap up warm!

  26. Emily Hodgson says:

    My boyfriend has booked a trip to Iceland for my birthday in December to see the Northern Lights. Just wondering if there is anything else you’d recommend to wear in WInter? Also, what kind of shoes would you recommend?


  27. Jason says:

    Hey so I’m going to be in Iceland for two years and I need to know A LOT of stuff haha who would be able to answer some questions for me?

  28. Susan says:

    Hi There. What boots would you recommend for an October visit? I need some support as we will be doing a lot of walking around. Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are going to be doing a lot of walking I’d recommend some nice waterproof light hiking shoes that give good support. Personally, I’ve been wearing my Nike running shoes all October this year and when it’s colder I just wear woolen socks. If I was hiking I’d wear either my hiking boots or light hiking shoes, depending on the weather and such.

  29. Chima says:

    Hello, I’ve had a good read through all of the comments and haven’t seen anything relevant to my the time of the year I’ll be arriving so i’ll add a comment in hopes of some clarity! I’ll be arriving in Jan and have 4 tours booked, the two I’m mostly concerned about regarding footwear are the Golden Circle and Southcoast & Waterfalls. I’m considering purchasing North Face trousers just to be on the safe side will they be okay?

    Also, am I to buy waterproof leg wear or can I get away with jeans/ trousers with plenty layers underneath?

  30. Sherry Verstraete says:

    We are taking tours when we visit the last week of March. Are hiking boots sufficient for South Shore Adventure, Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal area or are waterproof boots better?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Hiking boots should suffice but most hiking boots are waterproof aren’t they? At least if you spray them or put fat on them.

  31. Myles Tristan says:

    I am planning on going to Iceland in early to mid April.
    I have my Sorel waterproof fleece lined tall boots and Swix lightweight thermal underlayers.
    I also have the Swix quilted mini skirts for skiing and a long vest.
    Would you recommend the Vik base layer fleecewear also?
    Naturally, I will have a waterproof down parka – probably from 66 North.
    I am allergic to wool so, what about socks?

    Takk Takk

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