A while ago I was contacted by someone who asked me to make a packing list for Iceland as they were getting ready to pack for their own little adventure on my island. When I got the e-mail I thought to myself: How on earth am I supposed to tell anyone what to bring on their Iceland vacation when I always, ALWAYS, take way too much or not enough with me myself? And never the right things. But then I remembered that that mostly applies when I’m traveling abroad, especially to warmer climates where I’m absolutely useless. Auður in shorts is just wrong on so many levels.
So what would I bring if I was you on my way to Iceland? Here are a few of my top things:
I’m starting to feel like a broken record here, especially since I’ve already written a few posts on this topic, but one more time for the cheap seats in the back: Bring layers.
I’m fast becoming the master of the layers and I’m telling you that nothing beats them. If you have a cute coat that you want to wear and you hurl at the thought of outdoor gear: wear a woolen base layer to give you extra warmth. If you want to wear a skirt and boots: wear long johns underneath your leggings. You don’t need to sacrifice your cuteness to stay warm.
Also, don’t forget your head, finger and toes.
Light layers that pack easily is by far the best way to go. That way they can easily be put on and taken off depending on the temperature and they fit right into your backpack.
If you are not going to do some crazy hiking you don’t need to run out and buy super expensive hiking boots but it’s good to have at least light trekking shoes with you if you plan to go out of the city. There’s a lot of people that go everywhere in their Converse and shrug at the notion that other shoes exist in the world but I feel a real difference wearing good shoes. Especially if you have any sort of problems with your feet or ankles.
It’s also worth looking into choosing waterproof trekking shoes because, well, it rains a lot.
You would be amazed how often I’m asked whether the sun ever shines in Iceland. Yes, people, it really does. We have beautiful sunny days both in winter or summer so sunglasses are always a good idea. It was in fact one of the first things I bought when I started doing my tours.
In the winters in particular the sun can be really low in the sky so if you are going to be driving at all you kind of have to have your sunglasses. Unless you’re cool with driving over people and into ditches.
Iceland is the land of hot water in abundance and you would be doing yourself a disservice to not plunge into one of our thermal pools, the Blue Lagoon or warm springs and rivers around the country. Granted, if you want to dive into the hot river in Reykjadalur for example clothing is completely optional but contrary to what some people have heard they are not optional in the swimming pools. You shower naked but swim in a swimsuit. Doing it the other way around will not go well for you.
Shorts and t-shirts
Arguably, unless you are some sort of super human, this mostly just applies to the summers in Iceland. Even though you may be used to 35°C and you think 16°C is freezing, in the sun it can feel much warmer than it actually is. Especially in places where there’s not a lot of wind (they do exist in Iceland, I swear) and if you are out hiking and stuff and you get all worked up and sweaty.
If you don’t want to commit to shorts you could always get those super fancy hiking pants where you can simply zip the legs of your pants.
Like the shorts and t-shirts you probably didn’t think you would need this in Iceland but the sun does sometime get quite strong. You can probably skip this if you’re traveling to Iceland in winter but if you plan on spending a lot of time on glaciers in the sun that’s a different matter. But if you’re the sort of person that usually hangs around on glaciers much you probably know that already.
Your camera and tripod
Iceland is breathtaking so bringing your camera is a no brainer. The tripod you need if you are planning on taking photos of the northern lights in winter and/or if you want to get those dreamy creamy photos of waterfalls and the midnight sun. If you have a big bulky tripod that is difficult to travel with you might want to consider one of those gorillapods or a lighter travel tripod.
It goes without saying that if you indeed plan to photograph the northern lights you need a camera where you can control the exposure such as a DSLR. Northern lights and iPhones = no bueno.
Also, bring an extra battery for your DSLR as it can run out quicker in the cold.
And then finally…
I don’t know about you but usually when I travel I take way too much with me and I end up wearing the same things more or less the whole time. So my last piece of advice would just to choose wisely and that sometimes less is more. Plus, that way you’ll have space in your bag for all the woolen sweaters you’re going to buy while you’re here.