What to Wear in Iceland: 15 Essentials for Cold Weather

I traveled to Reykjavik and through the south of Iceland in April of 2016 with two good friends. We hiked, we swam in hot springs, and we watched as Icelanders spoke out against their government during the Panama Papers protests. It was an incredible experience.  

Since then, I've had several people ask me what they should wear while visiting this Nordic country. First, travels should know the year is divided into three loose categories based off of tourism and temperature: Low Season (Oct - Apr), Shoulder Season (May & Sep), and High Season (Jun - Aug). Here's a graph of the average highs and lows by month:

Source: Wikipedia 

Source: Wikipedia 

I went in between Low and Shoulder Season to avoid high prices and crowed attractions, so the below list is more tailored to those months. If you plan on traveling during High Season, just remember you'll still need a decent jacket and some of these essentials. Nights can be in the low 40s—plus, the weather is quite unpredictable! 

Merino Wool Socks

Hate having cold feet? Socks with a high percentage of Merino Wool are known for absorbing moisture—which means, your sweaty toes stay dry (and warmer). This fabric is also much finer than other types of wool, so it's not itchy.

Find these socks at DSW, or order them on Amazon Prime. This was one of those small, but essential purchases that made hiking for several hours more enjoyable. (And as a New Yorker, I now wear them in winter.)

Fleece-Lined Tights/Long Johns

During April, I actually didn't need to use my fleece-lined tights or Long Johns. But I packed them to wear under my pants, just in case jeans weren't enough to keep my legs warm. Layering is key when you're traveling to a place where the temperature can change by 20 degrees in a few hours.  

Waterproof Boots

You're going to walk through sand, slush, snow, and puddles while adventuring around Iceland. So don't mess when it comes to investing in some solid waterproof boots. I wore my L.L. Bean Duck Boots everywhere, and they did their job well. But, since this particular shoe is often backordered, here are a few other options from legit brands like Salomon and Sorel.

Down Winter Coat

Headed to Iceland during the frigid months? A long, down coat is pretty necessary for keeping you warm and for fighting off gusts of wind. I recommend both Michael Kors and Eddie Bauer's knee-length jackets—these were by far my best purchases after moving to NYC. Both coats have also kept me warm during my travels to Iceland, Scotland, Montreal, and London—and I've been wearing them for over 5 years. 

Lined Windbreaker

When you're hiking for a longer amount of time, you might appreciate a more breathable coat. North Face's Inlux Insulated Jacket was my go-to when the temperature rose to the high 40s. It's water-proof, lightweight, and has a warm liner—plus, it's easy to tie around your waste if you get too hot. 

Heattech Shirts

what-to-wear-iceland-undershirt

Under all of my sweaters and flannels, I wore a short-sleeved Heatteach shirt from Uniqlo. This article of clothing is supposed to absorb your body's moisture and convert it into heat.

Whether it works or not, I enjoyed being sweat-free and having an extra layer. On our road trip days, I'd also get hot in the car and just wear this teeshirt until the next destination. 

Other Considerations

Now let's get down to the basics: Here's a checklist of other items to pack for your Iceland adventure. Most of these are obvious, but it's easy to forget something!

  • Several sweaters or flannels 
  • Touchscreen gloves or waterproof gloves
  • Scarf + a hat that covers your ears
  • Microfiber towel for quick drying after hot spring swims
  • Outdoor pants if you're glacier walking or heavy-duty hiking
  • One "un-sporty" outfit for nightlife in Reykjavik 
  • Bathing suit and flip flops for the Blue Lagoon
  • Water-resistant backpack

I hope this quick guide helps you on your journey toward visiting the "land of ice and fire." Leave a message in the comments section if you have any questions. Happy travels!

Oh hey, glacier. 

Oh hey, glacier.