Packing for Iceland: What to Bring and What NOT to Bring
Iceland is a land of changeable weather and otherworldly sights. It is essential to know what to pack to feel prepared on your trip to Iceland. From boots to waterproof camera cases, our list of organized essentials is enough to streamline any packing extravaganza when you need to know what to pack and what not to pack for a trip to Iceland.
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To begin with, we provide an overview of all of the essential items to pack to go to Iceland. Add them to a personal list or make this yours with a few personal touches. Read further to get in-depth suggestions and considerations related to each of the items. These include:
- Rain Jacket
- Windproof Travel Umbrella
- Layers Upon Layers
- Heat packs
- Relief for jet lag (or a plan)
- Iceland Power Adapter
- Protection from pickpockets
- Travel insurance
- First Aid Kit
- The right shoes
- Hat or headband
- Layers, Layers, Layers/outerwear
- Sleep mask
- Travel Guide
- USB car charger
- Water bottle
- Quick-dry towel
What to Pack
Packing for Iceland isn’t the same process as packing for almost anywhere else in the world. Iceland offers an entirely different variety of considerations. Packing depends on the weather, location, and the range of activities that you can participate in on the trip.
Below, we have broken up the items to pack into bite-size categories to make it easier to consider other personal things you might want to add to each group. Find all of the items in the list above under the category headings:
- Prepare for the weather
- Adjust to Iceland
- Stay safe
- Pack the proper clothes
- Be Iceland trip savvy
Prepare for the Weather
The weather can change quickly in Iceland, partially due to its geography as a smallish Iceland located close to the Arctic circle. According to the Iceland Met Office: “Iceland enjoys a much milder climate than its name and location adjacent to the Arctic circle would imply.”
The way Iceland is situated geographically, the Gulf Stream flows to and around the southern and western coast. It is the force that moderates the climate, keeping it mild year-round. Icelanders still feel the effect of their neighbor, the Arctic circle, though. The cold air flows down, and when it makes contact with warmer Atlantic air, the result is unpredictable weather and an increased frequency of harsh storms.
Packing a quality rain jacket is an absolute must in Iceland. So much of the allure when traveling around the country comes from outdoor activities. Keeping a rain jacket closeby aids in protecting the great adventure you are having. Make sure it is entirely waterproof, testing it out and coating it with extra spray if necessary before the trip.
Windproof Travel Umbrella
Note the word “windproof” in the title of this item. Many of us wouldn’t think twice about what kind of umbrella we had with us. However, unless you want to be one of those unlikely people chasing around an upside-down brolly, ensure that yours is windproof.
Layers Upon Layers
Any good packing list wouldn’t be complete without advising the traveler to pack plenty of layers. Although it is never sweltering in Iceland, it can feel quite warm if you are doing a lot of activity. Then, when the weather suddenly changes, you feel as if you were freezing. Pack layers, wearing a T-shirt, and over that perhaps a thin sweater, and over that your rain jacket or a thicker coat.
It also depends on what time of year you are going. Layers can be bulky to pack. To minimize the amount you need to stuff into a suitcase, check out the weather averages for that time of year and adjust the number of layers accordingly.
Pack heat packs to keep your hands warm during chilly times of the year. They are small and often work all day.
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Adjust to Iceland
Making sure you are prepared is essential, and you aren’t just preparing for Iceland, but the strain of the trip as well.
Relief for jet lag (or a plan)
Many people swear by having some jet lag relief to take once they get off the plane. If you don’t want to have to take a pill or down entire mugs of coffee or sleeping pills depending on when you land, come up with a plan. Figure out how long it is useful to sleep on the plane and how long to stay up after arrival to help your body synchronize sooner.
Iceland Power Adapter
Iceland has two main plug types, a C and F. C-types have two round pins and F-types of two round pins with earth clips attached to the side. They operate on a 230V supply voltage and 50 Hz. Ensure that you have a travel adaptor that fits these criteria and takes care when plugging anything foreign into an outlet.
Although Iceland has a remarkably low crime rate, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you stay safe on any trip.
Protection from pickpockets
There are always people out there that are ready to take advantage of others. Iceland doesn’t have a high population of pickpockets, but your wallet contains a lot of information that needs to stay with you. Protect it by hanging it around your neck or keeping it a pouch zippered and secured.
Check into travel insurance before you leave on your trip. General health insurance and other types often don’t extend to international crises. Make sure you are covered. Many agencies provide this, so check-in and compare rates.
First Aid Kit
A First Aid Kit should be included for any trip, no matter the destination. Pack a lightweight one if you are worried about your baggage weight or size. It is even handier if you include a flashlight since Iceland remains quite dark for part of the year.
Make sure to pack effective moisturizers to combat the relatively low amounts of humidity in Iceland.
Pack the Proper Clothes
It can be challenging to know what clothes you should pack when the weather can swing around. It is best to have clothes focused more on the chilly side of the scale.
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Hat or headband
Wearing a hat or a headband is a great way to keep the rest of your body warm in inclement weather. By stopping the heat from escaping through your skull, it aids in increased circulation and maintaining core temperatures.
Packing a sleep mask is necessary, depending on the time of year that you visit Iceland. Since it is so close to the Arctic circle, daylight hours are limited during the winter. Bring a sleep mask if you visit during the summer to block out the sun late at night.
Although it is cool in Iceland, the land is renowned for having hot springs and saunas that benefit from them. Don’t forget your swimsuit to take a chance at experiencing one of their beautiful warm lagoons.
The right shoes
Pack appropriate shoes for the activities you plan on doing. If you want to go hiking or travel up to and around waterfalls, make sure that your boots are waterproof. If you plan on doing a lot of walking, be sure that they are supportive.
Be Iceland Trip Savvy
Iceland is a unique location, making packing for this specific trip slightly more unique as well. Be sure to have the right materials to streamline this particular adventure.
Almost any traveling you decide to do around Iceland involves some sort of hiking or walking. Prepare yourself by having a backpack to carry any gear, such as snacks, water, layers, or a travel guide.
If you are a super planner, you might have made your guide. However, if this is not the case, make sure to pack a travel guide to hit all of the great locations en route.
USB car charger
One of the most common trips that people take when they are in Iceland involves traveling around the Golden Circle. Most people rent a car upon arrival. Bring a USB car charger for any of your devices so that you don’t have to worry about them dying on the road.
Iceland has some of the purest, glacial water in the world. Therefore, when you buy a bottle of water, you are just purchasing bottled tap water. Save money by bringing a filtered water bottle and filling it up before you head out.
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On any trip, a quick-dry towel is a must. It is especially true in Iceland. Invest before you go to have something that gets you dry without smelling musty the next day.
Finally, a camera is a must when traveling through Iceland. If you have been debating about investing in one, our recommendation is to do it before your trip. You won’t regret being able to capture the stark colors and landscapes of the country.
Do note that if you forget anything, the people of Iceland have got your back. They are accustomed to tourists traveling around the country. There are stores stocked with necessary supplies all over the Golden Circle route. If you are heading inland, take note of checkpoints to refill anything you might have forgotten.
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What NOT to Pack
When heading to a location such as Iceland, you can leave plenty of things out of the suitcase. Don’t overpack by avoiding the following items.
- High voltage electronics without an adaptor
- Very fancy clothing
- Heavy items, i.e., lots of books
- A lot of cash
- Riding supplies
It is best to avoid any electronics that function with a high voltage since they are unlikely to adapt well to the different outlets. Even if you have an adaptor to plug them into, they can still melt or break because of the wrong energy flow.
A trip to Iceland doesn’t demand minimalism, but it is much easier to go around if you don’t have to trek heavy objects. Iceland is not a country that highly favors large rolling suitcases. Try to avoid packing heavier items with you.
The country has adapted to accept all forms of cards from around the world. It is often better to invest in a travel card or find out what options your bank has to offer rather than exchange cash. It is also safer.
If you have an interest in horseback riding while in the country, which is a popular activity, don’t worry about the supplies. All of the agencies or organizations that allow people this opportunity will have anything you could need.
No matter what your trip to Iceland looks like, it will be an adventure you won’t forget. More than likely, bringing too much or too little won’t end up mattering in the end.
You will remember the feeling of breathing the air and walking on the Vikings land, taking in an incredibly unique geography, and experiencing the feel of icy glacial waters or steamy hot springs.
So don’t worry too much about it, because Iceland will be ready for you no matter what you bring.