What to Wear in Iceland: The Full Packing Checklist for Every Season

Traveling to Iceland will be one of the best adventures of your life. But if you’re not prepared for the local weather conditions, it’ll definitely be a chilly experience! In this article, you’ll get tips on what to wear in the different seasons in Iceland and what items we’d recommend packing in your suitcase.

The first step in knowing the correct clothing to bring is to know what the weather will be like whenever you’re planning to travel to Iceland. While it’s impossible to know for sure what the weather will be like months or even weeks beforehand, you can check the average weather conditions and learn about the characteristics of the season you’ll be traveling in.

The Weather in Iceland

Iceland’s climate is surprisingly milder than many would expect thanks to the warm Irminger Current that flows along the coasts and warms the weather. When choosing the clothing you want to pack, the first thing you should do is to check the average weather conditions for the season of your trip.

Each season has general characteristics that will help you know what to expect. Since there’s no way to know exactly what kind of weather will arise and the weather in Iceland is famous for its wild variability, the best thing to do is prepare for a bit of everything. In our article about Iceland’s weather, you’ll learn everything you need to know.

There’s a common saying that states, “There’s no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” This is definitely true for Iceland where the secret to success in coping with any type of weather lies in choosing the correct clothing. Regardless of the season that you’re traveling to Iceland, layers are a must, so you should always have at least three layers with you.

weather in Iceland
The weather in Iceland is sometimes funny but don’t worry too much about it

The Base Layer

The base layer is the one that is directly next to your skin. This should be a soft, flexible material that is comfortable to wear. The base layer’s main function is to move moisture away from your skin to keep you dry while letting your skin breathe. Therefore, it’s important to avoid cotton which, although comfortable and breathable, absorbs water and dries very slowly. Once it gets wet, it will keep cooling your body and won’t be dry before the end of the day.

The ideal material for the base layer is fine merino wool. It’s a great insulator and is also a very fast-drying fabric. This is the reason why merino wool items are so popular among hikers. If you don’t like merino wool, you can also choose any other synthetic fabrics that were designed for outdoor activities.

The base layer should consist of long sleeves and leggings. Have at least one set with you as well as a short-sleeved t-shirt for the quite unlikely case of hot weather in summer.

Iceland clothing base layer
Recommended clothing in Iceland: base layer

The Middle Layer

The next layer is for insulation. This should be worn over the base layer and retain your body heat in order to keep you warm. The type of insulation material will depend on your needs and the season of travel.

Polar fleece and wool are the most common materials for this layer. Icelanders love knitted sweaters and have their own special Icelandic wool. You’ll see plenty of locals wearing “lopapeysas,” which are special hand-knitted Icelandic sweaters with circular yoke patterns around the neck and shoulders.

In colder seasons, you can double your insulation with an extra down vest or jacket. The middle layer should be breathable so that the body moisture doesn’t get trapped between the layers.

As for the bottom, you can either wear comfortable, fast-drying pants under the shell layer or opt for insulated shell pants.

recommended clothing in Iceland
Recommended clothing in Iceland: wool sweater

The Shell Layer

The outer layer’s main function is to protect you from the elements. Both wind and rain can ruin the effects of the first two layers, leaving you cold and miserable. Wind and rain are pretty common in Iceland and you can expect them at any time of the year. Their intensity and the air temperature will vary greatly between the seasons, though.

Softshell is a popular and practical material for those who are traveling in Iceland. It will protect you from the wind, dry fast, and repel water. Some softshell jackets aren’t fully waterproof, so if that’s the case, you’ll need to bring extra rain gear in case of heavy rain. Even when the weather is beautiful, you can get very wet when you get close to the waterfalls. It’s always good to have a set of raingear with you that’s easy to put on and remove, depending on the conditions.

Tourists getting wet behind the waterfall
There is a good chance that you will get wet while walking behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall


Boots are the ideal choice for most travelers in Iceland. The terrain is often wet, muddy, and uneven around the natural attractions. Your boots should provide good support for your ankles and should be waterproof, especially if you’re planning to take long walks. Leather hiking boots are ideal for all kinds of conditions.

A hat, gloves, and scarf or balaclava may be necessary, not only in winter but sometimes even in summer, too. It’s a good idea to have them, just in case. The wind can affect your thermal comfort and make you feel that the air temperatures are much colder than they really are.

Blue lagoon's water might damage your hair
A hat can be useful even in summer.

Clothing for Citylife

Locals won’t be too annoyed if you wear your outdoor clothing at the bar, but it’s always good to dress nicely if you’re planning to visit a restaurant or an upscale place. Some restaurants and bars do have dress codes, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand to avoid mistakes.

When in downtown Reykjavík, don’t wear hiking gear when walking down Laugavegur unless you want to stand out as a tourist. If you want to fit in with the culture and enjoy the nightlife to the fullest, keep in mind that the locals like vintage, hipster, and glam. Like in any European country, H&M, Zara, New Yorker, Reserved, and Lindex are pretty popular when it comes to fashion shopping. Iceland also has its very own Nordic fashion brands such as 66North, Cintamani, and Farmer’s Market. So, you can just bring some clothing that you’d wear in your home country when going to a fancy restaurant or cultural event.

Reykjavik street style
Reykjavik street style

Practical Tips

In addition to those general recommendations, you should choose clothing based on your travel style. A backpacker will naturally need to put much more thought into choosing the correct gear than someone who is going to spend most of their time sitting in the car during a road trip around Iceland.

Hikers will need to pay special attention to the quality of their gear. Since they’re exposed to the elements all day long, having water- and wind-proof gear is crucial. When moving actively, you’ll sweat more, making breathability another key factor when choosing the right clothing.

Road trippers should focus more on comfort since they’ll spend a lot of time in the car. This means they’ll have to put on and remove their outer layers multiple times a day. For this reason, it’s good to have easily adjustable and removable layers that aren’t too tight or overly heavy.

Those who are planning to spend more time in the city can dress somewhat more fashionably and be less concerned with functionality. Still, if you’re planning to visit any waterfalls or black sand beaches, you’ll need a waterproof coat and good, sturdy boots.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Things to Avoid


When visiting natural attractions, wearing high heels or light sneakers isn’t a good idea. The conditions are simply not suitable for these kinds of footwear as the terrain can usually be muddy, slippery, or sandy.


Wearing cotton or jeans isn’t recommended either since these absorb water, stay cool and wet for a long time, and make you feel cold all day.

Plastic raincoats are another mistake to avoid. They’re usually poorly designed and can’t be adjusted properly to keep you dry when the weather is windy. They also don’t let your skin breathe, so you might get wet from the inside, which is no more comfortable than getting wet from the outside.

Try to avoid overly heavy clothing as well. If you’re unsure what to wear, carry extra items with you, but don’t wear too many layers of heavy clothing. They’ll slow you down, make you sweat, and leave you feeling uncomfortable in the car.

Svartifoss waterfall in South Iceland
Svartifoss waterfall in South Iceland

Packing Checklist for Summer (May–September)

For Road Trips and Short Hikes

  • Long-sleeved undergarments
  • A t-shirt
  • A sweater (wool or fleece)
  • A softshell jacket
  • Waterproof boots
  • Softshell pants
  • Raincoat (and rain pants for longer walks)
  • A thin beanie, gloves, and a buff
  • Sunglasses
  • Pajamas / nightwear

For City Life, Optionally

  • A set of city wear and footwear
  • A set of fancy wear

For Enjoying Life

  • A bathing suit and a towel

Practical Items for Summer

  • A mini bottle of sunscreen (30+)
  • Hand cream and lip balm
  • A reusable water bottle
The Black sand Beach in South Iceland
The Black sand beach in South Iceland

Packing Checklist for Winter (October–April)

For Road Trips and Short Hikes

  • Long-sleeved undergarments
  • A sweater (wool or fleece)
  • A down jacket or vest
  • A warm winter parka (waterproof and windproof)
  • Waterproof boots
  • Warm wool socks
  • Snow spikes/ice grippers for your boots
  • Insulated, water-repellent pants
  • A warm, windproof hat, gloves, and scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Pajamas / nightwear

For City Life, Optionally

  • A set of city wear and footwear
  • A set of fancy wear

For Enjoying Life

  • A bathing suit and a towel

Practical Items for Winter

  • Hand cream and lip balm
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Reusable pocket warmers
Winter clothing in Iceland
Winter clothing in Iceland

Useful Extras


Sunglasses can be useful at any time of the year, even in the dark winter. When the weather is good, the snow can be very bright. Sometimes the sun will stay in an unfortunate position near the horizon for a very long time, getting in your eyes when you’re driving into the sun.


In summer, the sun can be very strong, hot, and can even cause sunburns. Skin protection is highly recommended, preferably with an SPF of 30+.

A Sleeping Mask

From around late April, the sunrise will happen very early in the morning and the sunset will be very late, continuing until the nights become completely bright from around late May. The white nights and the midnight sun will then last until the middle of August. Some people have problems falling asleep when it’s bright out, even if the window blinds are shut, so a sleeping mask can make a big difference. In summer, you can buy these in many stores in Iceland.

Sleeping mask might be necessary in summer
Sleeping mask might be necessary in summer


If you’re not used to chilly, windy weather, your skin can dry out easily. It’s good to have some lotion, hand cream, and lip balm with you to avoid this.

A Reusable Water Bottle

The tap water in Iceland is safe to drink. It actually tastes better and is healthier than any other tap water in the world. It’s not artificially purified and is pure glacial spring water. So, make sure that you bring a reusable water bottle with you to save the environment from unnecessary plastic waste. The bottled water sold in the grocery stores is expensive and contains simple tap water.

Reusable Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are a great addition to your winter packing list. They can warm you up while waiting for the Northern Lights to appear or while waiting for your travel buddies to finish all their selfies at the waterfalls. Make sure to bring environmentally-friendly reusable pocket warmers instead of disposable ones.

Snow Spikes or Ice Grippers

In the winter, the paths can be covered by ice, making them slippery. From around November until April, we’d recommend having a pair of ice grippers for your boots just in case the conditions get icy. But if you forget to get them, don’t worry. You can buy them in many stores in Iceland.

Snow spikes can be useful in winter
Snow spikes can be useful in winter

What You Won’t Need in Iceland

An Umbrella

Although it’s probably a common item in your home country, Icelanders don’t use umbrellas. The wind is usually too strong for an umbrella.

To save space in your suitcase, leave your umbrella at home and bring a good raincoat instead.

Bug Repellent

We have great news for you: there are no mosquitoes in Iceland! You won’t need to be afraid of getting bitten by any bugs since the chances of this are extremely low. There’s no need for that bug repellent spray, so you can use the space for something else.

What To Do if You Forgot Something

You shouldn’t be too worried if you forget some items of clothing at home. There are plenty of places where you can buy clothes and accessories. There are two shopping malls in Reykjavík: Kringlan and Smáralind. Both are filled with fashion stores and all the types of shops you’d expect in a mall.

Quality outdoor clothing can be found in the 66North and Cintamani stores that are all over Reykjavík as well as in Icewear stores and the mountain store, Fjallakoffinn. There’s also a Sport’s Direct in the city.

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