An Iceland summer may have the sun, beach and waves, but what it doesn’t have is any heat that is not in a geothermal pool. It’s COLD, y’all. Although it’s in the northern hemisphere and it’s technically the summertime, temperatures in Reykjavik and beyond don’t normally rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit/21 degrees Celsius. As I write this post, it’s currently 55 degrees Fahrenheit in Reykavik, and a boiling 93 degrees in New York City. I think I’ve made my point.
Iceland is also known for being a pretty outdoorsy place to visit, so balancing sturdy activewear with city threads for a night out can be a challenge. Hopefully these tips will help you figure out what to pack for an Iceland summer and what to leave at home.
Without further ado, here are my:
Top 15 Packing Tips for An Iceland Summer
1. Hiking Shoes
I had read up before we left on our trip about what sorts of shoes I should bring and thought to myself, “I don’t own any hiking shoes, why would I buy any now? Just for a vacation? I don’t even like hiking.” Let’s just say I was glad I took a last-minute trip to DSW to pick up some Merrell shoes, because I wore them every single day of our trip. I got the Siren Sport 2′s, but not in waterproof. In hindsight, I should have gotten the waterproof ones, as they’re only $20 more.
I still don’t like hiking (or, as I like to call it, “walking uphill in dirt”), but we sure did a lot of it on our trip. The amazing views usually made it all pay off in the end. Still, I’m so glad I was wearing those shoes. Especially when I took a tumble down the Kerid crater. True story.
2. Bathing Suit
Icelanders love a good hot swim, no matter the weather outside. No trip to Iceland is complete without a dip in one of Reykjavik’s hot pots or a trip to the super-touristy-yet-bucket-list-item Blue Lagoon. Or, you can find a fabled swimming hole described in an Icelandic saga, instead, like on our Snaefellsnes tour. Don’t be caught without your bikini or trunks and be forced to miss out on a truly Icelandic experience!
Just because it’s cold or cloudy outside doesn’t mean that you won’t get a wicked sunburn. Make sure you slather up your face and other exposed body parts during the daytime (remember, the sun during an Iceland summer is out nearly 24 hours a day) to avoid looking like a cooked lobster come dinnertime!
I highly recommend one of the Rodan + Fields options. (full disclosure – I’m an R+F consultant, and clicking on the link will bring you to my R+F online store, but I 100% recommend the products because I use them myself – including on our trip to Iceland!). For my face I love the Unblemish step 4 with 20 SPF and for body the Essentials 30 SPF full spectrum sunscreen does the trick.
Did you know that if you have light-colored eyes, it’s even more important for you to wear eye protection from the sun? These baby blues rarely see the summer without a nice dark lens between them and the outside world. Most of the amazing experiences Iceland has to offer include being outdoors. Remember, the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day during an Icelandic summer (see above). Bring some sunglasses to avoid paying crazy prices once you land in Reykjavik (clothing and other items are much more expensive there than in the U.S.). The glare off of the glaciers in the sun can be blinding – snow blindness is a thing. Sunglasses usually help a photo op, too, so you’re not squinting in every photo!
5. Water-resistant windbreaker with a hood
You’ll be so glad that you brought a water-resistant or waterproof hooded jacket if you get up close and personal with a waterfall (which are like churches in a European city – everywhere!). The weather can also change fairly quickly or be a little rainy – and sometimes windy. Keeping your hands free and your body dry, one of these babies will help you really enjoy your beautiful surroundings without being uncomfortable or getting sick later.
I bought a cheap number from Target (Ava & Viv), and hubs got a great lightweight shell from The North Face that rolls up into a little ball. Unfortunately, The North Face’s XL women’s jackets are a little snug on me (yes, I’ll actually admit that), so I couldn’t join him in the The North Face fun. But his looks pretty sweet, too.
6. Water-resistant pants/Trousers
Being sprayed by waterfalls and riding around a glacier lagoon in a Zodiac boat means that you won’t want to wear jeans. Plus, pants with some stretch but water resistance are good for hiking around, being outdoors in the rain and keeping your rental car somewhat dry. Quick-drying pantalones are essential. I picked up some North Face Aphrodite pants in black Macy’s before leaving for the trip (same shopping trip as DSW) and I am so glad I had them. The bonus is that they have pockets and everything.
7. Wicking long-sleeved shirts for layering
Cooler mornings and evenings in the Iceland summer mean you’ll want a little something extra to layer between your tshirt and your windbreaker. A moisture-wicking long-sleeved top can be just the ticket. And, with near-24-hours’ daylight, you can spend 18 hours in a day in the Iceland summer seeing the sights, so you WILL be out and about at a waterfall at 9pm (if you’re up to it!). I love my long-sleeved wicking tops from Fabletics for this.
8. Wicking t-shirts or tank tops for layering
My number #1 favorite item I brought with me was a moisture-wicking, loose-fitting t-shirt. The material is cool in the heat and warm enough in the cooler morning, and if you work up a sweat hiking up to Svartifoss, you won’t be gross all day long. Layering is key in a climate like this! The Mosa Tank from Fabletics is moisture-wicking and has a vent in the back top.
A pair or two of jeans is great for trekking around Reykjavik in, and you can dress them up a bit to go to dinner at Kol, Dill, or any other cool restaurants in town.
10. Nice tops
Again, for dinners in town it’s a good idea to have something resembling fashion with you. Plus it’s a nice balance after wearing athleisurewear all day to be able to dress up a bit. Pack one or two tops that you can wear out to dinner and wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in by a friend. And let’s face it, with Iceland becoming such a popular destination, the odds are becoming greater that you actually WILL see someone you know while there.
If you go to Iceland without a camera, you’re just an idiot. One of the most beautiful countries of the world deserves to be photographed. My iPhone 5 took some decent ones, and I had purchased a Sony DSC-QX10 to turn my phone into a better camera. Hubs used our Canon DSLR. I really liked the DSC-QX10 but I’m not sure that it takes better photos than my iPhone 6, now. However, as an attachable lens, it was great to travel with as it was fairly small and set up easily. I got lucky with mine as it was an open-box item, so I got it for about $130 US.
The plus side is that the DSC-QX10 has its own WiFi signal and works remotely. So, I was able to use the Sony PlayMemories app as a viewfinder on my phone and set up the lens somewhere else, which is great for selfies, landscape shots, and silly jumping photos.
Reykjavik is hilly in some areas and after a full day of hiking, I don’t think most women want to put on high heels. Reykjavik is also a very walkable city, and you’ll likely be able to walk from your hotel or AirBnB anywhere. Throw a pair of flats in your luggage for a night out, even though a night in the Iceland summer looks like the day! I live in my Crocs Rio flats.
13. Comfortable socks
Make sure you have dry-fit or other comfortable socks to wear under your hiking shoes that will stay relatively dry to prevent blisters. You may walk much more than you do at home, and foot pain is the worst when traveling!
14. Ziploc bags
In case you missed the theme here, Iceland can get pretty wet. Having a Ziploc baggie to put your phone in when you’re hiking isn’t a bad idea, and you can even use your touchscreen through the bag, so it will be protected from rain, spray, water and sand. Gallon-size Ziploc bags are great for temporarily storing wet bathing suits after a swim and transporting pastries from Sandholt bakery as roadtrip snacks. They take up almost no room in your suitcase and you’ll be prepared! I feel like Ziploc bags are the duct tape of travelers. Don’t you think?
15. Beach towel
Hitting up the hotpots, swimming holes or Blue Lagoon is great but having a beach towel with you or to sit on in your rental car afterwards will come in very handy. You can also use it as a blanket to sit on if you’re hiking and want to stop to relax for a while. Take it to the beaches in Vik and sit for a few hours to watch the waves hit the shore and think about how lucky you are to be enjoying an Iceland summer!
*Note: This is not a sponsored post. I truly believe in the products that I’ve recommended here, and with the exception of the Rodan + Fields products, I receive no benefit from recommending the items noted, and I only receive a benefit from R+F if you click on the link and purchase from my personal retail site. Thank you!
Have I missed a must-bring? Let me know by leaving a comment!