Iceland is an amazing country to travel to, particularly if you love scenery and the outdoors. I’ve already written extensively on why Iceland is perfect for solo female travel. The country is naturally beautiful, has a low crime rate and is well kitted out for tourists. So it’s a no brainer! Now that you’re ready to go, the next important question is what to wear in Iceland?
Introduction – What to Wear in Iceland
I’m going to give you a run down of the best clothing to pack for Iceland, with recommended products to buy on online. I will give you an outline of both what to wear on tours or hiking and also what to wear in Iceland on a night out – Reykjavik is a fantastic city! We will also look at the different seasons.
Iceland is Expensive!
One word of warning about Iceland – IT IS EXPENSIVE! I’d recommend that you shop for the clothing that you need before you arrive in Iceland (unlike South East Asia shop when you get there style holidays!) and budget accordingly. I’d recommend that you save and take at least $500 a week for food, drinks and spending money, and that is a tight budget too!
What to wear in Iceland – Hiking and Tours
Of course, with the amount of walking and tours that you will be doing in Iceland, the majority of your packing will be casual and practical outdoor clothing. Your usual jeans, T shirts, jumpers and cardigans will be just great.
But there are a few extra essential items that you will need for Iceland due to the cold weather and terrain. A good pair of walking trousers, walking boots and a hiking or mountaineering jacket are a must, whatever time of year you go to Iceland.
Walking Trousers for Iceland
When I was in Iceland in March, I almost lived in my walking trousers! Get a comfortable pair of light walking trousers and you can wear them in summer and also in winter with a base layer (thermal tights or leggings).
If you intend to go glacier hiking or extreme weather hiking in the mountains, you should consider waterproof trousers.
Walking Boots for Iceland
Shop for your hiking boots early if you need new for the trip – I’m talking at least 8 weeks in advance so that you have the time to break them in. You don’t want blistering feet on an Icelandic hike!
Also I’d recommend going to a specialist retailer and trying your hiking boots with a specialist incase you need insoles or different sizes. They should fit snugly so that you don’t lose your footing easily when scrambling on rocks. Do consider a waterproof membrane – such as Gortex – as it can rain often in Iceland, although this is less likely during the summer months.
Buying a good pair of walking boots for Iceland will probably result in having a pair that last you for years and accompany you on many other trips! It’s a worthwhile investment. I used these Karrimor walking boots and they were great for Iceland in April. In the winter you may need more sturdy walking boots for Iceland and definitely waterproof – this is non-negotiable!
At least 3-5 good pairs of walking socks are essential for Iceland. Get a decent brand such as Bridgedale or Merrell and go for the ones with a reinforced heel.
Hiking or Mountain Jacket
For your hiking or mountain jacket, this will depend on the time of year (summer or winter) and also how much hiking you are considering. I would recommend a windproof and waterproof Gortex jacket to protect you from the elements that can take their toll any time of year in Iceland – Berghaus is a good choice.
What to wear in Iceland in the Summer
In the summer, you will need to layer up less and so you can pack more lighter clothing. Maybe you can miss out the hat scarf and gloves. Average July and August temperatures are around 10-13 degrees, but can reach up to 20-25 on warm days. Light walking trousers and cotton long and short sleeved tops are perfect for Iceland in the summer. These Regatta women’s Highton walking trousers are a great option…
Pack a pair of sunglasses as the sun can get bright. If you wear glasses regularly then you may like to get a pair with sun reactive lenses so you don’t have to keep switching from your normal glasses to your sunnies.
Also don’t forget your bikini or swimming costume for the Blue Lagoon and other swimming and spa activities. You will want to visit the Blue Lagoon for sure (a very relaxing experience) and there are also many other spas and hot springs in Iceland including Landmannalaugar hot springs.
What to wear in Iceland in the Winter
Winter in Iceland can be cold – around 0 degrees to -10! brrrrrrrrrrrr! Needless to say that you need to pack warm and plan your clothing around your activities. But the added advantage of visiting Iceland in winter is that you get an opportunity to see the Northern Lights. There are also some amazing Iceland winter tours.
Hat, Scarf and Gloves
Definitely pack a decent hat, scarf and gloves set. Even if you are not doing a lot of hiking, these will be used even just walking around Reykjavik. If you are doing a great deal of hiking in extreme weather conditions, you should consider a thermal lined hat.
Ski gloves are a great choice for Iceland in the winter – mine are these Dakine Electra pipe gloves with Flamingos on!
Thermal Base Layers
Another good idea on what to wear in Iceland in winter is a set of thermal base layers. A thermal top layer and thermal leggings will be invaluable. Then over the top you can wear jumpers, jeans, walking trousers and fleeces.
I took thermal tights as well as thermal leggings and wore them under my jeans on my days spent in Reykjavik, then with more sturdy outdoor gear for tours and hikes.
I got a pink basic thermal long sleeved top from Marks and Spencers and wore this a lot underneath jumpers and fleeces. I actually recommend two thermal base layers so that you have one to wash and one to wear, depending on the length of your trip – definitely get two for 2 weeks or more.
Fleece and Gilet
My fleece is a Peter Storm one and – don’t knock it – I’ve had it for over 20 years!!!! Yep….you just read that right! I got my fleece when I was just 18 and heading to the Atlas Mountains. I’ve taken it on every hiking trip since, including Iceland. Other good brands for fleeces include Rab, Bergaus and Patagonia. I definitely recommend that you get one of those.
The other item of clothing that was amazing was my heated gilet or body warmer. A padded gilet is an excellent additional layer that is perfect for Iceland in winter. But why not go one step further and add a heated dimension to this layer?! Many puffer vests are available that can be battery powered or USB charged to give you a heat source on the go!
Hand warmers are a good thing to take on long day trips or hikes in Iceland in winter. There are the ones that contain liquid and can be heated in boiling water before a trip. You then ‘pop’ them during the day or evening when you feel cold to get them activated. You can also get battery and usb heat warmers and heated gloves! Mmmmm – toasty!
What to Wear in Iceland for a Night out in Reykjavik
As a general rule, most bars and clubs in Reykjavik are quite casual in dress code. However, if you want to go to some of the classier bars in Reykjavik, don’t rock up like you are about to hike a glacier!
For women, warm dresses with colourful tights and knee high boot work well. Or jeans with a dressier top and star ankle boots (not hiking boots!) You can consider trading in your hiking jacket for a wooden cape or warm poncho.
Men are fine wearing smart trousers, shoes or boots and a shirt and blazer for a night out in Reykjavik.
Don’t Forget Your Water Bottle
Take a good water bottle with you to Iceland – Icelandic springs mean that Iceland has an abundance of fresh drinking water available – its gorgeous and FREE! Most cafes in Reykjavik will allow you to have free drinking water with your meal and fill up your water bottle. The best water bottles on the market include SIGG, Stanley and POGO.
SIGG Water Bottles
SIGG water bottles are amazing and the most durable on the market. They all have the same thread for the screw tops so that you can swap or replace the caps. I once dropped mine off a cliff in the Atlas Mountains and it was still in one piece when we found it at the bottom!
POGO plastic water bottles are dishwasher safe and have a soft touch carry loop making them easy to carry on hikes.
What to Wear in Iceland – Don’t Forget your Travel Insurance!
Remember to get a travel insurance that includes medical cover for all of your activities, including extreme sports if you plan to do them. Your insurance will also cover you in case your luggage goes missing in transit.
Iceland Tours that you Should not Miss
In Iceland, there are a few tours that you simply cannot miss. The Golden Circle tour and Blue Lagoon tour Iceland are essentials for any visitor. These main tours can be done within a long weekend in Iceland. There are also some fantastic whale watching Iceland tours and Iceland winter tours. If you have money to spend but limited time in Iceland, go for a Helicopter tour Iceland – the land of Fire and Ice from Above.
Further Reading on Iceland
If you are looking for more articles on Iceland, have a read of these…
- Iceland Waterfalls
- South Coast of Iceland – Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Glaciers
- Why Iceland is perfect for Solo Female Travellers
- Budgeting For Iceland
- Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon