How you pack depends on where you plan to go and what you’re going to do on the island. If you’re going for a “city-break” long weekend to Reykjavík, you can afford to pack light; however, if you plan on an extended stay that includes camping, packing light is not an option. Here are some suggestions and tips for your time in Iceland.
A bathing suit is necessary. Even if you think you won’t take a dip in a pool or hot spring, the temptation might be too great.The key to dressing warm and being comfortable in Iceland is layers. Depending on the weather, it can be cotton T-shirt, fleece or sweater, parka or windbreaker, and perhaps a hat, scarf, and gloves. If it’s summer and the sun is shining, it’s common to see locals wearing a T-shirt in 15°C (60°F) weather. It’s important to keep comfortable and add layers if the temperature warrants it. If you’re out hiking, wearing waterproof gear along with proper hiking attire is key. Make sure fabrics are breathable and comfortable and under layers are cotton. Formal attire in Iceland is reserved for work or funerals, but if you want to bring a nice outfit along for a “fancy” dinner, by all means, pack something, but you won’t find stringent dress codes anywhere on this island. Lastly, a bathing suit is necessary. Even if you think you won’t take a dip in a pool or hot spring, the temptation might be too great. Pack at least one.
Because the temperature varies so much depending on time of day, season, and where you are in the country, it’s a good idea to bring a hat, scarf, and gloves. As for jackets, the best advice is to bring something waterproof; whether it’s a windbreaker for summer or a parka for winter, you are likely to encounter rain at some point on your trip. If you need to go shopping for warmer layers in Iceland, expect to pay. Clothes are not cheap in Iceland.
Again, if you are staying in Reykjavík for the duration of your trip, and don’t plan to climb mountains, you don’t need to invest in an expensive pair of hiking boots. That said, if you do plan to be outdoors quite a bit, hiking boots are a great idea. You will need a pair of shoes that can withstand rain, rocks, ice, mud, puddles, sand, and sometimes snow. It’s recommended to buy boots in your home country because shoes can be expensive in Iceland, and it’s not the best idea to break in a brand-new pair of boots if you plan to do a lot of walking and/or climbing. Comfort is key. Socks are also important to consider. You want socks that are breathable yet thick enough to keep you comfortable in your shoes/boots.
If camping is in your plan, don’t scrimp on the quality of the tent you bring. And, make no mistake, you should bring the tent with you, as quality tents are, you guessed it, expensive in Iceland. You will need something waterproof that can endure punishing winds. A sleeping bag is necessary as well for campers. It’s also great to have a sleeping bag on hand because some guesthouses and hostels still offer sleeping bag accommodations at a much lower price. Be sure to call ahead to see if they’re available. Because of the likelihood of encountering rain, a sleeping bag made from a synthetic material is the best option, and it should be able to withstand -9°C (15°F) temperatures in the summer and -18°C (0°F) in the winter. If you decide to camp, be sure to monitor weather conditions and be safe.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Iceland.