Iceland – a country named for ice, of all things, is surprisingly mild during the warmer seasons. Traveling to Iceland in the summer is quite lovely, with average temperatures between 50-60° Fahrenheit. The challenge is in the weather patterns, which change quickly and can catch tourists off-guard. This summer Iceland packing list has you covered.
Throughout any summer day in most of Iceland, travelers might experience 70 degrees and sunny or a chilly, windy rainstorm. The combined dampness and wind can leave unprepared tourists wet, cold, and miserable. Through a bit of strategic packing – and planning for versatile layers – you can visit all the waterfalls and volcanoes you’d like without being uncomfortable. Quite the opposite; with just a few Iceland holiday essentials, you’ll check off a bucket list destination and have the time of your life.
1 – A Rain and Windproof Shell
Waterproofing is one of the most critical things to remember when planning your Iceland pack list. Not only can the weather change quickly, but visiting the island’s famed waterfalls brings you up close to the action, and the powerful spray coming off the falls will soak through your clothes quickly.
REI Co-op’s XeroDry GTX Jacket is a nice mid-weight option for summer. The waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX shell is also windproof. It’ll get you through Iceland’s summer variations of 50–70-degree temperatures, rain, and wind.
2 – Comfortable Waterproof Boots
Those with an itinerary focused on the main tourist attractions, such as Gullfoss Falls or Diamond Beach, can opt for hiking boots or a field boot like this option from Chaco. The brand’s Field Chelsea Boot (available in women’s and men’s styles) allows for all-day comfort, and it delivers on that promise with the added benefit of being waterproof.
The lug sole is skid-proof and grippy – even on damp surfaces – making it essential gear for enjoying the great outdoors. Plus, it’s s a great fit for visiting beaches and waterfalls or getting caught in a drizzle. Best of all, however, these boots look great with jeans or casualwear, saving you from having to pack additional shoes.
3 – A Small Daypack
Your Iceland summer vacation will involve making decisions on a daypack. An itinerary of mostly driving from one sight to the next won’t require a large hiking pack; a small daypack will work well instead.
Due to the weather fluctuations, it’s best to prepare for a daily mix of everything from chilly rain to warm sun. The Gregory Tempo 6 H2O Hydration Pack is a great minimalist pack for this scenario. The six-liter size is just right for sunglasses, sunblock, your phone, and an extra shirt for layering. It comes with a 2-liter reservoir water bladder, and its insulated compartment keeps it cold for up to four hours. Iceland is famous for its fresh glacial water, so restocking your water directly from glacier-fed rivers is not uncommon.
4 – Mid-Weight Base Layers
Temperatures in the summer can go as low as 41° Fahrenheit and top out around 77° Fahrenheit. Most of the time, though, adventurers are treated to mild weather in the 50-60° range. The likelihood that you’ll need an intense winter parka is unlikely since layering will achieve the necessary insulation and warmth if the temperatures dip into the low-40s.
With this in mind, mid-weight base layers work well. Hot Chillys makes a series of Clima-Tek fabric options that are the Goldilocks of base layers – not too thin or thick. Plus, they’re easy to stash in your daypack – just in case the weather changes quickly.
5 – Multi-Purpose Poncho
Driving Iceland's famous Ring Road? Anyone splitting the driving and co-piloting responsibilities on a road trip in Iceland might be inclined to nap occasionally. One of Rumpl's Puffy Poncho's stand-out features is that it packs into its dedicated pocket –perfect as an impromptu car or plane pillow. Additionally, it features waterproof shoulders and hood, a handy kangaroo pocket, and the fibers are created from recycled plastic bottles.
6 – Versatile-Yet-Fun Backpack
Let good ol’ Smokey the Bear tag along on your Icelandic adventure. The durable canvas construction holds up well even if (when?) it’s tossed around by the baggage handlers or sliding around in a trunk. Its strategically placed zippered compartments help keep everything organized – including a laptop, and the design allows it to be carried as a backpack, duffle, or messenger-style bag. Don’t forget to plan for rain; bring an extra waterproof backpack cover or tuck a clean garbage bag in one of the pockets.
7 – Women’s Problem-Solving Pants
Women adventurers often navigate a bathroom break challenge on longer hikes. These functional leggings from Chickfly solve the age-old problem of the awkwardness women experience when needing to use Mother’s Nature’s restroom. The unique design opens without lowering the pants and exposing oneself to would-be onlookers. The materials – such as Bamboo, Merino Wool, Eucalyptus & Beach Tree Tencel, and Recycled Nylon – are stretchy and comfortable enough for a full day of visiting Iceland’s volcanoes.
8 – Good Socks
Pair your waterproof boots with light or midweight socks – something durable. It’s best to bring a few pairs of socks and always have an extra pair stashed in your daypack. The Ultra-Lite Thermal Socks from Heat Holders are perfect for summer adventures in Iceland. They’re quite thin but still insulate and keep the toes warm when the temperature drops. You might start the day with traditional athletic socks, but you’ll be grateful to have these in your pack when a cold summer rainstorm rolls in.
9 – Extra Footwear Traction
Microspikes or crampons are handy if you think you might be in the Highlands of Iceland – where there might be lingering snow and ice, even in the summer. They’re generally allowed through airport security and don’t take up much room in your luggage. The MICROspikes from Kahtoola add plenty of added traction oomph for most scenarios you might encounter. The rubbery accessory slips easily over your hiking or field boots.
10 – Bathing Suit
Beyond the fire and ice that Iceland is known for, the island also boasts plenty of natural hot springs, and there’s a pool in nearly every town. A swimsuit is mandatory packing for an Icelandic getaway, without a doubt.
If you enjoy posting social media images, a solid, brightly-hued swimsuit will really “pop,” this is especially beneficial on cloudy days. The Jolie Swimsuit from Jantzen is available in this teal color, which complements the beautiful water in Iceland – or you might want a burst of red with the Pamela style.
11 – Quick-Dry Travel Towel
A quick-drying travel towel goes hand in hand with the obligatory bathing suit, of course. It’s useful for drying off after a nice soak in a geothermal swim hole, getting an up-close view of a waterfall, or getting caught under a rain cloud. PackTowl makes super-absorbent travel towels for everything from hiking adventures to road trips. It packs down to a small square, and its Polygiene odor control keeps it smelling fresh for days.
12 – Waterproof Cell Phone Protector
Let’s say you’re at the waterfalls just across the street from Mount Kirkjufell, and you lean in to get a better shot. Suddenly, the mist from the falls makes for a slippery grip, and now your phone – and flight information – are at the bottom of the river.
It’s probably best to avoid such chaos, and the easiest way is with a Floating Phone Protector, like the one from Chums. Not only does it fully seal to protect your phone from water while still allowing you to take photos, but it floats. If you’re looking to vacation in Iceland on a budget, make sure it doesn’t end up at the bottom of a pool of glacial water.
13 – Multi-Way Rechargeable Earphones
Yes, there will probably be plenty of sunshine, and these earphones can recharge with just that solar energy. On the other hand, you may also benefit from the fact that these recharge with any light source – natural or artificial. The Urbanista Phoenix Earphones continuously recharge when stored in the case with a boost from the sun or even the overhead light at a restaurant or hotel.
14 – Merino Wool Layers
Merino wool is a go-to for hikers and adventurers of all sorts. It’s an incredible insulator, wicks moisture away from the skin, and is a very breathable fabric. Adding a few Merino wool shirts to your Iceland summer packing list will ensure you have what it takes to layer as needed. Dagsmejan’s merino wool and eucalyptus blend shirts keep you warm without overheating. Although many of their tops are in the sleepwear category, they’re great for day-to-day wear.