One of the biggest concerns and the most often asked question from people traveling to Iceland seems to be what to pack for a trip to Iceland and what to wear in Iceland. A while ago I wrote a post about packing for Iceland in winter, focusing on the colder season. Since summer is coming and I get so many questions about what to wear in Iceland, this time I want to share a complete packing list for Iceland in summer.
Summer is a relative term in Iceland, with average July temperatures around just 10–13 °C (50–55 °F). If you are extremely lucky, you will have a day or two with temperatures above 20°C (68°F). Most likely, you will have the two extremes within a week or will experience all four seasons in just a day.
What to wear in Iceland in summer
1. Waterproof walking shoes. If you pack just one pair of shoes to Iceland, take sturdy waterproof walking shoes. If you are serious about exploring Iceland even a little bit, you will need good footwear. Ideally you opt for waterproof slip-resistant shoes or even hiking boots.
2. Waterproof jacket. You have absolutely no use of an umbrella or a water-resistant jacket in Iceland. Your outer layer has to be wind- and waterproof! Even in summer, a thin K-way will probably not be sufficient, so you may want to get one of those 3-in-1 jackets or one with more insulation. Make sure you have enough layers to wear underneath in case it gets really cold. I would definitely opt for a thicker jacket as memories of the snow storm we had in Iceland in June are still very vivid.
3. Layers of short- and long-sleeved shirts, fleece jackets and sweaters. Dress like an onion in Iceland and think in terms of layers. Make sure you have plenty of layers you can add or ‘peel-off’ when necessary. Ideally you have 3-4 layers at hand. In summer, I would go for a T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater, a zip-up sweatshirt or zip-up fleece jacket and a waterproof jacket.
4. Hiking pants. I usually wear jeans when we travel. I wore jeans in Iceland when we visited for the first time in June. However, jeans have one huge disadvantage – they take forever to dry. I would still pack a pair of jeans to wear when you go out for dinner, but for during the day I would recommend wearing hiking pants. You may want to consider taking a pair of waterproof rain pants as well, especially if you are planning on spending lots of time outdoors.
5. Gloves, buff, winter hat. You might need gloves, buff and even a winter hat in Iceland in summer, so pack them, just in case. You will definitely need them if camping or if you go whale watching.
6. Do you need shorts and T-shirts in Iceland in summer? If you are extremely lucky, you might, but don’t count on it. I would definitely pack T-shirts to wear as the under-layer. As for the shorts, you might find the zip-off travel pants more practical.
7. What about smart clothing and summer dresses? If you plan to get acquainted with the (supposedly) vibrant nightlife of Reykjavik, you might need a set of smart clothes and shoes. Otherwise, leave them at home.
What to pack for Iceland in summer
1. Sleep mask. If there is one thing you don’t want to forget when traveling to Iceland in summer, is a good sleeping mask. You know, one of those eye masks that are designed to keep all the light away from your eyes and help you fall asleep. It stays light 24 hours a day in the Nordics in summer and while it’s fun to experience, it’s definitely not fun if you are trying to get some sleep. Don’t count on finding blackout curtains in the hotels outside Reykjavik.
We didn’t think of this the first time we went to Iceland (in June) and I remember we used buffs to cover our eyes to be able to fall asleep. Not very comfortable, as you can imagine, although it gave us a nice picture.
2. Swimsuit, towel and flip-flops. There is nothing better than a hot tub after a long day of hiking and Iceland is famous for its hot water springs and geothermal pools. Make sure to pack a swimsuit, a towel and flip-flops with you. A Quick-drying microfibre towel is a good solution when traveling.
3. Reusable water bottle and a thermos. Tap water is absolutely pristine in Iceland and it’s very convenient if you have a reusable water bottle which you can refill during the day.
I would definitely pack a thermos as well. I had one with me on the last trip and filled it with warm tea at the hotel every morning. It’s so nice to be able to enjoy a warm drink after a walk in the cold and the rain!
4. Small day backpack with rain cover. Even if you don’t plan on doing longer hikes, you will be walking a lot in Iceland. It’s convenient to have a small backpack where you can stash all your layers and gear. Make sure you have a rain cover for it!
5. Sun protection. As everywhere in summer, you need sun protection in the Nordics as well. Sun cap, sun glasses and sunscreen should always be in your backpack.
6. Mosquito head net. Some areas of Iceland, especially around Myvatn Lake, also called ‘Mosquito Lake’, are full of black flies in summer. You may want to use a head net, especially around mid-June, when there are massive swarms of flies in the area. Otherwise, mosquitoes should not be a big concern – there are very few mosquitoes in Iceland.
6. Camera gear. Make sure you have plenty of batteries and memory cards as rural Iceland is really rural, so you might not be able to find these items easily…
7. European electrical adaptor. Electrical sockets in Iceland are standard European electrical socket types C and E. If you have European appliances, you will be ok, otherwise get an adapter.
8. Portable charger. If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t, right?), it might be wise to carry one of those power packs with you in Iceland. The days are long in summer, and the chances are high that your phone will be empty long before you had finished sightseeing for the day.
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