What to pack for Iceland in summer and what to wear

What to Pack for Iceland in Summer

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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.

Akureyri snow storm in June

Akureyri snow storm in June ’06


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.

Pack sleeping masks for Iceland in summer

This is what happens when you don’t pack sleeping masks in summer


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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What to pack for Iceland in summer

Read more:
When to Go to Iceland – Summer vs Winter
Best price-quality accommodations in Reykjavik and on a self-drive trip in Iceland
Practical Information for Your Visit to Iceland
Iceland trip itinerary suggestions

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What to Pack for Iceland in Summer was last modified: September 4th, 2017 by Jurga

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  1. Came across your blog by accident when searching for what to pack for my son’s school trip. He’s off to Iceland for a week in May (lucky thing) and has a very exciting itinerary including glacier hiking! (And yes I am very jealous) Am I right in just thinking layers,layers and more layers, topped off with a 3 way waterproof? Grateful for any advice. Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Pip, yes, indeed, lucky him! Layering is a must in Iceland with a waterproof outer layer (shoes, pants, jacket, gloves). May isn’t really summer in Iceland, so I’d still go for a warm winter jacket, thermal underwear, etc. You can check our winter packing list for Iceland, but honestly May is somewhere in between the seasons and you never know what kind of weather you get. That’s where those layers are important.
      If you are looking for more information, you can also read our experience with glacier hiking, and here you can find all our Iceland posts in one place.
      Hope this helps.

  2. Hi we are going to Iceland in 5 weeks time, my biggest worry is how much cash to bring, for a week, we are staying about 45min north from town

    1. Author

      Hi Stella, you don’t really need much (if any) cash in Iceland. Credit cards are accepted everywhere, so no need to worry about exchanging to local currency.

  3. We are going to Reykjavik October 18th for 5 days. We will do tours during the day, Golden circle. The Northern Lights at night and of course explore the city. What do you recommend for clothing? Rain pants? Hiking boots? Thermal under ware? I appreciate the help.

    1. Author

      Hi Kathleen, here you can find my packing advice for Iceland in winter. I guess a lot depends on what you do and where exactly you go. I assume that in 5 days you will get out of the city quite often, and so I advise waterproof jacket and waterproof shoes with good grip, and as a minimum water-resistant pants. Thermal underwear is definitely nice to have too, I used mine all the time. A winter hat, a scarf, and gloves are a must as well. Wear layers so that you can easily adapt to the ever-changing weather.

  4. Hello, Jurga. I just wanted to say that I found this post very helpful, but I still have a question. We are leaving to Iceland on August 4 and I was just wondering if it gets dark during the night in August. I know I could ask Google, but I don’t want to get a bunch of irrelevant responses. Also, thanks for the tip about bringing an electrical adapter, If it weren’t for you and your blog, I never would have guessed. Thanks in advance if you reply!

    1. Author

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your feedback. Good to know that you found this post useful. I have to be honest with you, I am not completely sure about how dark it gets in Iceland in August. I think it depends on the period and the place. From what I see, the sun sets around 10.30pm and rises around 4.30am in Reykjavik in this period. So I think it will never get completely dark, but there will be a few darker hours after midnight (more like dusk-dark). In the North of Iceland it will be even less dark. By the end of August-beginning of September there are a few hours of complete darkness already. Hope this helps. PS I would still pack those sleeping masks in August, it’s really hard to get any sleep if there are no blackout curtains available.

  5. We are going 25/07/17 all ladies for Hen party be there for 4 days I know it’s expensive to eat and drink any recommendations where to eat x

    1. Author

      Hi Linda, prices are indeed very high in Iceland. In rural areas you often don’t have much choice as where to eat. But there are more and more restaurants opening everywhere, so in bigger towns you can always consider a couple of options. In Reykjavik there are many restaurants, some more affordable than others. Try MAR Restaurant, Reykjavik Fish Restaurant, or Icelandic Fish and Chips – all three very good, and close to each other. Otherwise just check the prices on the menu before you go in, and avoid having to pay 40EUR for a steak…

  6. I used this post as a guide for my recent trip around Iceland (Ring Road and West Fjords). Thermals were essential. The one thing you mention that I didn’t bring and wish I had was a thermos. It would have been useful during several cold, rainy days and long stretches of Ring Road driving. That said, I did enjoy stopping at roadside cafes and markets for coffee and stretch breaks.

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Annie. Hundreds of people read this post daily, all looking for information on what to wear in Iceland in summer, so it’s really helpful for them to read what other travellers have to say based on their experience. Appreciate you taking the time to do this!

  7. Hi Jurga we will be going mid aug. do we need hiking shoes and also wud you know if we can get lucky with some Northern lights.

    1. Author

      Hi Niru. Whether you need hiking shoes will depend on your itinerary I suppose. If you don’t plan to do any serious hiking, then just regular walking shoes will do. I recommend waterproof shoes in any season.
      As for Northern Lights, I think mid August might be too early. You need it to be really dark in order to see them. But if it’s dark, the sky is clear, and aurora activity is high, who knows… Here you can find some more info about aurora hunting and photography tips. Hope this helps.

  8. this is very helpful. we leave for iceland the first week in june. i think a couple of pairs of thermal leggings will be good additions to my 2 prs of very light weight quick drying hiking pants. can be used as pj bottoms, to layer under the pants when cold, or to pair with a long sweater to spiff up my appearance if i do decide to go out on the town. they barely take up any space – and should dry reasonably quickly. and with the wonders of online shopping, i was able to find some despite the season!

    1. Author

      Thermal leggings sounds like a great idea, Gitelle. And you are right – that’s just another advantage of shopping online that you can buy winter clothes in summer 🙂

  9. Great info! We are traveling in June with 4 teens. Quite a big shopping list for all of us. Do you think our kids will need all the waterproof shoes, etc? Going on a south coast & lagoon tour, seeing the ice cave & lava tube, and also the golden circle tour. I kind of thought their winter boots would work but sites have suggested hiking waterproof shoes. Thanks in advance for any help!!

    1. Author

      Hi Dana, I really don’t know what to say. Winter boots might even be too warm, depending on the boots and on the weather of course. The most important thing if you go hiking is to wear shoes with a good grip. Waterproof definitely helps in Iceland, or as a minimum water resistant. But I know that having to buy 4 pairs of new shoes is a big expense. So try to use what you have, or buy shoes that your kids can still use for other purposes/trips.
      As for your excursions, ice caves can only be visited in winter. I have no idea what lava tube is… And the Golden Circle itself doesn’t require much hiking. So maybe you don’t need very special hiking boots after all. Just sturdy walking shoes.
      Hope this helps a bit!

  10. Thanks Jurga, that was nice of you to respond so fast, and thanks for the information, have a awesome day

  11. Good afternoon Jurga, My name is Anthony and i will be traveling to Reykjavik with my wife on the 30th of April and will be spending 4-days there, what do recommend i should wear and suggestion on places to visit. Thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Hi Anthony. For April I would play it safe and dress really warm, layer up, and – as always – a waterproof layer on top. You’ll need scarfs and gloves, etc. You get an idea. I also really really recommend taking a thermos and carry some warm drink for during the day. A water bottle is also very useful,- tap water is really good in Iceland. Check this post for cold season clothing and packing suggestions for Iceland as well.
      As for itinerary suggestions, please check this post – Iceland itinerary suggestions for any trip. You can do quite a lot in 4 days. Don’t hesitate to ask if you still have questions after reading these recommendations.

  12. Hi! This is great information! I’m wondering what people wear out on the town in Reykjavik (e.g. to dinner)? I will be traveling their in late July. Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Carla, you’ll really see everything in Reykjavik. People dressed up for dinner, people in jeans and sweaters… It depends on the restaurant as well; the more upscale, the more dressed up people will be. Like anywhere else in the world, I suppose.
      If you are only traveling to Reykjavik, then you don’t need hiking shoes or waterproof pants (waterproof jacket might still be useful). But if you are planning on visiting nature, then you’ll be glad with more sportive practical clothing that keeps you dry and warm.

  13. My son told me he is going to Iceland in 2017. Your list is great for Christmas gifts. Thanks for the helpful article.

    1. Author

      Great you found some inspiration for Holiday gifts in this post, Cheryl. If you buy clothing for Iceland, think waterproof ;). And as far as gifts are concerned, I have a very comprehensive gift guide for travellers for this Holiday season as well – check it out for even more inspiration!

  14. I’m going to Iceland mid September and visiting the South of the country. Do you think I need hiking boots or are regular shoes fine (I was thinking sneakers maybe)?

    1. Author

      I think it depends on what you are planning to do. If you only drive around and do short walks to the waterfalls and back to the car, then you’ll be ok with any shoes. But if you are planning to do some hiking in Skaftafell, go on a glacier hike, or if you get really bad weather, you’ll be glad if you have waterproof shoes with good grip. You don’t necessarily need hiking boots, no.

  15. Hi, we’re leaving for Iceland in a week. Do you think we need thermal underwear?

    1. Author

      Hi Jodie, I would check for the weather forecast in the places where you are going. Normally, you don’t need thermal underwear in Iceland in summer. But if you are camping, I’d definitely pack warm underwear – it can get really cold at night, even in summer. And don’t forget gloves, buff and a winter hat – these will come in handy! Have a good trip!

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