What to wear in Iceland?

Iceland has become a bucket list destination for a lot of people thanks to its beautiful landscapes, fantastic geysers, magnificent waterfalls and, of course, the spectacular Northern Lights. So, if you are planning on going to this fascinating country, or you have already booked, you may be thinking about what clothes to pack…

What time of year are you going?

Obviously, what you wear is driven by the season and the weather. Is it going to be sunny? Will it rain? Will it be blowing a gale or could it even snow?! Well in Iceland the chances are you will experience most of these weather conditions, if not all of them, whatever time of the year you go. The weather in Iceland is variable and can change in the blink of an eye.

Below is a rough guide to the weather to try and help you understand what to expect when visiting Iceland:

Weather in Iceland 

Month Average High (C) Average Low (C) Average Rainfall (inches)
January 2 -2 4.0
February 2 -2 4.3
March 3 -1 3.7
April 6 1 2.9
May 9 4 2.3
June 12 8 2.1
July 14 9 2.7 
August 13 8 3.5
September 10 6 4.6
October 7 2 4.5
November 4 -1 4.2
December 2 -2 4.1

Source: Trip Savvy

Just to give some perspective of how much rain Iceland has, their annual average is 42.9 inches whilst the UK has an annual average of 33.7 inches (source: Current Results).

Daylight in Iceland

The daylight in Iceland is from mid-May to mid-August and the sun sets for around 3 hours per day! There is effectively light for the whole 24-hour period. In midwinter, there are around 5 hours of daylight. These long and short periods of daylight add drama to the atmosphere with lingering twilight… (source: Extreme Iceland).

What to pack on a trip to Iceland?

In one word - layers. Whatever time of year you travel it is not going to be warm so layers are a must, especially in winter. If you don’t pack the right clothes it really will spoil your trip.

Clothes for the winter and summer season.

The winter and the summer months are quite different but the temperature doesn’t vary drastically so a lot of what you pack will work for anytime of the year. 

Let’s start from your feet and work our way up to your head. 

Socks

It is really important to keep your feet warm so make sure to wear really thick, thermal socks. These will keep your toes snug and will come well over your ankles to combat that chilly winter wind. It may be slightly warmer in summer but you are still going to need a thick pair of socks for those outside adventures.

Boots

Let’s face it, you are not going to spend much time indoors when visiting this stunning country, so you will need a comfortable, sturdy, waterproof pair of boots. In winter it would probably be best to have snow boots. If you are leaving the city or town to see some of the beautiful landscapes and mountains you should look into spikes or crampons to help with those slippy surfaces. Even in the winter the streets of Reykjavik can be extremely icy so the spikes or crampons can come in handy. In the summer you will be fine with a decent, sturdy pair of walking boots to explore in rather than the snow boots. 

Thermal leggings / Outdoor trousers / waterproof trousers

I said layers were important! You will be wearing thermal leggings everyday if you are visiting in the winter so probably best to pack at least a couple of pairs. Do not forget your outdoor trousers or waterproof trousers, these are so important for keeping you dry and warm as well as acting as a windbreaker. Don’t even think about wearing just jeans to Iceland, it will make your life miserable! We all know how uncomfortable it is when jeans are wet and how long they take to dry. Add that to the wind chill factor and freezing temperatures, you will be so cold it could totally ruin your day!

Base layer

In the winter you are best packing a thermal long sleeve top or t-shirt and best to make sure it is long enough to be able to tuck into your trousers which helps keep you warm. In the summer you will probably be ok with just a normal long sleeve top or t-shirt as a layer. Why not check out our Iceland Clothing to help you with t-shirts and best of all you can buy them with a stylish Iceland design so you have a souvenir of your unforgettable trip!

Sweaters

A thick warm sweatshirt is a must in both winter and summer. It can still be cool even in the summer and if you have headed out on a boat trip or the countryside on an exciting excursion, you will be thankful for a big sweatshirt. Wool will keep you toastie and is very popular with the locals. 

A jacket

In the winter this must be really warm, waterproof, a windbreaker and best to have a hood. You are going to experience a lot of different weather conditions from icy rain, freezing winds and probably snow. Your jacket is the first line of defence so make sure it is up to the job. In the summer you are still going to need a lightweight jacket. This doesn’t need to be as robust as a winter jacket, although still make sure it is waterproof, a windbreaker and has a hood. 

Gloves or Mittens

These are not just a cheap, flimsy pair of gloves that you buy from the local market but ones that can sustain the winter weather. Admittedly it is sometimes difficult to look trendy in a big pair of gloves but you will be thankful for them when, for example, you are standing outside on a night waiting for the Northern Lights to make an appearance. Still take a pair in the summer months, the excursions you go on can be cold.

Scarf

if your jacket doesn’t zip right up (and even if it does) you want to be wearing a scarf. This will not just keep you warm but in extreme weather you can pull it up over your mouth and nose for extra protection.

Hat

Your head, as well as your feet, need to be kept warm. It is a must. In the winter make sure to pack a warm hat with a lining inside or even a hat with flaps to keep your ears warm on those extra blustery, chilly days. Still take a hat in the summer but likes of a beanie would be enough. Why not check out some of our Organic Cotton Beanies!

Clothing and items you may not have thought of.

Backpack

Preferably with a rain cover – just in case you haven’t picked up on this yet, you are going to be wearing layers! The hotels, restaurants, cafes etc in Iceland are always warm and cosy so you need to be able to take layers off quickly but still be comfortable. A backpack is a great place to store clothes when your inside or to even take extra layers with you when you are out for the day exploring. And don’t forget to spoil yourself and pack  drinks, snacks and treats for those day trips.

Sunglasses, sun cream and chapstick

With so many hours of daylight in the summer, you are bound to see the sun at some point so best to have the sunglasses and sun cream ready. Take the sunnies with you in the winter as well because if you visit some glaciers then the sun will bounce and reflect off these and can be quite dazzling. Don’t just protect yourself from the sun, with very cold winds in Iceland your lips can dry out quickly so don’t forget to throw the chapstick in the bag as well. 

Swimsuit and flip flops

No this is not a typo! Iceland has an array of swimming pools, spas and natural hot springs. So, if you decide to go to the likes of the Blue Lagoon then you are going to have to ditch the layers and get your swimming cossie on for some well deserved R and R.

Casual wear

It will be nice and warm if you are staying in a hotel on an evening so you will just need some casual wear. The dress code in Iceland is quite relaxed so you should be fine with a pair of jeans, t-shirt and a sweatshirt / hoodie. Don’t forget to take a spare pair of shoes as well as you won’t want to be wearing your big (and probably dirty) boots inside on an evening either.

In Conclusion.

Iceland is an amazing, stunning country whatever time of year you go. There is so much to see and do from whale watching and waterfalls to the Northern Lights in the winter and the Midnight Sun in the summer. But whenever you visit Iceland go prepared… I will just say this one more time, layers!

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you want to stock up on t-shirts, sweatshirts or hoodies with a cool Iceland design, or other world destinations for that matter, then be sure to check out some of our awesome Clothing Collections. Our products are all manufactured ethically and sustainably, plus 20% of our profits are donated to charities around the world to help support those in need in the places we choose to travel.