The Ultimate Packing List For Iceland In Summer

January 26, 2019
iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

I had been dying to experience Iceland for years, and so was super excited when I finally booked a (fairly last-minute) trip over 4th of July last year.

As I clicked “buy now” on the flight, visions of glaciers and black beaches and stark cliffs danced in my head.  And since I only had a month to prepare, my mind immediately shifted to itinerary details and packing prep.

The Ultimate Iceland Summer Packing List | Everything you need for Iceland in summer. I took a trip to Iceland in July and here's all the clothes, gear, and more that you'll need. The best fabrics and brands for Iceland, Norway, and more in summer!

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Similar to my winter Arctic Circle trip in Norway a couple years ago, I was somewhat in uncharted waters preparing for Iceland in summer.  I dug into research to figure out what items I would truly need, since I knew it would take some trial and error (thank you, Amazon Prime!) to find things I loved.

But I did, and it was AMAZING!  So it’s time to share my perfect Iceland summer packing list (and honestly, works well for spring and fall) with you good people.

iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

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The way I’ve laid this out is some basic principles of packing first—fabrics, types of layers, etc.  Then I list out each item and talk about what worked and how I used it.

If you’re going at a slightly colder time, this will still be a good base and then check out my ultimate Arctic winter packing list for even cozier duds and some must-have cold weather gear!

Here’s everything else from our 3-day Iceland road trip!

What to See on Iceland’s Golden Circle

Falling in Love with Quirky Reykjavik

Hiking Iceland’s Stunning Sólheimajökull Glacier

Visiting the Majestic Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

A Stop at Skogafoss Waterfall

Snorkeling Between Continents In Iceland at the Silfra Fissure 

Why Kerid Crater Should be on Your Golden Circle Itinerary

The Wild Beauty Of Vik: Reynisfjara Beach & Dyrhólaey Cliffs

And finally…What To Do In Iceland In Summer: Tips For A Midnight Sun Itinerary

Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you).  All opinions are, as always, completely my own!

Principles for an Iceland summer packing list

I had already done a ton of research before going to Norway in winter a couple years ago, and all the same principles hold true for Iceland, whether in summer or winter.

So thankfully I didn’t have to start completely from scratch on either research or an activewear wardrobe (I literally had NOTHING before that Norway trip).  To start with, use these principles to figure out what pieces will work best for you.

  • Be prepared (cue Scar song).  The weather in Iceland is bananas, and can change in a heartbeat.  We went from a gorgeous sunny day to pea soup fog and sideways rain in the span of about 15 minutes one day.  Also, the wind on high points is absolutely insane.  You do need to be prepared for extremes even in the summer.  Layers are KEY.
  • Getting the right fabric or material (and then brand!) can make all the difference
    • Merino wool and silk are your friends for key bottom-layer pieces like thermals (merino wool is the more cost-effective of the two).  Fleece-lined leggings are also great, in my experience.  Synthetic materials can be good at times, if they’re designed for active activities (so they wick away moisture).  Avoid cotton!
    • Find brands that consistently get good reviews, and go big there.  For instance, I discovered Minus33 and found that they had great reviews and a lot of the basics that I needed.  SmartWoolIcebreaker, Meriwool, Arcteryx, and Woolx are other great brands, and I’ve also gotten pieces from REI, BackCountry, North Face, etc.
    • Then you can figure out where to splurge a little and where you can totally cheap out.  I go through each item in detail below, and give you my thoughts on where you need to go with a higher-quality item and where a simple Target or Amazon piece will be totally fine.
    • You’ll need some waterproof and wind-resistant outer layers FO SHO.
  • As sad as it is, how the rest of your clothes look won’t matter much because you’ll literally be wearing your jacket/coat 80%+ of the time.
    • Bring one “cute” (warm) outfit and then you can just wear simple thermals and sweaters under your jacket.  But think about making sure your jacket or coat is pretty as well as functional, since it will be in all your pictures (I love the deep purple color of mine).
  • It’s good to really think through what your itinerary looks like and what you’ll be doing when you’re using the gear, to figure out if you’ll truly use it.
    • As an example, I kept trying to sell myself on the idea of fancy expensive boots for both this trip and my previous winter Norway trip, but other than the glacier hike I knew we weren’t doing any major hiking and certainly not in water or snow, so I ended up going with a more cost-effective multipurpose hiking boot this time.
  • Don’t forget good face and body moisturizers to combat the dryness, wind, and cold!  And I always have my go-to clean makeup with me, which helps protect and moisturize my face (and stands up to the rigors of travel awesomely).

And yes, I packed everything in just a carry-on and personal item 🙂

Okay, let’s get to the good stuff…a perfect Iceland summer packing list!

A waterproof jacket that will look cute in pics

Any Iceland summer packing list has to start with your outerwear.  And I literally wore this North Face jacket the entire trip, with the exception of a few hours in Reykjavik.  I looked around for quite a while to find something that ticked all my boxes, and this jacket really delivered.

The most important elements were waterproof, wind-resistant, and layerable.  While this jacket isn’t super bulky or heavy, as long as you have a thermal or sweater on underneath you’ll be fine temperature-wise.

It did a great job of keeping me dry in the random rain and all the waterfall spray.  And the color is so pretty!  (The colors change frequently so see what’s available.)iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

Iceland summer packing's everything you for Iceland, Norway, and more in summer!

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I also brought a North Face Thermoball puffy jacket as my backup, since it takes up almost no room and weighs nothing.  I chose to wear it around Reykjavik, partly just because I was tired of wearing my other one, and I liked that it provided warmth but was cute too (and I didn’t need a hood).

This lightweight down puffer jackets from 32 Degrees (also via Amazon) are a great affordable alternative to the more expensive North Face-type options and are super warm and comfy, I’ve worn them in winter in Helsinki and Prague.

Having the right gear is critical for Iceland in summer...the ultimate Iceland summer packing list (this coat was perfect)

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Merino wool thermal top

Underneath that pretty, functional jacket you’ll want a quality thermal.  You really should only need one unless you’ll be there a long time.

I already had this one from my trip to Norway a couple years ago, and I grabbed this Meriwool one for the trip as a backup because the Ibex one was out of stock at the time.  Icebreaker, Smartwool, and Minus33 are other brands to work with.  Also, I haven’t tested it but I love this looser style.

Because they’re merino, they don’t get smelly or stretched out, and wicks away moisture if I sweat or get damp.

iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summerFleece-lined leggings

I discovered fleece-lined leggings on my first trip to Norway, and totally fell in love (they’re now a staple on my cold-weather runs).  These are three of my favorites.  You’ll definitely want two pairs for an Iceland summer trip, in case one gets wet or just super stretched out from over-wearing.

The first pair is what I wear at home for running in the cold, and definitely have an active bent to them (they have a drawstring and are a bit more sturdy).  The second and third are more true leggings—they’re cheaper for sure, but they’re comfy and warm, and also layer really well under other pants.

Honestly, these and the merino thermal tops below have all become a mainstay in any kind of packing for cold weather, and even my winter day-to-day life at home.

For subsequent trips I have gotten some amazing merino wool thermals that are now staples as well—I recommend these (I love all the color choices!) and these!iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

I’ve done a deep-dive on fleece-lined leggings & different pairs here!

iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

Rain pants / waterproof pants

Oy, this is not my favorite article of clothing.  In general I’m not a big fan of layers and also a lot of activewear because I end up feeling like I look super bulky.  And I kind of hated wearing rain pants (no fault of theirs)—however, they were invaluable at the waterfalls when I was getting sprayed like WHOA.

I didn’t wear mine tons, just slipped them on over my fleece-lined leggings when we’d stop at a major waterfall like Seljalandsfoss and remove them when we got back to the car.

I got and returned a couple, and ended up with these REI ones.  Unfortunately they’re discontinued, but these Columbia ones would do the trick—they fit me a little funky but were super similar.

iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

Wind-resistant hiking pants

These pants, on the other hand, I wore a LOT, and really like them—in my opinion they’re a must for your Iceland summer packing list.  I purposefully bought them a size up (though I’m generally between sizes so it’s actually more like half a size up) so I can easily wear them over my fleece-lined leggings.

It’s the perfect kind of layering, because these pants are super lightweight and meant to just provide extra protection from wind and rain and also dry super fast, while the leggings underneath provide warmth.

I even wore them for our glacier hike, and they were perfect (though my crampon kept accidentally catching them, which almost took me down a couple times…).

iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

A good pair of regular yoga pants or running tights

I think it’s nice to have a regular pair of yoga pants or tights that aren’t fleece-lined, in case you run into warmer weather.  My absolute favorites are Athleta 7/8-inch tights and others that are similar.iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

Easy zip-up or pullover tops

Sometimes you’ll want one more thin layer between your thermal and your jacket.  This is one of those cases where you can go simple and cheap.  An easy zip-up or pullover top layers well, and a simple athletic material is ideal.

You can get them anywhere…Target, Athleta, Amazon, TJ Maxx, wherever.  Lightweight and breathable is key, so the merino wool thermal can still get any sweat away from you.  Something like this top is perfect.

Lightweight sports tops for layering

There also might be some days where a simple lightweight athletic material top layers best and you don’t need a thermal.  Again, you don’t have to go too fancy here.  I have an odd assortment of ones, including from Athleta, and something like the one below as well as Target or Old Navy ones.

Another great option is to go with thin baselayers that add warmth without bulk.  I also have some very thin thermal leggings and tops that make good baselayers without adding bulk…32 Degrees is a great affordable brand here.

Waterproof hiking boots

I was on the fence here because I truly HATE hiking boots.  Like, I really don’t understand why people like them.  But I do get that they have their purpose.

In hindsight, I think I could have gotten away with mostly wearing nice tennis shoes since we weren’t doing tons of hiking, and then just renting hiking boots for the glacier hike.  If we’d been planning to do any other hiking that would have been another story.

I bought and returned a few different brands and styles before I found one I was okay with (though I wish I could have found in more of a gray vs. tan).  I went with the Columbia Newton Ridge.  Style-wise I’m not a huge fan, but they did their job well and were comfortable.  Aesthetically I think I prefer these ones and they get great reviews.

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Merino wool socks

You’ll want at least two pairs, because they’ll definitely get wet at some point and you’ll want a dry pair.  Smartwool, and Minus33 are two good brands.

These ones come up to your calf, and these are ankle socks.  I kept a pair of Smartwool no-shows with me too, because I could easily layer them on without adding bulk, and the merino wool just added a bit more warmth.

Cute long-sleeved tops or sweaters

I have some sweaters from Old Navy I brought, can go to dinner and your coat will still keep you dry and warm.  Just one or two will be totally good for a 3-5 day trip.

A pair of jeans for Reykjavik

In general, jeans aren’t your friend for Iceland.  They aren’t particularly warm, and if they get wet they take FOREVER to dry.  And honestly if you’re strapped on packing space, bringing a pair definitely isn’t necessary.

I had the space in my suitcase and enjoyed having a break from active wear when we were in Reykjavik—but only because the weather was nice.  If it had been raining while we explored the city I still would have gone with my quick-drying fabrics.

A pair of tennis shoes / sneakers

You need packing space for other things, so go really lightweight here if possible, or leave out.  Something like the Nike Free is good.  I was bummed I ended up leaving them out of my suitcase.  I also frequently travel with my lightweight TOMS sneakers (which they’ve discontinued).

Cute sturdy boots or flats for walking around

You can certainly wear your hiking boots or tennis shoes around Reykjavik and also on the airplane, but that is very much not my style (and I don’t find it as comfortable).

Instead, I found comfy ankle boots (ideally with rubber tread, to avoid slipping) or my Tieks or Rothy’s to be perfect.  The booties are lined inside with a lovely microfleece and have really good grip and a thick, supportive sole.

I am also a big fan of both Tieks and Rothy’s (this link gets you 15% off your first purchase), for different reasons.  I’m wearing my red Tieks in the Reykjavik church photo at the beginning of this post, and they’re one of my go-tos for just walking around a city, since the rubber sole provides good cushioning and they can expand and contract as my feet swell a bit later in the day.

I haven’t worth Rothy’s as much for an all-day cobblestone Europe extravaganza, but I do wear them (and Tieks) on airplanes all the time and also just for simple walking around, heading to dinner, etc.  Both brands are crazy lightweight and take up practically no room in a suitcase or personal item (and I adore that Rothy’s are machine washable).  You can get $20 off your first purchase with code WELCOME20 with that Rothy’s link, FYI!

A good hat to keep warm and dry

On my couple of Norway winter trips, I’d looked at various beanies but struggled to find one that fit my head without making me into a pin head, and also that could accommodate my bun (ain’t nobody got time for blow drying in this kind of climate…).  But headgear is crucial on any Iceland summer packing list!

For those winter trips I ended up going with a headband since I’d have a hood on constantly, but for this summer Iceland trip I knew I needed a separate hat.  After some trial and error, I found this adorable one and ended up loving it.  Not only is it cute and warm, but it’s lined with super soft fleece/microfiber fur inside.iceland summer packing list,what to wear in iceland in summer,packing list for iceland in summer

Nice gloves

So there are a couple things to consider here, the most important of which is how much you’re going to need to use your hands for touchscreen devices, and also how important dexterity is.  There are a couple directions you can go in.

For my Norway winter trips, I used something like these “glittens”, which pull back to expose your fingers when you’re using your cameras (but whoa, is it cold then).

For this trip I brought those, but also my everyday cold weather running gloves, which are merino wool a while back and they’re my everyday cold weather running gloves back home.  They’re fairly thin, so you can still use your hands well, including quite impressive touchscreen technology for using a phone or other touchscreen device.

You can get them directly from Icebreakers here since they often go in and out of stock on Amazon (and the price is consistently good on Icebreakers website).

Other gear you might need on your packing list for Iceland in summer

Since you’re not visiting in winter, you won’t need tons of extra gear, but here are a few other things I brought with me.

  • I packed a carry-on rollaboard suitcase (my standby TravelPro) and brought an Osprey daypack as my personal item.  I also brought my absolute favorite crossbody travel purse, particularly for Reykjavik.
  • A good bluetooth selfie stick (and phone tripod) – When I first planned this trip, it was a solo adventure so I knew I’d want to be able to get decent pics of myself that weren’t just a closeup of my face.
  • A “real” camera for any nighttime or low-light photography – Generally I rely heavily on my iPhone 14 Pro, but for long exposure shots you’ll need a “real” camera.  Currently I have the Sony a6400, and am re-learning how to shoot manual (the camera can be fully automatic, I just wanted more manual options and different lens capabilities).
    • There are a lot of lenses to choose from, depending on what you need.  My go-to is this (honestly kind of amazingly affordable and versatile) Tamron 18-300mm, which I recently took on safari and it did so well!
    • You’ll want a regular tripod for this camera if you plan to do nighttime photography (I use this one).
      • You’ll also want a plastic cover for your camera, to protect it from waterfall spray and rain.  A garbage bag or poncho for your backpack or gear wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
      • An extra couple camera batteries would be smart as well.
  • External battery charger that holds a lot of charge and isn’t too bulky or heavy.

So hopefully all the planning and research has helped you plan a warm(er) weather adventure to Iceland, Norway, or another amazing Scandinavian or Arctic destination.  I’d love to know if there are other items that I’ve missed but absolutely need to be on anyone’s Iceland summer packing list—or questions that you have about an upcoming trip!

Are you planning for an epic trip?  What burning packing questions did I not answer here??  Let me know in the comments, happy to help in any way!

Other posts to help you on your way:  

Use this gear on another active trip:

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The Ultimate Iceland Summer Packing List | Everything you need for Iceland in summer. I took a trip to Iceland in July and here's all the clothes, gear, and more that you'll need. The best fabrics and brands for Iceland, Norway, and more in summer!

Comments (11)

  • Kate

    March 31, 2024 at 12:32 pm

    I am going to Iceland in August. What kind of clothes do you recommend packing? Is it hot during that time of year?

    1. Jessica

      April 7, 2024 at 3:29 pm

      Hi Kate! You’ll have such an amazing time. No, it is definitely not hot at this time (or really ever from my experience). We were there in July and it was still chilly, windy, etc. though often sunny. This post provides the info you need to know for August as well. Hope that helps!

  • Marianne

    September 14, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    Do you have a recommendation for vehicle rental type and company?

    1. Jessica

      September 22, 2023 at 7:29 am

      Hi Marianne! It will depend on what time of year you’re visiting, so I suggest googling for deep posts about driving and renting a car in Iceland. We were there in summer and just had a regular car/sedan, and no issues at all. We rented from Sixt and it was fine (but off-airport, so more time-consuming). I always recommend checking, DiscoverCars, and AutoEurope to compare rental prices and companies.

  • Laurie

    August 29, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    Did you fly Iceland air with your travel pro? Their website has dimensions listed for carryons that seem smaller than my travel pro carry on. Thank you

    1. Jessica

      September 6, 2023 at 2:54 pm

      Hi Laurie! I did not, I think I flew United. I haven’t had my carry-on measured or weighed with any of the major airlines (e.g. United, Delta) but know that some of the more budget ones do. I’ve never had my carry-on declined, though do have to gate check every so often because I fly on a lot of tiny planes. The TripAdvisor forums may know!

  • Angela

    March 9, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    For the SATINA leggings, the amazon listing says hand wash only. Is that what you did, or have you tried running them through the washer? Maybe on delicate? You can tell that I don’t like hand washing!

    1. Jessica

      March 9, 2023 at 8:40 pm

      Hi Angela! Haha, I never saw the hand washing label. I’ve always just washed mine on cold in a mesh laundry bag, and air dried them.

      1. Angela

        March 9, 2023 at 8:51 pm

        That’s what I hoped you’d say! Thanks for the reply

  • Leslie

    August 9, 2022 at 11:09 am

    Did I miss a travel first aid kit on your list? We were very glad we had it after a glacier hike when my husband cut his finger on the ice. There are some long isolated areas and having quick access to antibiotic cream and bandaids can be very helpful. Also, don’t forget to pack all the basic meds like Tylenol and Immodium. They are not always easy to get over there. We found we could spend our whole time there in our hiking shoes-so if you want to pack light, forget a bunch of other shoes.

    1. Jessica

      October 15, 2022 at 9:19 am

      Hi Leslie! You’re right, I tend to pack bits and pieces here and there (bandaids for blisters, I have a whole separate pouch with medications), but I’ve added a travel first aid kit to the list. Thanks for the comment!

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