Clothes for Iceland

What should you wear in Iceland?

I asked myself this same question recently and, having returned from an eleven day trip there (during the summer), I thought I would share what I learned.

Now, I should mention that dressing for Reykjavik was a little different than dressing for the rest of the country, but a lot of the same suggestions apply.  I will add more details about the capital below.

So, what to pack for Iceland:


Wear layers. Pack for layers.  Believe in layers!  Layers are the secret weapon of dressing in Iceland. As the temperatures rise and fall throughout the day, layers are what kept me warm and dry.  I had a backpack with me everyday I wasn't in Reykjavik and kept layers of clothing in it, putting them on and taking them off all day (and by layers on and off I mean a raincoat, gloves, beanie, and sometimes an additional SmartWool base layer).  Which leads us to....

2. SmartWool.  This goes with layers, but the SmartWool I (finally) purchased for this trip was A-MAZ-ING!  I have used patagonia capilene in the past for snowboarding and other times when it has been cold and I needed a long underwear base layer.  I was going to bring the same stuff with me to Iceland and was trying to figure out how much of it to pack.  The truth is that it is something that can... well... start to absorb body odor and I was trying to figure out how often I was going to have a chance to wash it and how much I needed to pack.  I was at REI looking for a pair of water-resistant pants and looking at my base layer / long underwear options when an employee sold me on Smartwool.  After wearing it everyday in Iceland, I can tell you it was worth the expense and that my patagonia capilene has been replaced.  I purchased two sets; a mid-weight layer and a light layer.  I wore them everyday and washed them once on the trip.  No absorbing of odor, very soft and comfortable under my clothes, and great at regulating the temperature.  I know they will last me for a very long time and am glad I made the investment.  And it was an investment, that stuff is not cheap.

3. Waterproof or resistant outer layer.  Even though I went to Iceland in the summer it can still be cold and wet. For this reason I purchased water resistant pants from REI and brought a borrowed (Thanks Jan!) rain jacket.  Both of these items were worn a lot.  The pants ended up being perfect and I wore them everyday we were not in a main city, which was 3/4th of the trip. On the city days I wore jeans. 

4. Beanies, gloves, and scarves.  This could be folded into layers, but I wanted to separate it out to highlight these.  Ever since the Paris trip in 2009 I have been an almost perfect packer.  I try to have only carry-on luggage (unless I am bringing wine like this trip and Russia!) and to make sure everything mixes and matches.  I keep track of items I didn't use or wear and evolve my packing for my next trip.  I pack perfectly about 98% of the time.  

Why do I bring this up now?  Because I struggled with what to bring when it came to beanies, gloves, and scarves.  The fashionable versus the practical I guess.  I ended up bringing two beanies, one hat, two pairs of gloves, three scarves, and one ear-warmer headband (for running).  One of the pair of gloves was fingerless and I shouldn't have brought those.  I only wore them once.  The other pair was texting gloves.  The day we landed in Reykjavik I couldn't find the texting gloves and wore my fingerless gloves for the only time during my trip.  I purchased another pair of gloves at 66° North on that first day and LOVED THEM. I call 66° North the Patagonia of Iceland and was happy to have a pair of warm gloves for the Iceland trip.  Most days I would wear one texting glove and one 66° North glove (both black) so I didn't have to take my gloves off to use my iPhone.  

I am on the fence on if I brought too many scarves..... I wore my funnel neck scarf A LOT.  More than I though I would, and hardly wore my pashmina scarf at all.  I think it had to do with being where I was most of the time (the great outdoors) and the clothing that worked for that day.  I wore my beanies A LOT! The grey one with the stripe was my pulled down over my eyes everyday in the bus as a sleep mask.  Score!

The napping position.  Sunglasses are over the beanie...Yoga was paying off... (photo by the Middle Sister).

5. Bathing suit and sunglasses.  Yep.  Bring your bathing suit and sunglasses to Iceland.  Why?  Geothermal features.  Blue Lagoons.  Etc.  You might even bring a towel like THIS one I brought that is quick dry so you don't have to rent one.

Note about shoes and socks: This is another area where I struggled.  Not with the socks.  I brought wool socks and even purchased some Smartwool running socks that have replaced my running socks at home.  I wasn't sure which shoes to bring.  I ended up bringing hiking boots, running shoes, and converse tennis shoes.  All of these were good choices and were in rotation on this trip.  If I had been spending more time in Reykjavik I would have liked to have had a pair of flats or black boots.  As it worked out, my converse were perfect for the time I got to spend there.

Which brings me to dressing for Reykjavik.  The rest of Iceland was covered with tourist wearing similar clothes to the ones I wore.  Locals wore the Icelandic sweater and casual clothes and even Reykjavik was pretty casual.  But Reykjavik was more fashionable.  Lots of black with tan or denim.  Black tights.  Black shoes or converse.  Dresses and skirts for women.  With black tights.  It was still chilly in the summer.  And a bike was a great accessory!

T and I are planning a trip to Iceland in the future and I know I will look back at this to remember what to pack for Iceland.  I always bring one running outfit and think I might pack a little less monochromaticly next time.  Maybe. I know we will be camping and hiking more than hanging out in Reykjavik, so my outfits from this trip will work again.

A quick note about laundry in Iceland.  There is usually not an option to use a clothes dryer so have a way to hang your clothes to dry.  This has been typical in the European countries I traveled to as well, but a fellow traveler was not prepared for it so I thought I would note it here.

Can you think of anything I missed? I am always trying to streamline my packing list and am open to suggestions.  Maybe I can graduate to 99% perfect packer with your help!


**This is part of my Iceland adventure in June 2015.  Read more about it HERE.**

No comments:

Post a Comment