What to Pack for Iceland15 January 2015
Having 5 days in Iceland was truly unbelievable, but for approximately 1 month before I left, I couldn't stop stressing about one thing. What on earth do I pack?!
Mostly, I wore sweaters or layered tees with my chambray shirt. I always wore my Patagonia base layer bottoms under my thick Lululemon leggings for added warmth. If I knew I was going to be outside all day, I'd throw on my North Face fleece jacket or Lululemon athletic jacket as well. Layering is especially important in Iceland. Just like you can always count on the weather to be crazy outside, you can also always count on anything indoors to be well-heated. And it makes sense, given that Iceland is known for having such a great source of renewable energy for heating!
I also brought two thick scarves with the intension of layering just for the look, but I actually was sincerely glad I had them for added warmth. I never left my hotel without my North Face knit hat and sweater mittens.
You should also pack the necessities for keeping your feet warm.
I can't say enough about wool socks. Bring as many as you can fit into your suitcase because you will go through all of them! I especially love the ones by Smartwool that are moisture-wicking.
A girl can never have enough shoes, but when you're packing for a trip, you should try to limit the amount you bring. For Iceland, I really only needed two pairs; either I rocked my KEEN hiking boots, or I stomped around in my SOREL snow boots. For trips to climb a frozen waterfall, hunt for the Northern Lights, or hike out to touch a glacier, your best bet is to go for something a bit more equipped for harsher weather. While walking around Reykjavik, I opted for the hiking boots to be a bit more comfortable.
There were a handful of other items that I was glad I'd packed.
Because I'd read so much about the weather being so unpredictable, I invested in a small 4 liter Sea to Summit dry sack pack. This was especially helpful for keeping my DSLR camera and iPhone in my bag from getting wet while exploring. I didn't have a waterproof backpack with me, but this little guy came in handy several times!
Whenever I know I'm going to do a lot of hiking or walking around, I always bring my Marmot Kompressor packable backpack. What I like most about this pack is that it's a top-loader, so it's easy to get things in and out. It also has a nice, extra pocket in the head to store small things for easy access. I put my wallet and iPhone in here a lot. It has a removable pad for extra back support, and the straps adjust nicely.
You might be wondering about that swimsuit up there on that list. What could I possibly be doing with a swimsuit in a place like Iceland? I knew I would be taking a trip out to the Blue Lagoon, so this was on my must-pack list. Even if you're passing on one of the world's weirdest and coolest spa experiences ever in life, I still recommend bringing a swimsuit for your trip. A really popular thing to do in Iceland is to visit their naturally heated public pools, or their natural hot springs, called "hot pots." I did not have a chance to do either of these things while I visited, but they are very pretty, and this will definitely be on my to-do list when I go back.
And obviously I am glad I brought my camera! Iceland is so beautiful, and the landscape is very unexpected. I was taking pictures on both my Nikon DSLR and iPhone 4s because I couldn't wait to share them with my friends and family!
Things I could have done without:
Generally speaking, I'm a pretty smart packer, so there was really only one thing that I brought that I didn't need. My sister and I had done tons of research about what to wear in Iceland, and although we kept drawing blanks, the one common item that kept popping up was waterproof pants. It tends to rain and snow sideways in Iceland, so a lot of travelers mentioned they wished they'd brought waterproof pants to keep them dry. We were also planning on hiking behind a waterfall during one of the day trips we took, so we thought they might come in handy. While I was glad I had them on hand (as sort of a security blanket type thing), I never once used them. I actually ended up taking them back to Erehwon for a full refund when I returned home.
I may have missed certain things that would be important to you. For example, I'm not a huge partier while I travel because I try to do it on a budget, and alcohol has become a bit of an unnecessary expense for me. You might opt for a fancier pair of shoes or something that you might feel more confident wearing for a night out in Reykjavik. To be honest, if I had spent more than one or two nights out at bars listening to music, I would have been fine with the wardrobe I had. Icelanders have a very laid-back style. I didn't once feel out of place in a chambray shirt, leggings and hiking boots.