What to Pack for a Winter Trip in Iceland (FREE checklist!)

Packing for Iceland in the winter might be the hardest season to plan for. Especially if you’re not from a cold climate it can be overwhelming thinking about everything you might need. Not to mention winter apparel is twice as bulky so you’re talking about precious suitcase space!

The three main things to remember during your Iceland travel: water/windproof, layers, and comfort. The weather in Iceland changes all of the time, and sometimes you can experience all four seasons in one day! And because there are so few trees, Iceland has this thing called sideways rain. It’s when there is normal rain but the wind is so high that the rain appears to come at you sideways. I would suggest a hood on everything, you never know when you will need an extra layer!

It’s really important to invest in good quality gear that will keep you dry and warm. Iceland will reward you with its astounding beauty but you have to be properly dressed to enjoy it. If you’re cold you’re just going to want to go back to your car, and that’s not a good way to experience Iceland!

Personally, I don’t care about how I look when I go outside, I only care about being warm and comfortable! So take it from someone who lives here and adventures into the wilderness every weekend…pack practical!


Parka: This item is your workhorse. You absolutely need it to be waterproof, warm and with a hood. Bonus if it’s knee-length, keep as much covered as possible!

Pants: Trust me, you want to keep your legs dry and warm. If you are wearing leggings or jeans and they get wet, then you’re out of luck for the day. I have a lighter pair for windy/rainy days, and a fleece-lined pair for snowy adventures that I absolutely love.

Down coat: Think about this coat as a warm base layer. The benefit to down is that it’s packable, lightweight, and great for insulation. This would also be a good alternative on its own if the weather is mild or you are walking around the city.

Hat: You definitely want to keep your head warm in Iceland! There is rarely a time I don’t have a hat on my head, no matter the season. My tip: consider a functional hat that’s not only stylish but WARM! My favorite is a tight-knit for max warmth.

Gloves: I prefer gloves over mittens because I’m always using my camera so they are more functional. Bonus if they have the touch screen pads because then you can use your phone without taking the gloves off!

Scarf: Keeping my neck warm is a top priority. I have an awesome wool scarf that really blocks the wind – again, not a loose knit chunky scarf. However, sometimes a scarf is too bulky so I also use these merino wool gaiters a lot. I have a fleece lined gaiter that is awesome for colder days or walking around exploring.


Thermals: Bring both a top and a bottom, wear under everything, repeat. Again, don’t skimp on quality here, a good base layer can make a big difference for keeping you warm.

Fleece leggings: Another option is having fleece leggings by themselves or underneath a pair of hiking pants. Soooometimes I can get away with just the fleece leggings without my outdoor pants, but that’s not the norm.

Wool sweater:  Invest in an actual wool sweater, it makes a huge difference! Or wait until you get to Iceland and buy a real one. Everyone has them, and they are seriously the best! I am not kidding when I say I wear mine every weekend, it’s the warmest thing I own.

Wool socks: Can you tell I love wool? No, but seriously it’s the best for warmth. You will want multiple pairs of warm moisture wicking socks.

Layering long sleeves: Think long sleeve tees, dry fit zip ups, cardigans, that cute chambray button up…basically anything that you can change into for dinner and will make you feel like you’re not wearing the same thing every day.

Jeans: I don’t recommend jeans for your outdoor adventures, remember it’s all about comfort! But you will want a pair of jeans for going out to eat. In Iceland, it is common to wear skinny jeans.

READ MORE:   What to pack for a SPRING trip to Iceland (April + May)


Walking boots: These hiking boots have saved my life. They are completely waterproof, have amazing traction, and are super comfortable. I highly suggest a good quality pair of hiking boots.

Snow boots: I’m a big fan of my Sorel winter boots. They are warm, waterproof, durable and fashionable! I use these for exploring in deep snow, and when I need more warmth than my hiking boot.

Crampons: NUMBER ONE IMPORTANT THING FOR WINTER!! These are SO important for winter safety! I have used mine several times, and they make me feel so safe walking on the ice. Iceland doesn’t do a great job at clearing away ice, and it can get very slippery especially walking around waterfalls and even some normal streets.

Yaktrax (for basic protection)
Spikes (for extra protection/what I use)



Swimsuit: Yes, really. Icelanders LOVE pools, there is a pool in every town! And not only that but there are dozens of hot springs you will find around the country. Trust me, there is nothing better than relaxing in a natural hot spring in the middle of the wilderness.

Quick-dry towel: Quick dry towels are so convenient because they fold up small and obviously dry quickly. Especially if you’re planning on camping or staying in a hostel (pay for towels), or swimming in the natural pools, this really comes in handy.

Sunglasses: Yes the sun comes out in the winter and when it does trust me you will want some shades. Since the sun only rises partway into the sky during the winter months, the sun can be shining right in your face most of the day!

Day Bag: You want some sort of multi-purpose bag that will be comfortable on your back when walking around but also functional. I love this one because it has plenty of storage for my camera, but I can also bring day trip items like my swimsuit and towel! And it has a strap for attaching a tripod which is a really nice feature.

Water bottle: Buying water in Iceland is just silly. You can drink the water out of any faucet or even from the stream you are hiking by – it comes straight from the glacier!

Camera: Duh! *See my complete camera essentials + packing list HERE!

Car chargers: For when your camera and/or phone goes dead when you’re on the road (mine goes dead all of the time from the cold!)

Adapter: Make sure you can charge your phone, camera, or computer with the correct plug. Iceland uses the standard European plug with two round prongs. I love my universal adapter because I can take it with me around the world and it has to handy USB ports for extra charging. Each person needs their own adapter!

Medicines/prescriptions: In Iceland, you can’t get stuff like ibuprofen or cold medication over the counter. Bring whatever you think you will need.

Final thoughts: It’s better to be over prepared when it comes to winter wear, you want to stay dry and warm! Remember, Iceland will reward you with it’s beauty but you have to be properly dressed to enjoy it. Have a great trip!

Happy planning,


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  • Wondering what to pack for your cold winter trip to Iceland? I got you covered with this detailed packing list!
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  • DeDee
    January 12, 2017 at 1:41 am

    Hi, I work with your bother and when he heard I was going to Iceland he showed me your blog. Anyways I just wanted to say thanks for all the helpful advice on here. I can’t wait for next week to see Iceland for myself 🙂

    • Jeannie
      January 20, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      Hey DeDee! So glad you could find my blog and it’t helpful for you! Let me know if I can help with you with anything in the meantime 😀

  • lula
    November 19, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    hi Jeannie, thanks very much for this post, it is very helpful and im now scouring your blog for more posts on tips for visiting iceland! 🙂 question: can i get away with just bringing the sorel boots instead of hiking boots? would the sorel boots be alright for using crampons or going glacier hiking (im guessing i can rent them there if need be…?) ? im totally torn on footwear options due to limited luggage weight limit!!

    • Jeannie
      November 30, 2016 at 8:20 am

      The reason I say to bring both is my Sorel boots can start to feel heavy after a bit of walking, so it’s nice to have the hiking boots/shoes as a lightweight alternative. I’ve used my crampons over both my Sorels and hiking boots so either one you decide you will be ok!

      • Sarah
        February 3, 2017 at 3:01 am

        Hi Jeannie, which crampons would you suggest with sorels?

        • Jeannie
          February 6, 2017 at 11:49 am

          Hey Sarah!
          The Yak Trax that I list here in my winter packing guide a great because they stretch out enough to go over the boots. Have fun! http://amzn.to/1QF6hZb

    • Sarah
      February 3, 2017 at 2:59 am

      Hi lula how did the crampons with the sorels work out for you? Ive been reading mixed reviews.

  • Rachel brown
    September 15, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    I’m coming to iceland in march next year so this blog is awesome. I must read more of your work. Thanks again!

    • Jeannie
      September 16, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Hey Rachel, thanks so much for following along! Glad I can help with your planning 🙂

    • Vanessa
      March 2, 2017 at 3:23 am

      Hey, are you still going in march? I am booked for the last week of march, coming from Canada. Jeannine, We booked both snowmobiling, blue lagoon and ice caving (fingers crossed for the weather). I am thinking of buying sorels (the Joan of Arctic pair), for the ice caving, as oppose to hiking boots. What do you think about this? The thing is, our trip involves a walk to the glacier, so I didn’t really see the point in a low boot like a hiking boot. Plus, I wanted to avoid packing too many pairs of shoes.

      • Jeannie
        March 7, 2017 at 7:38 am

        I think you could still get by with your hiking boots and a warm pair of wool socks. They provide crampons for you for the ice!

  • Shelley Lloyd
    September 9, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Hi Jeannie,

    I love your blog! It’s now my nightly reading while my husband and I are planning a trip from Australia to Iceland for my 50th next April. Just wondering if you can help. I’ve read your packing tips for summer and winter but do you have any tips for April? Bearing in mind we come from Queensland and our usual attire is summer casual with an average temp of 25 degrees plus. Thanks again for such a helpful blog. I can’t wait to visit your new homeland. Cheers from Queensland, Australia.

    • Jeannie
      September 15, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Shelley! Thank you so much for your sweet comment and for following along! So fun that you are choosing Iceland for your birthday.

      April can still be pretty chilly and depending on where you are going still have snow. However, the majority of winter will be done. I would use the summer packing list as a guide and just pack warmer layers. The temperatures don’t fluctuate all that much this far north 😉
      Have you joined my Facebook planning group? It’s a great way to ask more questions like this to prepare for your trip!

  • Katie
    September 8, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Wondering what brand of leggings and thermals you used when in Iceland! Thanks 🙂

    • Jeannie
      September 15, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Hey Katie,
      Oh geeze, I have no idea anymore! Cuddleduds maybe? Anything will work!

  • Claire
    August 20, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Hi what an interesting series of blogs! So practical! After reading ur packing list just wondering anout ur opinion on weating salopettes and ski jacket with thermal leggings, long sleeved base layer and fleece for a day trip to gullfoss.family with 3 teenagers to wear same and take jackets and salopettes off in car while travelling from site to site.We all have both hiking boots and snow boots.for site seeing in the capital would salopettes be ok in dec? Many Thanks for your experienced opinion.We’re from NIreland so get a lit of Iceland’s left over weather !

    • Jeannie
      August 29, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Hi Claire! Sounds like you will be fully prepared with those items. Iceland will probably feel colder than you are used to in Northern Ireland, but if you have the right outerwear that makes it easier. The biggest factor is usually the wind, so just be aware of that. I hope you have a great trip with your family!

  • Tami Brennan
    May 28, 2016 at 4:29 am

    Thank you for this detailed post. I have enjoyed reading about your move to Iceland. I will be visiting in September (18-30th) and am wondering if you think I will need snow pants for snowmobiling. That’s the only activity I think I may need them for. Thanks for any advice.

    • Jeannie
      June 7, 2016 at 9:14 am

      Hi Tami! I think it would be a good idea to bring at least wind proof pants for snowmobiling. Maybe you could check to see if the company you are going with provides the snowpants? Sometimes they do. The end of September can start to feel a little chilly especially if you’re not used to the colder temperatures!

  • Brie
    February 18, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for mentioning the converter. Would have forgot that!

    • Jeannie
      March 3, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Yes no problem! Gotta charge all of those devices 🙂

  • Beth @ Paces and Places
    February 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    I love the Sorel boots! I’ve been wanting a pair for awhile now. They’re so cute, but still functional!

    • Jeannie
      February 16, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      I know they really are the best…I want one in every style!