Travel Tips for Iceland

What to Wear in Iceland (No Matter the Season!)


What to Wear in Iceland

Planning a trip to Iceland and wondering what to wear? You’re not alone. When visiting such a rugged destination with such harsh and quick-changing weather, the right clothing can make all the difference between having a great time exploring, out in the elements and having a less-than-ideal time. 

Make sure you pack all the right clothing to wear while in Iceland, whatever season you’re visiting. As lifetime Iceland locals, we know exactly what you need to pack in your suitcase to remain comfortable, whether you’re hunting the northern lights in the dead of winter, or driving around the South Coast in the middle of Iceland’s short summer season. 

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about packing the right clothes for your Iceland trip, with suggested Iceland packing lists for each season, along with a few tips and details about what kind of weather you can expect based on the month you’re visiting. 

Let’s get started. 

What to Wear in Iceland

 A Few Quick Facts About Icelandic Weather 

While Icelandic weather does differ from season to season, there are a few things you can rely on to be the case no matter when you visit. 

Icelandic weather changes very quickly

No matter when you visit, you can expect the weather to change rapidly. Icelandic locals joke that, if you don’t like our weather, just wait for five minutes! Sun, heavy rain, snow, heavy winds — it all can happen in the blink of an eye. Because of this, it’s vitally important that you be well-prepared for all kinds of weather, regardless of the season that you visit. 

Iceland experiences very strong winds, which can catch travellers off guard

Especially when you’re travelling through the more exposed (away from big towns and cities) and rural areas of Iceland, you’ll quickly see that Iceland is home to some very strong winds. In fact, the winds are so strong that sometimes we’ll get reports from Lava Car customers that the wind damaged their car doors! How exactly did this happen? Well, if you accidentally leave your car door open, a strong burst of wind can come along and catch the door, causing some severe damage to the car.

Because of this, if you’re renting a car while in Iceland, make sure to always close your door tightly behind you when exiting the vehicle (even if you're just stopping by a scenic viewpoint for a minute or two!). Keep a good hold on the door when you open and close it. 

Iceland experiences very strong winds, which can catch travellers off guard

Icelandic weather can feel much colder than it actually is

If you check the Icelandic weather forecast on vedur.is (an excellent resource that you should definitely use during any Icelandic road trip), don’t expect the projected temperature to be entirely indicative of what you’ll feel when you're outside. Due to wind and weather conditions, the air can feel much colder than what the air temperature is at any given moment. So, play it safe, and prepare for colder-than-predicted temperatures.

3 Top Tips for Packing for an Iceland Trip

Packing for your Iceland trip? No matter the season, no matter the clothes you end up packing, here are our 3 absolute top tips for what to pack to visit Iceland.

Go for waterproof clothing

Rain and other precipitation can quickly soak your clothes and leave you shivering! Opt for waterproof or water-resistant clothing, whatever the season of your visit. 

Rain jackets or waterproof heavy coats, and water-resistant pants (which you can typically find in the hiking area of your local sporting goods store), are must-haves. Don’t think that you can simply rely on your umbrella to keep you dry; the strong Iceland winds will rip that umbrella right out of your hands.

Go for waterproof clothing

Bring clothes that you can layer

This is a good rule of thumb anytime you travel somewhere that you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors. If you bring clothes you can layer, you can more easily adjust your clothing to the changing temperatures. When you get hot, you can just take a few items off; when you get cold, you can add them back on. 

Look for outdoor-ready clothing

If you plan on seeing anything outside of the cities and towns of Iceland, even if it’s just a short stopover at some of our most famous natural wonders, you’ll need to have outdoor-ready clothing. Think hiking boots instead of sneakers, hiking pants instead of yoga pants and moisture-wicking shirts instead of a button-up blouse. 

Most of the attractions around Iceland do require a bit of hiking or even simply walking over some lava rock terrain, and you want to be prepared to easily and safely see those sites — making suitable clothing crucial. 

Look for outdoor-ready clothing

What to Wear in Spring in Iceland

Average temperatures in Iceland in the spring range from 1 degrees Celsius in April (34 degrees Fahrenheit) to as high as 9 degrees Celsius in May (48 degrees Fahrenheit). The air is cool but not necessarily cold, and the daylight hours in the spring are beginning to lengthen past the severe darkness of Iceland winters. There’ll still be a bit of snow over April and May, especially if you visit Iceland’s North or East. 

There are many advantages to travelling in Iceland in the spring months. In addition to the weather not being as harsh as it is in the dead of winter, spring in Iceland is a little more affordable for many travellers, as the country hasn’t yet hit peak tourist season, which is throughout the summer months.

In terms of spring road conditions in Iceland, expect a little bit of ice and snow (and watch out for those ever-changing weather conditions!), again, especially throughout the northern and eastern parts of the island. If you travel Iceland’s popular Ring Road (also known as Route 1), you’ll definitely see this. Because of these potentially hazardous conditions, we recommend visitors to Iceland through the spring only rent 4x4 vehicles, as well as those with higher bases, so there’s no worry about getting stuck on a snowbank! Popular picks include the Dacia Duster and Toyota Rav4.

Vik is one of the most popular Icelandic town located on Iceland south coast

Iceland Spring Packing List

Travelling to Iceland during April or May? Here’s the best clothing to wear in Iceland in the spring, and what you should pack for your spring Iceland trip.

  • Base layer clothing: This includes your normal underwear and some moisture-wicking shorts or long-sleeve t-shirts. These items can be used as a base layer, and then you can layer warmer clothes on top, so you can remove clothing items as needed based on the temperature and weather. If you're going to be spending a lot of time up in the North or East, it’s also a good idea to bring woollen under clothes. 
  • Warmer outer layers: You want to bring warm outer layers of clothing that you can layer on top of your base layers. Think wool or fleece sweaters or sweatshirts. Avoid cotton, as cotton dries very slowly.
  • Shell pants and a jacket: For your outermost layer, you’ll want to invest in shell pants and a shell jacket. You can find these at most sporting goods stores. Shell pants and jackets are very lightweight, but while they don’t provide much in the way of warmth, they block the wind (thereby keeping you warmer) and keep you dry. 
  • Weatherproof jacket: In addition, if you’re spending a lot of time in the North and East, or if you're particularly averse to the cold, you may want to bring a weatherproof jacket, too, with a hood. 
  • Hiking boots and socks: Opt for real hiking boots versus tennis shoes. Real hiking boots are designed to give you traction and stability and to protect your ankles in the event of a fall. Hiking boots can not only make you feel safer when traversing unsteady terrain, but they can also make your hiking more enjoyable and comfortable. To go along with your hiking boots, pack some hiking socks that will be long enough to cover your ankle and most of your shin. Hiking socks designed for cold weather are ideal.
  • Hat, scarves, gloves and mittens: To top it all off, accessorise your springtime Iceland look with a warm set of hat, scarf, gloves and/or mittens. This is especially the case if you’ll be enjoying any outdoor activities that require use of your hands — like going on a horse riding tour.

how to pack for spring Iceland trip

What to Wear in Summer in Iceland

Summer in Iceland might include the hottest months of June, July and August, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the weather is “hot” by normal standards. The temperatures range from around 8 degrees Celsius in June (46 degrees Fahrenheit) to up to 14 degrees Celsius in August (57 degrees Fahrenheit). For most of the world, these temperatures would be considered cool and comfortable. 

During the summer, you’re less likely to find any snow around the country and you’ll enjoy plenty of long days with lots of sunshine (including the Midnight Sun around June 21st). Rain is still a worry, but not as much. 

All the roads around the island are open to visitors throughout the summer, including the F Roads (though, if you’re planning to drive around the F Roads in the Icelandic Highlands specifically, you may want to visit in late June, July or early August, as sometimes poor weather can extend over into early June or appear as early as late August, closing the roads). 

What to Wear in Summer in Iceland

If you’re planning to drive around Iceland during the summer, you’ll enjoy a wide range of rental car options. Those planning to stay on Route 1 or in the cities of Iceland can take advantage of budget deals on small economy cars. However, do note that if you’re travelling on any F Roads, you will need a 4x4 car, as other vehicles won’t be able to handle the unpaved roads. Camper vans are also a popular option in the summer, especially for those who want to camp around Iceland and possibly save a bit of money on accommodation costs.

Just be aware that summer is the busiest travel season for Iceland, so costs for rental cars — as well as everything else you do in the country — are a bit higher, and you may even find that rental cars are totally booked up at some rental providers. For this reason, as soon as you start planning your Iceland summer trip, you should go ahead and book that rental car; the very latest you should book is about a month before your arrival. With Lava Rental Car, you can book on the Lava Rental Car website and pay upon arrival, without a deposit or payment up-front; you can easily change or cancel your rental up to 48 hours before your pick-up time, totally for free.

Enjoy your meal in your camper van during your iceland trip

Iceland Summer Packing List 

There are a few items that you’ll want to pack for a summer trip to Iceland, that overlap with the best clothing to wear in Iceland in the spring. These include your base layer, warm sweater, shell layer, a weatherproof jacket and your hiking boots and socks. 

  • Base layer clothing: For base layer clothing, you still want to pack your normal underwear and some moisture-wicking shorts or long-sleeve t-shirts. Unlike when visiting during spring, though, you can opt out of packing any woollen under clothes, if you’re visiting Iceland in the summer.
  • Warmer outer layers: You still want to bring a warm outer layer of clothing that you can wear on top of your base layers.
  • Shell pants and a jacket: Again, in summer as well, you’ll want to invest in shell pants and a shell jacket. You can find these at most sporting goods stores. Shell pants and jackets are very lightweight, but while they don’t provide much in the way of warmth, they block the wind (thereby keeping you warmer) and keep you dry. 
  • Weatherproof jacket: Go with a lighter weatherproof jacket in the summer than you might pack in the spring, something that can handle most temperatures in the Celsius teens or in the Fahrenheit 50s. 
  • Hiking boots and socks: Hiking boots and hiking socks are always a must, regardless of the season in which you visit Iceland, but if you’re visiting in the summer, you may want to opt for lighter hiking socks and if you have winter hiking boots, you may want to leave those at home, and go for all-season hiking boots that won’t overheat your feet. 
  • Sunglasses: Sunglasses are a must when visiting Iceland in the summer. All that sunshine can really do a number on your eyes! Definitely invest in a good pair of sunglasses if you plan on taking a glacier tour, or if you’re driving your rental car.
  • Sunscreen: Likewise, if you plan on enjoying any outdoor activities, you’ll want to bring some sunscreen. 

Iceland Summer Packing List 

What to Wear in Fall in Iceland 

In Iceland’s fall months of September and October, the weather begins to cool down a little more, ranging from about 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). As the season changes over, we’ll get a lot more rain and darker days. Fall is also the best time to start looking for the northern lights in Iceland

Iceland’s fall road conditions vary depending on where on the island you’re travelling. Some parts of Iceland, mostly the North and East, will start to get snowy in September, while other areas to the South, such as around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, won’t see snow until the winter months. 

Still, if you’re self-driving a rental car  in Iceland in September or October, you’ll want to keep this in mind. If you plan on staying along paved roads or in the city, you’ll usually be fine renting an economy vehicle. If, however, you plan to visit some of those more remote areas in the North and East, a 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy reduced rental prices thanks to fall being less of a busy tourist season in Iceland. 

Iceland south coast is filled with Icelandic wonders, and glaciers are one of them.

Iceland Fall Packing List

The fall packing list for Iceland is near-identical to the spring packing list for Iceland. The best clothing to wear in Iceland is about the same in both seasons. 

  • Base layer clothing: This includes your normal underwear and some moisture-wicking shorts or long-sleeve t-shirts. These items can be used as a base layer, and then you can layer warmer clothes on top, so you can remove clothing items as needed based on the temperature and weather. Like in the spring, if you're going to be spending a lot of time up in the North or East, it’s also a good idea to bring a pair of woollen under clothes. 
  • Warmer outer layers: You want to bring warm outer layers of clothing that you can layer on top of your base layers. Think wool or fleece sweaters or sweatshirts. Avoid cotton, as cotton dries very slowly and, if you’re wet or sweaty during cold conditions, that’s something you definitely don’t want.
  • Shell pants and a jacket: For your outermost layer, you’ll want to invest in shell pants and a shell jacket. You can find these at most sporting goods stores. Shell pants and jackets are very lightweight, but while they don’t provide much in the way of warmth, they block the wind (thereby keeping you warmer) and keep you dry. 
  • Weatherproof jacket: In addition, if you’re spending a lot of time in the North and East, or if you're particularly averse to the cold, you may want to bring a weatherproof jacket, too, with a hood. 
  • Hiking boots and socks: Opt for real hiking boots versus tennis shoes. Real hiking boots are designed to give you traction and stability, and to protect your ankles in the event of a fall. Hiking boots can not only make you feel safer when traversing unsteady terrain, but they can also make your hiking more enjoyable and comfortable.

    To go along with your hiking boots, pack some hiking socks that will be long enough to cover your ankle and most of your shin. Hiking socks designed for cold weather are ideal.
  • Hat, scarves, gloves and mittens: Again, accessorise your autumn Iceland look with a warm set of hat, scarf, gloves and/or mittens. This is especially the case if you’ll be enjoying any activities that require use of your hands.

Iceland Fall Packing List

What to Wear in Winter in Iceland

While a winter trip to Iceland is your most budget-friendly option, the temperatures are the most frigid and the weather is the most hazardous. Still, for intrepid travellers, that’s no deterrent and the affordable prices and beautiful nature is well worth the extra preparation needed to stay safe.

Winter Iceland temperatures range from -1 degrees Celsius (29 degrees Fahrenheit) to 3 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit), on average. You can expect a lot of snow and other precipitation, as well as icy, snowy roads. Bad weather is always a possibility.

If you’re driving around Iceland at any time between November and March, you’ll want to rent a 4x4 vehicle

For a full overview of how to safely drive in Iceland during the winter, check out our full guide

What to Wear in Winter in Iceland

Iceland Winter Packing List 

  • Base layer clothing: During the winter, your base layer clothing should include woollen underwear (possibly even long underwear, depending on your tolerance for the cold weather) and thermal, long-sleeve t-shirts. These will help keep you warm, regardless of the outside conditions. 
  • Warmer outer layers: You want to bring warm outer layers of clothing that you can wear on top of your base layers. Think wool or fleece sweaters or sweatshirts.
  • Shell pants and a jacket: For your outermost layer, you’ll want to invest in shell pants and a shell jacket. You can find these at most sporting goods stores. Shell pants and jackets are very lightweight, but while they don’t provide much in the way of warmth, they block the wind (thereby keeping you warmer) and keep you dry. 
  • Weatherproof jacket: Bring a heavy, weatherproof jacket that’s down insulated, with a hood, preferably one that’s on the longer side, for extra protection. 
  • Hiking boots and socks: Opt for real hiking boots versus tennis shoes. Real hiking boots are designed to give you traction and stability, and to protect your ankles in the event of a fall. Hiking boots can not only make you feel safer when traversing unsteady terrain, but they can also make your hiking more enjoyable and comfortable. During the winter months, you’ll want to opt for winter-ready hiking boots that are insulated.

    To go along with your hiking boots, pack some hiking socks that will be long enough to cover your ankle and most of your shin. Wool hiking socks designed for cold weather are ideal.
  • Hat, scarves, gloves and mittens: You’ll want to pack a warm set of hat, scarf, gloves and/or mittens. Go for warmth over style. Your fingers will thank you! 
  • Sunglasses: Even though it’s not the summer, you’ll still want sunglasses to protect your eyes from the harsh glare coming off the snow.
  • Balaclava or a Neck Gaiter: A balaclava or neck gaiter is a type of windproof face mask that you can pull up and over your head, mouth and nose, for extra protection when you're facing cold, high winds. Popular for wearing during skiing, they’re vital for getting around Iceland in the winter, especially when you’re around the water. 

  • Crampons: A cold-weather hiking accessory, crampons can help you better balance on icy or snowy terrain. If you plan to hike or sightsee outdoors at all while in Iceland, you may want to tuck some crampons (which easily slide over your hiking boots as needed) into your travel backpack.

And remember — if you’re planning to chase the northern lights around Iceland this year, you’ll need to take extra safety precautions beyond just packing the best gear to wear in Iceland in the winter. Learn more about what you’ll need and how to stay safe by reading our Iceland winter driving guide.

Iceland Winter Packing List 

Essential Items for an Iceland Trip

There are a few items you’ll want to pack for an Iceland trip, no matter when you’re visiting. 

  • A swimsuit: Swimming or soaking in the hot springs and heated pools of Iceland, from the famous Blue Lagoon to the Myvatn nature baths, is popular all year long. Make sure to bring your swimsuit, so you don’t miss out on this quintessential Iceland activity.
  • Electric converter for your rental car: Bring along an electric converter to stow away in your rental car. This will allow you to charge all of your electronic devices while driving around the island.
  • An electric adapter: Along those same lines, bring an electric adapter for use in hotel rooms and other spots, if you’re travelling from somewhere not in Europe. Iceland uses the standard European plug. 
  • Lotion or a moisturising cream: The air in Iceland is dry, dry, dry. Be prepared, with your favourite lotion and some lip balm.
  • A credit card and your driving license: Credit cards are the most popular form of payment in Iceland, so make sure to bring yours for the fastest check out when shopping around the island. Bring your driver's license as well (and make sure it’s valid and not expired!), so you can easily drive around the island as you please. 

What to pack for Iceland trip

Ready to Start Packing?

With our guide to what to wear in Iceland and the best clothes to wear in Iceland according to the season, you can be prepared for whatever the weather — and explore Iceland feeling comfy, cosy and just the right temperature. Get to packing, but don’t forget — if you haven’t booked your rental car for your Iceland trip yet, now’s the time. 


Book your rental car in Iceland 

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