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Are you preparing for an Icelandic adventure this autumn? Don’t worry, I’ve got your packing needs sorted, ensuring you bring everything essential and leave the unnecessary behind.
My unforgettable journey in Iceland’s Southwestern part in late September left me awestruck by the island’s stunning landscapes. However, the weather there surprised me with its rapid and unpredictable changes, all within a single day.
Packing for Iceland in the fall proved more complex than my usual travel prep, prompting me to create this guide. It’s designed to ease your packing process for Iceland, providing vital information and helping you avoid the mistakes I made!
Visiting Iceland during the autumn, in my view, offers numerous benefits. Post-summer, the tourist crowds thin out, allowing for more serene and personal experiences at the spectacular sights.
Moreover, late September and October present a more opportune time for witnessing the Northern Lights, thanks to the shorter days compared to the summer months.
However, every silver lining has a cloud, and in this case, it’s the onset of colder and wetter conditions. October is Iceland’s rainiest month, but don’t let that put you off!
Ensuring you have the right attire and equipment is crucial for a successful Icelandic trip – the rest can be improvised as needed!
But, neglecting proper gear can quickly spoil your experience, especially if you’re unprepared for sudden heavy rains or other surprises from Mother Nature.
And it’s not just about comfort; safety is key. Inadequate clothing in such conditions can be dangerous (heard of the saying “cotton kills”?). You definitely want to avoid such risks.
Notice a trend in this list? That’s right — waterproof. It’s crucial for staying dry, comfortable, and safe. Consider a fleece-lined waterproof softshell jacket, ideal for Iceland’s variable weather. Plus, with a range of colors, you can pick one that suits your style.
Below are some top picks for waterproof jackets that are perfect for an Icelandic fall.
Waterproofing is again essential. With Iceland’s numerous waterfalls and trails, a sturdy pair of waterproof hiking boots is indispensable for keeping your feet dry and warm.
Brands like Columbia, Merrell, and Keen offer some of the best options. Check out these styles for your trip.
Pack several pairs of wool socks. Given the activities you’ll be undertaking, there’s a good chance your socks might get wet. No one enjoys wearing damp socks all week.
A pack of Merino wool socks is excellent for extensive walking and hiking.
Tip: Check if your accommodation has a dryer. If so, you can pack fewer socks to save space.
With unpredictable weather, having an extra hat is wise to avoid wearing a wet one or missing that crucial extra layer.
Though I didn’t use an umbrella on my trip, retrospectively, it would have been handy during rainy walks in Reykjavik or along the South coast.
Thermal leggings are a must for staying warm on colder autumn days. They can be layered under waterproof pants for added warmth.
They might not be the trendiest, but waterproof pants are invaluable. On my last trip, I wore jeans, which I wouldn’t recommend unless you don’t mind staying indoors during rain.
While not strictly necessary if you have waterproof hiking boots, rain boots can be more stylish for less strenuous activities like visiting waterfalls or city exploration.
If your suitcase has the room, they offer a nice change of style.
Fall in Iceland can see temperatures from 50 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. A down jacket is essential for sunny yet windy days when it feels freezing.
It’s a bonus if your down jacket fits under your raincoat!
On warmer, wetter days, a rain coat is essential. Opt for one that can cover a few light layers.
Indeed, a swimsuit is a must for Iceland. Whether it’s the Blue Lagoon, natural hot springs, or local pools (found in every town), you’ll need swimwear.
I lean towards One Piece in Iceland for a bit more coverage and warmth. If you’re looking for stretchy and flattering, Hunza G swimwear, with its soft crinkle stretch fabric, is my top recommendation.
Flip flops might seem out of place for autumn in Iceland, but they’re essential for visits to the Blue Lagoon, hot springs, or spas.
They’re lightweight, easy to pack, and keep your feet clean and warm when walking on icy grounds near the springs.
Iceland can be pricey – think $30 USD for a simple soup. Pack daily snacks like homemade trail mix, dried fruits, or coconut chips to save money.
The fluctuating Icelandic weather calls for an insulated water bottle to keep your drinks at the right temperature. Plus, Iceland’s tap water is excellent, so you can refill your bottle and save on buying water.
While any sunglasses are good, polarized ones reduce glare, especially useful when driving long distances in Iceland’s varying conditions.
Photographers should consider gloves with removable fingertips for easy camera use. Otherwise, any warm pair, preferably wool, is suitable.
You’ll need a day backpack for hikes to store layers, camera gear, and snacks. A waterproof one is even better.
Don’t forget a power bank and USB cord. It’s crucial, especially if your rental car lacks a USB port, to keep your devices charged for navigation and emergencies.
Include non-cotton tank tops and long-sleeve shirts for layering. They’re essential for adjusting to Iceland’s dramatic weather shifts within a day.
A fleece jacket is an excellent extra layer for warmth and quick drying. Wool is another great option, offering superior warmth against Iceland’s unpredictable weather.
A must-have accessory. Your neck will thank you later!
Jeans aren’t ideal for outdoor adventures, but they’re great for urban exploration in Reykjavik or small towns where less strenuous activities are planned.
This depends on your preference and how you wish to document your journey. You can check out my favorite camera gear online.
If you’re using a professional camera, consider purchasing cleaning wipes or a rain cover for use in various conditions. Even your iPhone can capture great moments effectively.
With shorter daylight hours in the Icelandic fall, a headlamp is invaluable, particularly for those who plan self-drive trips or night hikes.
One of my trip highlights was a sunset hike to Reykjadalur hot spring river, enjoying the stars in a natural hot tub. A headlamp was incredibly helpful for the trek back.
Cold, fluctuating climates can wreak havoc on skin and hair. I always bring my favorite beauty products to avoid hunting for them at the destination.
Essentials for me in Iceland included coconut lip balm, travel-sized hair oil, and hyaluronic face moisturizer.
This is handy for hot spring hikes or local pool visits where towels are chargeable. It’s a convenient and cost-effective item.
Your gear will likely get muddy or wet. A washable bag for such items prevents mess in your rental car or suitcase.
Pro tip: Pack cheap shower caps to cover dirty shoe bottoms.
Iceland uses European plugs. Choose between a European-specific or a universal adapter.
For car rentals in Iceland, a debit card with a pin is essential. Many gas stations require pin-enabled cards, and relying solely on credit cards can be problematic.
Pack a regular bra, a few athletic bras, and enough underwear for the length of your trip.
- Avoid small, cotton workout socks—they’re not practical here.
- Steer clear of cotton items as much as possible.
- Leave behind anything susceptible to rain damage.
- Skip packing multiple pairs of jeans.
- If you forget an item, you can buy it in Iceland, but expect higher prices. Better to be fully prepared!
- Plan your trip well in advance to leverage sales like Black Friday for affordable fall/winter gear.
- If you’re aiming to be in your photos, opt for bright clothing like red or yellow. These colors stand out against Iceland’s predominantly earthy, black, and green landscapes.
- It’s wise to purchase travel insurance suitable for Iceland. This can cover unexpected events like delays due to weather changes or health issues.
- While mobile navigation is useful for driving or hiking in Iceland, signals can be spotty in remote areas. Carrying a physical map or downloading offline maps is a good backup plan.
- Familiarizing yourself with Icelandic culture and customs, such as the changing rules in public pools and hot spring etiquette, will make your trip smoother and more enjoyable.
- Most Icelanders speak English, but learning a few basic phrases in Icelandic, like “thank you” and “hello,” can add enjoyment to your trip and endear you to locals.
- Iceland is a country that values environmental conservation. As a visitor, you’re encouraged to respect this ethos by actions like using reusable water bottles and not littering.
There you have it, your comprehensive “Iceland Packing List,” tailored to ensure your Icelandic adventure this fall is as unforgettable as it is comfortable. From waterproof essentials to thermal layers, you’re now equipped with all the information you need for a well-prepared journey. Remember to pack light where you can, focus on essentials, and adapt your packing to the unique and beautiful Icelandic environment.
And one last recommendation – bring along a reusable coffee cup. Not only will it keep your drinks warm during those cool Icelandic days, but it also aligns with Iceland’s strong environmental ethos. It’s a small gesture that can make a big difference in reducing waste and respecting the pristine natural beauty of this stunning destination.
Safe travels and enjoy every moment of your Icelandic fall adventure!