If you’re planning a trip to Iceland in winter, you might be wondering what exactly is best to pack.
The country is known for being cold and dark during this time of year (the clue’s in the name!), but what exactly should you be packing for a winter trip to Iceland, one of the northernmost countries in the world?
I recently went on a trip to Iceland in January, and I’ve listed everything that I took with me – along with some items that I wish I’d brought – to make it easier for you, if you’re planning a trip here in the winter months.
Iceland in winter is well worth visiting – the days are cold and nights are long, but you can enjoy increidble sunrises and sunsets, golden-hour glow for most of the day, cosy dark morning walks with a coffee, scenery twinkling underneath white snow and winter-specific activities like snowmobiling on a glacier and trekking through ice caves.
BUT, to experience all of that, you’ll need to pack right! Here’s my tried and tested packing list for Iceland in winter.
Iceland winter clothes
Your winter packing list should include lots of layers, with multiple jumpers, thermals and an outer layer of a ski jacket and waterproof pants. This should keep you warm and protected from that Icelandic wind chill!
Here’s everything I packed – and a few things that I wish I’d remembered!
Thermal leggings and top
When visiting cold-weather countries, it’s generally advised to start with a thermal base layer. This will trap your body heat, ensuring that you don’t cool down quickly when you go outside.
You can get thermal leggings and t-shirts – I’d recommend a long-sleeved t-shirt for extra coverage.
- Click here for the thermal leggings that I use and here for the thermal top (UK only).
- My partner has these men’s thermal leggings and this thermal top (also UK only).
- Here are some thermal leggings that I’ve found on Amazon USA, and here’s a long-sleeve thermal top.
- Here are some men’s thermal leggings from Amazon USA and a long-sleeve men’s thermal top from Amazon.
Next up, pull on a fleece! A warm, wooly fleece sweater should act as a middle layer and keep you toasty underneath a larger jumper.
Your next layer should be a cosy jumper; wearing as many layers as possible will ensure that you stay warm (remember, you can always remove a layer if you get too hot!).
I love M&S jumpers (UK only) and have a few. You can browse their warm jumpers here.
Alternatively, Amazon has some great jumpers. Check out this one I found on Amazon USA.
Cosy tracksuit bottoms are a must in Iceland.
If the weather isn’t too cold, you could just wear them and your thermals, but if the weather’s colder you might want to wear them as a middle layer before pulling on your salopettes.
They are not only warm and comfy but don’t look too casual if I wear them with a jumper.
If it’s really cold when you’re in Iceland, or if you’re partaking in winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing or glacier trekking, definitely consider bringing some salopettes.
These are waterproof ski pants/ trousers that you can wear over other stretchy layers. They’ll keep your legs nice and insulated, even if you’re out in the cold all day!
I bought these salopettes from Go Outdoors (UK only) and found them versatile and comfortable – they also go very well with my ski jacket (see below).
If you’re in the USA, check out these salopettes on Amazon.
I’d recommend a thick, waterproof jacket for anyone who’s visiting Iceland in winter – whether you’re just exploring the city or partaking in adrenaline-fuelled winter activities.
Trust me, the Icelandic wind is bracing and on some days, you’ll feel it as soon as you step out of the front door.
Snow sports jackets are ideal because they are both warm and waterproof.
I bought this jacket from Go Outdoors (UK link only) and love how it’s fleece-lined but still totally waterproof on the outside, and the hood stays up as long as it’s zipped up to the top!
I actually took a different coat to Iceland – a long, thick jacket that feels like I’m walking around wearing a giant sleeping bag – but while it was warm, it wasn’t quite waterproof enough, and I’ve since bought the above jacket for my subsequent winter trip to Norway.
So, even if you have winter coats that are potentially warm enough for the trip, check that they’re water resistant too; this is especially important if bad weather is forecasted for when you’re here.
I’d also recommend some robust waterproof ski gloves – for Iceland’s winter temperatures, standard knitted gloves just ain’t gonna cut it!
Wearing some ski-specific gloves will keep your hands warm and dry. The only disadvantage is that it’s impossible to use your phone when wearing these; so I’d actually recommend wearing an initial layer of gloves that you can use your touch screen with, and then putting on your ski gloves.
This means that you can wear your ski gloves most of the time, but if you want to use your phone for whatever reason, you can whip them off and your hands will still be protected from the worst of the elements!
This isn’t something that I took with me, but I did wish I had one when I saw all of the best things to do in Iceland in January.
A balaclava will keep your cheeks and chin protected from the elements – they cover way more skin than a scarf, so it’s easy to nuzzle down in one and stay warm.
Don’t forget a thermal wooly hat! While it’s not true that you lose most of your heat through your head, you’ll definitely feel the cold if you go out with your head uncovered.
If you’re shopping in the USA, check out this hat I found on Amazon.
Don’t forget thick warm socks – it’s easy for your feet to get cold in these Arctic conditions!
I usually wear two pairs of socks, a thinner pair and a hiking pair. I find this keeps my feet warm enough when walking around all day!
Waterproof hiking boots
Waterproof boots are essential if you’re visiting in winter – even if the skies are clear, it’s highly likely that you could walk through ice or snow at some point (snow in Iceland is very common throughout the winter months).
I always take my hiking boots and use them as my winter boots – they’re warm and waterproof, which works well for me! However, you might want snow boots or something similar.
Just make sure that your boots have a good grip in icy conditions.
Here are Salomon’s boots, which are the ones that I always use (UK only) – or here are some woman’s hiking boots and some men’s hiking boots that I found on US Amazon.
It sounds strange, but sunglasses actually come in very useful in Iceland in winter.
Although you don’t get that much sunlight, it is very low in the sky and it bounces off the snow, which can affect your eyes.
Definitely pack some sunglasses with good SPF!
Most Iceland hotels are extremely cosy – we stayed at the Reykjavik Lights hotel which was very warm and comfortable – so you’ll just need your normal bedwear, nothing particularly warm.
Evening wear in Iceland in winter
Evening wear can be a bit difficult during Icelandic winters. For most venues, you won’t be expected to don a ballgown; it’s chilly after all, and you’d need to pull on hundreds of layers every time you step outside!
However, if you’re dining at any of Reykjavik’s fancy restaurants, you might want to wear a nice jumper-dress and tights and pull on your thick coat, hat and gloves for the journey.
All but the fanciest of restaurants and bars will accept casual shoes in Reykjavik; it’s all about wearing something that’ll be sturdy in icy and potentially snowy conditions!
If you’re not wearing as many layers in the evenings, I recommend getting a taxi between your hotel and restaurant/ bar to ensure that you don’t get too cold.
Visiting the geothermal pools
Whether you’re visiting Iceland in summer or winter, the geothermal pools should be high on your list of things to do.
In fact, they’re particularly special in the freezing winter months, as they’re the perfect place to warm up! You don’t need to pack too much to visit them.
It’s easy to forget to pack a swimming costume for winter travel, but you will want to remember this one – shopping in Reykjavik can be quite costly, so you probably won’t want to have to buy one when you’re out there.
Due to the nature of the pools, everyone has to wear a costume in swimsuit material, so you can’t get away with wearing your normal clothes.
Waterproof camera or phone case
This is something that I forgot and really wished I had! A waterproof camera or phone case means that you can take photos in the Blue Lagoon or other geothermal pool (although they’re not permitted in the more local pools like Laugardaslag in Reykjavik) without worrying about water damage.
Or, you can take a waterproof phone case. I’m always a bit hesitant about these – I’ve heard enough stories to know that they don’t always work!
But if you keep your phone out of the water and use it as an extra layer of protection in case it does get splashed, then it should be ok.
Flip flops seem like a strange thing to pack alongside your insulated jacket and hiking boots, but they can come in really useful when you’re stepping into and out of Iceland’s geothermal pools!
You won’t need a towel if you’re only visiting any of the bigger geothermal pools, like Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon.
However, if you’re heading to Laugardaslag or any of the other smaller, more local-orientated pools, then pack a quick-dry towel.
I use this bamboo travel towel (UK version) which is super small and lightweight.
Cold weather walking gear
If you’re doing any walking in Iceland in winter – even if you’re just planning on walking through Reykjavik – then I recommend this colder weather walking gear, which will help you to stay safe on icy terrain.
Of course, it’s important to be mindful of where you’re stepping and don’t go over any ice, even if you have this walking gear.
I fell over when I was walking on a pavement in downtown Reykjavik in January – luckily I was unharmed, but it’s easy to see how people can injure themselves!
Crampons are devices that extend over a pair of shoes, giving them extra grip. These are essential if you’re doing certain day trips from Reykjavik in winter; but you might also find them useful when walking around the city center.
If you are ever unsteady on your feet, some high-quality walking poles can help you to navigate Iceland’s snowy winter landscapes.
You can get cheap walking poles from Go Outdoors (UK only): click here for a Eurohike pole.
Or, I use Black Diamond poles which are more expensive but very durable (I’ve used them when hiking the Cornish coast path in the UK and in snowy conditions in Iceland!) – click here for Black Diamond poles.
If you’re in the US, I found these highly-rated poles – click here to see them.
The two main things that you need to know about Iceland in the winter is 1. it is cold and 2. it is dark.
If you’re staying in downtown Reykjavik, any walks in the darkness will usually be illuminated by streetlamps and light from buildings. However, you may find it useful to have an extra light in the form of a head torch.
It’s essential to have a headtorch if you’re road-tripping across the country or staying anywhere more remote.
We even used a head torch for the short walk from the Blue Lagoon car park to the lagoon itself, as this was in complete darkness!
They’re robust and sturdy – perfect for the harsh weather conditions of Iceland – and the light is strong and powerful.
Once you’ve packed plenty of warm layers, what else might you need for a trip to Iceland in the winter? Here are some electronics and accessories that you won’t want to forget!
If you’re visiting Iceland from the UK, North America, Asia, Australia or many other countries around the world, you will probably need an adaptor.
Iceland uses the same adaptors as the EU; any universal adaptor will have the right prongs.
I always find it’s better to get a universal adaptor so I’m not scrabbling around for the right one when I go on a trip!
While you’re be spending most of your time gazing at Iceland’s awe-inspiring scenery, I always recommend bringing a kindle on any overseas trip.
Having a Kindle or other e-reader ensures that there’s always something you can read if you are faced with flight delays (I was on my way out to Iceland!) or if you have a little downtime in the evening.
If you’re visiting Iceland on a budget, you might spend some time indoors in the evening – as going out for dinner and drinking is quite pricey – so a kindle is a perfect companion for cosy nights.
This is one that everyone needs, but people often forget!
Don’t forget to pack your chargers for your phone, e-reader, laptop (if you’re bringing one) and any other devices.
If you’re doing long day trips out of the city, a power bank could help you to ensure your phone stays fully charged all day.
If the weather is especially cold, you might find that your phone literally freezes a lot while you’re out exploring.
I had to keep restarting mine, and when it was rebooted the device had lost a lot of power! So I recommend carrying a power bank and keeping it charged.
Pack whatever photography gear you have and need to get the best photos of the Icelandic landscapes and the northern lights – which are active throughout winter!
This could be just a smartphone (I have the Google Pixel 6 which took decent photos of the northern lights!), or you might have a fancier DSLR camera.
If you have a camera, consider getting a tripod to take better photos of the northern lights!
Ideal for long journeys, headphones mean that you can listen to a Spotify playlist or a podcast on the go!
The toiletries that you pack will vary depending on your personal tastes and what you usually use, but here is what I used.
If you need to buy anything that I suggest below, you can click on the USA/ UK links next to it, depending on the country you live in).
- shampoo (this was also supplied at the hotel)
- face wash
- face cream (I use skin and me)
- 100 ml bottles for decanting liquids – I use these ones (Amazon UK/ USA)
I would also recommend the following specific toiletries that are helpful in Iceland’s cold weather:
In the cold, strong winds of Iceland, you might find that your lips dry out and could become chapped. You can moisturize them by using lip balm.
Even if you don’t usually use moisturizer, the cold temperatures and chilly winds can make your skin dry out too! I’d recommend packing some moisturizer for this trip.
Here are a few more items that might make your winter stay in Iceland more comfortable and convenient!
Reusable water bottle
One of my top tips for saving money in Iceland is to NEVER buy bottled water.
The tap water in Iceland is among the best in the world – in fact, you’re pretty much getting the same water when you buy it bottled.
So save some króna and take a reusable water bottle instead! I use a chilly’s bottle, which is insulated and can keep cold water cool for 24 hours.
If you have some downtime on your Iceland itinerary, you might want to play some games!
These playing cards are an ideal, lightweight, versatile way to play a huge range of games.
If you have a lot of space for baggage and are planning lots of day trips or even a road trip around Iceland’s best sites, you might want to pack some snacks.
These will likely be cheaper in your country, so stock up with cereal bars, oatmeal and pringles before you go!
If you get cold extremities, this one is for you! These hand warmers give off heat, so just pop them into your gloves for extra warmth.
This one’s totally up to personal choice, but I brought my cosy memory foam slippers to Iceland with me and loved slipping them on and making a cup of tea when I got back to my room.
Iceland guide book
While there’s plenty of information on blogs (like this one – click here for all my Iceland in winter posts!), some people argue that there’s nothing like holding a physical guidebook.
I recommend Bradt guides which have a thorough Iceland-focused book.
Don’t forget the following…
Just a reminder to not forget the following important documents!
- flight information (it’s usually best to check in before your flight); if you have booked an Iceland Air package it’s best to print off your package confirmation.
- travel insurance
- bank card, preferably one with no fees for overseas transactions like Monzo (for UK). You can use this link to get a free £5 when you open a Monzo account.
What not to pack for Iceland in winter
Here are some things that you DON’T need for Iceland in winter!
- Hair dryer: Most of the hotels in Iceland provide this. Of course, you might want to pack one if you’re staying in a hostel.
- Too many shoes: One pair of hiking boots and another for the evening is enough.
- Fancy clothes: If you aren’t going out for fancy dinners, you probably don’t need anything too fancy.
- Cash: Iceland is a largely card-based society, so unless you’re venturing off the tourist trail, you probably won’t need any cash. If you do, you can get it out at an ATM in Reykjavik or other towns. Make sure that you use a bank card with no fees (I use Monzo). You can use this link to get a free £5 when you open a Monzo account.
FAQs about packing for a winter Iceland trip
Do I need snow pants for Iceland?
I’d recommend ski pants if you’re visiting Iceland in winter because they are made for the snow – and Iceland can get as cold as some ski resorts! Ski trousers/ pants are waterproof, thick and great for wearing thermal layers underneath.
Should I bring a winter jacket to Iceland?
You should definitely bring a winter jacket to Iceland, especially if you’re visiting from November to April (winters are long here!). Your jacket should not only be very warm, but waterproof – ski jackets are ideal, because they’re made for blizzards (which you might experience when you’re here).
Are leggings okay in Iceland?
I wouldn’t recommend leggings in Iceland in the winter months unless you’re wearing them underneath bulky trousers or ski pants – they definitely won’t be warm enough on their own! However, you might want to wear them while in your hotel.
Do people dress up for dinner in Iceland?
People dress up for eating at fancy establishments, but if you’re just grabbing food at casual restaurants, then you don’t need to worry about dressing up in the evening. Generally, the dress code is more casual than in other countries in Europe.
How do people dress in Iceland?
People in Iceland dress for the weather! That means heavy coats and plenty of waterproof gear – sometimes even in Reykjavik in winter.
In the summer, people wear less layers and are less likely to wear waterproof hiking boots, but it’s advisable to do as the locals do in winter.
Can you wear sneakers in Iceland?
You can wear sneakers in Iceland, but it’s not advised to do so in the winter months, because they often don’t have very good grip and aren’t waterproof enough for snowy conditions – which could mean that you’ll get wet feet.
What is the dress code in Iceland?
Iceland has a largely casual dress code, with people opting to dress for warmth. In most restaurants, the waitstaff won’t mind you wearing lots of layers or waterproof boots, as they understand it’s better to do so and stay safe in the snowy conditions.
What kind of pants to wear in Iceland?
It’s best to wear waterproof pants – just in case you fall over or are stuck in a blizzard! Or you could wear warm tracksuit bottoms. In winter, wear more than one layer of pants to ensure that you stay as warm as possible.
How much cash should I bring to Iceland?
You don’t really need to bring cash to Iceland, as nearly everywhere takes card. In fact, we didn’t end up getting any cash out throughout our entire stay in the country! If you do want to get some cash, you can withdraw it at ATMs in the major towns.
Have you packed everything for Iceland in winter?
This packing guide is your best friend when planning your winter Icelandic trip!
Use it to keep track of what you’ve packed and what you still need to acquire, and you’ll have a comfortable and well-kitted-out trip to the beautiful country.
Although it takes slightly more preparation, Iceland is a wonderful place to visit in winter.
And provided you pack right and wrap up warm, you should still be able to enjoy the country’s spectacular outdoor attractions – we did an incredible tour of the Golden Circle when the weather dropped down to -16°C/ 3°F!
Pack right, and you’re going to love visiting Iceland in winter!