Iceland is truly a once in a lifetime travel experience. It offers an abundance of nature, breathtaking landscapes and every type of adventure activity you can think of. Iceland is also one of our favourite road trip destinations – you can read all about our Ring Road adventure in detail if you wish.

With inexpensive flights and free stop overs, more people are making their way to Iceland. Though be prepared to face carry-on restrictions and expensive luggage costs. So you need to be strategic when deciding on what to pack for Iceland. While Reykjavik is an easy transition – and has an abundance of shops to pick up anything you’re missing – exploring the rest of the island requires a well thought out packing plan to ensure you have the necessary elements.

You might be ready with your car rental and hotels, but your Iceland packing list shouldn’t be an afterthought. Things can be less than ideal when you don’t have the right clothing or gear. The wind can be extreme and sunny days can change quickly into relentless rain. As locals say, ‘there isn’t bad weather, only bad clothing’.

Iceland Packing List

Clothing to Pack for Iceland

Layers: I’m not going to get into a detailed clothing list, but layers are essential when traveling in Iceland. The temperature and weather conditions can change at the drop of a hat. It may feel cool at 16 degrees celsius but you’re going to warm up quickly when hiking up to a waterfall. Pack several t-shirts, thin long sleeved tops, and a few warm sweaters – or buy an iconic Icelandic wool sweater while you’re there.

Down filled jacket: A down jacket is ideal when exploring Iceland – no matter the season. A good down jacket is extremely lightweight while still providing enough warmth to keep you toasty. It follows the dressing in layers philosophy as you can easily pack it in your bag in case you’re cold or take it off during a hike to cool down. I’m partial to Patagonia’s packable down jackets – they’re the perfect balance of warm and lightweight. It’s an essential for any Iceland packing list.

Rain jacket: A separate rain jacket is a must when in Iceland. Choose one that’s thin, breathable and, it goes without saying, fully waterproof. I got a Mac in a Sac rain jacket as a gift and I love it. It’s packable, bright, and keeps my dry. It also fits over my down filled jacket so I don’t have to choose between being warm or being dry.

Hiking boots: Proper shoes are critical if you’re spending any time outside of Reykjavik. You’ll find yourself walking up gorges, mountains, caves, and your cool running shoes won’t be ideal. These are the gorgeous ones that I have, but Columbia makes a similar, more affordable pair.

Flip flops: Flip flops are a must if you’ll be camping in Iceland. Communal showers are the opposite of luxurious at most campgrounds, and the bathroom floors can get dirty real fast with all those people bringing in mud on their shoes.

Cozy socks: A good pair of warm socks are a godsend after a cold shower or a winter’s dip in a heated swimming pool. If you’re camping or staying in a campervan, cozy socks are a good way to keep you warm throughout the night.

Hat & gloves: There were days in August when I donned a wool hat – especially in the frigid mornings. A pair of gloves that have finger pads for using your phone and other tech are also a good idea. Both are highly recommended for your Iceland packing list.

Bathing suit: Public swimming pools are everywhere in Iceland, and are part of the local experience. Natural hot springs are also scattered across the island, and are the perfect way to relax after hours in a car. If you’re planning on road tripping Iceland, I would consider bringing two bathing suits as it will take time to dry – and there’s nothing worse than putting on a wet suit.

Large scarf: A blanket scarf or large shawl is super handy when in traveling around Iceland. It can be used to keep wind away, as an extra blanket when it’s chilly, or even a towel in a pinch.

Thermal pants: Long underwear is a great layering option when temperatures are fluctuating. Wear under your pants or as pyjamas.

Tech & Gear to Pack for Iceland

Portable charger: A road trip in Iceland means a lot of time spent in the car and stopping at campsites along the way, many of which have only a couple of outlets for hundreds of people. A USB charger for the car is definitely recommended, but you can only charge so many things at once – and it takes forever to get a full charge. A portable charger that holds several charges (like this one) is worth its weight in gold, ensuring that your phone, tablet, and other electronics always have juice.

Lifeproof iPhone case: I take a lot of photos on my iPhone. Having a high quality waterproof case (you can’t go wrong with Lifeproof) allowed me to take photos in the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs. I also didn’t have to worry about whipping out my phone for directions during bouts of rain.

Travel adapter: My devices need a plug adaptor as I’m coming from North America. I use a universal adapter for all my travel so I don’t have to think about plug nuances from place to place. Another of my travel hacks is to pack a small power bar with a few North American standard sockets so I can charge multiple things with one adapter.

Wide angle lens: Iceland has tremendous landscapes and a wide angle lens is the best way to capture them, especially the Northern Lights. Traditional wide angle lenses hover around 35mm but new ultra wide lenses on the market are as low as 14mm. This is the wide angle lens that we use with our Nikon DSLR.

Compact tripod: Having a solid tripod allows you to slow down the shutter speed and take un-shaky video. Playing around with your aperture and ISO gives you flowing waterfalls and incredible shots of the Northern Lights, which best achieved with a solid base. Most of the best views involve walking awhile so a tripod that’s lightweight and collapsible is best. If you’re keen on taking photos during your trip, make sure a good tripod is at the top of your Iceland packing list.

Polarizing filter: Cut through the glare on overcast or overly sunny days by using a polarizing filter. These filters intensify the saturation, bringing more depth to your images.

Memory cards: We took thousands of photos during our ten day Iceland road trip. As we shoot in RAW, our images take up a lot of room on our camera SD cards. The most frustrating thing is when you hike an hour to a scenic spot and you’re out of memory, so I always pack a couple of extra memory cards in my camera case.

Kindle: It’s good to have a variety of things to do when hanging out in your tent or camper van. Bringing physical books along can add costly weight to your luggage and are difficult to read as the sun goes down. I always travel with my Kindle and often spent the last hour of each night in Iceland reading a few chapters of a good book before passing out.

All Other Essentials

Water bottle: A thermal water bottle is a must on your Iceland packing list. Driving for long stretches without a town in sight and stacking up a collection of plastic bottles isn’t cool. A thermal option like the amazing S’well bottles will allow you to fill up at campsites or rest stops, keeping your water cool for hours.

Sunglasses: The sun is strong in Iceland, even in the winter when the glare off of the snow is strong. A pair of UV polarized sunglasses ensures your eyes are protected and are a must for any Iceland packing list.

Sunscreen: Also a necessity no matter when you’re visiting Iceland. It may seem cool and overcast, but you’re pretty far north and the sun can do damage even when you’re wearing a winter coat. Packing a good (travel-sized) lightweight sunscreen will ensure you don’t end up looking like a lobster.

Travel towel: A microfibre travel towel is essential when traveling through Iceland. You won’t find fluffy towels waiting for you at your campsite so a good quality travel towel is necessary if you’re going that route. It’s also useful for the many swimming pools and hot springs along the Ring Road. Pick one that’s lightweight and quick drying.

Playlists & music: The music you listen to on a road trip can set the tone of your entire trip. It’s best to download a range of albums and playlists in advance so that they’re available offline as you likely won’t have sufficient data for streaming. We used Apple Music and listened to a lot of Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men, and a few good 90s playlists, as we drove around the country.

Day pack: You’re going to come across many epic sights along your road trip that you’ll have to walk a ways to get to. A comfortable backpack that you can throw your camera gear, water bottle, rain jacket and other items ensures you have what you need – and don’t have to go back to the car for something you’ve forgotten. This affordable daypack is waterproof and compact.

Fleece blanket: If you’re camping or traveling in a camper van, a fleece blanket can add an additional level of warmth during the night. Even if you’re staying in hotels, a fleece blanket could come in handy if you have car issues and have to wait for assistance. We bought a cheap one before we left and brought it with us.

OTCs: If you’re prone to headaches, heartburn, sinus issues, or upset stomach, bring the meds you might need with you to Iceland. There’s nothing worse than feeling less than perfect and having to go off route to track down a pharmacy or doctor’s office.

Flashlight or headlamp: Whether arriving late to your campsite or needing a midnight trip to the washroom, you’re going to need some light when road tripping Iceland. I guarantee that bringing along a good flashlight or headlamp (we used this one on our trip) will be worth the investment.

Sleeping mask: You’ll be so happy you packed a sleeping mask to block out light if you’re a light sleeper. Iceland experiences up to 21 hours of sunlight during the summer, making it difficult to sleep. The light from cars arriving late to your campsite will wake you up in a flash as well.

Chapstick: Iceland’s wind can be severe, while the quick weather fluctuations can be drying on your skin and lips. Having lip balm in your toiletries bag will save you from some uncomfortable cracked lips.

Map and guidebook: A good quality map is critical when traveling through Iceland. Cell service is varied so you can’t rely on your iPhone alone. Bringing along a guidebook (Lonely Planet’s is my top pick) can help you plan all of your stops along the way and direct you to the best lodgings and restaurants.

Insurance: While it’s not something that will actually be on your Iceland packing list, don’t forget to line up insurance. I speak from personal experience when I say that having travel and car insurance is super important for your Iceland trip. Don’t skimp on additional car insurance add-ons like sand & gravel and reduced deductible as the cost for even simple car repairs can be astronomically expensive here. Travel insurance that includes health and cancellation also shouldn’t be an afterthought. We’ve always felt well covered by World Nomads, which includes coverage that travelers like us need including several adventure activities.

That’s everything on our ultimate Iceland packing list. Did we miss anything?

Photos for the Ultimate Iceland Packing List by JP Bervoets

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