Iceland is fast becoming one of the most desirable destinations for adventure and photography lovers. It’s got everything from vast nothingness to dramatic waterfalls to glacial lakes and the northern lights.
Being relatively outdoorsy types, I feel we were pretty well prepared for our Icelandic honeymoon, but we were shocked at the number of people that we saw who were so badly prepared.
Iceland is famous for it’s stunning landscapes but what all these beautiful Instagram images don’t show you is how wild the weather can be. Temperatures in Iceland generally range from cool to very cold, so wearing a system of layers is the best way to keep warm. The rain and wind in the spring and autumn months can be quite unforgiving, but it shouldn’t dampen your spirits if you are properly prepared with waterproof and windproof gear.
Here’s my recommendation on the best items to pack, whatever time of year you are visiting:
- GoreTex Hiking Boots
If you can’t afford GoreTex, make sure you spend as much money as your budget allows on some good quality hiking boots. Forget trainers or pumps. For climbing up waterfalls and hiking over uneven ground you’ll want something with good ankle support.
- Shoe Chains
Definitely the best purchase we made before going to Iceland. Even from as early as October the paths around the waterfalls starts to freeze making the extremely icy. Whilst people around us who had come in trainers were falling over left, right and centre, we could easily stroll past them and reach the best spots thanks to these helpful chains that slip on over your shoes.
- Waterproof Jacket
Having a good quality outdoor hiking or skiing jacket is ideal as most have a high level of both waterproofing and wind-proofing. It doesn’t need to be super thick as you can layer up underneath it if it’s extra cold outside. At the moment I’m a big fan of Patagonia who not only make extremely high quality outdoor clothing, but they are helping in the fight to protect the environment that we live in.
- Waterproof Overtrousers
Possibly the most unattractive item of clothing but still something we couldn’t have lived without during out trip. These can be slipped on over a pair of normal trousers and will keep you dry, especially around the waterfalls where the spray will soak you within seconds. I had a pair of fairly cheap Regatta ones but they did the job perfectly.
- Hiking Trousers
Having a good pair of hiking trousers will be much more comfortable than wearing jeans or leggins, even though they don’t look particularly stylish. Hiking trousers are designed to be breathable and dry quickly, keeping you much more comfortable on a long day of exploring.
An ideal mid-layer would be a down or Primaloft jacket or a fleece. These are small, lightweight and pack really small when you don’t need them. Being an animal lover, I prefer Primaloft which is a man-made insulation and I haven’t really noticed them being any less effective than down insulation. I have a great jacket from Sweet Protection that I love and it comes with me on every trip.
- Base Layers
Having good base layers is the key to keeping warm. Using a layering system helps to trap small pockets of air between each layer and keeps you warmer than just having one thicker jumper. Merino wool, bamboo and polyester are the best materials for base layers as are thin but effective, wicking moisture away from the skin and drying fast. Cotton on the other hand is the worst option as it holds moisture. Also a good pair of hiking socks will help to keep your feet warm and dry.
Make sure you have a hat, scarf or neck-warmer and some good waterproof gloves. A head torch can also be useful for those long, dark winter nights. You’ll also need to pack a swimsuit for all of Iceland’s geothermal pools.
If you’re outdoors regularly then most of the gear I’ve listed above will probably be in your wardrobe already. If there’s anything you’re missing, a can recommend Sport Pursuit as a great place to get the top outdoor brands at super cheap prices. I shop with them a lot and although their shipping can take a while, it’s definitely worth it.
I know I haven’t even started to mention photography equipment yet. Since this post is now getting rather long, I’ll leave the photography essential items for another post.
*Some of the links in this email are linked with affiliate accounts, meaning that when you click on the link, it won’t cost you anything more, but I might earn a few % commission. Other links are simply included because I think the brands are great and I want to help you find the right gear for your trip to Iceland.