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15 things you won’t need to pack if you are traveling to Iceland in Winter. Well… really?

15 things you won’t need to pack if you are traveling to Iceland in Winter. Well… really?

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You know I am a confessed  late packer and I would travel luggage-less if I could, but when I was getting ready for my last trip to Iceland, the team at Kayak asked me to post what was going in my bags. And I went nuts.

The basic packing list for Iceland

Ok. You know it is pretty simple: Iceland = cold = warm clothes. Northern lights = photos = camera. But is it just that simple? What about all the “what if…” and the “why not…”, you know, it’s a pretty big island, Iceland.  And you’ve already seen all you can do in only 48 hours in Reykjavik. So what to pack?

The basic packing list for Icelandic winter includes:

  • warm underwear and lots of layers
  • comfortable waterproof winter shoes
  • rain jacket or waterproof jacket that is windproof
  • camera with extra batteries, extra SD cards and a tripod or similar
  • charges and plugs (plug converters if you are not from continental EU)
  • gloves, scarf, beanie (you can buy it there too)
  • lip balm, moisturizer, prescribed medicines

Not a big deal, but is it enough? What if….?

What you didn’t think you might need

While all the above are pretty obvious for many reasons, here is my list of what ifs that you might as well want to pack in your bag (and why)

1. swimwear

It’s winter and there is lots of snow, but as you have already read here and here, there are lots of hot springs (both cheap and “premium”) across Iceland that you will want to enjoy. You can always rent one or buy it there.

2. extra pair of hand gloves

Well, I’m not used to really cold weather and I ended up using two layers. One pair of gloves technology-friendly so I didn’t freeze my hands while using the phone or the camera and the other really warm ones for just walking around.

3. sunglasses

They go on every list for summer travel to Iceland, but you will find them useful if going for a roadtrip since the sun is always low and might hurt your eyes.

4. something to read

With only 4-6 hours of daylight, you’ll find plenty of time to read, sleep, chat with friends, make new friends… There are a couple of bookstores in Reykjavik and they are proud of their authors. (And have another interesting ration fact: 1 in every 10 people in Iceland has published a book)

5. something to write / draw on

Beautiful sites make you want to stop and take your camera for a picture or two. But you can become more creative and start drawing your own travel diary. I did try, you can check it on my instagram account.

6. snacks

You don’t need to carry your own snacks to Iceland, but you should seriously take some with you if you are heading out of Reykjavik. You might not find many places to buy them once you are on the road.

What to pack for Iceland roadtrip

7. passport and other IDs

While you won’t need your passport if you are visiting from the Schengen area (your ID would suffice), I always find it useful to avoid long queues in European airports (thanks for the automated passport controls big brother.)

Other nice things you might find useful are an international driving license (I prefer it to my local ID, the picture is better and everyone knows what it says), business cards (you never know who you might meet on your way) and the insurance card.

8. carry on batteries / chargers

Cold will make your phone/camera/other use a lot more energy than usual. While you won’t be checking your facebook as often, it is always nice to have an extra battery at hand.

9. torchlight

Some recommend it for northern lights photography and others just so you know where you are stepping. It won’t hurt carrying one with you, just in case.

10. sunscreen

No, sun won’t be up a lot, but UV rays are still damaging and snow is proven a good light/UV reflector. Plus, most sunscreens are good for to protect you from wind and cold damage.

11. empty water bottle

I have told you before, Iceland has the best water and it would be a waste of money to buy bottled water. So carry a bottle with you and refill any time you want fresh water.

12. no coins/no bills wallet

Iceland kronas are fun to carry around with you, but most things you’ll pay with your credit card (food, supermarkets, gas, activities…) and many others are free.

13. small backpack

Even if you are going on a roadtrip, which means you can carry everything you need in the car, bring a small one. Most activities are outdoors and it might be nice to take a bottle of water and snacks with you.

14. non-outdoor wear

Maybe fancy a night out in Reykjavik? Bring something nice that doesn’t take much room our of your luggage. You might not go to the Opera but you could go to a nice restaurant or just clubbing, and you wouldn’t do that on your hiking boots.

15. a map

Ok. maybe not a map, but an idea of where everything is or what you want to do. You’ll find some mini-guides and maps at the tourist offices (for free).


So this is what finally made it to my bags.


What would you pack? Did I miss anything?


This post has its origin on the #KayakHacksIceland challenge, where Kayak invited 7 travel bloggers from across Europe to visit Iceland on their own and tell their own personal experience. Each blogger has designed her/his weekend in Iceland with total freedom, using Kayak to choose every aspect of their trip (dates, hotel, activities…) With only one thing in common: 10 challenges to overcome with the help of Kayak as a travel planning tool. The result? 7 different visions of Iceland – 7 different trips to Reykjavik. You can watch all the pics of the challenge and the participants on Instagram, or follow the trips with #KAYAKHacksIceland

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22 Comments and Questions

7 January, 2017 at 2:49 am

Hey! Excelent tips!
I’m from Brazil and arriving in Iceland in the end of January. So, my question is: if I only take money with me, will I have problems there?
Several blogs said about the credit and debit card, but I really want to take just money so I avoid the bank extras fees.
Do you know something about that to help me?
Thank you!!

    7 January, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Hi Mayra!
    There are a couple of things you will need your card for: gas stations (many of them unattended), booking activities online and for checking-in in some hotels. Besides that, I did paid for groceries, some activities, restaurants, bus and culture tickets, transfer to airport etc. with cash.
    I guess that if you are not driving a car and book all activities through third parties that accept cash, you are mostly set. Hope that helps.
    And have an awesome trip to Iceland!!

18 August, 2016 at 1:40 am

Hi Leticia, as a local I can approve that your list is pretty useful :)

    18 August, 2016 at 9:50 am

    That’s awesome! thank you Marius :)

Protection Relay
8 August, 2016 at 4:52 am

Nice article, thank you for the sharing

10 February, 2016 at 3:09 am

Wow that’s a comprehensive packing list! I’ve never been to island but it’s on my list so will definitely be bookmarking this!

Cristina Luisa
9 February, 2016 at 9:30 pm

Thank you so much for this article! I’m preparing for a trip to Iceland (in 2 weeks!) and, like you, I’m a last-minute packer. I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest and experienced cold, but am admittedly a bit scared of just how cold it will be! Your list put my mind at ease, since it seems to be right along the lines of what you listed. (I just ordered my dorky head torch!) So, a huge thanks for this!

Laura @ Sometime Traveller
26 January, 2016 at 10:21 pm

I am off to Iceland for the first time next week, so this guide is going to come in very handy! I’ve stocked up on lots of cold-weather clothes, but never thought about a torch or spare camera batteries – will definitely need to pick some up this weekend!

21 January, 2016 at 7:34 am

A nice warm hat with ear warmers! I didn’t take my hat off except when I was indoors while I was there. My poor ears were always so freezing and the wind whips right through you.

debthompson (@debthompson)
21 January, 2016 at 1:52 am

Great list! Saving for potential future trip to Iceland.

19 January, 2016 at 10:30 pm

Somethings that I would never have considered, to be frank abou it.

Kristen Sarra (@NotouristISwear)
18 January, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I love your tip about the empty water bottle. I visited Iceland in the winter and brought one everywhere. You literally can fill it up anywhere you are – the water is the best!!

17 January, 2016 at 10:16 am

We use a torch/flashlight that goes on your head, then it keeps your hands free. We also took a pair of ice cleats with us- they slip over your shoe so you can walk on ice. Near some of the geysers the ground was a solid sheet of ice- really slippery. We could get out and walk around more and not have to worry about falling.

Grietje | TravelGretl
14 January, 2016 at 8:45 pm

You’re turning around the question! Love it :D

Rishabh & Nirali
14 January, 2016 at 7:25 pm

The swimwear was definitely not something we would’ve thought about! Its great to have such lists, it definitely does beat us having to create one while planning for our trip :)

10 January, 2016 at 9:55 pm

Thanks for the useful tips, you just wouldn’t usually think to bring half of the things on your list but you make really good reasons for needing them!

    10 January, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    you’re so welcome. just let me know if you ever use them ;)

Jessica Ayun
10 January, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Definitely need this soon. New idea again. :) Thanks for this!

    10 January, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for stopping by :) Let me know if I can help you with any

Svet Dimitrov
10 January, 2016 at 7:20 pm

I love the suggestion about the swimsuit, because many people (like Marge) won’t think about it, but Iceland, as you have mentioned, has sooo many geysers.

It seems Iceland is getting higher and higher in my bucketlist :) Thanks for the useful tips!

10 January, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I’m not going to Iceland anytime soon but there’s nothing wrong about learning a thing or two right now. I like that you mentioned swimsuit. I really wouldn’t have thought of packing one in a cold place.

9 January, 2016 at 9:36 pm

These are great tips! Except, I don’t think I would take my chances with renting swimwear…gotta have a good fit!!! i hope to get there someday:)

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