I just got back from my 2nd December trip to Iceland. I was there to celebrate New Year’s and Reykjavik does it up nicely. Well, one thing you learn about going to Iceland in the winter is to be prepared for any weather that can and will pass your way. When I arrived it was going to be 47 degrees and extremely windy and when I left it was 30 degrees and sunny.
It’s not unusual for all manner of winter weather events like wind, rain, sleet, snow and sun. What you can’t predict is how quickly the weather turns in Iceland. From a miserable rainy morning to a beautiful sunny afternoon to a snow storm. So, I have compiled a list of clothing and prep items on what to wear in Iceland in winter. Some items I brought and others, I wished I had. I have included links below and do not collect commissions on anything you buy, it’s just an FYI.
On the Feet
The most important thing you need to think about is keeping your feet dry. That means you need waterproof boots, not water resistant, not tennis shoes, not Uggs. You need serious boots for snow & slush. I have gotten several recommendations and the one consistent one I have heard from my field research is Sorels. They are a Canadian company and make very warm, waterproof boots.
In addition to awesome boots, bring lots of socks. Just in case yours get wet (somehow) throughout the day, you will always have a backup pair in your day pack. Normally, I was wearing 2-3 pairs a day to keep out the cold and when my boots got soaked in Thingvellir National Park, I didn’t have backups and had to buy dry ones at Geysir.
[bTip: Plastic bags around your feet are a great way to power through wet shoes while keeping socks dry.
On The Bottom
I mainly wore 2 layers on my lower half. Thermal underwear with a jean or yoga pant over. This seemed to be enough when it wasn’t raining. I saw lots of people wearing ski pants which in hindsight is a great idea for those rainy days. I would recommend a rain pant or other way to keep your bottom dry and leave that in your day pack as a precautionary method.
Up On Top
If you buy a good and warm jacket, the need for 4 layers underneath is eliminated. A good combo is a warm Patagonia or Columbia puffer jacket with a rain shell and hood. You need a jacket with a hood for this climate. As long as the jacket is rated to provide good insulation at the freezing mark, you should be ok.
Also invest in some wool base layers like the Smart Wool brand and some medium knit sweaters. Gloves are also a must. Waterproof is ideal. I saw a cool method of the finger gloves underneath a waterproof mitten. This looked like a cleaver way to keep fingers warm and hands dry.
The Neck & Above
You should consider brining 2 wool scarfs in case one of them get too wet, you can quickly swap them out. Another great piece is a wind breaker neck warmer. Probably more for females, but Lululemon sell these cowels you put around your neck, over your scarf, and they cinch in the back for a tight fit. They go high enough to cover your nose when it is super windy. I plan to buy one before my next trip to Iceland.
You will also need a couple wool hats. There is an Icelandic brand, North 66, they sell wind resistant ones. It feels great on your head when the wind is whipping around you. As long as you have a hat that covers your ears, you should be good. I brought 2 in case one got wet from too much rain.
[boxlink ]Tip: If anything does get super wet, Iceland bathrooms have towel warmers which double as great clothes dryers. I used this for my shoes, socks, gloves, & hat.[/boxlink]
Hand warmers are those things you realize you wanted as an afterthought. Bring 1-2 pairs for each day of your trip. They also make them for the soles of your shoes, grab some of those too. Of course, Amazon sells them.
Have I missed anything? Please leave a comment if you recently went to Iceland and winter and swear by something to stay warm there. Cheers and enjoy your next trip to Iceland!
I have lots of other articles on Iceland including flying there on Iceland’s budget carrier, Wow Airlines, so check them out here. If you are looking for an Iceland adventure, you should check out my trips. I go there every year for the Reykjavik marathon in August and for New Year’s in December. Click here.