Besides the temperature, there is only one other thing you need to keep in mind while packing for Iceland. And, that is the weather. As the Icelandic saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” For the most part, I found this to be very true.
Weather in Iceland changes on a dime and can be unpredictable. But, that’s part of the appeal of Iceland. I’ve never been to a place where the weather and landscape blend seamlessly together. They complement each other. There was one day in my travels through Iceland where it was complete blue skies. A rarity. In fact, it felt odd. Like I was missing a part of what it means to be in Iceland. Don’t be surprised if you are dry one side of the road and it’s raining on the other side. And with all the constant changes in weather patterns, you are certain to see at least one rainbow each day.
So, if you plan on doing anything outdoors in Iceland (since you are going to Iceland, you will be spending some time outdoors as everything incredible about this country is outdoors), it is important that temperature and weather conditions are factored into everything you pack. As you will likely be rained upon, making sure everything you have is waterproof is a must. And leave the umbrella at home. It can get quite gusty making an umbrella useless.
Packing for this trip was a bit different from other trips I’ve been on as, doing my research, I learned that Iceland can be quite expensive, especially when it comes to food. A meal for one person is about $30 to $40 (unless you eat only Icelandic hotdogs at about $5 each – though very tasty, I wouldn’t recommend having for every meal). Narrowing down to the basics of what I needed for clothing and supplies, I could fill my carry-on with food.
Exploring options, I ended up bringing with me freeze dried food. I discovered mountain house and it was perfect. For less than $7 a dinner, I had a tasty, filling, hot dinner. Every hotel I stayed at included an electric kettle in the room making it easy to boil water. Eight minutes later, dinner was served. Plus, I could eat in the comfort in my PJs after a day of hiking in the cold and rain.
If you plan on doing outdoor activities (including camping and hiking), you can lighten your luggage by renting equipment once in Iceland. Going through Iceland Camping Equipment, I reserved my necessary items online and they had them available for pick-up when I arrived. And, if you are unable to pick up during office hours, they have a secure room, accessible 24 hours, for pick-up and drop-off. Hiking around the country solo, my rental equipment included hiking poles, a mobile WIFI hot spot, GPS, and hiking GPS. When I go back, I’ll definitely be using them again.
In the Carry-On
What I brought with me in my one carry-on (bearing in mind that I went in mid-September):
1 pair of waterproof hiking boots (I wore sneakers for the plane ride)
2 pairs of waterproof hiking pants
2 merino wool, long-sleeve shirts (layering is a good idea)
1 insulated jacket
1 waterproof jacket shell
1 pair of waterproof gloves
1 knit cap (comes in really handy on those super windy days)
1 pair of PJs
Underwear for 3 days (I do nightly washing in the hotel room sink. And, wool socks keep the feet warm)
Travelon Laundry Soap Sheets, 50-Count (they work great and don’t take up any of the liquid carry-on space)
1 back pack (REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack – Women’s – love this pack)
1 DSLR Camera, 2 batteries, and battery charger
1 portable battery charger
1 travel power adapter (Iceland is 220 volt)
2 adapter plugs (Iceland sockets are two round pins)
Mountain House Freeze Dried food – enough for 8 dinners
Clif Bars (my staple while on the trail)
Oatmeal (many of my hotels had breakfast, but it still came in handy)
Toiletries (in 1 quart bag)
Wallet & Passport
Most importantly, pack a sense of adventure. The landscape is so incredible that, come rain or shine, you’ll still find yourself exploring outside. It’s an epic experience.