Embarking upon the trip of a lifetime by renting an Iceland campervan is an exciting prospect. While planning, you’ve no doubt seen the waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, and other natural wonders that dot our landscape. You’ve probably also heard about our unpredictable weather and are wondering what to pack for Iceland. To help, we’ve come up with this essential packing list for your road trip.
A Few Tips to Keep in Mind
Be Wary of Overpacking
It’s tempting to want to throw as many sweaters into your suitcase as possible. This isn’t a good idea because space is limited and big, bulky garments take up a lot of room. You want to streamline the things you include on your packing list. Only bring necessary, well-selected high-quality items with you.
In fact, I wouldn’t even bring a suitcase; a large backpack is much better suited to Iceland travel. Not only is it easier to carry around, but it forces you to really put some thought into the clothing you bring. They also usually come with smaller day packs that you can use on your excursions.
Layers are Key
I can’t stress this enough. If you have the right combination of layers, you don’t need to worry about bringing lots of sweaters or other clothing to keep warm. Due to the constantly changing weather, you want to keep the moisture out and be able to remove layers as needed. When you’ve got one of those days where you experience all four seasons in 24 hours, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Most people travel around Iceland for 7-10 days, so I think these essentials will be all you need to pack.
Essential #1: Base Layers - Trapping Heat and Removing Moisture
These are fundamental, regardless of the time of year that you go. In a country where average summertime temperatures don’t quite reach 60º F (15 ºC), you’ll always need at least one set of thermal underwear. I sometimes recommend two, depending on the time of year you go.
A great material for this is Merino wool, which traps heat and wicks moisture from the skin. If you opt for a second base layer, fleece is a fine material as is more wool.
As a general tip, stay away from cotton t-shirts and tanks. When you sweat, the material doesn’t do very well with moisture the way wool does. You'll very quickly become cold and wet, so I would be wary of cotton.
Essential #2: Mid Layer - Insulation
After you’ve decided on the base layers you’re going to use to keep warm, now it’s time to keep that heat in. You’re going to insulate using a parka or down coat. The North Face has a lot of great jackets that serve as wonderful insulating layers.
And as another tip, be careful with down jackets. They are definitely warm, but the problem comes when they get wet. It takes them a while to dry out completely, and because Iceland is a very damp place in general, this could cause problems for you.
Essential #3: Shell Layer - Stay Dry
The last layer I recommend is your shell layer. This is a windproof, waterproof covering that will protect you from the elements. There’s nothing worse than being cold and wet, and you’ll need this last, crucial layer to keep from getting chilled to the bone.
Essential #4: The Right Pants
Depending on your trip itinerary, you can pack either hiking pants, stretchy sports pants, or both. And remember, these will go over your thermal underwear. Test the combination out at home first to make sure you can move comfortably.
Essential #5: Wool Pajamas and Wool Socks
Are you noticing a theme here? When it comes to staying warm, you really can’t beat wool. And you especially want to stay cozy when snuggling into your sleeping bag for the night.
Essential #6: Hat, Gloves, and a Scarf
You’ve got to keep your head, hands, and neck warm, so look for products with materials like GORE-TEX. I love this brand because their products are windproof, waterproof, and breathable. It's the perfect combination for Iceland travel.
Essential #7: Waterproof Hiking Boots
You’re going to be doing a lot of trekking in Iceland, whether it’s through the trails of Landmannalagar or around Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, or Svartifoss. You’ll be encountering a lot of uneven terrain, which will frequently be mixed with wet conditions. Make sure your hiking boots can withstand both of these challenging elements.
Essential #8: A Reusable Water Bottle
Iceland has some of the best, freshest water in the world, so there’s no need to waste money on plastic bottles. Just fill it up at one of our many springs or let the tap run a little before topping up.
Essential #9: Your Swimsuit and a Towel
This may come as a surprise to many simply because our country has the word “ice” in its name. Why on earth would you need a bathing suit, right? Well, Iceland has tons of hot springs, and bathing culture is definitely something you should experience. Whether it’s the Blue Lagoon or a Reykjavik day trip to the hot river in Reykjadalur valley, you should definitely take a dip while you’re here.
What to Pack for Your Iceland Campervan Trip
So to summarize, you’ll need to pack the following essentials:
-Base layer to trap heat and wick moisture (wool is best, avoid cotton)
-Mid layer for insulation (a down jacket or parka)
-Shell layer to keep wind and water out
-Pants for hiking and walking
-Wool pajamas and wool socks
-Hat, gloves, and a scarf made from insulating materials
-Waterproof hiking boots
-A reusable water bottle
-Your swimsuit and a towel
Iceland is a fantastic place, and we want you to have the best time possible. Packing the right clothing will be vital to enjoying your adventures. Let us know if there’s anything else you think we should add to this list of what to pack for Iceland.