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What to Bring When Traveling to Iceland in the Summer

Jon lives in Iceland with his wife and children and has seen the tourist industry explode in the last few years.

What to bring to Iceland.

What to bring to Iceland.

What to Pack for Iceland in Summer

Iceland is an incredible country filled with wonderful sights and experiences. Its nature is beautiful and there's just so much of it.

But Iceland is also a cold and hard country, even during the summer. Every year, tourists get in trouble due to a lack of understanding of Iceland's nature and weather. Failing to prepare properly for your trip can turn a dream vacation into a poor experience.

So I am here to offer you several tips on what to take with you on your summer trip to Iceland. Of course, the nature of your trip affects what you should pack, but it's always better to take a few too many items with you than be lacking.

Waterproof and Windproof Clothing

This is probably the most important thing to pack when you travel to Iceland. The weather here can range from fair to abysmal, with windy and rainy days being common. There is nothing more frustrating than spending half the holiday cold and wet. You could, of course, hit a stretch of great weather during the summer months (May-August), but don't bet on it.

So having a jacket and pants which are both windproof and waterproof is essential, as the winds here can literally blow you off your feet. If you don't believe me, maybe this video will convince you.

Good Waterproof Shoes

I'm assuming that you intend to do some walking in Iceland's nature. Bringing good walking shoes that are waterproof is essential for that. It might be tempting to just use your sneakers, but if you want to explore areas which are just off the beaten path you need better shoes.

Again, Iceland is a very wet country, and while there are dry days, even dry weeks during the summer, there is no guarantee for it.

The ground around waterfalls is always wet.

The ground around waterfalls is always wet.

A Light Sweater or Fleece Jacket

Even during the summer, there are days when it's chilly outside, so you should always have a light sweater or a fleece jacket to use either by itself or under your rainproof coat. A good sweater can also double as a pillow if needed.

You should also think about bringing clothes that you can easily put on and take off depending on how the weather changes. And it does change really quickly.

This is, of course, a spoof video, but it does have a grain of truth. Always be aware that even if the day starts out beautiful, it can end with a rainstorm.

A Good Waterproof Backpack

A good backpack is essential when travelling in Iceland (and most other places really). As I have mentioned, the weather can change quickly, so being able to store your extra jacket or sweater somewhere when the wind stills and the sun shows itself will make everything easier.

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On top of that, you'll want to bring pre-made food with you on excursions as food and drinks from roadside stores and gas stations are expensive (like 15-20 dollars for a burger with fries and a soft drink).

Your Swimsuit

One of the more interesting experiences in Iceland is going to the public swimming pools. These are geothermally heated pools that are under the open sky. You can, of course, buy a swimsuit in Iceland, but it will cost you a lot of money (like everything here) so remember to pack yours.

You might also find it interesting to hear that there is a beach in Reykjavik. It's small, and usually rather chilly, but locals often go there on the few great summer days we get. Going to a beach in Iceland is a somewhat unique experience you should try if you're lucky enough to be here on those days.

The beach in Reykjavik is called Nautholsvik.

The beach in Reykjavik is called Nautholsvik.

A Good Towel

A good towel is one of the most useful things a traveler can have, which is so often overlooked. You can use a good towel as a blanket, you can try to ward off insects with it, shield yourself from the sun, wave it as a distress signal in case of an accident and use it as a makeshift sling for that injury. You can even dry yourself with it.

So be sure to bring a decent-sized but thin and quick-drying towel with you.

Sunscreen

When traveling to Iceland sunscreen is not the first thing you think of. You might think that you won't be needing it, but I highly recommend using sunscreen if you are going to be outside for a long time on a sunny day.

While the temperature is usually well below 20°C, the sun can still burn your skin if given enough time. This applies doubly if you're doing activities such as fishing or whale-watching as the sun is reflected off the water, giving you a double dose.

And if you are hiking on a glacier you must use sunscreen. The reflective surface of the glacier multiplies the amount of sunlight hitting your skin and the chance of sunburn is even higher than on a tropical beach.

A Good Pair of Sunglasses

The summer sun in Iceland is somewhat low in the sky, and it's there almost all the time. During the month of June, the sky never gets dark and the sun in Reykjavik goes below the horizon for maybe an hour or so. This makes sunglasses an essential part of your traveling kit for Iceland.

A Simple Fly Net

There are no mosquitoes in Iceland which is great. But in a few places, particularly near lakes or wetlands, there are these tiny bugs that fly all around you and are really annoying. Having a small fly net when hiking in these areas is a real lifesaver. And since they take practically no space, you should take one with you whenever you go outside a residential area.

What to Wear When Hiking in Iceland

Now, I expect some of you will want to go hiking in Iceland, and by hiking I mean a few hours of walking in difficult terrain, wading across rivers, perhaps even with a mountain or a volcano thrown in for good measure.

The way I dress when going hiking is to have a few thin layers that I can easily remove or add onto depending on the need. Here is a list of the items I always wear when hiking.

  • Thermal underwear
  • Hiking pants
  • Thin fleece sweater
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof outer pants
  • Warm cap.
  • Warm gloves.
  • Thin cotton socks covered with wool socks.
  • Hiking shoes.
  • Sunglasses

I then take a backpack with a water bottle, chapstick, some food, a small towel, bandages and a fly net. I then add items depending on the type of hiking trip I am going on. If you are going hiking, you should check with your tour guide about what you will need.

Have a Great Trip!

Now, these are just the basics I feel are necessary for you to enjoy your trip thoroughly. You will, of course, need to pack a variety of other things you feel are necessary for your own well-being.

Finally, I hope that you found reading through this list both helpful and insightful and that you'll have a wonderful trip to Iceland.

© 2020 Jon Sigurdsson

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