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An Easy Iceland Winter Packing List (Plus Tips!)

February 14, 2024

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Winter is a magical time of year to visit Iceland. It’s the best time to see the Northern Lights, explore ice caves, soak in hot springs and experience the beauty of waterfalls, mountains, beaches and more.

If you’re wondering if winter is a good time to visit Iceland, I say yes! However, there are definitely extra considerations to keep in mind. You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the proper gear so that you stay warm and safe.

Keep reading to learn about what to expect when you visit Iceland in the winter, and what to pack for Iceland in the winter!

Need help deciding your Iceland winter itinerary? Check out my 5 day Iceland itinerary to plan your trip!

What to Expect When Visiting Iceland in the Winter

Iceland has very little daylight in the winter. During December and January, there are only 4-5 hours of daylight. December 21st is the darkest day of the year, so it will start to get a little brighter each day after that.

However, the temperatures might not be as bad as you think. The coldest month of the year is in January, with an average high of 37.4F° (3 C°) and low of 26.6F° (-3 C°).

Although the temperatures aren’t too bad, the weather can be unpredictable. High winds are common and you could experience bad snow and ice during a winter visit. You will want to be prepared for anything.

Personally, I visited Iceland in December and while it was cold, I did not experience any extreme weather. Keep reading to find out what to pack for Iceland in December!

Lydia standing in front of a huge waterfall with her hands in the air.
Lydia and Joe wearing face masks while swimming in the Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon

Iceland Winter Packing List

When it comes to what to wear in Iceland in December or other winter months, layers are key. A good rule of thumb is having a baselayer, an insulating mid-layer and an outer shell.

  1. Baselayers. These will make a huge difference in keeping you warm in the winter. I love Minus 33 base layers, which do an amazing job of keeping me warm!

  1. Gloves or mittens. You’ll want to keep your hands warm! These Smartwool mittens have silicone grippers and are made with recycled materials.

  1. A warm hat. This will help a lot in keeping you warm. I prefer merino wool because it’s insulating and breathable. Minus 33 has a great option for this.

  1. Insulated boots with traction. These will be important for keeping your feet warm while hiking, walking about Reykjavík and more. I love these insulated boots from Merrell and have been wearing them for years.

  1. Thick socks. You will definitely want warm socks when you’re spending extended time outside. I love the full cushion socks from Darn Tough. They have kept me warm on so many trails!

  1. A Buff, Neck Gaiter or Scarf. This is another item that you’ll definitely want to keep warm, especially if it’s windy. A neck gaiter is a great choice because it takes up less space (great for carry-on only!)

  1. An insulating fleece mid layer. This layer should go between your base layer and outer layer. A fleece quarter zip or full zip works great for this.

  1. Warm outer shell pants. Personally, I love Arc'teryx pants for their durability and comfort.

  1. A warm coat. A Fjallraven insulated parka is a good option to keep you warm. Plus, it’s water resistant.

  1. A windbreaker or rain jacket. If your coat is not waterproof, bring a waterproof windbreaker that can be worn over it. The wind can be intense in Iceland, plus you’ll want to stay dry if you experience rain, snow or sleet.

  1. A bathing suit. You’ll likely want a bathing suit for visiting the Blue Lagoon or other hot springs and snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure!

  1. Microspikes. These will be immensely helpful on the trails if there are icy conditions. Yaktrax makes several different kinds that are affordable.

  1. A headlamp or flashlight. This will especially be helpful for watching the Northern Lights. I love the Petzl headlamp with rechargeable batteries.

  1. Hiking gear. If you're planning to hike, be prepared with the essentials. Along with a hiking backpack, bring a water bottle or bladder, first aid kit, snacks, an emergency shelter, extra layers, etc. Check out my full day hike packing list for more information!

  1. A GPS locator. I have the Garmin InReach Messenger and love the peace of mind it gives me. You can use it to contact help in places where you don’t have cell service.

  1. Camera and tripod. If you have the goal of photographing the Northern Lights, you will definitely want to bring a tripod. I use this tripod with my Sony A7iii camera and love how lightweight and sturdy it is.

  1. Go Pro. This is great to have for adventurous or water-based activities such as snowmobiling, snorkeling and soaking in hot springs.

  1. Sunglasses. If you are lucky enough to get a sunny day, the white snow can be a bit blinding. It’s always nice to have sunglasses on hand.

  1. Chapstick. A great item to have in the winter months!

  1. Hand cream and moisturizer. Your skin will probably get quite dry in the cold weather. Make sure to bring a hand lotion and moisturizer that you love.

  1. Toiletries. As with any trip, bring all of the toiletries you need, such as a toothbrush, soaps, a hairbrush, etc.

  1. A reliable phone plan. If you’re renting a car, I think it’s important to have reliable cell service when on the road. If your phone plan doesn’t cover you, an eSIM is a great option to get coverage abroad. Learn more about Iceland eSIMS from Airalo.

  1. A chip and pin card. You will need this to pay for gas in Iceland. Be sure to check ahead of time on the potential fees and see if you need to alert your bank of travel.
Seljalandsfoss, which you can walk behind, at dusk
Seljalandsfoss Falls

Final Thoughts

I hope this Iceland packing list helps you prepare for an epic winter trip to Iceland! It’s truly a magical country to explore year round. From chasing Aurora Borealis to partaking in snowmobiling or soaking in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland is a bucket list trip that is sure to be memorable.

For more information on visiting Iceland, read my other travel guides:

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