Yessss!!! I’m going back to Iceland 😀 I cannot wait. I now have the task of imparting my wisdom onto my fellow traveller. Yup, this time I won’t be flying solo. I will be going with my very own Viking 🙂 He has never been to Iceland so I’ve had to educate him. I figured I would take this time to help others navigate the right clothing too, as it took up so much time for me to get right.
Going to Iceland and buying different clothes really made me see clothing in a much different light in the UK. As a country, we dress inefficiently. I see countless people here underdressing, or making poor choices, and then complaining that they are cold. I don’t think we’ve been educated to look at clothing wisely due to the fact we have inconsistent seasons. The amount of people I know who have cold-related illnesses, then go out in a thin coat when it is 5c outside… it flummoxes me.
Please be aware that Iceland is very expensive so to buy anything while you are out there will eat a lot of money. My advice is to take extras to ensure you don’t have to do this. I will always go for extra preparation than minimalism.
I took two types of boot to Iceland and although I only ended up wearing the one pair, I was glad to have a back up pair in case the first pair failed or got soaked through. One pair was a snow boot from Sketchers with low grip but very warm. The other pair is a very grippy snow boot from Mountain Warehouse. I basically lived in the latter pair, but wore the first pair to breakfast as they were much more worn in and looked less obvious as a snow boot. You will need waterproof, grippy and comfortable to cope with all the varying terrains you will encounter if you are exploring.
I packed three pairs of merino thick socks, and a couple of pairs of thinner socks. During the day I wore one pair of the thick socks, and the evening saw me in one thin plus one thick. You can rewear merino many times before it will even think of smelling. I just wanted to ensure I had something dry just in case.
I took two pairs of merino base layer leggings and two pairs of thick fleece lined leggings from New Look. My intention was to wear one merino base and the fleece leggings in the day, and double up the merino base coupled with the fleece for the night. One trip I wore a pair of jeans over the top of these variations and this worked fine too. Just remember to remove a layer if you are wearing jeans too.
On one day that it was relentlessly raining, I tried wearing rubber waterproof trousers. I lasted ten minutes in them. Once they get wet and you sit in them, the water transfers to everything, you get cold, they pull on you when you are walking, and all round you end up more focussed on the issues with them than enjoying your time. If it rains, use the car heater to dry you in between stops. On tours I just sat near the front and my jeans dried out pretty quick in between. It kept me mobile enough to walk across rocks etc and continued to keep me much warmer than the rubber trousers.
I did manage to find some coated polyester waterproof trousers for my more recent trip, in my leg length – rare find! But I never bothered wearing them. I had a long coat on and long boots so the amount of leg exposed was so small. I packed them in case of heavy rain, which never happened on my recent trip.
I brought two merino long sleeved base layers and wore one at all times. Merino is amazing for keeping you warm and dry. Check the fabric composition of everything you buy as this will impact on your comfort. I found mine at Aldi for a very low price and often wear them under something as they are thin and keep my temperate stable without adding bulk.
I also packed three good mid-layers. One a thin merino hooded long sleeved top with thumb holes. The second was a mid-weight polyester hoodie. The third was a thick, fleece lined hoodie. For the days I wore the mid-weight hoodie under my coat. The evenings I wore the thin top as well as the fleece hoodie under my coat.
I found as the days went on that I began to acclimatise to the temperature and gradually shed a layer or accessory. The shops and museums are really well heated, so don’t worry about layering up too much for those. If you do, ensure you have a bag that can hold your excess as you will want your hands free for taking photos or interacting with your surroundings.
I took two coats. One was a highly waterproof lined, fully adjustable and longer coat from Trespass. This was fantastic for storms, rain and has lots of pockets. On one very rainy day trip I was able to pop my camera in one of the pockets, a credit card in the sleeve and off I went. The other coat is a long puffa type with thumb holes. I have two of these and took one each year. One was from Tesco and the other from M&S. They cover my knees and are so thick and cosy – great for Northern Light hunting. While everyone else was freezing, I was commenting that I could take a nap in the snow and still be warm. Both zip up past the neck and have full warm hoods. Like a big blanket.
I took a scarf but barely used it. I wore it once for the Northern Lights but found it restricted my head movement too much. I also packed thick gloves and didn’t wear them either. I just relied on my pair of touch screen gloves from Mantaray. I was constantly taking photographs so having freely moving hands and fingers was essential. As I had layers with thumb holes, they really helped with insulation.
Sunglasses are a must. I wore mine regularly as the sun is very bright. One wooly hat is enough for day/night. I also purchased a wooly headband which was great when I was wearing too many hoods. It kept my hair out of my face and didn’t add bulk to my head.
One year I took a backpack from Trespass and bought a waterproof cover to go with it, which worked well. Another year I bought an army surplus molle bag from Amazon which worked fantastic. The fabric is waterproof, it had a coat holder which was big enough for my long puffa coat.
For more packing list ideas, I will direct you to another post which outlines my full packing list as well as a post on how I photograph the Northern Lights.