Hey wow, I finally got the chance to go to Iceland. It’s been on my list since I was in 8th grade, and part of my homeschool was family history. My maternal grandmother’s family were some of the first settlers from Iceland, in Utah, and so a lot of family history on that side is in Iceland. I can’t believe I finally got to realize this dream, it’s been a big one!
One thing I learned is that Iceland weather can change by the minute, so you have to be prepared for a little bit of everything. Wind is a big factor, too, so you want to have something up top that’s windproof. I have a Columbia waterproof jacket/shell, but it isn’t, by definition, windproof, so my regular coat I took along is. This way, I can layer as necessary for whatever weather is present. Layering is key!
A brief rundown of everything I packed. You can scroll through for more detailed info, as well as links to recommendations.
2 shoes (one hiking boot, one flip flop)
1 fleece lined beanie
1 neck guard
1 pair of gloves
2 thermal shirts
2 fleece lined leggings
1 waterproof pant
5 pairs of socks
1 swim suit
Electronics and other accessories:
Everything that needs a charger, I always make sure to pack those, too!
1 plug/outlet adapter
1 pocket printer with a few zink paper packs
2 portable powerbanks
1 travel tripod with Bluetooth remote
1 Aux cord, for the rental car
1 waterproof phone case
2 travel journals, 1 to log, 1 with pre-planning
1 Passport wallet with necessary cards/money/vaccine info
1 travel towel
Let’s start with outerwear!
Outerwear & Other Clothing
Shoes: I got me a pair of XPETI Waterproof Hiking Boots. They have trail runners, too, but I have weak ankles, so I went for the boots. Plus, it’s nice to be able to tuck my pants into them if necessary, depending on the adventure we go on. You’ll want something waterproof, if possible. Especially if you plan to do any waterfall exploration. The XPETI boots are a really affordable price point if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, but need something decent quality. They’re also really comfortable! These were the perfect boots for Iceland!
If you are planning on doing any hot springs (Blue Lagoon or others), make sure you pack in a pair of flip flops or sandals. Flip flops are lightweight and won’t take up much packing room. They’re also nice to wear around the hotel without having to put your boots back on.
Jacket/Coat: You’ll want an outer shell that is waterproof. Ideally, a waterproof and windproof outer shell. I understand Columbia is really expensive, so I would recommend checking out an outlet store first, like Burlington or Ross, to see if they have any. That is what I did and lo and behold, I got a $110 Columbia waterproof jacket for $25. Win! I linked a waterproof and windproof jacket, it’s not as expensive and especially when you can find it on sale 😊 Always worth it to check the website beforehand.
You’ll also want something warmer that you can wear underneath the waterproof shell. I bought mine years ago, so I don’t have anything I can link it to, but just make sure it’s warm enough that if you hit a day or moment that’s too cold for just the rain jacket, you’ll have an extra layer you can add on.
Gloves: You’ll want a pair of gloves, I chose a pair that I’m able to use touchscreens while wearing them. If that is a factor you need as well, the linked photo above is a good deal. They fit great, are quite warm and an affordable price range. For Iceland specifically, I would take it a step further and get waterproof gloves, these ones are not waterproof. That is the only thing on this list I would change, now that I experienced Iceland. Waterproof would’ve been excellent!
Waterproof Pants: If you’re able to take along waterproof pants, this will be especially helpful when exploring waterfalls, or on rainy days. You won’t be soaking wet when returning to your vehicle, and much more comfortable!
Swimsuit: If you’re planning on visiting the Blue Lagoon, or one of the many other hotsprings around Iceland, I would definitely recommend packing a swimsuit! We went to two hotsprings, and had a hotel with hot tubs, so it came in handy.
Moving onto clothing!
Again, the main takeaway here is that you want things that are great for layering. I was out for 10 days, and did laundry twice, so I packed based on that.
Clothes & Underwear
Leggings/Long Underwear: I would recommend fleece lined leggings. If it’s not too cold, you can wear the leggings alone. For colder days, you can wear them underneath another pair of pants. I packed 2 pair.
Thermal undershirts: You’ll also want some thermal shirts you can layer underneath. Living in Utah, these things are already a part of my wardrobe. I packed 2.
Socks: Warm socks! Bombas are a great alternative to wool, for those of you that choose not to use animal products, or can’t wear wool. These are great socks! You’ll want to pack enough socks to cycle through to wash day. I packed 5 in case worst case scenario happened and I need to double up on a day. (For the record, I never had to double up.)
For underwear, nothing specific needed. Whatever you like best. Just make sure to pack enough to cycle through to wash day. I packed 4, plus what I was wearing when I got there.
For tops, I recommend bringing sweaters, depending on how cold you normally get, you’ll know if you want heavy ones or not. I packed 1 medium sweater and 2 warm sweaters. You can layer these with your thermals, or not, depending on the weather.
For pants, I only took two. The ones I was wearing and one in my luggage. (In addition to the waterproof pants.)
Electronics & Accessories
PowerBanks: I took two, since Iceland is extremely photogenic. The first one is one I got for free through my bank by earning points 😁 But I also have the Anker PowerCore, and a carrying case for it and the charging cord.
Tripod Gear: I only brought my phone with, my camera needs an upgrade and seemed like it would only get in the way. So this tripod is made for a smartphone. Keep that in mind if you’re interested in getting one. This one is lightweight, easy to travel with. The only thing is sometimes the wind was a bit strong… Though it can be weighed down with a backpack! It has a Bluetooth remote to take the photo, which is pretty cool. It can also double as a selfie stick if you need it to. I was happy I packed this along when the northern lights made an appearance.
Pocket Printer: I have the Lifeprint Pocket Printer, Harry Potter version, though they do have non Harry Potter versions, too. You’ll probably want to take along some extra film packs, too, if you plan on journaling as you go.
Waterproof Phone Pouch: Nothing too glamorous here, I just need functionality. I lost the trusty one I had since 2017, so I picked me up the Onn. version from Walmart. Works great for those wet locations, like waterfalls or rainy days, and also for places like swimming pools and hotsprings.
Collapsible Water Bottle: I packed along 3 of these since we did a road trip. I wanted to have extra water available if anything happened. Take up hardly any packing room and expand to give plenty of water once there.
Travel towel/blanket: I have a quick drying towel that I packed, as well as a waterproof/sandproof pocket picnic blanket. It comes in handy in many situations. I ended up leaving the picnic blanket behind, and it turns out it wasn’t needed, but if you’re going in warmer months, I’d consider it.
Travel Adapter: My cousin got this one for me, for my birthday. It’s cute and has great functionality. The different outlets for different countries are color coded.
AUX Cord: We road tripped. I wasn’t sure if the car would have Bluetooth or not. And also, Bluetooth drains the battery faster, so I made sure to bring an AUX cord. Some of the newer phone models don’t even have headphone jacks anymore. Mine does, so this applied to me 😊 The rental car didn’t have Bluetooth, so I’m glad I brought it along.
RFID Wallet: I’ve had this one for a few years now, and I love it. It’s a great size, not too big, not too small. Fits everything I need in it for me and another person, if necessary. It also has an outer sleeve, which is nice for slipping in boarding passes for easy access.
Travel Journal: I have the Wandrd one for all my planning, and a Midori style one for on the road journaling. The one I have is no longer available 😦 But this is the company I purchased from and love it!
Tips & Final Thoughts
Yes, I really fit this all into a carry on. I took this carry on, with this as my personal item. I have an electronics organizer that I put into my personal item. The organizer I have is no longer available, they’ve changed it to this, which doesn’t look as roomy as mine. This is a different brand, but looks like it might be similar to mine.
My personal item holds my electronic organizer with all of my electronics, minus the tripod. This frees up room in my carry on. I also put my travel journals and Passport wallet inside. A mini first aid kit with pain reliever, bandaids etc. and my inhaler 😬 I’ll also thrown in some snacks. My waterproof phone pouch hitched a ride in here as well. I didn’t list this in my packing breakdown, but I also take this Go Girl urination device so I can pee standing up in any situation that calls for it.
In my carry on, I pack everything else. For this trip, needing the bulkier clothes and extra layers, I utilized compression bags to get it to fit! All of my clothes went in these (hat, too). I used the spaces in between the bars for the handle to roll my rain jacket and waterproof pants up, and put them in between, in the dead space. I also did this on the other side with the tripod. This helped a lot. You’ve got to utilize every bit of room when packing in a carry on for a colder destination! Also on this side, I packed my dirty laundry bags (two of them).
My compressed clothes went into my largest packing cube to keep it as organized as I could and my printed documents sat in an envelope right underneath that packing cube.
On the left side, (underneath the zipper compartment) my socks and swimsuit went in a bit of space that I could make room for (also in a compression bag). I had a cliff box that I stuffed cliff bars, oatmeal and coffee packets into. As mentioned above, my tripod was over here as well. My flipflops in a space I could make them fit, along with my travel towel. I also shoved in a small insulated bag in case we need it while road tripping. My smallest packing cube is here with personal items (tooth brush, comb, hair ties etc.) and underwear.
In the divider compartment, there are two elastic pockets and one zipper pocket. My gloves and travel blanket went in the pockets and my liquids bag went in the zipper, so I could easily get those out. I put my medications in a bag in the zipper pouch as well, in case those needed to be removed.
It might take more packing strategy than you’re used to, and you might need to channel those Tetris skills, but it’s definitely doable! I did well in Iceland with what I packed and if I did it again, I wouldn’t need to change anything (except maybe substitute my gloves for waterproof gloves)!
If you’re looking for additional packing tips: