When you’re spending night after chilly night seeking the elusive Northern Lights in Iceland, you’re going to want to stay warm. In addition to your regular jeans and shirts, consider this your essentials packing list.
One pair of gloves is barely enough in winter. You’ll want inserts that not only fit inside proper insulating gloves but also have conductive touch-pads on the fingertips so you can operate your smartphone without losing fingers to frostbite.
A long waterproof jacket
Unsurprisingly, the Scandinavians have invented exactly the sort of jacket you’ll need to survive Iceland’s winter. Helly Hansen does a water- and windproof long coat that’s breathable and insulated with synthetic Primaloft (it was originally developed for the US Army).
These are essential in Iceland’s uncontrollable weather, when driving rain, sleet and snow can spring from nowhere. Keep them rolled up in your daypack for emergencies. Zip-sided legs are wisest so you can slip them over your boots in a hurry.
When harsh, icy winds are threatening to slough your face off, appearances will be the least of your worries. Auski has a range of options from basic black to brights and camouflage.
Bring lots of them if travelling in winter, when double-layered thermals up top can be a godsend. Pack a set for summer, too, just in case the weather turns tragic. Baselayers has them in pure merino wool for extra warmth.
Waterproof shoes with sturdy soles and ankle support
Regular runners are no use because they’ll get soaked through in no time and you could you roll your ankle after stumbling on lava or ice. (On that note, be aware most tour operators will supply crampons to strap onto footwear for walking on ice.) Mountain Warehouse has a good selection of waterproof hiking boots.
A cosy hat/beanie
One that’s tightly woven will provide protection against bitterly cold winds and prevent brain freeze. Avoid acrylic at all costs; a polyester fleece version is ideal and tucks away neatly into a pocket for easy access. Bring a thick scarf, too.
Not only for the Blue Lagoon (where you can always hire bathers anyway) but for the many hot spring-fed baths throughout the country and geothermal swimming pools in almost every town.
A water bottle
The tap water in Iceland is icy, pure, delicious and free. Besides being totally unnecessary, buying bottled water is not a good look in a country powered by renewable energy and proud of its green credentials. Get with the program; don’t buy plastic. Biome has all shapes, colours and sizes.
Carrying cash is virtually pointless in Iceland as every purchase can be put on card, whether you’re buying lunch from a food truck or big-ticket item like a tour. Public buses are one exception; download the Straeto app and link your credit card for easy riding in Reykjavik.