First thing you need to know about Iceland is the fact the climate is cold, windy and cloudy for most of the year. It‘s a cold country because of the high latitude but it‘s also tempered by the ocean, as well as by the mild Gulf Stream that flows around. The result is unstable climate with sudden changes in weather and temperatures.
If you are going to enjoy your visit you need to dress warm. Do not ruin your trip being cold and miserable.
When you hear about country named after Ice you automatically think of freezing temperatures and snowy landscape. But Iceland is warmer than you think. The average temperature is between 1°C and 7°C ( 34°F – 45°F)
You need to know what the weather is going to be like so you can bring the right clothing. We have four seasons like anywhere else in the world. But season change can varies some weeks back and forth. You should think more about what to wear and less about how the weather is.
Because Iceland is an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean weather changes rapidly. In the morning you could have calm nice weather, it could change around noon and again in the evening.
If you don´t like the weather wait for a moment. It will change.
The Gulf stream makes all the difference bringing milder temperatures from the Caribbeans.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast but sometimes that is not enough.
In winter time it is more important to check the weather forecast before you go out on the road.
Here are some rules regarding clothing:
It is absolutely necessary to where layers of clothing. If you are on a tour or on your own in a rental car you need to take some of your clothing off and put it on when you go outside. Dress smart and make sure you can easily remove one or more layer of clothing.
I usually wear 3 layers on top. A shirt, a sweater and a jacket. During summer, I wear soft shell jacket but during winter a light weight Down jacket.
The cloth that touches your skin need to move moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry. Try to avoid fabrics with high cotton content since they absorb moisture and don´t dry fast. Choose fast-drying, breathable fabric.
Windproof is absolutely necessary. On an island without forest wind is everywhere. The wind is a strong cooling factor. In a low temperature and wind you will not stay warm for long if your clothing are not windproof.
It is obvious if you get wet in a low temperature and wind you will not last long. So select water repelant clothing.
Keep moisture away from your body. You will sweat during physical activity. Your undergarment need to regulate body temperature and keep you dry and warm.
Where a hat
If you have a good hat you will stay warm for longer. You lose most of your temperature through your head.
Waterproof boots are a must. If you leave your car to see a waterfall or hot spring your feet need to be dry and warm.
When you go out for dinner or take part in the culture or nightlife you don‘t want to be spotted a mile away as a tourist. Do not wear your hiking gear downtown Reykjavik. Were something more casual. Icelanders are very casual. Icelandic ladies wear more pants, jeans, jumpsuits than dresses. Men wearing sneakers and hoodie might not be let in to a club. Do not overdress with ties or a bowtie. A jacket is necessary. I always wear waterproof boots on my travels but a good pair of sneakers will do in the city. Gloves and hats are necessary.
Packing list for Iceland
- Long sleeved undergarment
- Wool or fleece sweater
- Down jacket in winter
- Water repellent and windproof soft shell jacket in summer
- Waterproof boots
- Warm wool socks in winter
- Soft shell pants for hiking in summer
- Insulated soft shell pants in winter
- Bathing suit and towel.
Lopapeysa means a sweater made from Lopi an unspun wool. It has been a part of Icelanders everyday clothing for centuries on this cold and windy island.
This sweater have various circular yoke patterns around the neck and shoulders. If you like to buy one be careful to select original Icelandic Lopapeysa not a similar product.
I hope this information helps you plan your visit to Iceland.
I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment or a question below.
Þórhallur / Thorhallur
Founder of FactsAboutIceland.com