Back in August, our good friend Kyle Snarr took a summer trip to Iceland. Read on for some great insights for how to maximize a trip like this, from navigating the weather to packing exactly what you need (and nothing you don’t). Bonus points for some OG Topo products in the mix here!
There are very few places in the world where you can experience multiple microclimates in a single day. Iceland is one of those spots. You can explore everything from black sand beaches, to glacial fields, to desert highlands, to seemingly tropical waterfalls, all in a day’s journey. So packing for that kind of environmental swing can be tricky. Here are my top packing hacks for a weeklong, summertime trip to Iceland.
Each and every day during the beyond-long summer hours in Iceland can range from ice cold rainy winds, to a blinding sun mid-hike where you’re definitely feeling the heat. Baselayers, light insulation layers, and wind/waterproof shells for top and bottom are a great place to start. I used different packing cubes to organize each type of layer.
You also need to think about each of the day’s destinations, as there are likely several. So as part of each day’s apparel plan, I found myself bringing alternate solutions along for the ride: bathing suits for hot springs, both heavy and lightweight rain jackets, and an extra layer of insulation. It’s easy to bring all the right stuff for the trip as a whole; it’s tougher to decide what to bring with you for the day.
Pack a pack.
Both my wife and I slipped light daypacks into our luggage as our daily wearers. This way, you can leave both your larger travel bags and carry-on backpacks in the vehicle or lodging during the day and only bring what you need. Chances are, the pack will sit on your back beneath a rain cover most of the time, so the lighter the better.
I was able to slip a lightweight daypack into the laptop pocket of my 40L Global Travel Bag, along with a pair of simple sandals. My wife found that she could zip hers right into the front of her 30L Global Travel Bag. Once my extra daypack was ready to go each morning, the Rover Pack I used as my under-the-seat carry-on, simply clipped onto my Travel Bag for quick and easy transportation and storage. This extra daypack doubles as a great way to bring home extra souvenirs if your urge for gift-giving gets a little out of control.
I noticed that our friend and photographer Camille Hein, who joined us on our trip along with her husband Matt, took this principle to new heights. She packs each and every one of her cameras into their own, individual hip packs for the ultimate grab-and-go action.
Treat your feet.
I can’t emphasize this enough–invest in a heavy-duty pair of waterproof mountain boots long before going to Iceland, and break them in. Our crew went with a combo of Vasque Sundowners and Danners, both of which come with an ample dose of GORE-TEX. I paired mine each day with a single layer of Topo’s Mountain Socks and my feet were constantly warm and dry, despite trudging through glacial streams and a few days of intense rain.
You will live in these boots, which will also protect your ankles from the inevitable near twists that come with hiking on craggy lava rocks. Not to mention, they leave with some serious character-building scuffs. I also packed a pair of Teva Ember Mocs, which were a welcome relief to slip into after taking advantage of the extended day’s sunlight with adventure after adventure.
There’s a certain list of extra items that will make your stay even more magical. A proper beanie is a must. Not only will it keep your noggin dry and warm, but pull it down at night and it becomes a perfect sleep mask for Iceland’s midnight sun. I found that 18+ hours of direct sunlight, despite cloud cover, can be a strain on my sight. Be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses, even if your friend who recently went said it constantly rained. As the saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes.” We found this to be true, so bringing a variety of accessories is a must.
With your daypack constantly beneath a rain cover, I was very glad I brought an S-biner to clip my water bottle to my shoulder strap for easy access. Don’t forget your waterproof phone sleeve. It’s great rain protection and fun for hot springs pics. We had constant cell coverage, even in the most remote areas, so snag the power adapter and dashboard mount from your car to use on the road in Iceland. Finally, bring a watch. All the daylight hours make it next to impossible to keep track of the time and stay on schedule.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Despite all my research to properly pack, after my first visit to Iceland, there is a short list of things I would have done differently. Hiking across lava rock fields is no joke. Invest in a decent pair of lightweight, collapsible trekking poles. I opted not to bring mine and definitely missed them. I also desperately wished I had brought a pair of waterproof gloves to keep my fingers as warm as my toes. There’s literally no need to carry cash, so you can skip the currency exchange line at the airport. Every place we went accepted credit or debit. Just be sure to add a PIN to your credit card before you arrive.
Finally, if there’s a resource that Iceland has in abundance, it’s water. You’re gonna get soaked. Book lodging with/near laundry, or at minimum, drying solutions. You’ll learn that your nightly routine will quickly become finding ways to get your apparel all dried out for the next day. Having at least one stop with a full laundry room will also allow you to extend your wardrobe overall.
They call it the Land of Fire and Ice, and yes, it’s just as magical as they say. But improperly packing can easily turn your fantasy trip into frustration. Click here to download my full Iceland Summer Packing List and head on over to wornandwound.com to download my full itinerary.
About the Author
Kyle Snarr is a marketer and creative consultant who has worked with digital platforms and publications such as Vox, The Verge, Eater, Flipboard, Gear Patrol, and currently, Worn & Wound. He’s also the co-founder of the accessory brand Cantonment. Kyle lives just outside of NYC and spends his free time car-spotting, gear collecting, and camping with his wife and their four kids.