Winter is becoming one of the most popular times to visit Iceland. Now that the overall boom in tourism is in full swing, more people than ever before are thinking about visiting the small Nordic island. While the high season happens during the summer months of May, June, July, and August, larger numbers of people are deciding to visit Iceland in the winter. It should be noted that “winter” is a relative term. As I’m using it here, I mean all of the months from October to April. That’s when the country experiences what could be considered winter temperatures elsewhere. So what winter clothing should you pack in your suitcase for Iceland? What should you wear to make sure you stay warm? We’ve got a simple answer, and it all comes down to one thing: layers. Picking the right combination of layers using suitable fabrics is key when dressing for Iceland.
So where to begin? Well first, you’ll need to know what layers to wear and what types of material best serve the purpose you are trying to achieve. I always like to recommend the four-layer rule when it comes to packing for winter in Iceland. Let’s look at each one in depth.
Iceland Winter Clothing: Your First Layer is Your Base
The base layer is crucial when dressing for warmth. While you can peel off layers as your body heats up, the base layer stays with you at all times. It serves a dual purpose. The first is that it traps body heat so you can hold onto those cherished degrees of warmth that make all the difference in a place with a chilly climate. The second function is that it should wick sweat and moisture away from your skin. For your base, you’re going to need thermal underwear or long underwear. This usually consists of a long-sleeved top, pants and some sort of socks. As far as material goes, search for synthetics explicitly designed for this purpose, such as polypropylene. Natural materials like Merino wool or even silk will also do the trick. Cotton isn’t the best choice as it will absorb moisture and hold it against your skin, chilling you.
Dressing for Iceland: Your Mid Layer is Multipurpose
The mid layer is similar to the base layer in that it needs to trap heat and also remove moisture from below so it can evaporate. Man-made materials like fleece and natural ones like wool will do the trick here. The mid layer consists of items like shirts, sweaters, and pants that are more like regular clothing. You’ll be even better off if you can find items like jeans with flannel lining. Just keep in mind that everything needs to fit over your thermal underwear and under your top layers.
What to Wear: An Insulating Layer is Your Best Friend
You’ll need a nice, big, warm, puffy coat or jacket put over your two bottom layers to really seal the deal. This layer is purely about retaining heat and keeping heat in, the way a nice coffee warms you up from the inside. A good choice for your insulating later would be synthetic materials like Thinsulate or Holofill. You can also use down, but be very careful. Down loses its fluffy warmth when it gets wet. It also takes quite a while to dry. If you plan on buying outerwear with down filling, be sure you also have a solid waterproof shell layer on top to keep dampness and moisture out.
Items for Your Suitcase – A Shell Layer to Top it All Off
Last but not least of our four layers is the shell layer. This can be any type of rain jacket, windbreaker, or a combination of both. I highly recommend getting a waterproof wind shell. Not only will you feel warmer than if you’re wearing just a rain jacket, but you’ll also be nice and dry. You’re very likely to experience snow, rain, and wind during your trip so be prepared with the right shell layer.
What to Wear in Iceland in Winter: Clothing Tips
With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to face winter temperatures during your trip to Iceland. It’s not nearly as cold as many people may think, but you should be prepared nonetheless. Highs hover around freezing during the winter months and are lower (but not drastically lower) at night. Proper clothing goes a long way in ensuring warmth during your trip. Dress well and bundle up!