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How do I Pack Light for Fall in Iceland?

My husband and I are leaving October 2 for a three week trip through Italy and Paris, plus a stopover for two nights in Reykjavik, Iceland. We're fully committed to packing light (just a max-carry on backpack for each of us) and I've got my packing list for the Italy/Paris portion of the trip set. Only one problem - there's no room to bring boots, a warm coat, a hat, gloves and thick socks for our Iceland stop. We want to do a golden circle tour and try to see the northern lights, but are worried that we won't be dressed appropriately since the temps will be in the 30-40s (F) and can get colder/windy at night. Has anyone done Iceland at the end of a light packing trip and how did you manage? Is warm clothing available for rent or did you suck it up and pay Icelandic prices for these items once you arrived and check an extra bag for the return flight? Any help is appreciated!

Posted by
544 posts

I have a lot of experience with cold wet weather as a ski instructor here in Seattle . . . I recommend instead of a thick jacket and boots, consider the following:
- Long underwear and top. Patagonia Capilene or stuff like it is the best, especially the tops that have the zip necks. Some people like merino wool, but it's too itchy for me.
- Smartwool socks
- Hat/Gloves
- Rain jacket, an ultra-light packable one

High-quality base layers in wet weather work really well and they aren't super thick. That should be enough, if you layer some of your other clothes in between the base layer and the rain jacket. You may even use the Capilene on a colder wet day at other points of your trip because it's so comfortable. When you're in Iceland, you can always pick up a scarf or sweater if it's extra cold, but the fancy stuff I'm talking about would be better to buy at USA prices.

Posted by
4175 posts

Depending on where you go in Italy, it and Paris may not be all that warm or dry when you are there. Iceland will definitely be cold, and may be wetter than Paris.

Layers are always the key to staying warm. When I've traveled during colder months, doing that plus having a good breathable rain and wind jacket with a hood has kept me warm enough. I travel carry-on, too, wear my bulkiest stuff on the plane and never really pack the outerwear or the boots.

After several trips, regardless of location or time of year, I've settled on wearing Ahnu Montara boots for all outside walking, whether it's city sidewalks, or rough trails, whether it's dry or wet. I first tried them on at REI, but bought them online because I wanted a different color. The price was the same. I wear Sockwell Circulator compression socks. They are great for support and keeping my feet warm and dry. Both got a really good test in heavy rain in Italy last November.

Assuming this is the Golden Circle Tour you are talking about, it looks like you will spend lots of time on a bus. But based on our experience, you do need to be prepared for when you get out of that bus. Gloves and a warm hat in addition to the layers and jacket, should be adequate.

Now if it was me, I'd plan my budget so that I could buy a hat and gloves in Iceland, even if they are expensive. They would make great souvenirs of the trip and wouldn't take up too much room in the backpack.

And one more thing. Do not leave Iceland without a trip to the Blue Lagoon. It was much better than we expected. And I know you can rent towels there, but I'm not sure about bathing suits. Their skin care products are divine and I was so sad when mine ran out. I got them at the airport shop, after going through security, so they were fine for carrying on, but you might want to check on that.

I love Iceland and hope to get back for a longer stopover than last time. Some of my husband's immigrant ancestors came from Vestmannaeyjar and our youngest daughter was on a U Mass Boston Fiske Center archaeological dig for six weeks in the Skagafjordur area this summer.

Posted by
5837 posts

http://www.yr.no/place/Iceland/Capital_Region/Reykjavik/statistics.html
Average minimum temperatures are still in the plus/thaw range for early October.

During my winter travel I wear/carry my outer shell jacket and fleece thermal jacket. Your outer wear doesn't need to be stored in your carry-on bag. FAA weight/balance rules allow for higher passenger weight during winter to account for the extra outer garments. I also wear my boots and pack the less bulky lighter hut shoes.

You need fewer changes of clothing during cooler months. Icelanders don't sweat. Paresians have perfume.

Posted by
2768 posts

Where are you from? If you are fairly used to cold, then 30-40 really won't be that hard. Unless you will be camping or something, but for the usual visit you won't need too many special items. Thin, thermal underwear, hat, gloves, scarf, thicker socks. Then just layer your regular clothes and rain jacket that you need for Paris and Italy.

Long underwear, regular pants (like jeans or heavier chinos or something), and a thick pair of socks are all you need on the bottom. Long underwear top, t-shirt, sweater, and light rain jacket. Just make sure most of the clothes you bring for Italy and Paris will work as layering pieces. A nice, lightweight sweater is perfect for those places, but put long underwear under it, and a rain jacket over, add a hat, scarf, and gloves and you're Iceland- ready.

Wear the rain jacket, thick socks, and heavier shoes on the plane to save some room.

If you find it really cold, you can buy some clothes there. I don't know about renting. I mean, I am sure you can rent cold weather, sub-0 rated camping gear, but you don't need anything like that! Just clothes. In layers.