Arctic Adventure Essentials: What to Wear for Your Iceland Exploration


Arctic Adventure Essentials: What to Wear for Your Iceland Exploration

Arctic Adventure Essentials: What to Wear for Your Iceland Exploration

By: Ilse Cer
Mon, 18 Mar 2024
Reading time: 15 min

Layered Clothing:

Iceland's climate is renowned for its unpredictable nature, characterized by rapid fluctuations in temperature throughout the day. To navigate this variability effectively, layering is paramount. Commence with a moisture-wicking base layer designed to draw sweat away from the skin, ensuring dryness and comfort. Follow this with a thermal mid-layer to provide insulation against the chilly Icelandic breeze. Finally, top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer, offering protection against rain, snow, and harsh winds. This adaptable clothing strategy equips you to seamlessly adjust your attire in response to changing weather conditions, allowing for optimal comfort and versatility during your Icelandic adventures.

By adopting a layered approach to dressing, travelers can optimize their comfort and preparedness for Iceland's dynamic climate. Each layer serves a specific purpose, from managing moisture to providing insulation and protection from the elements. This thoughtful arrangement enables travelers to maintain a comfortable body temperature while exploring Iceland's diverse landscapes, whether hiking through volcanic terrain or admiring cascading waterfalls. With the flexibility afforded by layered clothing, adventurers can confidently embrace the unpredictability of Iceland's weather, knowing they are well-equipped to adapt to whatever conditions arise.

In addition to its functional benefits, layering offers practical advantages for travelers seeking to maximize luggage space and versatility. Rather than packing bulky outerwear that may be cumbersome and restrictive, layering allows for the integration of multiple lightweight garments that can be easily adjusted or removed as needed. This efficient packing strategy not only minimizes the weight and volume of luggage but also ensures travelers are prepared for a wide range of weather scenarios without overpacking. As a result, travelers can enjoy the freedom of movement and peace of mind that comes with a well-curated selection of layered clothing during their Icelandic explorations.



For an authentic Icelandic experience and practical warmth, donning a lopapeysa, a traditional Icelandic wool sweater, is highly recommended. These iconic garments are hand-knitted from Icelandic sheep's wool, renowned for its exceptional insulation and durability. Not only do lopapeysas boast a cozy feel, but they also showcase distinctive patterns that reflect Iceland's rich cultural heritage. Each sweater is a work of art, often featuring motifs inspired by nature, folklore, or ancient Viking designs. By wearing a lopapeysa, travelers not only stay snug in Iceland's chilly climate but also immerse themselves in the country's unique traditions and craftsmanship.

Beyond their cultural significance, lopapeysas are practical attire for outdoor activities in Iceland. Their thick wool construction provides excellent insulation, keeping wearers warm even in cold and windy conditions. Whether you're exploring volcanic landscapes, hiking along rugged coastlines, or enjoying a leisurely stroll through Reykjavik, a lopapeysa is a versatile and stylish option for staying cozy and comfortable. Embracing this timeless piece of Icelandic fashion adds a touch of authenticity to your adventures while ensuring you stay warm and toasty amidst Iceland's breathtaking scenery.


Waterproof Outerwear:

Iceland's ever-changing weather, characterized by frequent rain showers and damp conditions, necessitates the use of high-quality outdoor gear, particularly waterproof attire. A top-notch waterproof jacket and pants are essential for ensuring comfort and protection during outdoor adventures in Iceland's rugged terrain. When selecting such gear, opting for advanced fabric technologies like Gore-Tex can significantly enhance your experience. Gore-Tex, renowned for its waterproof, windproof, and breathable properties, provides unparalleled protection against the elements while allowing moisture vapor to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable throughout your explorations.

Moreover, investing in waterproof footwear with Gore-Tex lining further enhances your ability to navigate Iceland's diverse landscapes with confidence. Gore-Tex-lined hiking boots or sturdy shoes not only keep your feet dry and comfortable but also offer excellent breathability, preventing discomfort and blistering during extended treks. With the combination of Gore-Tex technology in your outerwear and footwear, you can embark on your Icelandic adventure fully prepared to embrace the beauty and challenges of this enchanting destination, regardless of the weather conditions.


Insulating Layers:

Even during Iceland's summer months, travelers should be prepared for chilly temperatures, particularly in the evenings and at higher elevations. To stay comfortable and ward off the cold, it's essential to pack insulating layers that can trap heat close to the body. Options such as fleece jackets, down vests, or wool sweaters are ideal choices, offering additional warmth without adding excessive bulk to your luggage. These versatile garments can easily be layered under outerwear during cold spells, providing insulation and ensuring that you remain comfortable and cosy throughout your Icelandic adventures.

Fleece jackets, known for their lightweight yet insulating properties, are particularly well-suited for summer explorations in Iceland. They offer excellent warmth retention while allowing for breathability, making them suitable for a variety of outdoor activities. Similarly, down vests provide an extra layer of warmth without restricting movement, making them perfect for layering over lightweight tops or under waterproof outerwear when temperatures drop. 

Warm Accessories:

Don't forget to pack essential accessories to keep extremities warm in Iceland's cold climate. A cosy hat, gloves or mittens, and a scarf or neck gaiter will help retain heat and protect exposed skin from frostbite. Opt for materials like wool or fleece, which offer excellent insulation even when wet. Additionally, consider wearing thermal underwear and thick socks to keep your body heat regulated and prevent heat loss.

Sunglasses and Sunscreen:

Despite its northern latitude, Iceland experiences long daylight hours during the summer months. Protect your eyes and skin from the sun's harmful rays by wearing sunglasses with UV protection and applying sunscreen with a high SPF rating. The glare of sunlight reflecting off snow or water can be particularly intense, so be sure to shield your eyes and skin to avoid sunburn and eye strain.

Traction Devices:

If you plan to hike on icy or snowy trails, consider bringing traction devices such as crampons or ice cleats to improve grip and stability on slippery surfaces. These lightweight accessories attach to your footwear and provide extra traction, reducing the risk of slips and falls on icy terrain. Safety should always be a priority when exploring Iceland's rugged landscapes, especially during the winter months.

Quick-Drying Clothing:

Iceland's unpredictable weather means you may encounter rain showers or unexpected downpours during your outdoor adventures. Choose clothing made from quick-drying materials such as nylon or polyester, which wick moisture away from the skin and dry rapidly to prevent discomfort and chafing. Avoid cotton clothing, as it retains moisture and can leave you feeling cold and clammy in wet conditions.


What NOT to Wear:

  • Avoid cotton clothing as it retains moisture and can leave you feeling cold and damp.
  • Steer clear of heavy, bulky outerwear that restricts movement and adds unnecessary weight.
  • Choose practical, weather-appropriate footwear over fashionable but impractical options.
  • Don't rely on thin, insufficient layers for warmth; prioritize thicker, well-insulated garments.
  • Opt for warm, insulated hats and gloves to protect your head and hands from the cold.
  • Avoid wearing jeans, as they offer little insulation and can become uncomfortable when wet.
  • Select durable, weather-resistant materials over fragile or non-weatherproof fabrics for your clothing choices.

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