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Not sure what to wear in Iceland in December? Then you’ve come to the right place! I had the same issue a few years ago while planning my epic New Year’s Eve trip to Reykjavik and the surrounding area such as Vik and Thingvellir National Park.
At the end of the day, deciding what to wear in Iceland in winter is a big challenge for some travelers. Winter clothing is notoriously bulky and therefore not easy to pack – especially if you’re only using a carry on bag.
Not to mention, Icelandic winter weather is also unpredictable so you want to make sure you feel warm and comfortable at all times when participating in outdoor activities or even just walking the streets of Reykjavik.
So, in order to help, I compiled this straight forward packing list for helping you decide what to wear in Iceland in December (and beyond). Hopefully I’ll make planning your awesome vacation easier.
Should I Even Visit Iceland in Winter?
Yes, you should! Iceland is a gorgeous country. I personally think it’s one of the best countries to visit if you’re an anxious solo traveler going alone for the first time. Iceland is remarkably safe and the tourist infrastructure is some of the best I’ve ever experienced on my travels.
In winter, Iceland is beautiful. The perpetually low light is perfect for photography. Even though some roads are closed, Reykjavik and its surrounding natural wonders are still open and ready for business. You won’t be the only tourist on the island, trust me.
So don’t allow packing challenges to scare you away from a winter vacation in Iceland. You’ll be fine.
Now let’s talk about what to wear in Iceland in December and other wintry months.
1. Thermal Base – Leggings and a Shirt
A lot of Iceland’s closest activities, such as snorkeling in Silfra, recommend wearing thermal bases underneath your other clothes.
Duofold makes a great thermal shirt for women and what I especially like are Duofold’s wicking properties. You’ll likely do some adventure sports in Iceland. Wicking shirts will stop you from feeling both sweaty and cold at the same time (which sounds super unpleasant). Duofold also makes thermal leggings that are perfect for Iceland in December.
Depending on your tolerance for, ahh, cleanliness, your thermal base can also double as pajamas. I won’t judge you.
2. A Warm Yet Easily Packable Jacket
One my own trip to Iceland, I wore a long padded jacket by Mountain Warehouse that worked wonderfully in the winter conditions.
Mountain Warehouse’s winter coat packs easily into your luggage while also having an excellent heat rating. It’s been tested to handle conditions of -40 C/F. Additionally, the fabric is water resistant. Iceland’s winter weather is unpredictable. You could have clouds on minute, ice the next, and then snow the next. Be prepared for anything and everything on your trip, which is why investing in a high quality jacket is essential.
3. Thick Woolen Socks
Don’t skimp on your socks. No one wants blisters when traveling especially to an outdoorsy destination such as Iceland. Your feet need kindness and compassion.
In particular, Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm and dry with its wicking properties. Bring a couple pairs with you to Iceland.
4. Warm Mountain Hiking Boots
Now isn’t the time for adorable flimsy shoes. For example, I had trouble not falling on the thick ice even in Reykjavik, which is the country’s capital city. Sturdy boots are even more essential outside Reykjavik’s city limits.
Bring some waterproof hiking boots with you such as this pair by Columbia. To save space, I’d recommend wearing your boots on the airplane. Yeah, it’ll be annoying taking them off at security, but you’ll save lots of room in your luggage.
Read More: Best Tips for Traveling Alone in Iceland
5. A Comfortable and Easy-to-Wear Scarf
I don’t know about you, but I always seem to forget my scarf when going outside in the winter.
For Iceland, you want a scarf that is windproof and can cover your face if the winds get insanely nasty – which can happen in Iceland. A scarf will keep your skin safe from wind damage. Which is especially important if you have sensitive skin like I do.
6. Earmuffs or a Hat. Don’t Forget Your Ears!
Buy something that can be quickly paired with your other outfits so you’re not overpacking. White, grays, blacks, and other neutral colors go with everything.
Just don’t lose your hat like I did. But that’s, ahhh, another story for another day! Let’s just say New Year’s Eve in Reykjavik is an epic experience, haha.
7. Round Neck Sweatshirt Pocket Pullovers
Sweaters would be lovely to wear in Iceland. However, they’re bulky and not the best items of clothing when looking to save space in your luggage.
Instead opt for packable sweatshirt style pullovers to wear in Iceland in December. These pullovers by Lyxinpf come in many different colors and are lightweight and comfortable.
8. Comfortable Travel Pants for All Purposes
Finally make sure to invest in travel pants that you can wear with a variety of colors. Columbia makes great travel pants that I wore on my own winter trip to Iceland.
The black color makes it simple to pair these travel pants with any other color. Not to mention, the stretch quality of the fabric makes these pants great if you’re planning on doing any hikes – even hikes on glaciers or inside lava caves.
As you can tell, comfort is key for what to wear in Iceland in December.
9. Waterproof and Warm Gloves
Finally you need to have a good pair of gloves for winter in Iceland.
I know, I know. An obvious statement, right?
I personally like North Face’s gloves (as well as their other products), but there are many other brands that could work for your trip. Make sure to buy the proper size too. My hands are rather small so I always need to try gloves on before I actually purchase them.
10. Bonus: Bring A Thermal Phone Case
Your phone also needs protection from wintry weather conditions. I … did not bring an appropriate phone case, and as a result, my phone was always dying at the worst possible moments. It’s a known fact cold weather drains your phone’s battery.
Buy a special thermal phone case that protects against water and snow and low temperatures to save yourself the headache.
How Can I Pack Winter Clothing into a Piece of Carry On Luggage?
Now we all know airplanes are totally playing us when it comes to checking luggage especially when flying budget carriers.
Another tip is to wear layers in the airport and on the plane. You can use your coat as either a blanket or a pillow if you’re lucky (unlike me) and can sleep on the flight to Iceland.
Now you know what to wear in Iceland in December! Have you ever visited Iceland in winter? Did you enjoy the experience? Share all thoughts in the comments.