Budget Iceland Packing List
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Iceland has to be the most beautiful country I've ever been to! I love seeing new places, so you know somewhere must be good if I'm going back for a third time!!
My last trip was in December, where it was only light between 11.30 and 15.00, everything was covered in snow and Iceland put out a red weather warning (previously unheard of so you can imagine how bad the weather was!).
Búðakirkja in the snow.
This trip is in August which is peak season, it should be light from 4.00-22.30 (we've missed the midnight sun) but even in the summer the weather can be super temperamental- it can even snow in some areas! Some things you'll need all year, some things you can probably do without in the summer so I've done a general packing list and then season-specific additions.
Swimwear, travel towel and swim shoes
There are SO many hot springs to bathe in you will literally be spoiled for choice. Their temperature means you can go in most of them all year round too. Some are big touristy places like The Blue Lagoon with towel hire etc., some are just holes in the ground in the middle of nowhere, so although you can hire stuff at some of them there is no guarantee plus it is expensive (like everything in Iceland).
Swimming in Reykjadalur hot river in the snow with the whole place to myself.
Also, I love to have swim shoes because I have a bit of a thing about stuff being around my feet in the water, plus it can be slippy or muddy around the pools. I use these Hot Tuna shoes from Sports Direct, they are wetsuit material and cost me £9.
2. Walking Boots
Even if you're not a big walker, unless you're only staying in Reykjavik they are the best choice of footwear. Most of the attractions require at least a 5 minute walk from the car park, some can take 20 mins or so and there's plenty of opportunities for longer walks and hikes.
Get waterproof ones with good grip, as it rains a lot and it can get really wet around the waterfalls.
The boots I have are Regatta Men's Samaris Mid Ii High Rise Hiking Boots. I've had them a year and they're still pretty waterproof and have good grip. I prefer men's boots because they're wider. I paid around £30 (they're usually over £60) because they were on sale, and no-one liked the blue colour so they were cheaper!
3. A Good Waterproof Coat
I'll say it again, it rains often in Iceland, plus as it's an island it gets super windy so a good coat will keep you warm and dry.
Mine is from Decathlon (which is a shop I LOVE as they have such good quality stuff for a really reasonable price), and I got it in light blue as again it was cheaper (clearly people don't enjoy bright colours as much as I do).
Modelling my coat and walking boots on a hike in the Cotswolds.
It is waterproof to 10,000 mm, which having read up on it is the minimum level of waterproofing you need if you want to be hiking for several hours in it. I'm sure you could get away with less if you were just visiting sites and going back to the car soon after.
You might also want to consider Waterproof trousers, not an essential item but if you're going to hike you will probably need them if you don't want to get wet, and they're useful near the waterfalls too to protect you from the spray. Mine are Regatta Women's Pack It Waterproof Overtrousers.
4. Layers, Layers And More Layers
To counteract the changeable weather, it's good to have everything from a tshirt/vest top for the summer highs of 15C (apparently it has been known to get up to 20C!), to thermals for the rain and snow.
These are the items I included:
Fleeces of varied thickness
Down-like jacket (for underneath your waterproof layer, I'm veggie so I don't buy real down)
Long sleeved sports tops
Short sleeved sports tops
1x set of merino wool baselayer long sleeve/leg underwear ( I got this from Aldi magic aisle and this random shop called Sub Sports- they were having a big sale and the thermal top was amazing quality when it came!)
Winter running leggings (thick polyester leggings)
Fleece lined leggings (these are like normal leggings with fleece on the inside)
Winter trekking leggings (thick polyester with fleece lining)
Normal gym leggings
5. Warm Accessories
You definitely need something to cover your ears (hat or headband), gloves, and I find a buff really handy for covering your neck, using as a balaclava when it's freezing or even as a headband. And don't forget comfortable, warm socks (I got some that are good for long hikes).
Wrapped up in my winter gear at Kirkjufellsfoss, including snow boots and ski trousers.
6. Season Specific Additions
For Summer, there's nothing too different to add, other than sunglasses, and maybe insect repellent/head mosquito net if you're spending time near Lake Myvatn as the bugs can get really bad!
For Winter, the focus is on wearing more layers at once, and consider another set of merino thermals (or cheaper synthetic thermals) depending on how long you're going for- I used another set of synthetic ones from decathlon that my Dad already had!
Instead of my walking boots, I borrowed my Mum's fleece-lined snow boots (they are Karrimor Mens Snowfur 3 Weathertite Snow Boots Brown) and I bought some crampons to wear over them when it got icy- I took only hand luggage so I opted for chain ones rather than spikes which they would've confiscated at the airport! I'm SO glad I got the crampons as they saved me from falling over maybe 10 times!!
I also added some fleece lined, waterproof ski trousers that I bought on Ebay for when it was really cold!
7. General useful items
Food- Iceland is so expensive, and as I'm on such a tight budget I took a lot of my own food with me to cook in the hostels, as well as plenty of snacks!
Emergency blankets- used these to keep warm when looking for the Northern Lights and good to have just in case, especially in winter.
Reusable water bottle- again great way to save money and the environment, and you can refill it in loads of places as Iceland water is so pure.
Flask and tupperware- another way to save money, I took tea/coffee and lunch with me every day as well as food for the airport.
Lipbalm and moisturiser- Iceland is so windy this was essential
Tripod and Camera- I took a rubbish old DSLR camera from home and bought a lighweight cheap tripod from Ebay for less than £10, but you need a tripod and DSLR setting camera to allow for a shutter speed to capture pictures of the Northern Lights (phone pictures just don't do justice, or even show anything)
Waterproof phone pouch- great for pictures at waterfalls, at the blue lagoon/hot pools or in the rain.
And that's it!! The take home message is really that Iceland weather is super changeable, so layers are important to keep you comfy.
Total Spend- £214.85 (ouch, but not bad for 19 items)
FORCLAZ WOMEN'S HIKING PADDED JACKET NH100- £12.99
QUECHUA MH500 Women's Waterproof Mountain Walking Jacket - Blue Grey- £34.99
TRIBORD WATERPROOF PHONE POUCH LARGE IPX7- £6.99
FORCLAZ Adult Mountain Trekking Fleece Liner Gloves TREK 100 - Black £2.98
QUECHUA Country walking High socks X 2 pairs NH 100 - Navy- £3.99
KALENJI Women's Jogging Tights Kalenji Run Warm - Black £9.99
Regatta Men's Samaris Mid Ii High Rise Hiking Boots- £29.99 (currently £40)
Jessie Kidden Ski Trousers for Women- £15.74
Fleece Ear Band Head Warmer- £2.99
Mens Thermal Socks 4 Pairs Winter Thick Wool Socks Arctic Comfort £8.99
Womens Ladies Lightweight Fleece Jacket Outdoor (second hand)- £3.99
Regatta Fleece (second hand)- £5.99
LADIES WOMEN THERMAL LEGGINGS FLEECE LINED- £3.99
Universal Portable Tripod Adjustable Stand For Mini Projector DLP Digital Camera £8.47
Sub Sports MERINO MENS SEMI-COMPRESSION TOP Black / Purple- £10
Crane (Aldi middle aisle) Ladies Thermal Long Johns- £16.99
Avalanche Winter Trek leggings (TK MAXX)- £17.99
Already had hat, buff, scarf, gym leggings, swimming costume, travel towel, swim shoes.
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