Iceland isn’t as cold as the name may imply, but it should not be mistaken for a tropical paradise either! We often get confused questions about what to wear in an Icelandic summer. So we created this post to help you plan before coming to Iceland.
Icelandic summertime is considered to be from early May through August, with it’s never ending days giving abundant sunlight and a boost of energy. It can prove to be quite difficult to pack for Iceland, whatever time of year it is, as you can easily experience all four seasons within the span of one day. And the forecast is not all that accurate more than a few days in advance.
First things first: What are the temperatures like?
Iceland is a temperate climate. This means mild winters and moderate summers with plenty of fluctuation in weather types. Temperatures usually hover around 10-13°C (50-60F), with the rare occasion where temperatures reach low twenties. Early May and late August can experience quite chilly nights from time to time so don’t assume the midnight sun means midnight heat.
Summers are not as wet as springtime, but it definitely can rain. A major temperature factor is the windchill, truth be told Iceland can be rather windy. However with a little bit of luck, you can experience the warm, still summer days and witness the entire country come alive!
What to wear in the Icelandic summer?
Icelandic brands such as 66 North have been waiting for the Icelandic summer with us since 1926 with their good, high quality outdoor wear. Their attire keeps you warm and dry be it for a casual walk in the city or hiking on a glacier in pouring rain. Our guides wear 66 North while guiding all year around as it’s a brand that we trust and love. Go shopping (tax free for visitors!) when you arrive to keep you prepared for whatever kind of weather Iceland throws at you! Other brands such as Patagonia offer a great selection of sustainable, outdoor clothing that’ll last you for a lifetime. T-shirts made out of plastic bottles? Sign me up.
Keep in mind about the activities you will do while in Iceland when packing. If you are sticking to Reykjavik and the picture taking you’ll get away with most outfits. But, if you plan on spending most of your time outside the city exploring the amazing sights, hiking on glaciers or walking behind waterfalls there are a few essentials that need to be brought along. Let’s talk through them.
When it rains, it pours
Summers are spared from the worst of the storms but we do get days where it can be quite blustery and wet. The gift and curse of Icelandic weather is that you never get a full week of good weather. But you never get a full week of bad weather either. This means waterproof pants and waterproof jackets are essential items. All other layers are quasi optional except that impermeable top layer.
Due to the wind, umbrellas are relegated to being used for comedic effect only. Don’t bring one! What you need is a really good, waterproof jacket. The key to keeping warm, is keeping dry and so we recommend jackets along the lines of this Laugarvegur jacket or Snæfell to keep you nice and dry. As for good pants, opt for something along the lines of these pants. Denim or cotton don’t work very well as these fabrics get wet and then cold very quickly!
If you are coming with Hidden Iceland on one of our glacier tours then you can hire waterproof gear from 66 North from us!
The three layer method
A light merino t-shirt or another type of thin base layers can be good as well as a good fleece mid layer. A warmer outer layer of primaloft or light down jacket is also good to keep you warm in the evenings and on the colder summer days.
Walk the line
Can’t stress this point enough. There is nothing worse than spending the day in cold, wet shoes! Make sure to pack a sturdy, waterproof hiking boot if you’ll be doing a glacier hike. If you don’t have one, you can hire them from us! For exploring Iceland in general you’d need to opt for somewhat of a water resistant walking shoe to comfortably hike through the rugged terrain.
Additionally, make sure you don’t forget hat and gloves (or mittens), a bathing suit to bathe in all the hot pools and a back pack to store everything in!
If you are joining one of our tours you can hire waterproof pants, jackets and shoes from us! Make sure to do so in the booking process, if not then just get in touch!
Hi, I’m Dagný Björg, a twenty-something Reykjavík-dweller, mother, designer and freelance journalist who loves getting lost in nature, coffee and easy Sunday mornings.