What to wear in Iceland?
For anyone planning a trip to Iceland March through May or September through November, know that Icelandic spring with its average chilly temperatures of 32-42 degrees Fahrenheit (0-6°C) isn’t exactly a frolic through a field of newly-bloomed tulips.
But being shoulder seasons, they’re a smart time to visit because flights are cheap and the island less crowded. Because the weather is unpredictable during these seasons, our best advice is to be prepared for just about anything Mother Nature sends your way, be it a snow squall, downpour, sleet, or sunshine. That means it’s time to get geared up with rain and snow proof layers. As all tried-and-true adventure travelers on a budget know, outdoor wear can lean on the expensive side, but one area never to skimp on is gear; you’ll be glad you went for it, once you find yourself stranded in an unexpected rainstorm in the wilderness.
Below are gear options ideal for navigating Iceland’s moods, whether you’re on an adventure tour on the windy wilds of the Highland or strolling around Reykjavik in style during a downpour.
All about that base
Base layers—worn under coats and sweatshirts—are the first step in layering, designed to keep you comfortable at the core. Columbia’s men’s and women’s Northern Ground Tight base layer pants are cozy sweat-wicking tights featuring Polartec Power Stretch fabric with a draw-cord waist. Likewise, Columbia’s men’s and women’s Northern Ground Half Zip base layer tops are built with body-mapping seam lines in stretch fleece, which creates breathable warmth and flexibility. If base layer pants are too thick to fit under women’s jeans, layer instead with Patagonia leggings like Centered Tights or Diversifly Capris.
The sweatshirt dance
If you frequently go in-and-out-of-doors—say, from rental car to restaurant or landmark—you’ll be pulling sweatshirts on and off. Depending on your cold-weather tolerance, you’ll want something lightweight, or to go for a heavier sweater from the Nordic land itself—like a traditional Icelandic sweater, aka lopapeysa.
Finally: outerwear. New from Columbia, the women’s OutDry EX Casual Jacket is waterproof and ultra-breathable with a street-savvy design for a day in the city or for going on a rainy afternoon hike, with its over-sized hood that keeps the harsh wind at bay. Meanwhile, REI Co-op’s La Selva Rain Jacket offers advanced storm protection in an urban trench coat style. The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Jacket is a lightweight, waterproof and windproof jacket that leaves room for extra layers beneath.
Just get those waterproof pants
It’s easy to want to skip this step and hope to get away with jeans, but with factors like pelting sideways rain and fierce wind, waterproof pants are a necessity, particularly for outdoor adventures. Luckily, men’s and women’s Titan Ridge II Pants at Columbia are both waterproof and snowproof—and not bad to look at. They’re lightweight and flexible, too, so you’ll still feel comfortable if you and your friends don’t have time to change before a round of Einstök beers in the city after a satisfying day spent roaming the countryside.
Puddles are for jumping in
For a trip to Iceland, sturdy boots are essential. SOREL’s brand new rain collection includes Joan Rain short boots, while the Out ’N About Rain is a super lightweight style that packs well in a suitcase. For the classic adventure look, stick with Slimpack II Lace Duck Boots for heavy rain or Winter Fancy Lace II Boots for snow. Men’s Keen Durand Polar WP are insulated with a wooly thermal heat shield footbed and waterproof exterior.
Go for a swim!
All this talk of cold weather may make the suggestion of packing a bathing suit sound crazy. But trust us. All public pools in Iceland are heated and most are open year-round, though adventurers should opt for natural to semi-natural hot springs such as Seljavallalaug. For women, why not show up Instagramable in ModCloth’s retro Parasail Away With Me swimsuit or vintage Bathing Beauty Two-Piece?
Of course, there are still necessities like woolen socks, gloves, hats, and extremely durable luggage. For accessories, select from Icelandic-made options at 66° North or Icewear. Lastly, Osprey’s unisex Meridian Wheeled Convertible Luggage is the perfect splurge for an adventurer’s checked-bag option. Designed with every step of the journey in mind from the airport to crowded bus to tough terrain, the convertible wheeled duffel-bag-to-backpack is rugged and durable enough for Iceland’s more intense weather conditions.
Now that you’ve geared up, let the shoulder seasons adventures in Iceland commence! You’ll find cheap flights to Iceland with WOW air.
By Krista Connor
Photos: iStockphoto.com and courtesy of Columbia and Sorel