Visiting Iceland in the winter provides some of the most beautiful scenery and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. That being said, winter in Iceland can also be notoriously unpredictable and weather can change quicker than you can say, “wow, I should’ve brought that face mask.” During my recent trip to Iceland, I can honestly say that for the most part, I was prepared. But there were definitely a couple of items I wish I had thought about purchasing that would’ve saved me from some missteps along the way.
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1. A Portable Charger
- I’m personally super biased towards the Anker PowerCore 13000. Not only does this charger hold 3-5 charges depending on the type of phone or device that you have, but since I was traveling with a group of six, being able to charge two phones at once was a huge time saver. I’d charge our EVOTech each night and by the next morning, we were good to go on charge for most of our day. And since cold weather is the kryptonite of iPhones, this was one of the best items we purchased for our trip.
2. A Wireless Travel Router
- The RAVPower Portable Charger is a definite must-have – whether you’re a die-hard Instagrammer trying to not to use up a week’s worth of data in an hour, or you’re lost and in need of some Google maps. We had actually purchased a portable hotspot with our car rental but ended up carrying the little pod in one of our pocket’s everywhere where we went, giving us access to wi-fi for the entirety of our trip.
3. A Balaclava
- We experienced some painfully high winds during our trip to Iceland, especially when we headed up north. We would’ve ended up with some unecessary windburn if we had relied on scarves as the sole means to protect our faces. On our day exploring most of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, my super affordable Self Pro Balaclava is what helped me and several in my party power through the harsh weather.
- Let me start off by saying that I chose not to purchase crampons or shoe chains before my winter trip to Iceland. Let me follow up by saying that I was about a foot from falling off of the Londrangar cliffs after slipping on black ice that I was unable to see. We laughed it off later, but it was actually a scary experience knowing that I could’ve ended up in the rough, freezing oceans below. For something so cheap and so potentially useful – be sure to purchase these before you go. Check out these Unigear Traction Cleats Ice Snow Grips at recommendation from the friend and NYPD firefighter who grabbed me before I fell into the rocky, winter waters below.
5. Under Layer Clothing
- I did a decent size shopping at Uniqlo and Under Armour prior to our trip, and I’d definitely recommend these two brands for under-clothing when visiting any highly cold region. Uniqlo has some awesome thin but warm leggings for both men and women, that can fit under your pants without discomfort. I also grabbed some long sleeve shirts from both spots that were thin enough to go under all the sweaters I had packed without causing overheating. Since my go-to outwear in cold weather are my North Face Fleece and Spyder Jacket, I wanted something warm, but that was thin enough to put over my shirts – but would also fit comfortably under both jackets.
6. Tech Gloves
- Aside from your face and ears, exposing your fingers for even a few seconds can be brutally painful. A couple of my friends experienced agony every time they took off their gloves to take photos on their phone. To avoid this, tech gloves are a great purchase. They allow you to use any touch screen as they’re designed with touch pads on the tip of each finger. Having had less-than-expected experiences with tech gloves in the past, I was a bit wary when ordering a new pair, but the OZERO Touchscreen Gloves worked like a charm. They’re listed as for men, but gloves are gloves and these had better reviews than some of the unisex pairs I had seen. Though, a male friend of mine who purchased the same gloves suggests men order a size up.
7. Hot Hands
- When you forget your gloves or when you need something warm to stick in your pockets, HotHands are the perfect little sack of warmth. Growing up in New York, it wasn’t uncommon for our parents to purchase value packs of HotHands for us to carry on cold winter mornings, and naturally I had to bring some with me. Plus, I was able to be the hero for any of my friends who forgot their tech gloves. Luckily, Amazon offers packs of 10 all the way up to packs of 40 as they’re only good for one-time use.
8. Winter Boots
- Please do not try to manage the winter snow of Iceland in a pair of Nike sneakers or leather boots that are made for appearance rather than practicality. If you only wear one pair of shoes your entire trip, and I actually did, you’ll want a pair of winter boots that are warm and that keep your feet dry. While the streets of Reykjavik weren’t much of a problem when we visited in February, we battled some semi-deep snow when hiking through Thingvellir National Park. My boots of choice were SOREL Women’s Winter Carnival Snow Boots, which managed to water out even when I was walking through slush puddles.
9. Hand Lotion
In general, I cannot stand when my hands are too dry, and this only worsens in the winter time. Combine that with the cold, dry air of Iceland and I’d have been complaining non-stop if it weren’t for J.R. Watkins Hand Cream. For starters, ingredients include cocoa butter, aloe, and green tea which from experience, are some of the best ingredients when it comes to natural beauty products. But unlike many other hand creams, this one also doesn’t leave that semi-greasy residue that can be more irritating than dry hands.
10. Protein Bars
- You’ll find that when traveling Iceland, more commonly when you leave Reykjavik and the surrounding area, that many restaurants are closed for the winter. While we were able to find a couple of spots that kept their doors open, having a box of protein bars in my bag was a huge savior especially during those long stretches of road. At one point, when we had to pull over due to a sudden close-to-zero-visibility snowstorm for a couple of hours, everyone was glad I had some Special K Meal bars to go around. Plus, if we’re being honest, food in Iceland isn’t cheap. Some protein bars and a pack of Skyr can you a decent amount on breakfasts.
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Lol as an island girl, I literally had no idea what three of these items were!! Like I was like what in the world are crampons?? But I was thinking of going to Iceland in February so this would be good to know lol.
Iceland in winter! Unusual, but so appealing to me as the part of Iceland I’m most hesitant about is the crowds. Thanks for this list. I wouldn’t have thought about the hand cream or the crampons. While I’ve done a fair amount of alpine climbing, I guess I always just borrow other people’s or rent! I think it’s probably due time I bought my own pair…
Ok, not going to lie, I totally read “balaclava” as baklava. HA! Had no idea what that was. Read your description and actually thought it was lotion for your face. It wasn’t until I clicked your link that I figured out what it was. Doh! (I’ve always called it a face mask, not balaclava haha – you’d think I’d know what it is as a northerner!).
Good idea on the portable phone charger. I’ve been to Iceland, but in shoulder season, not dead of winter. My phone usually dies if I walk past a refrigerator, so I can only imagine the struggle if I were to bring it to Iceland in winter.
Other good under layer clothing brands are SmartWool and CuddlDuds. I’m also a fan of Patagonia, Marmot, and LL Bean for my outerwear.
Awesome tips – so often I focus on the clothing that I forget the other essentials you mentioned here!
Won’t lie, I only learned the term “balaclava” when I finally went searching for a face mask online. Lol, I had always called it a face mask as well.
Wow, I never imagined you’d need to take your own crampons! Turns out I was definitely going into my Iceland planning a little naively. This advice is so useful. Definitely saved this post for nearer the time! Thanks for the advice.
Great list! I definitely always have a protein bar or two with me for flights or destinations like this. The crampons I would have never even think about though so now I’ve learnt!
This is so great! I really want to visit Iceland and I never thought of a wireless router. I didn’t even know they existed! Also glad you’re ok and the slip on ice was minor.
The wireless travel router is a great idea! I never thought of that for spots where you need Google Maps but don’t want to use all of your data. And with the amount of times that I get lost on one trip, it’d be money very well spent!
Iceland has been on my bucket list for ages but still haven’t gotten there. Hopefully soon 😊 but thanks for sharing this – things like crampons and wireless travel router are things that I would never have thought off!
Being from a tropical country some how thought of visit iceland only gives me chills. Very useful list that you have shared..probably i can use it any time of the year when i visit cold countries 😀
I visited Iceland in March and I’d never been so cold! However, that was 20 years ago when I was far less clued up! With all the right gear, the weather (unless really extreme) shouldn’t stop you from doing anything. You’ve got a great list here – especially the balaclava! something a lot of people probably wouldn’t think of but they’re so effective 🙂
Iceland is so high on my bucket list! I need to visit asap. Great tips, fighting the cold there must be hard if you don’t pack the right stuff.
I visited Iceland in spring and the weather changes pretty fast during that season too. You can have sun, high winds, and rain in a couple of hours. So, yes, it is important to have tons of layers. The wireless router is a good idea. I want one of those. I have never heard of hot hands. Well, I grew up on a tropical island.
I don’t have crampons (I think of them as needed for high altitude mountain climbing, along with an ice-axe!) but I totally agree that micro-spikes would be reeeeally useful in iceland in winter! Those just slip over your shoes and are fantastic…you can just walk normally over compacted snow and ice. 😀
Protein bars is a great shout too! We often found ourselves stopping at gas stations for hot dogs!! 😉