I’ve just returned from a 9-day road-trip across Iceland with two of my besties (Natalie of Tails of a Mermaid and Camilla from All Dolled Up) and I can’t quite shake that magical feeling I had on our adventure. Isn’t travel wonderful in that way? It somehow reawakens a sense of wonder that we lose as we get older and it’s why I think travel is essential for everyone.
I’m busy working on a mammoth blog post that’ll hopefully inspire you to visit Iceland and help you plan every detail of your trip. I thought I’d kick-start the series with a guide on how to pack for a wintery week in Iceland, a critical part of the adventure!
Because soggy socks and broken ankles are not a vibe.
Dates: March 14-24
Temperature – Reykjavik: 4° average, high of 6°, low of 1° (note, the highs in summer in Iceland are only around 14°). We did experience negative temperatures in the north and along the East Fjords.
Why visit in March: While it’s a little breezier than the summer months, you’ll experience snow-fall, the mind-blowing Northern Lights and enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices
If you’re flying economy class, your international baggage allowance is 23kgs; be aware of domestic flight allowances as some flights only allow 20kgs and no one wants to start their journey overweight. Save that for the carbs you’ll be eating on the other end. Read: geothermally baked bread. OMG.
I bought a North Face duffel on wheels from Duesouth for the journey and it served me perfectly. This bag is the ideal size and weight at 155 litres, it’s also water-proof, hardy and has loads of nifty compartments for things like wet swimming costumes. Believe me, you’ll be spending a lot of time in piping hot geothermal pools. This duffel also has side-straps that allowed me to attach my tripod to it; hands-free is key! If you’re road-tripping Iceland you’re not spending more than one night per location so make sure your luggage is light, small and nimble. Aim for a packed weight of about 18kgs for a trip of similar length; if your bag is weighing more than that you’ve over-packed.
I also bought the North Face Borealis back-pack to use as a day-pack to house my essentials: laptop, camera, water canister, jacket, hat and gloves. Because I’m a nerd and also super sentimental, I got the limited edition green version inspired by the Northern Lights to always remind me of this special adventure.
If you’re unaware, Duesouth has an online luggage store called Duesouth Escapes which is where I bought my luggage for the trip. There are also some major end of season sales happening on the site right now (33% off the North Face duffel I bought, for example, and 50% off your second piece of luggage when buying two), so go take a look.
If you’ve travelled to a cold climate before you’ll know layering is key. Tights or Long Johns and vests are essential and you can add and remove layers to insure you’re warm and snug enough. The unexpected benefit of visiting Iceland in winter/spring is it’s so cold that you don’t sweat (well, we didn’t anyways) which means being able to re-wear a lot of your layers without smelling like the fermented shark we tasted in Reykjavik. I’ve linked to my favourite items I bought at Duesouth below.
- Take enough pairs of thick, warm hiking socks. These, coupled with your hiking boots, will be your wardrobe staple and savior
- Invest in some good, comfortable and waterproof hiking boots. These were a bit of a splurge but were worth every Rand I spent on them. Most of Iceland in the winter is snowy, icy or wet so get over the idea of looking Sandton fabulous and embrace your hiking boots; think of it as work on the bottom and party on top.
- If you’re not hiking through deep snow you don’t need waterproof pants. I wore jeans throughout the trip and they were both warm and comfortable for long journeys in the car. We wore jeans on our ice-cave adventure into the Jokulsarlon glacier and jeans were fine for this.
- A down puffer is a great piece of clothing to take along as they’re super warm, light-weight and take up very little room
- A water-proof jacket is critical as you can experience every weather condition imaginable in a day and being caught in the rain is no fun
- Don’t bother with pretty or fancy things for all those fireside dinners you’re imagining. I packed a few fancy jerseys for the odd meal out and they stayed at the bottom of my bag.
- Vests, long sleeve tees, flannel shirts and sweaters are perfect for layering whilst still looking relatively stylish in your snow-garb. Invest in one good gilet to add a bit of warmth and style; these are great because they don’t restrict your arm movement and you can easily hop in and out of the car without having to jacket-up each time.
- Don’t pack your favourite swimming costume; the sulphur and minerals in the geothermal pools can leave a permanent stinky little reminder of your magical time in Iceland. No one wants to throw away a gorgeous new Seafolly swimmer.
- You’ll only need 3 pairs of shoes: hiking boots, sneakers and flip-flops. Leave everything else at home.
Accessories & Other Bits
- Pack sunglasses, the snowy glare can be pretty strong, especially if you’re in the driver’s seat
- A few hats, buffs and scarves are a must! The wind-chill factor can make it really nippy outside and no one wants an ear infection in the middle of nowhere. Another great way to keep warm and add a bit of style to your getup.
- Gloves that allow you to operate a mobile-phone touch-screen are another nifty thing to have, especially if you’re taking snaps on your phone
- Don’t bother with jewellery, you won’t really have an occasion to wear it unless you’re going out for a nice dinner in Reykjavik
- If you’re planning on photographing the Northern Lights you’ll need a camera and a tripod; smartphones without star-tail capturing technology like the Huawei P9 won’t capture them and you don’t see the magical green colours with the naked eye. A tripod and a camera remote are a great way to capture your adventure and ensure you’re all in the photograph. My new Fuji X-T10 was the perfect camera for this trip and the free Fuji smartphone app allows you to sync your phone and camera, using your smartphone as a remote and also to share photographs via creating a WiFi network between your phone and camera.
- A spare camera battery, memory card and a power bank; you may be on the road for ages before you’re able to charge-up again
- A medical-aid kit with a course of antibiotics. The constant transition from the icy outdoors to the warmth of the car or hotel is a recipe for a cold, sore throat or an ear infection. Getting ill overseas is the pits, so pack a little emergency medical-aid kit and hopefully you won’t need to use it.
I must end by saying that I think we packed really well for this trip. I never felt ill prepared, wet nor cold, and because you’re geared for the weather it’s completely manageable, fun even. Snow is novel to those at the tip of Africa and I absolutely loved it, even the part where we had to run through a snow storm in bikinis and negative temperatures from the changing rooms at the Myvatn Nature Baths to the geothermal pools.
It’s all straight out of a fairy-tale, especially in the spring and wintertime.
- Hop onto the Duesouth or Duesouth Escapes website and pick an item you’d love to add to your wardrobe or travel repertoire (this can be clothing, footwear, luggage, gadgetry, anything!)
- While you’re there, subscribe to the Duesouth newsletter (scroll to the bottom of the website and enter your e-mail address, you can unsubscribe at any time)
- Comment on this blog post and let me know which item you’re lusting after, confirming that you’ve also subscribed to the Duesouth newsletter. Don’t worry, your e-mail address will not be published.
Competition closes 30 April 2017 and winners will be announced Monday 1st May 2017. Winners will be selected at random and prize fulfillment will be managed by TFG. Fingers crossed! Be sure to check out Natalie’s post and giveaway at Tails of a Mermaid to double your chances of winning.