We just got back from Iceland two days ago and learned so much about traveling in cold weather. It might not be a big deal for you adventurers used to cold climates, but San Diego has made us weak!! The weather had a high of 39 and low of 25 F (-3.9 C) PLUS WINDCHILL. Since we knew we’d be outside for hours at a time hunting down the Northern Lights, we needed to gear up!
BAGS WE PACKED IN
On the way to our layover, Delta broke my roller suitcase (don’t worry they are paying to get it fixed!), but it was amazing how it all worked out for the better. Over my birthday in Atlanta, Kim gave me a 17-inch roller. We’ve been looking for smaller sized rollers forever, but she had found it in Europe and brought it back with her stateside.
I’m really digging the European size, which happens to be smaller than my personal carry-on item. We had to play a little bit of tetris to squeeze in all my winter gear, but it fit! Can’t wait to travel any other season, because it’s going to be waaaay easier.
Jacob packed everything in his 60L Patagonia Duffel and Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II Backpack. He carried all the electronics and camera gear with the exception of Gorillapod and Laptop that went into my Osprey Backpack.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ICELAND IN WINTER – 10 DAYS IN A CARRY-ON
CLOTHES (from the outer layer working our way in)
- Patagonia Snowbelle 3-in-1 jacket is comprised of two jackets that can zip into each other. It can be worn as a rain shell, light insulated jacket, or as a waterproof insulated jacket. We were matchy-matchy, and Jacob wore the men’s version.
- Fleece Hoodie – I wore the Cotopaxi Stretch Fleece (here’s the men’s version).
- Midlayer Hoodie (+ Men’s Version) – We wore this as a 4th layer under the fleece during our Northern Lights excursions.
- Dry Fit Tee x 5 – I have these in several colors, and Jacob wore these. It really doesn’t matter what color it is though because it’s hidden under so many layers.
- Top Base Layers x 2 – I wore these and Jacob wore these.
- Patagonia Alpine Pants (+ Men’s Version) – this was our outermost layer. Our legs were still cold, but it wasn’t unbearable. Our friend wore these pants as her 4th layer on top of the alpine pants at night, and it kept her legs warm.
- Uniqlo Heattech Legging Pants (in navy) – this was my middle layer that I wore during the night. Jacob doubled up on his baselayers.
- Comfy Travel Day Pants – I wore these Uniqlo denim legging pants in gray on the way and dark denim on the way back. Jacob wore Joggers for both days.
- White V-Neck Tee – for travel days.
- Bottom Base Layers (His + Hers) x 4 – You rarely sweat so we could wear them for 2 days. I only had to wash overnight once. Some nights Jacob doubled up on them.
- Pajama Pants
- Bras x 6 – I had 4 sports bras and 2 wireless ones. You can wear them for more than one day since you don’t really sweat in cold temps. Honestly, some days I decided to be extra comfy and go braless since I’m wearing 3+ layers, but then again if you want your boobs to stay perky, maybe you should bring all the bras to keep them supported. Up to you! ;)
- Underwear x 9 – I brought 2 Exofficio bikini briefs for active days and cotton underwear for the rest. Jacob only brought 3 ExOfficio Boxer Briefs, which you can wash and it quick dries.
- Swim Suit – This is for if you’re planning to soak in the Blue Lagoon or any geothermal pool. Don’t make the same mistake as me! I was so preoccupied with making sure I would stay warm that I completely forgot about it even after making a note for myself. I ended up picking up this one (top & bottom) at Target during our Atlanta layover. Jacob had this one.
SHOES & ACCESSORIES
- Winter Boots – I wore these Ahnu insulated hiking boots in winter smoke and Jacob wore these. They both were really comfortable during the day, but our toes did get cold while we were hunting down the Northern Lights even with two layers of socks and toe warmers. None of us had the right combination of gear to escape the cold. It was in the 20s F (-6 deg C), but our toes were even colder standing in the snow for hours at a time.
- Casual Shoes – I wore these gold Keds and Jacob wore Lems Boulder Boots, which are packable and great for travel. We wore these for the plane and around town.
- Crampons – so many spots were hard to get around because the path was frozen over. Bring these if you’re only carrying on or these ones with spikes if you’re checking a bag in.
- Socks x 12 – We each had 10 midweight socks (his + her) and 2 winter socks that we wore as a second layer for our Silfra snorkeling excursion and Northern Lights excursions.
- Slipper Socks to wear in the hotel.
- Balaclava – We both wore these. It’s windproof and really kept us warm for something that isn’t big and bulky.
- Cat Hat (optional) – I wore this mostly for looks for photos, but it provided some warmth. ;)
- Gloves – Sophia sent these to me just in time! Jacob wore these for mobility, but it was cold. Mine were warm, but we both need to find good warm, waterproof gloves.
- Hand Warmers – We had enough for 1 Per Day.
- Toe Warmers – We had one per night that we wanted to see the Northern Lights. We figured the weather and activity would at best work out for half the time we were there.
- Sunglasses – especially if you’re the driver or if you plan on going on any snowmobiling excursion. The snowy landscape can be blinding in the day time.
- Headlamp – you’ll need this to get around at night to find your Northern Lights photo spots.
- My Mask and Jacob’s Mask and Snorkels – for our Silfra excursion.
- Water Bottle – We brought our collapsible one but in hindsight wished I brought a vacuum water bottle to hold hot water too for extra warmth. Iceland has some of the cleanest water, so you can fill it up anywhere. However, the water in several rural locations tasted very sulfuric, and we ended up filling up during breakfast.
- Ziploc Bags – 2 big, and 2 sandwich size. Kim brought these, but this will be a new addition to all our future packing lists. They come in so handy! We needed them for when we cooked ramen and to store our lunches.
- Sriracha2go (optional) – I didn’t bring this because I thought I wouldn’t need it, but I regretted it on several occasions.
- Canon 5D Mark III + Batteries x 3
- 16-35mm 2.8L
- 100mm 2.8L macro
- MeFOTO Globetrotter Travel Tripod
- Canon G7X
- Sony RX100 Mark IV – Don’t forget to pick up the right type of memory cards to utilize the slomo feature. These Lexar 64GB SDXC cards are perfect!
- Selfie Stick for GoPro
- Travel Converter & Adapter Power Strip – there aren’t many outlets, so this helps keep everything charged.
- Memory Cards x 5
- Underwater Housing for snorkeling in Silfra
- GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X
- iPhone + Travel Wallet Case
- MacBook + Case
- Kindle – Don’t forget to load it up with books!
- Lens Cloth – We usually bring only a lens pen, but with the changing weather and mist from waterfalls, you need a cloth.
- Pack Towel to dry off gear when it gets wet
- Rain Cover for DSLR is good to have if it rains really hard or if you’re near a waterfall
- Filters – 72mm UV & Polarizer + 82mm Polarizer & ND Filter
- Car charger (optional) – our rental car came with a USB port so we didn’t need one.
- Headphone Splitter to watch movies on the plane (also don’t forget to load your movies on your laptop, tablet, or phone to watch while you’re waiting for the Northern Lights. We watched UP – my favorite!)
- Face Wash
- Multi-Purpose Soap
- Hand Cream – hands got so dry in the climate humidity that they started cracking and bleeding. This one has always worked best for me, so I’ve stuck with it. Do you have a go-to hand cream?
- Lip Balm – Soapie sent me this one and I love the peach scent.
- Eye Repair Serum
- Night Cream
- Contacts – Both of them! Jacob forgot 1 and using 1 might be just as bad as using none. If you usually wear glasses like Jacob, he recommends wearing contacts most of the time since the weather is constantly changing… unless you have glasses with wipers. ;)
- Tumi Toiletry Bag
- 3-1-1 Clear Liquids Bag
- Daypack – Cotopaxi Luzon 18L in snowcone
- Packing Cubes x 2 – I packed my daypack and tops into this one and packed my socks and underwear into this one.
What are your must have winter travel items?