How to Pack the Perfect Suitcase for a Winter Week in Iceland

iceland packing

Packing for a winter trip to Iceland presented a new packing challenge: how to fit enough winter gear and accessories to keep warm and safe into our usual carry-on bags. We didn’t have any fancy activities planned so I was able to focus on putting together a streamlined casual, outdoor wardrobe. I did have to spend a fair amount of money on said wardrobe given that our central Texas climate doesn’t require much in the way of winter clothing. The last time we saw snow was in…2014?

Click for a printable packing list for a winter trip to Iceland.

What I packed in my carry-on suitcase
Anticipating snowy, slushy, and/or frozen streets and sidewalks, I swapped my usual Away Carry-On for my Peak Design 35L Travel Duffel

Patagonia Capilene thermal weight crew
Athleta Speedlight long sleeve tops
Knowing I would purchase a lopapeysa on the trip, I didn’t pack a heavy sweater.

Patagonia Capilene thermal weight bottoms (these did not hold up well and I’ve since exchanged them for the Capilene Air bottoms)
Athleta Highline hybrid cargo tights
Athleta hybrid tights
Patagonia Torrentshell waterproof pants

As you can tell, I love Athleta for travel gear. Their clothes are comfortable, versatile, good quality, and on-trend. They’re also really easy to mix and match. Click here for 20% off your first Athleta item.

J.Crew pajamas
Seven pairs of ExOfficio bikinis
Two True&Co. True Body bras
Three pairs of SmartWool heavy cushioned crew socks
Three pairs of crew liner socks
Bathing suit

North Face fleece
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody
Patagonia Lash Point waterproof parka

Merrell Moab waterproof hiking boots
Traction cleats
Flip flops

Warm knit hat
Fleece gaiter
Lightweight gloves
Insulated, waterproof gloves
Travel towel
Dry bag
Travel spork and camping meals (in a few remote areas, it was easier to just stay in and boil some water)
Phone charger and mount for car

Toiletries bag
Rain cover for backpack, small First Aid kit, and a few Ziploc bags
Laundry kit, containing a travel clotheslinedrain stopper, and detergent
Universal travel adapter
Copy of passport

On the plane, I wore a long sleeve Speedlight top, hybrid leggings, fleece, and hiking boots. I had my gloves, hat, scarf, and Micro Puff easy accessible in my personal item, ready to bundle up in once we landed.

What I packed in my personal item
I used my Osprey backpack as my personal item, mainly due to our planned all-day glacier hike.

Passport and other travel IDs (Global Entry, etc.)

Printed trip itinerary w/ accommodation and reservation details
Bose noise-canceling headphones (worth every penny)
DSLR camera
Camera gear (tripod, shutter remote, rainsleeve – essential for Nothern Lights photography)
Cord case containing all needed chargers and back-up batteries
Waterproof phone case (I used a Lifeproof case but it fogged up at the Blue Lagoon; I wouldn’t buy it again)
Travel water bottle
Insulated water bottle (perfect for hot drinks on the go!)
Carry-on essentials bag (this contains my must-haves for plane travel, including an eye mask, earplugs, playing cards, tea bags, and toiletries for freshening up and staying germ-free: face wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste, tissues, mints, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.)

I felt really well-prepared for the cold weather, outdoor activities, and our on-the-go itinerary, and didn’t find that I had either under- or over-packed. All the pieces I brought were layerable and quick-drying, though due cold temperatures and minimal sweating I didn’t end up needing to do much laundry. Given that I was usually bundled up in both a fleece and a jacket, I was fine with the simple, somewhat repetitive tops I packed.

Click for a printable packing list for a winter trip to Iceland.

If I can pack everything I need for a winter week in Iceland – and stay warm at the same time – you can too!

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