Packing for a Wintery Week in Iceland

For an update of how my packing list fared, check out this post from after my trip. 

I sort of like researching things. Now that I am no longer in grad school, that particular penchant often gets redirected toward researching trips and what to take with me when I go. With an upcoming trip to Iceland on the books, I had the perfect excuse to exhaustively Google search “packing for winter in Iceland” and then subsequently determine which products to pack and purchase for my trip. In case you are in need of this particular piece of information (or have another cold weather European trip planned), I wanted to share the results of my labor.

My goal is to be warm and yet be able to fit it all in a carry-on. Because I am going to Iceland, in winter no less, one of my first purchases was a new coat. I wanted to find something that would both keep me warm, but also be reasonably stylish for the fashion conscious (if uniquely so) city of Reykjavik.

DSC02738Enter the Columbia Carson Pass II Jacket. Nice and warm with Columbia’s Omni-Shield technology? Check! Stylish enough with a removable faux-fur hood and perfectly placed belt? Check! I even had the opportunity to take the coat for a couple of test runs during my recent trip to South Korea and an especially cold weekend in Bend.

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I’m happy to say the coat has been exactly what I was looking for at a reasonable (all things considered) price.

A couple of other items on my “must have for Iceland” list were a set of thermals and a reasonably good-looking pair of warm and waterproof pants. I eventually settled upon Smartwool merino wool thermals (both a top and bottom) and a pair of Columbia Fierce Force pants.

They are both the Smartwool's heaviest base layer, the MTS Mid 250. And they both kept me nice and toasty! I wore these daily. They were warm when I was outside and, because of the moisture wicking merino, did not make me sweaty when I was inside.
They are Smartwool’s heaviest base layer, the MTS Mid 250. According to reviews, these should keep me warm when outside, but not be suffocatingly warm when I’m spending time inside. Because my plans will involve days where dressing for both will be needed, these merino wool thermals seemed like the perfect purchase.
I wanted a nice, neutral color that would not scream "ski pants" when my itinerary took me from being outside to somewhere less wintery, like a museum. On my glacier hike, these pants kept me warm and dry.
I wanted a nice, neutral color that would not scream “ski pants” when my itinerary took me from being outside to somewhere a bit more sophisticated, like a museum. I will definitely be wearing these warm and waterproof pants the day I go glacier hiking!

I also want to minimize the number of shoes that I pack. Things I need include something warm, waterproof, appropriate to wear in the city and while hiking, and that will look good with various types of pants (I’ve got priorities, after all). I eventually settled upon a pair of Sorel Caribou boots.

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DSC02727So far, I am in love. They are comfortable, waterproof, and look great with jeans. Thanks to a removable lining, the warmth of the shoes can be adjusted. With the liner, the shoes are rated down to -40 degrees. Cozy! These will also come in handy as I work on my Oregon Bucket List.

I also just ordered a pair of new Crocs that were well reviewed and most certainly do not look like Crocs. Although at the moment I am slightly horrified that I just typed the preceding sentence, these seem perfect for the plane and for a day spent walking around Reykjavik. According to everything I have read, they are surprisingly warm due to a fuzzy lining and hold up great to a day of walking. Plus, these seem a little easier to slip on and off at the airport and the geothermal springs I will be visiting than do the Sorel boots.  Taken together, I will be able to wear one pair and pack one pair, which goes a long way toward fitting everything in a carry-on.

My final purchase, which I was also able to test drive in South Korea, was a new Kavu rope bag. A fortuitous compromise between by desire for fashion and my boyfriend’s commitment to function, this bag is everything. I would not necessarily take it somewhere I was concerned about pickpockets, although it could certainly be turned around if needed, but otherwise, this bag is amazing. It can be worn all day without causing my shoulder to hurt. The weight of the bag, even when fully packed, is so well-distributed that it does not feel heavy at all. I had such a great experience with this bag that I recommended it to a friend who recently had shoulder surgery. It was the first bag she found that did not hurt her shoulder. Plus, the multiple zippers help to conveniently and efficiently keep everything organized and easy to find.

DSC02737So with all of these new purchases, how do I plan to put it all together? The following (plus pjs, undies, cosmetics, and few non-valuable accessories) will be packed into my carry-on bag.

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Five shirts that can be worn in various combinations, wool socks, a couple scarves (one of which is a very warm wool scarf), waterproof pants, black pants, skinny jeans, thermals, and a tank top for layering
The boots went in first
The boots go in first
And the carefully packed e-bags, pjs, and cosmetics fit on top
And the carefully packed e-bags, pjs, and cosmetics fit on top
With a fully packed bag, you may wonder where I planned to fit the inevitable souvenirs. My solution is to pack an extra duffel bag. Depending on how much I purchase, my purse and souvenirs can both fit in the bag (which is still small enough to be considered a "personal item"), allowing me to just fly carry-on on the way home or I can check my suitcase and carry-on the extra bag and my purse.
With a fully packed bag, you may wonder where I plan to fit the inevitable souvenirs. My solution is to pack an extra duffel bag. Depending on how much I purchase, my purse and souvenirs can both fit in the bag (which is still small enough to be considered a “personal item”), allowing me to just fly carry-on on the way home or I can check my suitcase and carry-on the extra bag and my purse.

And finally, this is what I will wear on the plane.

Jeans, bulky sweater, black flats, my coat (which can double as a pillow), cute hat (tucked into my Kavu bag), gloves (tucked into the coat pockets), my bag, and last, but certainly not least, the oh-so-sexy compression socks that have completely improved the flying experience for me
Jeans, bulky sweater, black flats (which will be my new Crocs), my coat (which can double as a pillow), cute hat (tucked into my Kavu bag), gloves (tucked into the coat pockets), my bag (which is incidentally already holding my passport because I woke up in a cold sweat last week due to a nightmare about getting to Iceland without my passport – terrifying!), and last, but certainly not least, the oh-so-sexy compression socks that have completely improved the long distance flying experience for me (don’t knock it ’til you try it…)

So that’s it folks, all the things, both old and new that I intend to take with me to Iceland. Once I get back, I will update this post with how my choices hold up to the cold, wet, and often windy Iceland winter!

3 thoughts on “Packing for a Wintery Week in Iceland”

  1. I hope your trip to Iceland is amazing! I look forward to hearing the review on your new Crocs and I’m slightly jealous of your Kavu bag…I totally want one!!!

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