How to Pack for an Iceland Roadtrip

So you’ve found that amazing airfare to Reykjavík and just had to grab it! You already know that it is a land of glaciers, volcanoes, puffins, and extremely variable weather, and you’ve decided on an Iceland roadtrip. But what do you bring?


5 wheelie bags with backpacks sitting on top


Savvy traveller that you are, you think to yourself, “I’m certain that layers would be useful. How many will indubitably depend on the season! I can save money by sleeping in my car, so I’ll need a sleeping bag, a camp stove, and – sod it! – wifi. Yet, how can I possibly transport all that I need?!”

Since yaks and sherpas are not really suitable for crossing oceans, you scratch your head and consider alternatives. You have already decided to rent a car in Iceland, so you’ll be able to spread out a bit and not worry about completely repacking every night. But if all you can do is carry your favourite toque and bunny slippers on the plane, what good does it do you?basalt columns at Reynisfjara Iceland

Fortunately you have a clever friend (me!) who has magical Internet skills. When one of my friends recently decided to hop over to the land of fire and ice on a discount airline, she encountered this very dilemma. (She hadn’t gotten as far as considering and dismissing the yak-sherpa idea, but she was thinking about haggling with the local dolphins. They have quite reasonable prices, all things considered.)

“AHA!” I announced. “You can RENT STUFF!” You see, I’d found a camping gear website that had good prices and positive reviews. The prices are good, pick-up and drop-off are available 24/7, and they are located right in downtown Reykjavík. You’ll still need to bring your own skivvies and coats, but you no longer need to worry about gear. Or yaks.

You’re welcome.

You will be happy to learn, gentle reader, that my pal’s experience renting gear was as positive as advertised. The only complication she had was that she’d booked an Airbnb room on the edge of the city, so coordinating the shuffle took some doing. Make sure to grab your car straight away so you don’t have to worry about taxi fares and bus schedules. (*whispering* I’m sure you’ll do fine. *pats arm reassuringly*)

Now, what essential items should you squish into your carry-on luggage? Regardless of the season – although a most important consideration – you will need layers. (The Guide to Iceland lays it out quite well in this post.) Windproof, waterproof, warm and woolly – and a bathing suit. Yes, I said it! A bathing suit! Without one, you’ll miss out on all the lovely hot springs, and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?

Remember that it doesn’t all have to fit into your bag. You can wear your bulkiest items on the plane and stuff your pockets, too! Benny from Fluent in 3 Months has a video on YouTube that demonstrates some pretty extreme carry-on hacking techniques: How to take as much as you like in your hand luggage

So what’s next? Oh, yes. Hiring a car and planning your road trip. Will you visit the famously unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull glacier? Climb the basalt columns at Reynisfjara? Luxuriate in the Blue Lagoon – or perhaps the less touristy pool at Myvatn? Squee over the most adorable birds on the planet? The possibilities are endless!

Did you know you can see PUFFINS on an Iceland roadtrip?!

To recap:

  • plan when to go to Iceland based on your interests
  • buy a low-cost plane ticket (there seem to be more routes and airline options popping up for this all the time)
  • choose & rent gear online before you go
  • hire a car in advance
  • pack layers and boots – and your swimsuit!
  • remember to bring your camera
  • have fun and be awed by the natural beauty of Iceland!


*chants* Iceland, Iceland, Iceland! *pumps fist*

*pauses to look abashed*

*shrugs and continues chanting*

Iceland roadtrip, Iceland roadtrip!


thank you note to Elisabeth for letting me use one of her photos