Friday, April 24, 2015

Iceland: What to pack

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When you live in a place that usually gets 4-5 months of snowy, cold winter you usually don't choose a place that has more snow and more cold for your spring break destination. Usually-but his was an unusual year. We didn't get much winter to speak of and I do like a good travel adventure.  My birthday often falls over spring break, so it's made it convenient to spend my birthday somewhere other than home, so this year I went for Iceland.  I know, I like beaches and warmth-but Iceland looks so beautiful and it's somewhere not everyone gets a chance to visit. A trip to Iceland requires more research and planning that your average trip-it's not like heading to SoCal where you can basically buy anything you need at Target when you get there.

I did lots of blog searching to find out what the weather was really like, from real folks who really went there. I wanted to know what they packed and what they were glad they had with them.  I knew that seeing the Northern Lights was priority number one and then visiting the scenic coastlines and waterfalls and geysers would also be part of my plan.  I also wanted to be able to pack in a carry-on. A real challenge for a cold climate.  My trip was April 5-11, so while technically spring, definitely still winter-like conditions in Iceland.

I did manage to get it all in my regular carry on roller-board suitcase along with my Keen cross body purse. I needed all my packing skills to make this one work, but I did it.  Packing cubes are key!  I saw that Ikea now carries a set of cubes for about $8.  I wore my boots and parka on the plane, but everything else went into the luggage. I ended up buying several new items for the trip, mostly from Sportsman's Warehouse-they have a really great ladies clothing section and sales folks who actually know stuff about their  products.

3 coats  (only needed 2)
4 sweaters/sweatshirts (only needed 2-3)
3 long sleeve base layer shirts
2 short sleeve base layer shirts
3 pair leggings
6 pair socks (some wool, some synthetic)
Trail shoes


Columbia Interchange Outer West Jacket- outer shell is wind/waterproof. Very important feature in Iceland. I stayed nice and warm and dry in this coat.

Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket-knee length, had the Omni Heat reflection lining. Was a great under-layer. Wore it everyday under my parka.

Mountain Hardwear down jacket-didn't need as much as I thought. Could have left this one home (but to be clear, I love this jacket...its my go-to jacket all winter at home, I just didn't need a 3rd coat on this trip). 

Columbia waterproof pants-used these twice on the trip and was glad for them. The Skogafoss waterfall sprayed lots of water around and  it snowed while we were there. I also was glad for them the night I was photographing the Northern Lights (since I was often kneeling on the snowy cold ground).

Columbia Bugaboots II with Omni Heat-waterproof and warm! Pretty decent traction too. Waded through some water and snow with no problems. Feet were toasty and dry.

Salomon Pro XA 7 trail running shoes--my first pair of trail shoes.  Great traction and Gore-tex waterproofing.  Kept my feet nice and dry and warm.

Hat--Burton fleece lined hat-warm, but I wish I had taken a hat with ties or ear flaps. The wind was so gusty that it was hard to keep on my head sometimes.

Gloves--North Face running gloves-these were good enough for being outside for less than an hour at a time, but they did get completely soggy at the last waterfall stop.

Base Layers

Long underwear--Marker silk long johns-I've had these for years. They are super thin and slippery, so clothes don't get all bunched up around them. Glad I took the bottoms but I could have left the top at home, I never used it.

Helly Hansen long sleeve tech tee

Athleta long sleeve tech tee

Kirkland 1/4 zip long sleeve tech tee-I've had this shirt for a couple years and I  love it--wore it once under the Columbia fleece, but I didn't really need it. I could have left it home.

2 short sleeve t-shirts-basic layering t-shirts

Sweaters and Leggings

Athleta Relay leggings-2 pairs, 1 gray, 1 black. These are thick running leggings that I use in the winter. Perfect for traveling.  Comfy and warm enough.

Cuddle Duds black fleece leggings-I wore them on the plane since they are super comfy.  Thought I might wear them over my Athleta pants, but never felt like I needed the extra layer. Bonus, you get them at Walmart and they are very cheap!

Columbia Optic Got It II sweater 1/2 zip fleece-super comfy and warm.  Its a nice sweater and fits really nice. Would definitely take it again.

Columbia 1/4 zip fleece-super thin fleece, but soft and warm.  Already had this and glad I took it.

Athleta Stoked 1/4 zip sweater-I've had this one for a couple years--warm and comfy.

Another sweater:  Columbia black 1/4 zip waffle weave sweater-wore on the plane, wouldn't take it again because I didn't really need it.

Everything else

Swimsuit-a must for the hot pools around Iceland
Socks--miscellaneous wool, but my favorites were the Lorpens
DSLR camera with 4 extra memory cards and sets of batteries and travel tripod (update:  the cold weather REALLY sapped batteries.  I went through at least three sets per day).
Nylon daypack-very compact, packed in my suitcase and just used during the day.  Thought I could use it for souvenirs if I needed it (I didn't, I only bought a few small things.  My real souvenirs were the photos). 
Unmentionables (long johns included)
Toiletries (I took a bare minimum of make-up...with a hat on every day and sunglasses, make up was pretty unnecessary). 

Here's the final thoughts--pick out clothes that will wick away sweat and keep you warm--and maybe pick a super cute parka and hat since every picture will show you in it.  Iceland is amazing--and having the right clothing kept me comfortable so that I could enjoy being outside for pretty much 6 straight days.