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Iceland may be one of the smallest countries in the world but it has no shortage of picture-perfect sights. Its otherworldly beauty always stuns first-time visitors—from powerful waterfalls to lava fields and countless hot springs, the Land of Fire and Ice seem to have it all. But in order to enjoy its beauty to the fullest, you have to come well prepared. And we’re not just talking about planning your itinerary well ahead of time. What you bring (or don’t ) may be the difference between having a blast and cutting your trip short because of an emergency.
Packing the right clothes, of course, is essential, regardless of what time of the year you visit as Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable. Bringing the right photo gear is of utmost importance, too. And speaking of which, pack extra memory cards and spare batteries for your camera because the last thing you want is to run out of storage space in the middle of a gorgeous shot.
If you visit Iceland in the winter, we also recommend you download the 112 Iceland app (available for Android, Windows, and Apple phones) which allows you to call for emergency help and alert the authorities for your location in case you are stuck and need to be rescued.
Now check out a list of all the essentials you need to pack before you head for an epic trip to Iceland.
L.L. Bean Sea to Summit Trek Towel
Iceland is home to a lot of hot springs, big and small, that you won’t find listed on a map. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a swimsuit and one of these quick dry towels in your backpack at all times.
If hunting for the Aurora Borealis is part of your plan, then make sure you have a good camera to capture the stunning natural phenomenon. The Nikon D810 is a favorite of professional landscape photographers as it boasts 36.3 megapixels, a high-resolution rear display, anti-vibration system (very helpful in windy conditions), and excellent ISO capabilities for sharp images even at night. You may also want to pick up at least a couple of extra batteries and always have them fully charged as the cold weather drains them very fast.
Chances are you will be driving around Iceland so make sure you have a reliable cell phone car charger. This Amazon bestseller is extremely compact, features two USB ports, and is compatible with Apple and Android devices.
These TSA-approved hand warmers are air-activated and will come in handy in the winter when the freezing wind makes temperatures drop. We recommend you have several packs on you especially if you are going glacier hiking.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Al Tripod with Ball Head
A sturdy and stable tripod is a must-have when taking photos of the Aurora Borealis (or the many gorgeous waterfalls). This one is easy to set up and operate (no twisting needed) and is relatively light so it won’t add up much to your carry-on weight.
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Iceland. In fact, you’ll be doing a disservice to your wallet and nature if you spend any money on bottled water from the store. Instead, use this collapsible water bottle that you can fill up with both cold and hot drinks.
This travel-friendly first aid kit weighs under one pound and it contains 73 pieces of essential first-aid supplies that treat minor cuts, scrapes, swelling, and other injuries. It’s an absolute must-have if you’re planning on hiking in Iceland.
This extra large backpack will be your best companion should you decide to venture out into the Icelandic countryside. It has a top-loading design but the side opening makes it easy to access the belongings you placed at the bottom. There are multiple pockets including attachments for trekking poles. While the backpack is made from water-repellent fabric, in case of a downpour, there is also a rain cover included.
Iceland National Geographic Adventure Waterproof Map
You may think we’re out of our minds to suggest you carry a physical map in the 21st century, but if you are planning on exploring the country beyond its most famous sights along the Ring Road, then a good old road map is essential. The reason? There are a lot of smaller, unpaved roads in Iceland that may not be on Google maps or you may not even be able to use Google maps due to lack of Internet access in some remote areas.