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Minimalist Iceland Summer Packing List (That Fits in One Carry-On!)

Planning a trip to Iceland this summer? Let’s perfect your packing list. We visited Iceland for 8-days in the summer and packed everything we needed into one carry-on. I believe you can do that too. In this post, I’ll share exactly what I packed and how I made it fit into my suitcase. I’ll also provide general tips on how you can pack more efficiently for any trip.

Before I get too far, I want to warn you that if you’re looking for a style guide, you’re in the wrong place. What I can promise you, though, is help selecting the items you’ll actually need to pack for a trip to Iceland in the summer. And (possibly) most importantly, I’ll help you fit it into just one carry-on.

If you’re a notorious over-packer who has always wondered how those carry-on-only people do it, read on!

“You’re telling me everything you need fits in here!?”

The Perks of Minimalist Packing

If you’ve already embraced the single-bag lifestyle, go ahead and skip this section. If you’ve not yet drunk the Kool-Aid though, allow me to introduce you to it. When I say it will change your life, I don’t think I’m being dramatic.

Let’s start with the packing experience itself. When you’re filling only one suitcase, there is no space in your bag or your brain for “maybes” or “mights.” You are only bringing what you absolutely need, which means you’re bringing less. When you’re armed with a solid list of what you need, grabbing those things and putting them in a suitcase is suddenly a breeze.

Then you get to the airport and you don’t have to wait in line to check your bag. Boom! That’s an hour of your life back. Want another hour back? Imagine getting off the plane and not having to wait for your bag to be the absolute last one to come down the baggage carousel.

Instead you’re out the door and off to your destination in record time. Even that is easier with only one bag! You no longer have to stand in a long taxi line or track down your Uber driver. With only a carry on to deal with, taking public transit from the airport (depending on the destination, of course) to your accommodation is now a super convenient and cheap option.

Having just one bag also gives you the option to go straight to somewhere other than your hotel if you want. Maybe your hotel isn’t available for check in yet or you want to catch a walking tour that starts right as you’re getting into town. If you only have one bag, it’s so much easier to just bring it with you. Did I do an entire walking tour of Budapest with my backpack? Sure did.

Carrying my trusty red Osprey on a Budapest free walking tour

Which leads me to my final point. Want to make all of this even easier? Make your one bag a backpack and now you also have two free hands!

Traveling with only one bag frees you up to a new style of travel. Try it! I promise the clothes you didn’t wear anyway will understand.

Tips For Making Your Minimalist Iceland Summer Packing List

Packing for Iceland can give even the most minimalist packer a bit of anxiety. There’s so much variance in weather, terrain and activities that it’s easy to feel like you need to pack for every scenario. That’s only kind of true.

Let’s first start with some general tips when it comes to minimalist packing, specifically for Iceland and even more specifically for a summer trip.

Make a list.

Minimalist packing is easiest when you do some planning in advance, and that’s extra important for Iceland. I usually start a list a few weeks before my trip and add to it as I think of things. As you add activities to your Iceland itinerary or the weather shifts, update your list. By the time you’re ready to pack, you’ve got everything written down and just have to grab it and pack it.

Plan your “wear” outfit.

Before I put anything in my suitcase, the first thing I do is pick out what I’m going to wear on the plane. The logic is obvious – wear your bulkiest items – but also make sure they’re your most comfortable. For Iceland, I wore waterproof sneakers, light joggers, a comfy t-shirt (which would double as my pajama T for the trip), a cozy Patagonia fleece and my favorite North Face Apex Bionic jacket. Any outwear can always be tucked in an overhead bin for the flight.

My “Wear” outfit was a bit warm leaving Chicago in July but I was sure happy to have it on when we landed in Iceland.

Create a capsule wardrobe.

Instead of planning specific outfits, select a variety of tops and bottoms that can all be mixed and matched based on the day. This gives you flexibility to accommodate to the changing weather and variety of activities you’ll find in Iceland. It also gives you some freedom to wake up and wear what you feel like that day and rest assured knowing in advance that it will all match. If you have a suitcase filled with a variety of options that all go together, you’ll always be covered (or not!) appropriately.

My Capsule Wardrobe is all grayscale with red accents.

Dress in Layers.

I know, I know. Your mom has been telling you to dress in layers since your first soccer practice. Really though, your future self will be so thankful that you remembered. The weather in Iceland in the summer teeters between warm (60s) and cool (40s), and rain is always a possibility. The day may start sunny and warm, but by the time you get to the shore walk it’s freezing and rainy. It also might be a really cold day outside, but you don’t want to sweat your butt off inside museums all day.

This day started with a brisk walk along shore, but ended with a warm sunny afternoon picnic. Layers, friends.

Bonus tip! If you’re wearing your layers in the morning, pack a small drawstring bag. That way if you get hot and have to ditch them, you can easily carry them.

Group items into packing cubes.

People have been talking up packing cubes for a while now, and they’re absolutely worth the hype. Just using packing cubes isn’t enough, though. If you ask me, packing cubes aren’t helpful if you just have to empty them out or dig through them when you get to your destination. I like to think of my packing cubes as their own little mini suitcases.

This fully-packed backpack is what I took for a year of travel around the world. My whole life fit in these 3 packing cubes!

For Iceland, I packed one cube with clothes and one cube with things/accessories. That may or may not work for you. Maybe you want to have one cube for everything you need for the Reykjavík part of your trip and another for the Golden Circle part. Or maybe you’re staying at a hostel, so you have one cube of things that stays by your bed and one cube of valuables that goes in a locker. As long as you know where your things are and can easily get to them, that’s what matters.

Fold Efficiently.

I think of my life in two sections – before and after learning KonMari folding. It will blow your mind how much more you can pack when your fold your clothes KonMari style. This is the most efficient way to fold your clothes and will allow you to pack as much as possible into your one carry-on.

Sometimes I’m not sure I qualify as a minimalist. I just shove a LOT of things in very small spaces.

Weather in Iceland in the Summer

In general, the weather in Iceland will be more mild in the summer than in the winter. The average temperature is 50°F but can reach as high as the 80s or as low as the 40s. This can swing heavier in one direction or another based on where specifically you are and what you’re doing.

The weather is notoriously volatile. It can be sunny and warm in the morning, but the clouds roll in and it’s suddenly quite chilly. Rain is also always an option and can come just about anytime.

During our visit in July, I found myself to be comfortable in my Patagonia fleece just about all the time. If I were a more extreme minimalist I could have gotten by without my extra North Face jacket layer, but I was glad to have it a few times.

Mommy & baby spent a lot of time in matching Better Sweaters

I also found the museums and indoor attractions to be really warm. I was often sweating indoors and had to take off my outer layers immediately. If you plan to do anything inside, you’ll definitely want a short sleeve base layer.

Leaning into layers and your capsule wardrobe will be the keys to maintaining comfort during your stay in Iceland.

Activities That May Influence Your Iceland Summer Packing List

Your Iceland itinerary should drive your packing list. If you’re only going to be in Reykjavík and have no outdoor activities planned, you probably don’t need waterproof pants. If you’re going to be spending most of your time outdoors on the ring road, maybe you need more high-quality outer layers.

Here is the list of the activities we had planned and some of the things I made sure to pack for them. Think about the activities you have planned for your trip and what you absolute need for each adventure.

Exploring Reykjavík

Since Reykjavik is so close to the only international airport in Iceland, it’s a common first or last stop for nearly every tourist. For us, this meant shopping, museums, parks, and coffee shops. We also have a complete 3-day Reykjavik itinerary if you’re looking for inspiration and details.

For this portion of our trip, I wanted to be sure I had:

  • A cute outfit for photos. For me, this was a new cozy flannel and a sweater I knitted for my toddler.
  • Leggings with pockets because I always have extra stuff to carry when I’m on vacation. (Rental car keys, hostel key, etc.)
  • Headbands so I could look cute while not putting any effort into my hair.
  • Foldable picnic blanket. This wasn’t essential, but was nice to have with a toddler for park picnics and wet grass.
Cute Outfit Day (I sure wish I took off the baby carrier but here we are.)

Whale & Puffin Spotting Boat Trips

We had two boat trips planned, one whale watching trip and one puffin spotting excursion, so we needed to be sure the whole family stayed warm and dry. We didn’t end up using all of this stuff on these boat trips, but I was glad we had it later in the trip.

  • Hats for adults & baby
  • Rain poncho for baby
  • Waterproof pants for adults
  • Waterproof rain jacket
Bundled up but sad to not see any whales

Golden Circle Tour

The Golden Circle is a tourist route that takes you past several very popular attractions, like Thingvellir National Park, a slew of amazing waterfalls, geysers and more. You can take a guided tour or self-drive the Golden Circle.

For this part of the trip, we’d be spending a lot more time in the car and covering a wide variety of terrain.

  • Waterproof, slip-resistant sneakers for walking behind waterfalls
  • Waterproof backpack cover
  • Black trash bags & masking tape to easily blackout windows. This is super important when the sun doesn’t set until 11 and rises at 4.
Very happy to have all the waterproof things when we hiked behind this waterfall

Complete 8-Day Iceland Summer Packing List

After all of our planning and pre work, it’s finally time to pack! Below you’ll find my detailed list of everything I brought with me for my 8-day trip to Iceland in the summer. I have listed the general item first in bold and then included a link to the specific item I recommend after.

Clothes to Have on Your Iceland Summer Packing List

Asterisked items are ones I wore on the plane and did not get packed.


  • Lightweight Travel/Hiking Pants:* I could live in these lightweight joggers. They are the perfect travel pant.
  • Running Tights / Warm Leggings: The pair I brought is old, but you want a pair that does not stretch out and has pockets. I’d buy these fleece-lined leggings if I needed a new pair.)
  • Shorts for sleeping / lounging: I brought the Lululemon Speed Up Shorts but these Amazon Dupes are worth a try.
  • Waterproof Pants: Patagonia Torrentshell pants are not cute and not cheap but man are they worth it to stay dry!
  • Silk Leggings to wear under waterproof pants: The exact pair I have are old and from JCPenny, but I found this pair of silk leggings which look similar. You want something wicking as waterproof pants get real steamy.


  • Basic T Shirt* for sleeping: Just an old race T for me, whatever you like to sleep in will do.
  • Crewneck Sweatshirt or any comfortable sweater: I brought a black Coffee sweater that I picked up from the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chicago, but I can’t find it anywhere online. I trust you have a fave sweatshirt.
  • Your favorite cute and comfy top: Mine was a black plaid flannel shirt that I picked up at a little boutique in my hometown.
  • Cotton Long-Sleeve Shirts x2: I call these my “cute” shirts. I have several of these Gap Modern Crewneck shirts and they are the best. I wore one for an entire year backpacking and it never stretched out.
  • Fitness Long-Sleeve Shirts x2: I brought one crewneck long sleeve race shirt and one Nike half-zip.
  • Cotton Short-Sleeve Shirts x2: I own more Madewell T’s than I can count. I love these but can no longer wear v-necks because my kid is always clinging to me and pulling them down. I stuck to these crewnecks for this trip.
  • Camisole / base layer: I added one of these simple tanks last minute but it was so clutch to wear under all my layers. I wish I had brought a wicking tank instead, though.


  • Softshell Jacket* Medium Warmth, Ideally Waterproof & Windproof: I live and die by The North Face Apex Bionic Jacket.
  • Warm Fleece*: I’m basic. Just give me my Patagonia Better Sweater.
  • Lightweight Rain Jacket: I brought a Marathon finisher rain jacket, but I also really like this packable rain jacket that I had with me as a backpacker. It’s not waterproof, but it’s water resistant and a good outer layer in a pinch. When I replace my North Face jacket one day, I will definitely get one with a hood so I don’t have to bring a separate rain jacket.

Everything Other Than Clothes to Have on Your Iceland Summer Packing List

Below are additional items that I actually packed on our recent trip to Iceland. Except for Liquids & Toiletries which did not go inside a packing cube, all of these items fit inside one 13.75″ x 12.75″ x 4″ packing cube.


  • Baseball Hat*: I’m personally obsessed with this Etsy shop for Disney hats
  • Beanie: This one is fleece-lined and super cozy, but I dream about being able to afford a Sh*t That I Knit hat one day.
  • Gloves: I’m a cheap kids soccer glove person because I lose them, but waterproof gloves would be a luxury.
  • FlipBelt: This low-profile running belt is the best thing I’ve found for keeping your phone, keys, wallet and passport on your person while you travel. I got this originally as part of my Buzz Lightyear RunDisney costume, but quickly realized it was the ultimate travel accessory.

Personal Items

  • Underwear x2: Underwear is small, but packing 8 pairs takes up a lot of space! Enter ExOfficio underwear. They’re super comfy, lightweight, super breathable, antimicrobial underwear that you can easily wash in a sink while you’re on the go. I traveled for 15 months with only 3 pairs. They’re pricy, but if you travel often it’s worth the investment. Wear a pair and then pack 2.
  • Socks x3: I’m comfortable wearing the same pair of socks for a couple days.
  • Bras, 1 sport & 1x regular: I like to wear one and then have 2 with me as backups.


  • Dry Bag: This super light dry bag packs up super small and is good to have on you if you get caught in a downpour. I have the 4 Liter.
  • Waterproof Backpack Cover: We like this waterproof backpack cover because it’s not specific to any backpack. It fits over our diaper bag and our Patagonia backpack easily.
  • Flip Flops: We were staying at a hostel and it’s great to have flip flops for bathroom runs.
  • Travel Towel: This packable microfiber towel is another item from my backpacker days. It’s great for hostel showers or getting caught in the rain.
  • Trash bags & Masking Tape: We packed 8 black trash bags and some masking tape to black out our windows. This sounds dramatic, but is really helpful in Iceland where the sun so late and rises so early.


  • Power bank: We have 2 different sizes. The bigger one is obviously more powerful, and we use that one to charge phones and accessories overnight instead packing a bunch of power converters. Then we charge that one during the day and take the smaller one with us while we’re out and about.
  • Headphones: I like my AirPods, but am constantly worried about losing them. Getting a case with a clip has been really helpful.
  • Outlet Converter: If Iceland is your only destination, you’ll just need a standard European adaptor. If you travel a lot, you may want to consider a worldwide travel adaptor like this that will work for a variety of countries.
  • Chargers: Lightening cable, Apple Watch charger, etc.


  • Toothbrush
  • Bar face soap
  • Powder foundation (makeup)
  • Powder Face Sunblock: You absolutely need this powder face sunblock from Tarte.
  • Razor
  • Hairbrush: I really like this foldable brush, but it’s worth noting I have very fine, thin hair.


  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo mini
  • Conditioner Mini
  • Face moisturizer
  • Night cream

Packing My Carry On

Once I made my packing list and gathered my things, it was time to pack it all up. Everything listed above fit into my carry-on suitcase, which is the Away Carry-On.

First up was my clothes.All of my clothes except the flannel, rain jacket and sweatshirt fit in one 13.75″ x 12.75″ x 4″ packing cube. I put the cube on the righthand side of my carrying and the three loose items on the left zipper side.

Next I packed most everything else into a second packing cube. This included accessories, personal items, miscellaneous & electronics. This cube went next to my clothing cube on the right side.

Lastly, I put my toiletries in a small amenity kit bag and my liquids in a TSA-approved Ziploc bag. These items also went on the left zipper side of my Away bag.

Boom. Packed, with plenty of room to spare.

We took the bus from the airport and then walked to our Airbnb. As a family, we had 1 carry-on (for me), 1 backpack for our toddler, 1 carry-on for my husband, and 1 backpack that would serve as our day bag throughout the trip.

Things I didn’t have on my Iceland Summer Packing List … but you should!

This packing list was great for our trip, but not quite perfect. There were two notable items that I didn’t bring that I would recommend for someone else taking the same trip.

  • Swimsuit: We weren’t planning on visiting any hot springs because we were traveling with a toddler, but most people would want to bring a swimsuit.
  • Eye Mask: The sun basically never sets in Iceland in the summer. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but it’s light until 11 PM or later in the summer. An eye mask is a great way to make sure that doesn’t cost you any Zs.

Final Thoughts on Iceland Summer Packing List

This was all I brought on my recent trip to Iceland in July 2021. I felt like I hit peak efficiency. Every item of clothing I packed got warn, and I did not find myself reaching for anything extra. I always felt like I had exactly what I needed for what the weather and activity called for.

And on that note, that’s a wrap! Thanks for joining my on this packing journey! I love a good packing list and learning about what people packed and why they brought what they did. That said, I hope this was helpful for you!

What items do you consider essential for your packing list? Let me know in the comments!

Closing with a reminder that I lived in my Better Sweater and Iceland is beautiful.


Wednesday 28th of September 2022

I found this guide in an Google search and it’s super helpful, thank you!! I’m curious if you flew Icelandair, was the Away carry on an acceptable size to them? I’m having trouble finding something that fits the size guidelines. :/


Wednesday 28th of September 2022

Great question! The Away Carry-On is technically just slightly larger then the Icelandair carry on baggage allowance. Icelandair's max size is 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.8 inches and the Away Carry-On is 21.7 x 13.7 x 9 inches. So it's about an inch too deep. That said, I've not had any issues with it from a size perspective.

That said, be careful with your personal item size. We ran into an issue where our personal item was larger than their limit (15.7x11.8x5.9 inches), so that was counted as our carry on and we had to check our bag. Unless you're flying Economy Light, all other tickets come with at least one checked bag so we didn't have to pay for it.

You're right though. It's basically impossible to find a suitcase that is less than 9 inches in depth. If you're open to a backpack, this one is really close and could be a good option.