What NOT To Wear In Iceland

Filed Under: Travel

Shorts. Just trust me on this one.

File this under “things I learned the hard way.”

I’m roughly four months into living into hotels full time, and I thought I had finally optimized my packing situation. I live out of a 20″ carry-on, which means my wardrobe is about as varied as a cartoon character’s. Well, I certainly prefer it to what my luggage situation was originally. šŸ˜‰


I’m warm blooded so do what I can to stick to warm destinations year round, though I do alter my “wardrobe” in summer vs. winter.

When I first headed to Europe a couple of weeks ago, I thought I was going to Portugal and nowhere else. I literally packed nothing but short sleeve shirts, shorts, a sport coat, and one pair of jeans. That’s all.

My decision to go to Iceland was spur of the moment, and even on my flight to Iceland I didn’t think much of it. It’s summer, after all, so I was rocking my shorts and t-shirt.

After spending over a week in Iceland, I have two observations:


It’s not actually that cold here. It’s typically around 55-65 during the day, which is perfectly pleasant for me in shorts and a t-shirt. But it’s windy. So, so, so indescribably windy. You know how when you’re flying across the Atlantic you’ll often have a 100+ MPH tailwind? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s present on the ground in Iceland as well.

I rented a car and drove around quite a bit, and half of the challenge was keeping the car driving straight. You could hear the wind hitting the car, so it was the first time in a while I can remember driving with two hands (okay, in fairness it was my first time driving in a while… period).


Is it disrespectful to wear shorts in Iceland?

I guess what kind of surprised me is that the locals were dressed as if it was the dead of winter. They had parkas, caps, mittens, etc., even though it was sunny and ~60 out. In the eight days I spent in Iceland, I saw exactly one other person wearing shorts.

Based on the glares I got, you’d think I was running through the streets of Doha in the buff.

After a few days I thought I had it all figured out. I decided I’d wear the sport coat and jeans while sightseeing. I thought I got weird looks wearing shorts. The sport coat took it to a whole different level.

Bottom line

When I was enroute to Iceland and asked you guys for advice, several of you mentioned to bring a wind resistant jacket. You weren’t kidding. Friends: if you’re going to Iceland soon, bring a wind resistant jacket!

Ultimately the unpleasant part of walking around Iceland wasn’t the wind as such, but rather the looks I got for my wardrobe choice.

As this trip to Iceland comes to a close, all I can say is wow. What an amazing country…

  1. Great tip about the wind in Iceland even in the summer.
    I use an 18 x 13.5 x 6.5 in bag. I always keep in mind that traveling is leaving home behind not taking it with you.

  2. I think you are being a tad over dramatic here. I have been to iceland twice for over a month, and I wore shorts nearly the whole time.

    There wasn’t a single time that the locals gave me “odd looks”. They honestly really didn’t care

  3. I’m leaving Iceland right now as well, gotta say, I was surprised by just how cold it was. I spend a lot of time in Sweden so I figured it would be similar, but just to feel remotely comfortable I needed to throw leggings on under my jeans and wear a scarf and jacket. During Swedish summer I definitely don’t need that much clothing. I regret not packing gloves.

  4. @lucky have you driven in Canada… that wind blowing on car thing happens there as well so nothing too surprising… šŸ™‚ Although I think it was in the winter

  5. when I first visited Montreal, I remember wearing jeans with some fashionable (at least by NYC standards) holes in them. Nothing major. I got quite a few odd looks. It wasn’t until I asked a local that I was informed that no one has holes in their jeans in MTL because it’s just too damn cold for that. It just doesn’t register as a sartorial option. Lesson learned!

    Also always funny to see Hong Kongers still wearing sweaters and jackets in “spring” when it’s 84 degrees and humid out.

  6. Lucky,
    What is your luggage?
    How is it holding up to full time travel?
    Although if you are carrying on and mainly in hotel shuttles rather than wheeling it along everywhere, it may hold up better and the sturdiness may not matter.
    I would think any more than 6lbs of wt on the 20 in wheel on may be too much over time

  7. Ben,

    My father-in-law is from Iceland and after visiting I would agree with what you said. First regarding shorts, I think they’re just not used to wearing them. It’s like a beach person going to cold weather; they might just not have the wardrobe for that weather. Second, I myself brought a fashionable overcoat when I visited in November and stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s all parkas and ski jackets. Last, if you think the wind is bad, imagine what it feels like during the winter. It might only be 35F but it can feel a lot colder. It’s a jolting experience when you step out of the airport. Inland though the wind might not be as bad (as long as, you know, you don’t get caught in a blizzard.)

  8. I have a good tolerance for cold, and being from Chicago, heaven knows I’m used to wind. I had no problem with the weather during my visit last November, but the wind at Gullfoss waterfall was something else. I could watch my fingers turn red and blue in the short time it took to snap a point-and-shoot camera.

  9. lmao! When I used to backpack when I was younger (which meant I had to live out of a 25L backpack) I always packed pants that can become shorts if it’s too warm.

    I never brought a parka with me but in cold places I would wear my fleece and over it wear a windproof rainjacket and that worked out fine and kept me warm!

  10. I was in Iceland for 11 days last August, and we had strong wind only the first 2-3 days. So, as with so much in the travel world, YMMV.

  11. Despite it’s name it’s not Iceland that’s cold it’s Greenland. I don’t think I have been to a colder place except Astana in Feb.

  12. Ouch! Reminds me of walking across Golden Gate Bridge at night — was out & about San Francisco, hadn’t planned on doing the bridge that night but ended up in the area and figured I’d go for it even without a jacket. Not the greatest idea ever when wearing just a long-sleeve t-shirt in April.

  13. Its not disrespectful to wear shorts in Iceland, I think the locals were probably just wondering why a tourist was wearing shorts because they normally wear jackets and jeans. Icelanders don’t wear a lot of shorts, mainly because the weather can change at any time from 20 degrees (celsius) and sunny to 10 degrees and snowy in a matter of seconds (in summer its not that drastic but it definitely changes like that in autumn, winter and spring, which is around September/October to May/June.
    And yes its almost always windy so if anyone here is planning to go to Iceland bring a windbreaker and a thick jacket

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