Outdoor Clothing Iceland: What To Wear For The Northern Lights

If you’re hoping to enjoy the northern lights, you’ll need outdoor clothing for Iceland and you better be well-dressed!

It’ll be cold and windy (most likely) and you don’t want to be running in and out of the car because you’re too cold!

In this post, I’ll go over: 

  • What you’ll need to stay warm each winter month while hunting the northern lights.
  • What tours you might want to take 

Make sure to read until the end so that you can get the most out of your time with the northern lights!

Let’s jump into it!

Outdoor clothing in Iceland

I’ve lived in Iceland almost my entire life so I have a pretty good idea of what you need to stay warm in Iceland.

So let’s start off with a quick list of what clothes you’ll want to wear.

This is a general list of clothes and things to have for the northern lights in Iceland. 

I’ll go into what I recommend for each month further down in the post.

General equipment

Parka

The parka is the go-to garment for winter. 

Keeps you warm and dry in the most extreme weather. 

I absolutely recommend bringing one when you come to Iceland in the winter. 

Outdoor pants

Our little island is super windy and a good pair of water and windproof pants will make your time in Iceland much more enjoyable. 

Hiking boots

Leave the sneakers in the city.

You’ll want hiking boots with decent grip in case it’s icy.

Having a good pair of boots is important in general. 

Nothing ruins a trip faster than wet feet. 

Base Layers

Merion wool is a great baselayer and something I 100% recommend.

This is because it’s light, keeps you warm, and dries fast.

And if you pair that with a parka, you won’t need more than a hoodie to stave off the cold. 

Gloves and beanies

The most important thing about gloves and beanies in Iceland is that they’re thick enough.

The hats don’t need to be super thick, but if you think yours is a bit too thin, definitely bring a thicker one.

And the gloves don’t have to be waterproof (though it’s a plus). Just make sure that they can handle the wind and cold.

Crampons

If you’re worried about slipping then having a pair of crampons is important.

From November – February you can expect icy roads and sidewalks. 

Hand warmers

Hand warmers are a ‘nice-to-have’. If you’re very worried about the cold then hand warmers are a good choice.

A Tripod

If you want to get good photos of the northern lights, you’ll need a tripod. 

This is because you need to give the camera a few seconds in order to take the photo.

No matter how steady your hands are, you’ll want a tripod for the best picture. 

And that’s about it!

Of course, there’s plenty more you can bring but these are the essentials. 

Now let’s move on to what you should wear for each month

The Best Things To Wear For The Northern Lights In Iceland

September

In September you don’t have to worry too much about the cold.

It’ll be cold still, don’t get me wrong, but not incredibly so.

The temperature won’t be very low but it might be very windy.

Because the sun sets late in the evening you’ll have to stay out into the night.

In September you should wear:

  • A hoodie/Sweater
  • Merion wool base layers
  • Down jacket
  • Good shoes
    • And socks
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves

October

In October the temperature starts to drop.

Again, you can expect windy conditions but not low temperatures. 

In October you should wear:

  • Merino wool base layers
  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves

You should also bring a sweater/hoodie with you in case you get cold. But if you’re wearing a parka, you most likely won’t need it.

November

In November it starts to get proper cold.

Expect the usual wind but now there’s a possibility of snow and ice. 

If you’re on the south coast then there most likely won’t be any snow yet, but there’s always a chance. 

Icy roads, however, are something you can expect.

In November you should wear:

  • Merino wool base layers
  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Crampons 

Definitely bring a sweater/hoodie with you. The parka will be enough, but you never want to take a chance!

December

In December you can bet it’ll be cold.

Expect low temperatures, wind, snow, and ice.

Now we’re in deep winter. There’ll be ice on the road and possibly snow all around you.

This is the time when many people might not stay out for that long because of the cold, which is not something we want!

In December you should wear:

  • Merino wool base layers
  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Crampons 

You definitely want a thick sweater underneath the parka. 

January

January is the coldest month of the year.

It’ll be cold, and windy and you’ve got the most chance of snow. 

This is as cold as it gets.

If you’re not well prepared, then you won’t be staying out for too long

In January you should wear:

  • Merino wool base layers
  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks (maybe even two!)
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Crampons 

A thick sweater and possibly another layer underneath is recommended.

February

Right, now we’re out of the coldest month but February is still very chilly.

You can expect snow, wind, and low temperatures.

February is very similar to January when it comes to clothing. 

In February you should wear:

  • Merino wool base layers
  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks (maybe even two!)
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Crampons 

A thick sweater and possibly another layer underneath are recommended.

March

In March, the weather starts to get warmer and this is the last month when you can see the northern lights at a reasonable hour. 

You can still see the northern lights in April, but much like in September, you’ll have to stay out late.

March is what we call a wild card month. 

There is no way to tell what will happen. Maybe it’ll be snowy, or maybe spring will be well on its way.

In March you should wear:

  • Parka
  • Good shoes
    • And socks 
  • Windproof outdoor pants
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Crampons (possibly)

Bring a bag with some extra layers in it, just in case you’ll need them. Though a parka will keep you plenty warm. 

And that’s it!

Now you should have a general idea of what to wear for each month in winter.

Now I’ll quickly go over some tours I recommend for you to take to see the northern lights.

Tours to see the Northern lights in Iceland

The best way to hunt the northern lights is with a car. 

However, if you don’t trust yourself to drive in Iceland in the winter (very understandable) then I would recommend privet or small tours.

You can be a part of a big bus, and that’s a great option if you’re on a budget, but they will not be as flexible as a smaller bus will be. 

So here are my recommendations. 

BusTravel – Northern Lights Photography Small Group Tour

This tour is affordable and you’ll get assistance taking some great photos of the northern lights!

There’s a maximum of 18 passengers on this tour, so it’s nice and small.

Included in the ticket is admission to the aurora museum in Reykjavík on the day of your travel.

And you’ll get some tasty treats on the tour!

HappyWorld – Northern Lights and Stargazing

This tour is a bit more expensive, however, this particular company has a 90% success rate in seeing the lights!

This is because if they don’t think they’ll see them, they don’t go.

They confirm rather late because of this, or around 6:30 pm

They will also assist you in taking photos!

EastWest – Northern Lights small group tour, with hot chocolate, kleinas, and photos included

This tour is also affordable and a good choice if you’re on a budget.

There’s a maximum of 19 people and they’ll give you kleinas and hot chocolate on the tour. 

The benefit of traveling with a smaller group is flexibility. 

They will move around and try and go to the best place, while a larger bus will most likely only go to a single location.

Final Words

That’s it!

You’re all set! And you know now how to dress for the northern lights! 

If you follow my advice you’ll know what outdoor clothing in Iceland you’ll need and you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing spectacle that is the aurora borealis.

And if you want to stay warm, check out our selection.

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