Iceland is well-known for being one of the most spectacular natural destinations in the world, where a multitude of diverse and intriguing photographic opportunities abound. It is also known for its fickle weather, which can be serene and beautiful one second, then harsh and unrelenting the next.

Winter Photography GearWinter ice cave in Vatnajokull National Park. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Nonetheless, the ever-changing weather in Iceland is part of what makes photographing it so special and the most important reason as to why you’ll need to come prepared to experience the elements, otherwise you may find yourself finishing up your tour prematurely!


See Also: This is why everyone wants to go to Iceland


So what should you pack for an Icelandic adventure? What photography gear will you need to bring with you? With limited carry-on allowances and checked luggage space on flights, packing and dressing for your trip to Iceland can be tricky - particularly if you’ve never visited the country before.

Winter at KirkjufellWinter at Kirkjufell Mountain. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Many of our photography tours will whisk you away to several different locations, so you’d better be prepared to brave everything that the atmospheric conditions in Iceland can throw at you.

To minimise the hassle of getting ready for your trip, we have put together this complete guide to tell you exactly what you should wear across different weather conditions, as well as what kind of camera gear will be the most beneficial for you to bring along during one of our photography tours. Your best bet is to think ahead and buy the right gear before you begin your adventure, so we’ve even included some links to make it easier for you to organise everything you’ll need to bring along before you arrive.

So What To Wear in the Winter? 

During winter, the land of fire and ice will be a crisp and snowy wonderland. Whilst frosty landscapes and eerily low sunlight can make for spectacular photography conditions, they aren’t always the most comfortable to shoot in unless you come prepared. Nobody wants to be standing around with frostbitten extremities and trust us, for most people, the Icelandic winter will feel bitterly cold. Keep in mind that the further north you go in Iceland, the colder it will be.


Winter Photo Workshops in Iceland. Video by: 'Iceland Photo Tours'.

To put things into perspective, temperatures in the north of Iceland have been known to drop between -25 and -30°C (−13 to −22 °F). It can also be very windy, making it feel a lot colder than it actually is. This is especially the case in the desolate Highlands area and around the coast. In fact, the locations most exposed to the elements are often where the best photography spots are, so it goes without saying that you’ll need to have clothing that can protect you in winter from the cold, the snow, rain and the wind. 

In cold conditions keeping warm is best done with layers. Having plenty of layers helps to insulate you from the cold by creating pockets of warm air all around your body. Layers are also handy in any place where the weather is so changeable. If you are wearing layers, then you will be able to remove pieces of clothing when the temperature starts to climb.

Base Layers

So let’s start thinking about clothing from the base up. In cold conditions, base layers (which are also known as thermal underwear) can act as a second skin by sitting snugly next to your body and keeping you warm. What you should look for is a moisture-wicking base layer, which dries much faster than other materials and helps to transport perspiration away from your skin, as this will reduce the risk of dramatic changes in your body temperature.

8-Day Aurora & Ice Caves Photo Workshop in Iceland. Video by: 'Iceland Photo Tours'.


See Also: Patagonia photo adventure


For the ultimate in outdoor comfort, your base layer should ideally be made of merino wool, synthetic fabric or silk. Choose a base layer that is dense enough to provide a layer of warmth based on your own propensity to feel the cold, but still thin enough to fit comfortably beneath other clothes. For a 10-day photo tour, you should bring along 3 to 4 pairs of base layers, each of which you will be able to wear at least twice during your stay.

Icebreaker Merino Men's Everyday Long Sleeve Crewe

For men, we suggest the Icebreaker Merino Men's Everyday Long Sleeve Crewe paired with the Icebreaker Zone Legging. Both have a great fit, stay in place and keep you warm while you’re running around searching for the best composition. Best of all, the fabric in both of these base layers is breathable and has natural anti-odour capabilities.

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Arc'teryx ARC’TERYX Women's Rho LT Base Layer Bottoms

For women, we recommend the Helly Hansen W Hh Lifa Merino Wool 1/2 Zip Baselayer Top, teamed with the Arc’teryx RHO LT Bottom. This combination is soft, stretchy and warm but best of all, doesn’t stick when layered beneath other clothing. The top and bottom also both have a flattering fit, are very breathable and stay warm even when wet.

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Icebreaker Merino Men's Zone Leggings

For men, we suggest the Icebreaker Merino Men's Everyday Long Sleeve Crewe paired with the Icebreaker Zone Legging. Both have a great fit, stay in place and keep you warm while you’re running around searching for the best composition. Best of all, the fabric in both of these base layers is breathable and has natural anti-odour capabilities.

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Diamond Ice BeachDiamond Ice Beach. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.


See Also: Greenland Photo Tour in Scoresby Sound


Helly Hansen W Hh Lifa Merino Wool 1/2 Zip Baselayer Top

For women, we recommend the Helly Hansen W Hh Lifa Merino Wool 1/2 Zip Baselayer Top, teamed with the Arc’teryx RHO LT Bottom. This combination is soft, stretchy and warm but best of all, doesn’t stick when layered beneath other clothing. The top and bottom also both have a flattering fit, are very breathable and stay warm even when wet.

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Mid Layer

This layer goes on top of your base layer. Mid layers are important in maintaining insulation from the cold, as they trap air to help keep you warm and toasty. They are usually constructed from materials that are light, insulating and breathable, such as wool, fleece and down.

They also come in different styles, such as vests, pullovers and with or without a hood. When choosing a style, consider things like interior pockets to keep phones or camera batteries warm and functional in the cold. You should also choose a mid layer that will allow you to move freely but fit closely to your body.

The North Face Men's Canyonlands 1/2 Zip

For men, we recommend The North Face Canyonlands ½ Zip, a versatile midweight fleece pullover with stretch cuffs including thumbholes to keep your sleeves in place even while you’re being active. This fleece is lightweight and made of quality materials. It’s also sleek enough for you to wear to work or even on a night out.

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Winter at VestrahornWinter at Vestrahorn. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.


See Also: How to create a starburst effect in photographs


Helly Hansen Women's Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

For women, we suggest the Helly Hansen Women's Daybreaker Fleece Jacket, which is soft, breathable and is made of 100g Polartec fleece to keep you warm and dry. The flatlock seams mean that you won’t be as bulky when you layer it with your other clothing. This fleece also includes zip-operated hand pockets, which create just enough space to store your valuables while you’re out shooting in-field.

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Outer Layer

Now that we’ve got base and mid layers covered, we can move on to the outer layer. The outer layer, also known as a ‘shell’, is your protection from the wind, rain and cold. You need a shell to wear over your clothing because the moment that you allow the elements to penetrate your inner layers, you will begin to feel cold. Look for an outer layer that is waterproof, windproof and also breathable. Without proper ventilation, perspiration will condense on the inside of your shell and make it difficult for your body to regulate temperature.

Northern LightsWhen you're standing outside at night shooting the Northern Lights, you'll want to be warm! Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Your outer layer should also be roomy enough to fit easily over other layers and not restrict your movement, as well as have the option of a hood, which will help to keep your head dry. Outer layers may, at first, seem to be very expensive.

Keep in mind though that what you are paying for is functionality and practicality. The best outer layers are made from Gore-Tex or eVent laminated membranes, which provide waterproofing against wet conditions and alpine activities. Choosing an outer layer that is also sleek and stylish will mean that you can wear it out later on also, when you are no longer on a tour.

The North Face Men's Freedom Pant

For men, we suggest the North Face Men's Freedom Pant for an ergonomic fit and the perfect amount of warmth. Like the women’s version, these pants are wind and water resistant, featuring inbuilt gaiters.

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Arc'teryx Men's Beta Ar Jacket

For men, we suggest the Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket. Made of Gore-Tex, this outer layer is waterproof, snow-shedding, windproof, breathable, lightweight and durable. It has pit zips for ventilation and is quite lightweight, meaning that it will be easy to pack down if you need to take it off and stow it away.

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Northern LightsNorthern Lights at the Glacier Lagoon. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.


See Also: A Guide On Photographing Waves


The North Face Freedom LRBC Insulated Pant Women's

For women, we recommend the North Face Freedom LRBC Insulated Pant, which contains enough insulation to keep you warm whilst holding up against daily wear and tear. These pants also feature inbuilt gaiters with grippers, which form a seamless integration with your boots to keep moisture out.

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Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket - Women's

For women, we recommend the Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket. This jacket offers outstanding mobility through the arms and body, while keeping you warm and dry. It also has two zippered handwarmer pockets which will help keep your valuables secure.

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Socks

Now that your torso is warm, it’s time to think about your extremities. When it’s cold, it is easy to lose heat through your feet. Even if you have a pair of sturdy walking boots, it is very necessary to give your feet extra protection. So to keep you steady when conditions are rough, we suggest bringing along a few pairs of Darn Tough Ski Socks, which provide high performance protection to the foot and shin with an inbuilt brace. These socks also have superior wicking and self-drying capabilities that will keep your feet warm and dry, reducing the risk of blisters.

Darn Tough Women's Merino Wool Function 5 Over-the-Calf Padded Cushion Skiing Socks

Darn Tough Ski Socks, which provide high performance protection to the foot and shin with an inbuilt brace. These socks also have superior wicking and self-drying capabilities that will keep your feet warm and dry, reducing the risk of blisters.

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Jokulsarlon Glacier LagoonIcebergs at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Footwear

On a winter photography tour in Iceland, you could be covering all types of ground, from black sand beaches to ice caves and snowy mountains. Due to the variation in terrain, you will need sturdy footwear that will keep your feet warm and your ankles supported. The last thing you’ll want is to hurt yourself because your footwear isn’t up to scratch. Although we will provide crampons and rubber boots suitable for arctic conditions to every participant during our photography tours, you should also bring along some sturdy walking boots for when we will be out and about in town or when we are not shooting in-field.

Columbia Men's Bugaboot Ii Wide Snow Boot

For men, we suggest something like the Columbia Men's Bugaboot Ii Wide Snow Boot. Made of leather, these boots have a padded collar and tongue to protect ankles, as well as a breathable footbed that is very comfortable.

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Columbia Women's Bugaboot Plus Omni-Heat Michelin Snow Boot

For women, we recommend something like the Columbia Women's Bugaboot Plus Omni-Heat Michelin Snow Boot. These seam-sealed waterproof boots help your feet stay warmer in cold weather.

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Winter at GullfossWinter at Gullfoss. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Gloves

There are three things you should consider when purchasing a pair of gloves for a winter photography tour in Iceland. First and foremost is warmth. Your gloves will need to do the basic job of keeping your hands warm. Second, the gloves will need to be dexterous and adaptable, so that you won’t have to take them off every time you want to take a picture. Finally, good photography gloves should be compatible with touchscreens. This might not seem like a big deal now, but it’s the kind of small feature that can make a big difference when you’re out in the cold.

Heat 3 Smart Gloves (Black)

These gloves are expensive but will offer you both warmth and dexterity. The Head 3 Smart Gloves will allow you to be able to handle your camera with ease, without exposing your hands to Iceland’s cold. Initially designed for European Special Forces, these gloves are waterproof, breathable, have space for heat packs on both sides of the fingers and wrist, and include a conductive finger and thumb for touch screen operation.

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Freehands Mens Stretch Thinsulate Gloves (XX-Large, Black)

Here are a couple of options that we like. The first pair is from Freehands and features a retracting finger design that means you can release your finger and thumb without having to take the whole glove off - perfect for shooting a quick photo while it’s cold and using a touchscreen.

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Winter WaterfallsWinter at Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Hat

Even with a hood on your outer layer, you might want to consider bringing a warm, woolly hat with you on your winter photography trip to Iceland. In biting wind and snowy conditions, it is important to keep your head and ears as warm as possible. A hat like this one comes in a range of colours, and will keep your head dry while you’re waiting patiently to capture that perfect winter sunset!

Minus33 Merino Wool Ridge Cuff Beanie

Here are a couple of options that we like. The first pair is from Freehands and features a retracting finger design that means you can release your finger and thumb without having to take the whole glove off - perfect for shooting a quick photo while it’s cold and using a touchscreen.

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Winter at VikBlack Sand Beach in Winter. Photo by: 'Iurie Belegurschi'.

Scarf

Although you will be wearing layers, you may also want to consider bringing along a scarf to help seal in your body heat. A scarf adds an extra dimension of warmth and can be used to protect your face in case of wind or snow. This MERIWOOL Unisex Merino Wool Gaiter is super soft, has natural wicking and antibacterial properties, and is even odour-resistant. Its versatile design means that you can use it as a scarf, mask, ear warmer or even as a headband.

MERIWOOL Unisex Merino Wool Neck Gaiter

This MERIWOOL Unisex Merino Wool Gaiter is super soft, has natural wicking and antibacterial properties, and is even odour-resistant. Its versatile design means that you can use it as a scarf, mask, ear warmer or even as a headband.

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See Also: 11-Day Northern Lights Photo Workshop Around Iceland


Now that you’ve booked your winter photography workshop and considered some of our recommended gear above, you will definitely be set for your exciting adventure to Iceland! Organising to have your clothing well in advance of your tour means that you will be well-equipped for the dynamic weather conditions, which will be a huge boost to both your learning and actual experience of the workshop that you’ve booked. Bringing along these essentials will also help our guides to teach and show you how to photograph some of the most captivating and epic landscapes that you will witness in your life. So get ready to photograph some of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the world. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Are you looking to photograph all of Iceland during winter? Check out our one-of-a-kind 14-day winter photo workshop, where you will have the chance to capture the Northern Lights in every corner of Iceland!