We are heading to Iceland mid-May and we are stumped on what to pack. We like to pack light but we also like to be comfortable, warm and dry so we'll bring what we need to!
We already assume bathing suits, rain boots, good walking shoes, umbrella and warm socks, but what else? Do we need winter jackets or are waterproof spring jackets going to be warm enough?
I know this sounds crazy, but I turned my packing list into a blog post. It lists everything I brought, and talks about how much I used it and whether I'd bring it again. Should be helpful.
You have to be prepared for anything in May in Iceland. You can get lucky with sunshine and even 10-15°C, and you can get a blizzard.
If you are going hiking, you have to make sure that you are very well dressed in layers, with a wind and waterproof layer on the outside. Thermal underwear of wool is always a good thing to have and doesn't take much space. Of course, if you're just going to Reykjavik that will be too much, but if you're going hiking or camping you should have it with you.
Also note that weather changes very fast. I've started a hike in mid-May in sunshine and 11°C and before I got back we got a sudden blizzard, got wet and suffered from hypothermia. Simply because we dressed according the weather when we started.
And a rule of thumb for any hiking in Iceland, check the weather forecast, prepare for the unexpected and leave a travel plan.
If you are just staying in Reykjavik a fleece sweater and a rain jacket are sufficient. Umbrellas are a waist of money in Iceland as it is too windy for them ;)
These things are must haves in May if you'll be staying in the countryside:
I was so underprepared for the cold, wet, windy weather. While there I purchased rain pants, a wooly sweater (of course!) and a tight hoodie jacket from 66North. The hoodie proved better than any hat or under shirt/jacket I had. In any case, layers are the way to go.
I also used a poncho a lot.
I should note, that I traveled around the whole island (end of May). The southeast was wet and windy. The north was sunny, warm(er) and windy. The west was cold and foggy. And all of it was beautiful. Enjoy your adventure.
I would go for a rain jacket rather than a umbrella unless you plan to spend all of your time in Reykjavik. (And I'd strongly recommend getting out of the city).
I was also going to say to bring something warmer than a spring jacket, but since you're from Calgary, your definition of "spring jacket" would probably suffice. I was there in July and the temp mid-60sF for the highs and low-40sF for the lows. I'd imagine that May would be colder.
Also, if you plan on doing a glacial excursion, you'll for sure want something warmer.
Bring sturdy walking shoes for all the wonderful walks/hikes you will be doing on uneven surfaces. Layering is a good idea. I brought a parka when I was in Iceland in August and wore it everyday. A waterproof jacket is very useful as well.