Árinni kennir illur ræðari. “A bad workman blames his tools.”
rather than be a poor traveller who blames his clothes for not standing up to the bitter cold of iceland in the late fall/early winter, i thought i’d do a quick post on how one can prepare wardrobe-wise for a journey that’s relatively warm and dry.
when travelling to a cold country, finding the right winter-wear in the tropics is a challenge. most coats, jackets or parkas are over-priced and most likely than not, do not do the job of keeping you warm or dry, especially when you have to contend with sub-zero temperatures during outdoor tours.
i myself had to nip into Sydney to find a tri-climate jacket from Columbia at a decent discount because i couldn’t find anything that fit my budget or my warmth requirements in singapore/malaysia.
while my travelling companion and i got most of our woolly socks, sweaters and hoods in singapore, we both found that these could still not keep our hands and feet warm.
we eventually wisened up and realised that if one wants to find proper winter gear, it’s best to set aside 10-15% of your travel budget to get warm winter wear at the country of your destinations because hey, when in Rome, wear as the Romans do.
icelanders will proudly tell you that for a country situated 64 degrees North, that their temperature is fairly mild because of the Gulf streams, (which is true or we would be walking, talking, mobile igloos) be not fooled. temperatures are always ready to dip to zero and below (up to -3 0r 4) on very windy, snowy days so staying reasonably warm is important if you’re going to enjoy a winter holiday in iceland.
while iceland is cold, they have very tax-friendly shopping incentives that’s enough to get anyone ready to shop till they drop in the country. if you spend 4,000 kronos and above (about SGD$45/RM100) you get 15% back on taxes. your receipt will come with a tax-back form which you will fill with your particulars. you can choose to get cash back or have the amounts deposited into your credit card account. we chose the latter coz we didn’t want to deal with having any left-over kronos once we left iceland. you can make your tax-free shopping claims at any tourist information points within the country or at Keflavik International Airport, before you depart.
tax-free shopping is all about spending money. obviously, the more you spend, the more you get back and one good place to start your winter-wear shopping is at the Handknitting Association of Iceland’s retail store located at the 101 Reykjavik area.
yes, there is an actual Handknitting Association in iceland. i mean what else can people do during those long, dark days of winter eh? 😉
handknitting is a big business and hobby here, so buying a wool sweater, glove or hat from this shop is a way of supporting local handknitters. prices for their famous ‘lopi’ peasant sweaters range from 12,000 to 25,000 kronos. a bit pricey but it’s definitely worth it in the long run especially if you travel quite frequently to places with cold climates. wearing these peasant sweaters will keep you warm and snug on your journeys.
the other local designer store to nip into is 66North. their tagline reads “Keeping Iceland warm since 1926” and appropriately so.
this homegrown label is iceland’s answer to Timberland, The North Face and Columbia. their products are less pricey but does a helluva job in keeping you snug.
iceland’s fickle weather also means that it rains and flurries a lot during early winter, so make sure that while you can look for water-resistant hiking pants at 66North, not all stores in Reykjavik carry them. you’re still better off finding a pair of hiking pants from home or trying to buy them online; that is, if the brand isn’t restricted.
next, we’ll talk about what to pack when you’re heading out to iceland during October – late November which is iceland’s late fall/early winter season.