When it comes down to the weather, May in Iceland can be something of a Rubik’s cube; one day will be clear and bright while rainfall and gale force winds mar the next. With this in mind, read on for our recommendations when it comes to what to wear in Iceland this May.

See also: Iceland in May | Things to See & Do

“So then… what do I pack?” you ponder at the computer desk, ill-informed as to the climate and conditions of this month’s holiday to Iceland.

Well, the answer is not black and white (—whatever is?). Instead, it takes on a mild grey, with short bursts of sunlight slipping through. Even so, while officially summer, May is unlikely to bless visitors with 31 unadulterated days of sunshine. Expecting as much, we’re afraid, shows a lack of research on your part. Ooh, BURN—please note: sunscreen is unnecessary.

The truth of the matter is that the temperature changes often and rapidly throughout May.

Wikimedia. Creative Commons. Credit: Bryan Ledgard

Only yesterday (May 1st), for instance, I made the foolhardy and foreign decision to spend most of my day outside in blue short shorts and a Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt. Sure, the first five minutes were filled with sun-swept contentments—“Summer is finally here! Outside beers on me!”—but the next was characterised by heightened winds, withering cloud cover and a drop in temperature.

I sipped my pint feeling cold, wildly underdressed and, as is often the case, prematurely excited.

See also: What to Pack for Travel in Iceland

So what should I have been wearing? Well, gloves, a scarf and a woolly hat would have been a start, though this would have still left me exposed in the areas it matters most (namely, the typpi—that’s not an Icelandic word you often hear, is it now?)

Beneath these, I should have been wearing layers. Layer upon layer upon layer. Of course, these layers need not to be overly thick, but the option of thermal protection is one that becomes sacrosanct in Iceland.

During your trip in Iceland, make sure to pick up a warm and traditional Icelandic sweater, known as a lopapeysa. Credit: Pxhere.

With that in mind, visitors with more sense than myself will want a thick, waterproof/windproof coat and jacket, as well as a few cosy jumpers and sweatshirts for further comfort. Beneath these, tee-shirts and vests both protect the core of your body, keeping you warmer for longer.

When it comes to shoe-wear, we will always recommend a sturdy pair of boots. After all, snow is not an impossibility for May time visitors, and that persistent white slush requires a shoe capable of combating the cold.

See also: Adventures in Iceland This May

If you arrive in flip-flops, well, you are simply welcoming the imminent frostbite bound to affect your little piggies. Let that be a warning to all those who think this island is in anyway tropical. Would you scale the Himalayas in a crop top? Would you march across the Arctic tundra in a speedo? No, no you would not…

All this talk of speedos and flip-flops has reminded me of one activity that remains popular in May—as it does throughout the year—is bathing in geothermal pools, be they artificial and settlement-based, or found out in that beautiful wilderness we call the Icelandic countryside. To participate, you will, of course, need a swimsuit and towel.

Mount Vestrahorn in East Iceland

Don’t be one of the many visitors who forget such important items, or risk having to shell out even more cash when visiting such facilities as The Blue Lagoon, Fontana Spa or Myvatn Nature Baths.

“Do I have any final tips?” I hear you asking with bated breath as you stand hunched over a half-packed suitcase. Well, only a few that, perhaps, are better described as mere common sense.

Packing underwear and thick woollen socks should go without saying, as an example. One should also avoid packing denim—given its absorbing qualities, denim is an incredible pain to get dry—and sunglasses will be of great relief on the days the sun decides to make an appearance.

Whatever the case, know that May in Iceland sits in a seasonal grey area where the weather must be treated as an erratic overseer, quite capable of making your day or ruining it within moments. Prepare for this, and your time in Iceland will never be hampered.

Have you visited Iceland in May and, if so, how did you find the weather? What essential clothing items did you pack, and are there any other recommendations you might have? Please, make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.