I’ve run trails in many parts of the world, from Tierra del Fuego to Canada’s Northwest Territories, from the Australian Outback to the French Alps. My love of running and travel is what inspired me to start Run Wild Retreats + Wellness, a company that offers premier retreats in some of my favorite trail running destinations, in particular, Iceland.
While Iceland’s capitol city of Reykjavik swells with tourists from around the world, trail runners easily escape the crowds and find peace on the trails all over this largely pristine island nation the size of Kentucky.
Some of the best places to run include Vík í Mýrdal, home to black-sand Reynisfjara Beach, hauntingly beautiful columnar basalt rock formations and adorable puffin colonies. From there, head inland to Þórsmörk Nature Reserve, where you’ll see Eyjafjallajökull volcano and glacier and can access the fabulous Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls running trails.
But make sure you’re prepared for the weather in Iceland, which I can sum up with one word: wet.
Home to Europe’s largest waterfalls, geysers, glaciers and geothermal hot springs, water is everywhere, whether it’s bubbling up from the ground or falling from the sky. Needless to say, in this Arctic climate, dressing right is essential to a great trail-running experience. The weather changes constantly, from warm sunshine to freezing rain to a cool drizzle. Here are the select layers I recommend you wear for trail running in Iceland that that provide optimal protection from the elements without sacrificing light weight and packability.
Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow Jacket
This jacket would probably be overkill for a typical mountain run in Colorado, but in Iceland, where water falls on you from every angle, the Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow is just right. This jacket offers just the right balance between protection from the elements and lightweight packability. This supple waterproof jacket fits long through the torso, extending below mid-hip to fully cover your backside and has a full-coverage hood. In order to achieve a more athletic fit, I went down in size from my usual women’s small to xs, which is ideal for my 5-foot, 6-inch frame. While most rain shell jackets have a crinkly, stiff or plastic-y hand, the Stretch Rainshadow features supple H2No® fabric that is completely waterproof and windproof. The fabric is sufficiently breathable for running at a slow pace in cool temps without overheating. The fabric has just enough stretch for unimpeded arm swings. And at just 8.5 ounces, the Stretch Rainshadow easily stuffs into the chest pocket for storage in my running pack. Yes, this jacket is pricey, but is so versatile that you’ll find plenty of uses for it long after your Iceland adventures.
Order now: Patagonia.com
Arc’Teryx Cita Women’s Pant
Versatile and lightweight, the Cita Pant is designed for trail running in cool, shifting conditions and also offers ultralight protection from UV exposure and trail debris. The light, durable Aquarii™ nylon material provides performance stretch, allows airflow to prevent overheating, and has a durable water repellent treatment that is still breathable. PowerStretch mesh at the waistband moves moisture and holds a secure, comfortable fit, and functional articulation provides freedom to move with speed across terrain. While not a waterproof pant, these pants fit more loosely than a tight so that you can easily pull them on over shorts or capris when the weather turns nasty.
Order now: ArcTeryx.com
Salewa Pedroc Hybrid Softshell Women’s Pant
The Pedroc Hybrid Pant is lightweight, breathable, windproof and water-repellent, ideal for hiking trail running in inclement weather. Salewa’s fast-drying Stormwall softshell fabric has 4-way stretch performance, and a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. With its ergonomically shaped seat and inside leg gusset promoting full range of movement, this pant is both functional and comfortable. These pants are not as lightweight and packable as a nylon shell pant, but offer a bit more warmth and protection and also make great apres-run pants.
Order now: Salewa.com
Salomon Lightening Waterproof Jacket
The Lightening is a lightweight (204 grams) and mostly waterproof jacket that is packable and offers great protection from wet weather like that you’ll encounter in Iceland. This jacket weighs less than the Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow, and one reason for that is that it offers less overall coverage due to its trimmer fit and shorter torso length. It comes with a fitted hood that you’ll appreciate when the wind really picks up.
Order now: Salomon.com
Smartwool Propulsion 60 Jacket
Besides rain, the other constant in Iceland’s Arctic climate is wind. As a runner in this extreme environment, it’s important to constantly adapt your clothing to regulate your body temperature, which can be tricky when the air temperature is mild, but the wind is frigid. Smartwool’s Propulsion 60 offers a surprising amount of insulating warmth (60-gram SmartLoft wool insulation) in a lightweight jacket. The front nylon panels have a DWR (durable water-repellent) finish to shed light rain, while the breathable arms and back panel, made of 100% merino wool, offer enough stretch to fit well and not impede arm movements. This jacket is one of my favorite travel pieces, as it is so versatile and still smells fresh, even after consecutive days of running thanks to merino wool’s natural odor resistance.
Order now: Smartwool.com
Smartwool Women’s Merino 150 Base Layer Micro Stripe Long Sleeve
The versatile Merino 150 Long Sleeve makes a great midlayer (overtop of a super wicking, lightweight base layer) for running in Iceland’s cold, wet climate. Its Merino wool fibers are wrapped around a nylon core for added durability while still keeping the comfort of Merino next to skin. This provides added durability while still keeping the temperature regulation and moisture management benefits of ultra-soft Merino next to skin. Raglan sleeves remove shoulder seams for comfort under a pack and smooth merrow stitching wraps from side to front for a flattering look.
Order Now: Smartwool.com
NEXT TO SKIN
Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew Top
I found this lightweight, super-wicking baselayer wonderful for wearing under a running jacket or insulating midlayer. Patagonia’s Capilene Lightweight material is soft and smooth, so you hardly feel like you’re wearing anything. However, this is a high-performance top, meaning it does a fantastic job of moving sweat away from your skin so you stay warm and comfortable. It’s made from 100% recycled polyester and, like many of Patagonia’s garments, uses Fair Trade Certified sewing. Best of all, I can wear this top every day of the running retreat and it never stinks thanks to its Polygiene permanent odor control (which is totally non-toxic and safe to wear next to skin, by the way).
Order Now: Patagonia.com
Salewa Puez Melange Dry-Ton Women’s Long Sleeve
The Puez Melange Dry Longsleeve top is a long-sleeved functional shirt designed to offer comfort and moisture management for mountain environments. Made of quick-drying and moisture wicking Dry’ton in an attractive heather knit optic, it keeps your skin dryer than cotton, provides better comfort and prevents you from feeling chilled and damp. The knit fabric offers two-way stretch for optimal fit for a range of body types.
Order Now: Salewa.com
Salomon Agile Long Sleeve Tee
The Agile top’s buttery-soft fabrics not only feel luxurious on my skin, but it does an amazing job of wicking sweat so you can stay dry and comfortable under other layers. Side and under-arm waffle-fabric panels offer an attractive design and active fit as well as superior breathability where you need it most. Narrow pleats with reflective tape at the nape of the neck and the wrists add a stylish flair to this performance piece.
Order Now: salomon.com
HANDS + FEET
Smartwool PhD Training Gloves
Never mind that it’s summer, don’t forget gloves for trail running in Iceland. Smartwool’s PhD Training Gloves use a nylon-merino wool blend with a touch of elastane for stretchiness to give them a cozy fit. The wool retains its insulating properties even when wet, and these gloves dry out pretty quickly, but are not waterproof. The key to a comfortable glove is fit, which you can get with the HyFi as it’s available in five sizes.
Order Now: Smartwool.com
FITS Performance Trail Running Sock
While running in the Iceland Highlands, there’s a good chance of running over trails made of crushed volcanic rock, which can easily be kicked up inside your shoes with each step. We recommend the FITS Performance Trail sock because its high cuff acts as a built-in scree guard that helps keep dirt and debris out of your shoes. Below the cuff is a vented lower that increases breathability during highly aerobic activities. It features medium weight for warmth and to reduce friction that can lead to blisters. The Performance trail’s midfoot design hugs your midfoot to reduce slippage, which is especially important when running on off-camber terrain.
Order Now: Fitssock.com
Note: None of the website links above are affiliate links. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own and originate from my personal experience of using these products. Patagonia, Salomon and Smartwool provided me with samples of these products to test and review.