Coast to Coast - The Iceland Traverse - IMG43

I was also looking for one of the most diverse treks, and chatting with IMG led me to this particiular trip.

- Dorian Tsai -

Tour type: Fantastic backpacking expedition across Iceland

Difficulty:

EASY

HARD

Price from:  

Adult: 799.000

  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

What's included: Guide, accommodation, transport, food, luggage deposit at rest stop

Departures: June 30th (meeting with guide June 29th)

Duration: 32 days (meeting with guide the day before)

Accommodation: Tent, huts

Meeting point: Reykjavík domestic airport

Group size: 6-12 participants

Language: English

Walking per day: 6-10 hours

  • Tour Description

    Highlights of the Tour

    • Hiking along the volcanic rift
    • Black volcanic desert and glacier views
    • The wilderness of Iceland

    A True Backpacking Expedition into the Wilderness of Iceland

    This is the ultimate challenge for the serious backpacker hiker; a total traverse of the Icelandic highlands. This long 32 day tour takes you from the northern lowlands, all the way to the south coast. Following along nature's beautiful attractions including the North-Atlantic volcanic rift, Europe’s biggest glacier, and through different types of volcanic and glacial landscapes. This is a fantastic journey that allows you to see all of Iceland's unique beauty. The duration of the expedition alone dramatically increases your probability of witnessing all kinds of weather conditions, sometimes even season shifts. The expedition is made of five legs which we’ve also separated into individual tours if the long tour seems too daunting for you. Enjoy any unique tour leg or combinations of legs to create your own experience just right for you! (see the individual legs below).

    We also make it possible to join or leave the expedition between legs, thus participating in a particular section of the journey.

    Read about Dorian's epic trek along one part of this beautiful and remote trail.

    2016 Expedition leader is Róbert Þór Haraldsson

    From the lowlands of Ásbyrgi we cross the entire national park of Jökulsárgljúfur, known for its magnificent canyon and the renowned Dettifoss waterfall. We will also pass the extraordinary lava fields and craters of the Krafla volcano and the famous lake Mývatn. The lake’s celebrity is well deserved, its variety of flora, fauna and landscape shaped by volcanic activity make this a natural unique beauty. After the gorgeous surroundings of lake Mývatn, the trail takes us through the black desert of Ódáðahraun and Askja, another world famous volcanic area. From there the great Vatnajökull glacier will be our companion south-west through the Vonarskarð pass to the Nýidalur valley. The contrast of the black volcanic desert and the glacier, the desolation and the hostility of the environment, render this landscape strangely lunar but beautiful simultaneously. The trail south from Nýidalur to Eldgjá represents one of the biggest challenges for hikers in Iceland, this is because it requires traversing sandy plains, rough lava, cliffs, glacier and numerous major rivers. Crossing the outlet glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull and their rivers in the last part of the traverse takes us into mountains made up by soft volcanic rock, easily eroded by wind and water and often sculpted like clay. These mountains are exposed to the damp air of the Atlantic Ocean and generously covered by lush, green vegetation making another beautifully unique sharp contrast of colors to the black beaches of Vík.

    *Please note that we recommend that passengers arrive in Iceland two days prior to departure:

    • Day -1 / June 28th: Arrival in Iceland.
    • Day 0 / June 29th: Meeting with the guide in Reyljavík at noon. Opportunity to purchase gear if needed in the afternoon. Night in Reykjavík, accommodation not included. 
    • Day 1 / June 30th: Flight to Akureyri, private transfer to Ásbyrgi and start of the hike.

    • Day 31 / July 30th: Last day of hiking. Dinner and accommodation in Vík. 
    • Day 32 / July 31st: Bus Vík - Reykjavík 

    Total walking distance: 450 km (280 miles)
    Altitude: 0-1200 m (0 -3900 feet)
    Maximum ascent: 600m (1970 feet)

    Included : Guide for 32 days, food for 32 days (from lunch day 1 to breakfast on day 32), cooking gear, tents, hut fees, camping fees, safety equipment for glacier and river crossing, delivery of luggage to rest stops during the hike, storage of luggage in Reykjavík, flight to Akureyri, private transfer to Ásbyrgi, night at a hostel in Vík at the end of the hike, dinner in Vík on the last night and transfer to Reykjavík.

    “IMG43

    Not included: Accommodation in Reykjavík (can be added)

    You can add a pick up at your accommodation in Reykjavík at the start of the tour for 2.200 ISK.

    The five individual legs of the Coast to Coast tour

    Ásbyrgi-Mývatn IMG44 - Canyons and lava fields: 4 day tour 
    Mývatn-Askja IMG45 - Desert and Volcanoes: 5 day tour 
    Askja-Nýidalur IMG46 - The Desert under the Glacier: 6 day tour 
    Nýidalur-Eldgjá IMG47 - Lava of Trolls and Lakes of Elves: 7 day tour
    Eldgjá-Vík IMG48 - Land of the hidden Volcano: 6 day tour

    For further information, take a look at the Iceland Traverse Manual or contact us via incoming@mountainguides.is

     

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  • Tour Itinerary

    Day 0 / June 30th: Meeting in Reykjavík

    Briefing and preparatory meeting with the guide in Reykjavík at 12:00 p.m. After the meeting there will be time to purchaise necessary gear if needed and prepare luggage for storage in Reykjavík. This meeting is mandatory for all participants. Evening free, accommodation not included but can be added.

    Day 1 / July 1st: Flight from Reykjavík to Akureyri, private transfer from Akureyri  to Ásbyrgi - Hiking from Ábyrgi to Vesturdalur - camp in Vesturdalur

    Our trek starts in front of the information center of the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, situated in an old horseshoe-shaped canyon called Ásbyrgi. We scramble up the edge of the canyon and follow it until we reach a point which gives us a full view of all its beauty. Our heathen ancestors, the Vikings, believed that Odin's (the chief of the old gods) eight legged horse tripped somewhere above Iceland and had to put one of his eight legs down on earth, leaving the hoofmark for generations to admire. We continue crossing a moor until we reach the namesake of the park, the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, with the Jökulsá river growling at the bottom. As we follow the canyon, we pass Rauðhólar crater row, showing off intensive red and black scoria colors teasing your wildest imaginations of Earths natural beauty. We also hike passed the echo cliffsHljóðaklettar just before reaching our campsite in Vesturdalur valley.

    Distance: 12-14km (7.5-9mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 2 / July 2nd: Jökulsárgljúfur-Dettifoss

    We continue following the canyon passing the turned-to-stone Giants Karl and Kerling and the fresh water sources Hólmatungur, before we plunge into the canyon itself and follow the river for a while. This is a rather unknown part of the park but many consider it its highlight because of its singularity. At the end of the day we come to Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall.

    Distance: 18km (11-12mi)    Walking time: 7-8hrs

    Day 3 / July 3rd: Eilífsvötn

    The Dettifoss waterfall dictates the end of the canyon and the end to the first portion of our tour.. We leave this river to embark on rocky plains, hearty plateaus and the beautiful mountain lake Elífsvötn. At its far end we find one of the cozier places in Icelandic wilderness to camp.

    Distance: 14-16km (8.5-10mi)    Walking time: 7hrs

    Day 4 / July 4th: Lava fields-Mývatn

    A long and waterless day awaits us, but we promise, the effort is well worth it. During one the strangest and most moon-like days of the trip, we cross the most recent black lava field of the Krafla volcano. We hike through red craters, melted stone and muddy hot-springs, until we arrive in the little village of Reykjahlíð at the border of the famous lake Mývatn.

    Distance: 20-25km (12.5-15.5mi)    Walking time: 8-9hrs

    Day 5 / July 5th: Rest day, with endless possibilities of sightseeing, thermal bathing and bird-watching around the lake.

    Day 6 / July 6th: Mývatn-Kraká

    From Reykjahlíð we head to the other side of the lake, passing unique places like the explosive crater Hverfjall and the strange pillars of Dimmuborgir, which might make one wonder why on earth Lord of the rings was shot in New Zealand. We set camp by the river Kráká.

    Distance: 18-22km (11-13.5mi)    Walking time: 8-10hrs

    Day 7 / July 7th: Kraká-Ódáðahraun

    Following the river we slowly enter the highlands; all habitable land lies behind us now. A spring river of this kind is like an oasis that supports various birds and vegetation which will become increasingly scarce only a short distance away from the stream. At the end of the day we camp in the last cozy green spot before we enter the great deserts of Ódáðahraun.

    Distance: 16-18km (10-11.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 8 / July 8th: Suðurárbotnar

    Leaving the river, we start crossing the plains - mountains rising slowly at the horizon. After traversing some more old lava fields we arrive at Suðurárbotnar water sources situated at the edge of the great lava and sand desert Ódáðahraun, which we enter to find a little hut where we stay the night.

    Distance: 16-18km (10-11.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 9 / July 9th: Dyngjufjalladalur

    Rugged, barren, desolate, hostile, moonlike are few of the words that come to one's mind crossing the black desert of Ódáðahraun. We continue towards an even more Tolkien-like landscape of Dyngjufjalladalur, where we find like the day before, the warmth of a hut.

    Distance: 20-22km (12-13.5mi)    Walking time: 8-10hrs

    Day 10 / July 10thDyngjufjöll-Askja

    We start the day by climbing slope after slope of the great Dyngjufjöll Mountains until we reach the magnificent Askja caldera. Passing the crater Víti and some steaming hot springs, we traversing the caldera to reach the famous Öskjuvatn Lake. From there we climb the slopes on the other side where we enjoy an excellent view over the lake and caldera as well as towards some of the most majestic mountains of Iceland, Herðubreið and Snæfell. Descending the other side leads us to a well known campsite and some huts, where we will stay.

    Distance: 19-20km (11.5-12.5mi)    Walking time: 8-10hrs

    Day 11 / July 11th: Rest day at Askja.

    Day 12 / July 12th: Askja-Svartá

    Day 12 is considered a “semi” rest day, because we don’t start hiking until the late afternoon. We enter a desert of black sand just north of Askja. This area is known for a peculiar green moss. We also run into the Oasis of Svartá river, in the middle of black sand dunes.

    Distance: 10-12km (6-7.5mi)    Walking time: 5-6hrs

    Day 13 / July 13th: The black deserts

    After drinking our fill and filling up all water bottles, we continue crossing the black desert, now with Vatnajökull glacier on the left and the Askja caldera on the right. From here the view will remind you of Tolkien's Mordor. Trotting the sand in the vast space north of Vatnajökull brings us, finally, to a hill in the sand with a glacial stream flowing by. This is where we camp, next to the only water available for many miles.

    Distance: 16-18km (10-11.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 14 / July 14th: Urðarháls-Kistufell

    After the sand desert, the landscape becomes more hilly and rugged. We traverse a small lava field and mount an old shield Volcano Urðarháls, to discover one of the deeper craters in Iceland. Never far away from the Vatnajökull glacier we reach the rugged emergency hut of Kistufell Mountain where we stay the night.

    Distance: 18-20km (11-12.5mi)    Walking time: 7-9hrs

    Day 15 / July 15th: Gæsavötn

    Like the days before, this one is as deserted as it gets. Not a single plant, not even a lump of moss peaks out of the black sand or lava. Traversing an occasional glacial stream and passing an old crater row we continue until we come to the oasis Gæsavötn. Here we stay in a mountain hut, appreciating that there are other colors in Iceland than black.

    Distance: 14-16km (8.5-10mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 16 / July 16th: Gæsavötn-Vonarskarð

    After a short hike from Gæsavötn we come to an critical glacial river. At this juncture we will decide if we cross or, depending on conditions, turn towards its source and cross a small glacier. Further on we enter a vast pass called Vonarskarð (Pass of Hope). This pass was formed by the glacier and subglacial eruptions, these landscapes take on a new dimension, different from what we have seen so far. At the end of this day, we find a convenient campground and perhaps have a chance to enjoy some of the many hot baths this geothermal Vonarskarð area provides.

    Distance: 24-28km (15-17.5mi)    Walking time: 8-10hrs

    Day 17 / July 17th: Vonarskarð-Nýidalur

    The Vonarskarð Pass lies between the glaciers Tungnafellsjökull and Köldukvíslarjökull. The geology is conditioned by the calderas on either side; geothermal activity is considerable since directly underneath the eastern caldera the Icelandic “Hot Spot” is to be found. We traverse the vast pass, over to the valley Snapadalur, where hot springs and solfataras are to be found, offering again a new set of colors. We have reached some rhyolite mountains, which unlike basaltic mountains, offer bright colors of great variety. After climbing a ridge of such mountains we descend along the valley Jökuldalur, at which end we find the huts of Nýidalur.

    Distance: 28-32km (17.5-20mi)    Walking time: 9-11hrs

    Day 18 / July 18th: This is a rest day, used for reorganizing, showering, recuperating and maybe a short walk in the vicinity. We stay another night in the hut in Nýidalur.

    Day 19 / July 19th: Nýidalur-Vonarskarð south

    After an easy morning, and maybe a last shower, we leave the huts in Nýidalur in the afternoon. Once our packs are on our backs, we head southeast, towards the Köldukvíslarjökull outlet glacier, following a gentle stream leading into the southern part of the Vonarskarð Pass. Today´s hike is short and we make our first camp at the foot of the hills next to a gentle stream.

    Distance: 18-22km (11-13.5mi)    Walking time: 8-10hrs

    Day 20 / July 20th: Vonarskarð-Kaldakvísl

    The Vonarskarð Pass is a sort of basin between the glaciers Tungnafellsjökull and Köldukvíslarjökull. Its geology is conditioned by the two calderas on both sides; geothermal activity is considerable since directly underneath there is supposedly the very centre of Iceland's "Hot Spot". We climb the hills to the Vonarskarð Pass and descend into the beautiful lake of Kvíavatn. Descending further to the source of the Kaldakvísl River crossing one of her streams before continuing to the outlet glacier of Köldukvíslarjökull. We will camp in the moraines.

    Distance: 12-14km (7.5-9mi)    Walking time: 5-6hrs

    Day 21 / July 21st: Kaldakvísl glacier-Sveðja-Hraungil

    Today we make an early start and head onto the Köldukvíslarjökull glacier. On the other side of the glacier awaits the River Sveðja (the hatch), one of the most complicated obstructions of this journey. Wading such a stream can be problematic but an early start might ensure our safe crossing. Once on the other side of the river we enter into the lava field of Hágönguhraun and continue south. Depending on the water situation, we will camp in a small crater, a perfect shelter against sudden gales who could descend from the glacier, or else continue to Hraungil.

    Distance: 10-15km (6-9.5mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 22 / July 22nd: Sylgja-Jökulgrindur-Jökulheimar

    Before we head into Tröllahraun also known as the "Lava of Trolls“, we need to cross the Sylgja river to witness aftermath of recent lava flow where strange images lurk out. We continue south passing through the sand blown lava to Tungnaárbotnar peaking at us from the left. After, we will change direction and turn west along the Jökulgrindur mountain ridge. We enjoy a night of comfort after a good day's hike at Jökulheimar glaciological hut, the only "urbanized" place during the tour. As we rest, we also prepare for our crossing of Tungnaá river in the morning.

    Distance: 10-15km (6-9.5mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 23 / July 23rd: Tungná-Langisjór

    Good thing we rested easy, and prepared for Tungnaá, because crossing the big river demands special techniques and a considerable amount of time. When we have crossed all the different riverbeds and have dried our feet, we head between the glacier and Grænifjallgarður mountain range ascending the windblown hills of tuff and sand. All of a sudden one of the most spectacular places in Iceland lies ahead of us. We enjoy the breathtaking scenery before heading down to the white-blue lake of Langisjór, to the south rises the impressive mountain range Fögrufjöll, creating a perfect backdrop for this magical lake. We round the eastern end of Langisjór heading into the hills of Fögrufjöll. In this tiny oasis, Grasver, we will set up camp..

    Distance: 16-18km (10-11.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 24 / July 24th: Fögrufjöll-Skaftá

    We hike along the Fögrufjöll ridge in a westerly direction. To our south lie both the black sand plains of Skaftá river, the green Fögrufjöll and to the left, the amazing lake of Langisjór. Multiple craters and small lakes in between these hills create extraordinary forms, reflecting in water and entertaining the eyes with gorgeous colors and contrasts. Passing at the foot of the Sveinstindur peak, we turn to follow the Skaftá River finding a suitable campground in one of the many hidden gullies, offering clear spring water and a shelter from the wind.

    Distance: 22-24km (13.5-15mi)    Walking time: -7hrs

    Day 25 / July 25th: Lakagígar

    We head out along the Skaftá River, climbing the Uxatindar peaks towering over the river rapids and a canyon, enjoying the views to the Lakagígar crater rows on the other side of the river. The landscape is quite spectacular, tall palagonite cliffs, series of labyrinth gulleys cut into thick tephra layers. These are the outskirts of the big volcanic fissure Eldgjá canyon, which erupted for the last time in 934. Descent along Eldgjá towards Lambaskarðshólar where we stay in a mountain hut for the next two nights.

    Distance: 17-20km (10.5-12.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 26 / July 26th: A rest day at Lambaskarðshólar.

    Day 27 / July 27th: Eldgjá

    From Lambaskarðshólar one climbs old lava, passing beautiful waterfalls and then a green valley with occasional openings in the Eldgjá fissure, whose direction aims towards its origin: Katla volcano in the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. Camp in Svartafellstangi near some of the bigger craters of the fissure.

    Distance: 14-16km (8.5-10mi)    Walking time: 6-9hrs

    Day 28/ July 28th: Öldufell

    After crossing Hólmsá River, the remaining kilometers of the Eldgjá fissure lead to Öldufell Mountain. Passing along clear springs underneath the mountain, direction is set towards Öldufellsjökull glacier, then over the ice, above the principal river originating in this glacier tongue. We will camp near this river, exploring its canyons and waterfalls.

    Distance: 14-16km (8.5-10mi)    Walking time: 6-9hrs

    Day 29 / July 29th: Vondugil-the shadow of Mýrdalsjökull

    First thing we do in the morning is to cross a respectable glacier river in Vondugil gully. From there we hike over the very edge of Sandfellsjökull glacier. Some other small rivers are forded during the day, but in-between there are flat deserts like the one above Sandfell Mountain. Walking along the main glacier Mýrdalsjökull, it becomes more and more apparent how glaciers have receded in the last decennia. Huge moraines, giant boulders and other traces of glacial movement are totally exposed like drawings on the land. Camp is mounted just before arriving at the biggest of the glacier tongues, Höfðabrekkujökull.

    Distance: 12-15km (7.5-9.5mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 30 / July 30th: Höfðabrekkujökull-Katla-Þakgil

    The first half of this day is spent crossing Höfðabrekkujökull glacier, which is about 7 kilometers wide. The ice is mostly flat, but some crevassed zones need more patience and attention. Above looms the volcano Katla, hiding under its thick icecap. Katla is one of the most spectacular volcanoes in Iceland, also one of the most infamous. After quite a steep landing from the glacier, the view is just great; glaciers, sandy desert, green mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Þakgil is a beautiful deep gully or canyon; the course is set down into this "home of Trolls". Here we will camp for the night.

    Distance: 12-14km (7.5-9mi)    Walking time: 5-7hrs

    Day 31 / July 31st: Höfðabrekkuheiði-Vík

    Last day of our trek begins by crossing the heath Höfðabrekkuheiði and along Heiðarvatn Lake. We then continue on towards the coast where we will see some of the well known landmarks around Vík: Reynisfjall Mountain, Reynisdrangar pillars and the multitude of birds swarming around their nests. Our 31 day hike finishes at the beach/coast, and closes the traverse. Night at a hostel in Vík, dinner in Vík.

    Distance: 16-18km (10-11.5mi)    Walking time: 6-8hrs

    Day 32 / August 1st: Vík-Reykjavík

    After a good nights rest and breakfast we get on the bus back to Reykjavík.

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  • Equipment List

    Backpacking Tours

    -Equipment list for backpacking tours
    
For example these Backpacking Tours (except IMG49).

    For your own wellbeing and safety we strongly suggest following the advice of our equipment list, this includes having good quality rain-gear, tops and bottoms! Also respect that cotton clothing is not appropriate for any strenuous outdoor activity – this includes jeans and t-shirts. Modern outdoor clothing is by far more comfortable and will greatly improve your experience. 

    Boots and clothing:

    • Sturdy Hiking Boots – waterproof with good ankle support. 
    • Long sleeve shirt (thermal underwear) – Wool or synthetic. 
    • T-shirt (thermal underwear) – Wool or synthetic. 
    • Light wool or fleece sweater (2nd layer).
    • Trousers – Strong and light material that dries quickly e.g. soft-shell. 
    • Jacket with a good hood – windproof, waterproof and breathable. 
    • Rain trousers – windproof, waterproof and breathable. Please note that full raingear is mandatory in Iceland. 
    • Gloves 1 – 2 pairs – Wool or synthetic (polypropylene / polyester). 
    • Socks – Wool or synthetic. Two or three pairs. 
    • Warm hat – Wool or synthetic. 
    • Long Johns (thermal underwear) – Wool or synthetic.
    • Warm jacket/sweater – Wool or fleece (3rd layer).

    Other gear:

    • Backpack – (woman size: 50-60 litres - man size: 60-75 litres) – note that each guest will need about 15 – 20L of space free for food, tents and other communal gear. 
    • River shoes – Walking sandals or old running shoes with a good grip are a good choice, along with a pair of warm socks or neoprene socks. Open sandals or flip-flops will not do the job. 
    • Sleeping bag – Down or fibre. Light weight and warm. We recommend goose down with high “fill power” or top of the line synthetic bags. For IMGQ31 a light weight sleeping bag is sufficient. 
    • Insulation mattress. A mattress is not needed on IMGQ31.
    • Towel – light weight and packable. 
    • Sunglasses & sun protection. 
    • Change of clothes – e.g. long and short underwear.
    • Water container – thermos flask or water bottle 0,5 – 1L. 
    • Camera, spare batteries and a memory card or films.
    • Personal first aid kit – including blister care. 
    • Prescription medication and other personal health items.
    • Toiletries; Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap etc. 
    • Swim suit (depends on tour).

    Optional gear:

    • Walking pole(s).
    • Gaiters
    • Neoprene socks – highly recommended for river crossings. 
    • Pen knife. 
    • Sun/rain Hat or a Cap. Shorts
    • Thermal mat (for lunch breaks). 
    • Puffy jacket (e.g. Primaloft or down).
    • Camera, spare batteries and a memory card or films.
    • Dry-bags for electronics and extra clothing. 
    • Heart-warming spirits.

    Should you have any questions regarding this equipment list or the equipment on our tours feel free to contact incoming@mountainguides.is.

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  • Gear Lexicon

    Backpacking Tours

    Backpacking tour - definition

    Backpacking tour is a multi-day trip where all gear and food is carried on the back. The tour may at some point have support in the form of a food drop off or food supply in huts. Participants will need to be prepared to carry both their personal gear as well as a share of the team´s food and communal gear (tents, stoves, pots).  On most backpacking tours you will sleep in tents in the wilderness, on a couple of tours we use only huts.


    Hiking Boots

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    Scarpa Hekla

    Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support. Leather or synthetic with a waterproof membrane, e.g. Gore-Tex. Make sure they are a good fit, leaving some space for your toes – and wear them in, even if it is just by light hiking in the city.


    Long sleeve- / T-shirt (thermal underwear)

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    Bergans Merino

    A thin base layer (next to skin). The most popular is merino wool – comfortable to wear for multiple days without the smell of synthetic materials. Most people should be fine with the same merino shirt on for 2 – 3 days. Having short and long sleeve is great for adjusting to different weather conditions. A sleeveless shirt (merino wool) can also be a good addition for a base layer as well as a sports bra for the women.


    Light wool or fleece sweater

    This is your regular insulation layer for hiking during the day. Options from Merino wool are available as well as the standard fleece jacket. Not too thick for summertime use, but consider layering with two jackets or a jacket and a vest – that way you will be prepared for any type of weather.


    Trousers – softshell

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    Soft shell is strong and durable, wind resistant and quick drying. Perfect for hiking pants. Some might consider a thin base-layer for extra insulation on colder days. If you have a thinner trousers consider having long-johns handy for cold days.


    Jacket with a good hood (wind and waterproof)

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    ME Manaslu

    A good “hard-shell” jacket with a large protective hood. Gore-Tex membrane or similar to keep you dry. Make sure it is not too tight and that you can fit insulation underneath. Note that a soft-shell jacket is a great addition but will not replace a good waterproof hard-shell when you really, really need one! Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all our tours. 


    Rain trousers – wind and waterproof

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    Good rain pants are absolutely compulsory in Iceland. They should be lightweight – as they are in the backpack most of the time. If they have zip-up legs to ease getting into it is a big bonus. Make sure they are breathable and strong enough to take some abuse from walking.  We often see cheap rain pants come apart on the seams. Gore-Tex or similar waterproof breathing membrane is appropriate. Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all our tours.


    Gloves

    A light pair of fleece or wool gloves or mittens does the job. You can also take a pair of ski-gloves or other wind and waterproof shell gloves. Having an extra pair is recommended, and then of different thickness.


    Socks

    Wool is definitely the preferred material for hiking socks. Different blends are available. If you are prone to blisters or have new boots you might consider wearing a thin liner sock underneath your hiking socks. Make sure you have a few pairs of socks to keep your feet dry and in good conditions.


    Warm hat

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    ME Knitted beanie

    A normal ski-hat/beanie is perfect. You could also use a thick buff. As an extra a buff is also nice to have, you can use it to protect your neck and face when needed or as a thinner option for a hat.


    Backpack

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    Love Alpine Kongur ND 65:75

    You will need a large backpack for most of our trips, make sure that you have space for your personal gear, including extra clothes and a sleepingbag inside the pack. Most of your gear should fit into the main compartment of your pack and should be packed into one or more drybags. Idealy pack all overnight gear into one dry bag and all gear that you might need access to into anouther one that can be kept accesseble during the day. Sleepingmat, rivershoes and items that are light and bulky or packed wet can be packed on the outside of the pack given there are good straps availible – but getting the weight as close to your centre of gravity as possible will make carrying the pack more comfortable. Pack raingear and cold weather gear so that it can be accessed quickly during the day.  The size of the pack depends largely on your personal needs and the pack size of your sleeping bag.  Women generally should get away with a 50 – 60L pack and mean 60 – 75L. This size should leave enough space, about 20L, for communal gear and food.  A modern pack has good padding, a stiff adjustable frame system (internal frame) and a few different compartments for storing smaller items and items that you will need to access during the day.


    River shoes

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    Keen Newport Sandal

    An old pair of running shoes will do just fine. Closed hiking sandals or neoprene kayaking shoes will also work great.  Any quick drying shoe with a good sole that can be securely attached to the foot will do. Loose slippers, flip-flops etc. are not acceptable.
    A good addition to your river crossing shoes are neoprene socks – see Neoprene socks.


    Neoprene Socks

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    Neoprene socks

    A good addition to your river crossing shoes are neoprene socks – they should go well above the ankles and the best once have welded seams. You will be able to do most of your river crossings without them, but it is just so much nicer with them. They should be a tight fit, but not too tight to get one when wet.


    Sleeping bag

    The mountain-huts during the summer are usually warm, although not heated during the night. Any old sleeping bag will therefore do, unless you get cold easily. For temperature control having a full length zipper is great. A liner bag is also a very nice addition and will improve your ability to regulate your head during the night.  If you are doing a winter trip or summer camping a 3 season sleeping bag would be sufficient. All the huts we use have mattresses on the beds so no need to bring your own for hut trips.


    Sleeping mattress

    Most will use a self-inflating mattress.  A modern model is amazingly light and comfortable and will pack down to the size of a water bottle. A classical foam mattress is also a good option – but bulky and less comfortable. If you choose to store the mattress on the outside of your pack it will need to be in a separate waterproof bag.


    Towel

    To save weight and bulk, a light weight microfiber towel is ideal. You might like a big one for drying off after a swim and a small one for drying your feet after river crossings.


    Sunglasses and sun protection

    Believe it or not, you will need those things in Iceland. There are no big issues with sun, so a high SPF rating for sun block is not an issue unless you plan to be on a glacier or on snow. You should have a small bottle to save weight in your pack. Likewise; any pair if sunglasses would be sufficient – but make sure you pack them. If you plan to be in snow or on ice a pair of glasses with a high UV (close to 100%) and/or cat (3 – 4) rating and side shields will be appropriate.


    Changes of clothes

    On a backpacking trip weight is everything so you should limit very much the amount of extra clothes your carry. You should still have a change of clothes so that at least a set of long underwear stays dry in your pack during the day. But there is no need for more than one pair of pants or a fresh t-shirt for every day.


    Water container / thermos flask

    In Iceland you can drink from the stream, no filters, not iodine or chlorine! It is good to have a small water bottle at hand. For most days a 0,5 – 1L bottle should be plenty as water is easily found all over. If you are a warm drinker we will be happy to fill up your thermos in the morning and a selection of teas will be available (very dedicated tea drinkers often bring an emergency stash of their favourite brand).


    Head-lamp

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    Even though the summer night is bright the inside of the hut might not be. A headlamp is also useful for a bit of reading. There are plenty of options available for LED head lamps that are just perfect for reading and getting around the hut. A small flash-light will also do the job. Most LED headlamps have more than enough light for our purposes and the battery life is so good that one set will do for your Iceland trip.


    Personal first-aid-kit

    The guides on our tours will have a first aid kit available. It is still nice to have some small items to be self-sufficient with minor things. Band-Aid, Compeed for blisters, pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs.


    Personal items

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    Make sure to have all your prescription medication with you, if you have any medical condition that could in any way affect you during the trip make sure to let your guide know. For those suffering from allergies having antihistamine is advisable – or any other medication that works for your conditions. Items for personal hygiene should also be included, having a small bar of soap handy or some liquid hand soap is a good idea. Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental-floss should be packed. Pack shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in small plastic bottles that close tight. Avoid liquid antiperspirant and glass containers due to risks of spilling. Feminine products like pads, tampons etc. should also be packed if needed. If you take vitamins or other supplements you should continue to do so during your holiday.
    A bit of toilet-paper in a plastic bag along with a lighter to burn it after use is the way to go in Iceland. In most cases you are sharing a room with a few fellow travellers – so a pair of good ear-plugs can ensure a good night sleep. Those not used to the bright summer might also like to bring an eye mask.  Contact lenses, lens liquid etc.


    Swim suit

    Bathing in the natural hot-pools will be one of the highlights of your trip in Iceland. Make sure you come dressed for the occasion. There are no specific rules, written or unwritten on how to dress or not to dress; board shorts, speedos, bikinis or bathing suits – anything goes. Quick drying is good.


    Trekking pole(s)

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    Black Diamond Trekking / hiking poles

    One or two poles are nice to have. Some trekkers like to use them all the time, other use them only during river crossings or on steep ups and downs. If you like them, make sure that they are foldable and light weight. A small basket is also nice.


    Gaiters

    For summer time use you should normally not need gaiters as they are designed to keep snow from getting into your boots. Some like them also for scree slopes. Keep in mind that the volcanic soil in Iceland is very abrasive so you will want to be able to remove the strap that goes under your boot sole to keep it from getting trashed.


    Sun/rain hat or Cap

    A baseball cap or a comfortable hat with brim is great to have. If it is a bite water and weather proof that is a great addition. It will keep the rain from running down your face and into your layering.  Be prepared to take it off if the wind picks up.


    Shorts

    It does get warm enough in Iceland to wear shorts. They are also nice for sleeping in, in case you need to get out in the night. For hiking it is nice to have some pockets, for the items that other ways would be in the pockets of you pants. But any old pair of shorts will do.


    Puffy Jacket

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    ME Compressor Hooded Jacket PrimaLoft

    A nice light puffy is great during brakes. The insulation could be down or synthetics (Primaloft). It should not be very big or bulky – Iceland is not that cold. Synthetic insulation is preferred in Iceland as it keeps most of its insulating properties also when wet. A puffy vest would also be a good option.


    Dry-bags

    There are plenty of different products available for storing your equipment inside your pack and keeping it dry. A rain cover over your pack often has limited use in Iceland due to the wind – a safer option is to pack whatever needs to be kept dry into dry-bags inside your back-pack. It is also a great way to organize the inside of your pack. One bag for electronics (camera and phone) and one bag for extra clothing, as an example.


    Aperitif of other heart-warming spirits

    Liquor laws in Iceland prohibit the sale of alcohol in most places you come by on your trip in the highlands and limited opening hours stop you from buying any most other places. So having a flask (preferably plastic or metal) to share with your fellow travels in front of the camp fire (gas heater) can be the crowning of a good day. You can take care of this in the duty-free up on arrival in Iceland if you like. Just follow all the Icelanders on your flight – they will take you straight to duty-free!


    Other cool things to have when backpacking

    Book – to read during the evenings.
    Music - and head phones. Some of our guides also have speakers with them to share Icelandic music.
    Diary or note-book – to write down your good memories from Iceland. Also a pen or pencil.
    Power-bank / extra battery for you electronics – small solar cells usually do not work that well in Iceland so a pre charged power bank is a better option.  Charging your electronics in the highlands often is not an option or will cost you extra. Having converters adapters for 220 V and/or USB will help.


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