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Coast to Coast - The Iceland Traverse - IMG43

A True Backpacking Expedition into the Wilderness of Iceland

Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Dorian Tsai
Photo: Hugh Dougal
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Róbert Þór Haraldsson
Photo: Hugh Dougal
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




Price from:  

Adult: 875000

  • 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: This tour is not available in 2018

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

  • Video
  • 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.

    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 Skógar
    • Day 32 / July 31st: Bus Skógar - Reykjavík 

    Total walking distance: 450 km (280 miles)
    Altitude: 0-1200 m (0 -3900 feet)
    Maximum ascent: 900m (2900 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/hotel  in Skógar at the end of the hike, dinner in Vík on the last night and transfer to Reykjavík.

    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 2.500 ISK.

    When the whole expedition has been confirmed there will be possibility to book into 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


  • Tour Itinerary

    Day 0 / June 28th: 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 purchase 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 / June 29th: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 Earth’s 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 / June 30th: 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 1st: 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 2nd: 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 3th: Rest day, with endless possibilities of sightseeing, thermal bathing and bird-watching around the lake.

    Day 6 / July 4th: 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 5th: 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 6th: 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 Dyngjufell where we stay the night.

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

    Day 9 / July 7th: 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 8th: Dyngjufjöll-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 traverse 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 9th: Rest day at Askja.

    Day 12 / July 10th: 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 11th: 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 12thUrðarháls-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 13th: 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 14th: Gæsavötn-Vonarskarð

    After a short hike from Gæsavötn we come to a 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 15th: 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 16th: This is a rest day, used for reorganizing, showering, recuperating and maybe a short walk in the vicinity. We stay another night in the in Nýidalur.

    Day 19 / July 17th: 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 18th: 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 19th: 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 20th: 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 21st: 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 22nd: 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 23rd: 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 night.  

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

    Day 26 / July 24th: A morning rest day at Lambaskarðshólar- Álftavötn

    We rest in the morning. In the afternoon, we set out for the trek to the lakes of Álftavötn. We follow the river Syðri Ófæra that drains from the glacier Torfajökull through rolling green hills. Torfajökull is not only a glacier but one of the bigger geothermal areas in Iceland. Depending on weather the river can be high or low but we will most certainly be able to cross it over to the lakes Álftavötn on a natural bridge. There is a traditional hut close to the lakes where we spend the night. The tranquility of this magical place is amazing and this is really a great spot to recharge. Rustic hut, outhouse, no showers.

    Distance: 7- 10 km (4-6 mi) Ascent/descent: 150 m Walking time: 3 - 4hrs

    Day 27 / July 25th: Álftavötn - Strútur

    Today we continue along the river Syðri Ófæra crossing once again the Canyon of Fire, Eldgjá and can wonder at the immensity of the natural forces at play when it was created. The landscape changes from green meadows to black sands with screaming green streaks of moss that almost blow our minds. After rounding the massif of Svartahnjúksfjöll we come to the river Hólmsá and its lagoon. We need to cross the river and even though it may feel cold we can warm ourselves in the natural pool Strútslaug, on the other side. After a relaxing soak in the pool we conclude the day´s march walking to the hut at Strútur where we spend the night. Comfortable hut, WC and showers available.

    Distance: 24 km (15 mi) Ascent/descent: 300 m Walking time: 7 – 8hrs

    Day 28/ July 26th: Strútur - Hvanngil

    Leaving the comfortable hut, we set out for the day´s trek along the Mýrdalssandur, the black volcanic sand plain, hemmed in by the icecap of Mýrdalsjökull glacier to the south and the Torfajökull rhyolite massif to the north. We need to cross some of the rivers and better have our river crossing shoes ready. The mystical palagonite landscape of Hvanngil valley greets us and we are yet amazed at the wonders of the Icelandic landscape. At the mouth of the valley a hut waits for the night. Comfortable hut, WC and showers available.
    Distance: 14-18 km (9-11 mi) Ascent/descent: 150 m Walking time: 5 - 6hrs

    Day 29 / July 27th: Hvanngil -Emstrur

    We pass at the foot of the green conic volcano of Stórasúla before entering the black deserts of Mælifellssandur. Heading towards another ancient and verdurous volcano, the Hattfell, we enter the Emstrur region where farmers used to graze their sheep in summer. Before arriving at the Botnar hut where we stay the night, we visit the magnificent Markarfljót canyon cut almost 200 m down into the rocks south of Hattfell.

    Distance: 14 km (10 mi) Walking time: 5-6hrs Descent: 40 m (130 ')

    Day 30 / July 29th: Emstrur - Þórsmörk

    We continue up and down through the small valleys and gullies of Emstrur, where the great Mýrdalsjökull glacier rises only a couple of kilometers away. At the end of the day the vegetation starts to grow thicker and higher as we descend in to Þórsmörk's (the woods of Thor) green valleys filled with arctic birch forests and colorful flowers. Night in one of the huts in Þórsmörk.

    Distance: 17km (10.5 mi) Walking time: 6-7hrs Descent: 300 m (985 ')

    Day 31 / July 30th: Þórsmörk - Fimmvörðuháls - Skógar

    Leaving Þórsmörk, we climb the hills leading to the pass of Fimmvörðuháls, walking along the Kattarhryggir ridges with views to the impressive mountain of Útigönguhöfði up to Morinsheiði heath. The end of the Morinsheiði plateu we enjoy the view of the lava stream that flowed down from the Fimmvörðuháls volcano in March and early April 2010. The lava is all set with different outlets of fuming steam and decorated with green and yellow sulphur. As we gain height above Morinsheiði we come again to the lava and then to the two craters Magni and Móði that erupted prior to the main Eyjafjallajökull crater. We cross the brand-new lava just at the foot of the magnificent red craters, through places were the lava is almost glowing warm inside the fissures and cracks on its surface. Then we head down towards Skógar following the river exploring its many hidden gorges, and waterfalls all the way to the famous Skógafoss waterfall. The river and its surroundings offer great scenery. The coast seems to be within arm´s reach and you can almost feel the surf on your cheeks. Arriving at Skógafoss we check in to our accommodation and have our farewell dinner.

    Distance:24 km (14 mi) Walking time: 9-11hrs Ascent: 900 m (2953’) Descent: 1000 m (3280’)

    Day 32 / July 31st: Skógar - down to the beach - Reykjavík.

    After a good night’s rest and breakfast we hike down to the beach to celebrate the „Coast to Coast“ achievement. Then back to Skógar where we hop on the scheduled bus to Reykjavík. Arrival at Reykjavik BSI bus terminal at 7:20 pm, where the trip ends.

    Distance: 14 km (10 mi) Walking time: 3-4hrs  

  • Equipment List

    Backpacking Tours

    -Equipment list for IMG Backpacking Tours
    Specific information about The Laugavegur with a Backpack IMGQ31 see below.

    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, light and quick drying 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. 
    • Socks – Wool or synthetic. Two to three pairs. 
    • Warm hat – Wool or synthetic. 
    • Long Johns (thermal underwear) – Wool or synthetic.
    • Warm jacket/sweater – Wool or fleece (3rd layer).
    • Puffy jacket (e.g. Primaloft or down).

    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 – Closed sandals or old running shoes with, 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
    • Insulation mattress / thermarest.
    • Towel – light 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.
    • Personal first aid kit – including blister care. 
    • Prescription medication and other personal health items.
    • Toiletries; Toothbrush, toothpaste etc. 
    • Swim suit (depends on tour).
    • Dry-bags for electronics and extra clothing. 
    • Headlamp.

    Optional gear:

    • Walking pole(s).
    • Gaiters
    • Neoprene socks – highly recommended for river crossings. 
    • Pen knife. 
    • Sun/rain Hat or a Cap. Shorts
    • Heart-warming spirits.

    Special note for The Laugavegur with a Backpack IMGQ31:

    This tour has only hut accommodation – only a very light sleeping bag is needed and no sleeping mat is needed. If light weight Backpacking tours are of interest In The Shadow of Vatnajökull is another great option.

    Should you have any questions regarding this equipment list or the equipment on our tours feel free to contact and/or look at our Gear Lexicon. 

  • Gear Lexicon

    Backpacking Tours

    What is a Backpacking tour?

    Backpacking tours is a multi-day trips where required gear and food is carried on the back. The tour may at some point have support in the form of food supply mid-way. 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 camp wild, others use huts or a combination of huts and camping. 

    Hiking Boots


    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. 

    Jacket with a good hood (wind and waterproof)


    ME Manaslu

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

    Hard shell pants (wind and waterproof)


    Ideally the hard-shell-pants should be lightweight – as they will be in your 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 disintegrate during the tour.  Gore-Tex or similar waterproof breathing membrane is appropriate. Good rain gear – tops and bottoms are mandatory on all IMG tours.

    Hiking pants


    Soft shell is strong and durable, wind resistant and quick drying – ideal for any outdoor activity. Some might consider a thin base-layer (long-johns) for extra insulation on colder days.  Jeans and other cotton pants are not advisable for any outdoor activity. 

    Base layer


    Bergans Merino

    The most popular thin base layer (next to skin) is made with merino wool because it is comfortable to wear for multiple days without the smell of synthetic materials. Most people should be fine with wearing the same merino shirt for 2 – 3 days on harder tours where weight matters. A thicker base-layer for colder days could also be a part of your adjustable layering.  We recommend packing short and long sleeve options to adjust to different weather conditions.  Women might want a sports bra as a part of their base layer. Cotton t-shirts are not advisable for any strenuous outdoor activity.

    Insulation layer

    A fleece jacket is a classic insulating layer material. Wool is also a good option. It is possible to layer up – two thin jackets or a jacket and a vest rather than one very thick jacket.

    Hands, feet and head:


    ME Knitted beanie

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

    Socks: Wool is the preferred material for skiing socks, and different blends are available. If you are prone to blisters or have new boots, you should consider wearing a thin liner sock underneath your socks in your ski boots. Make sure you have a few pairs of socks to use to keep your feet dry.

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

    Backpack and dry bags


    Love Alpine Kongur ND 65:75

    You will need a large backpack for most of our backpacking trips. Make sure that you have space for your personal gear, including extra clothes and a sleeping bag inside the pack. Most of your gear should fit into the main compartment of your pack and should be packed into one or more dry bags.  Dry bags, as the name suggests, keep wet and dry things separate. Do not count on only the backpack cover to keep your items dry. The size of the pack depends largely on your personal needs. Most people will use a 65 – 75L (4000 - 4600 cu in) or bigger. Make sure to have at least 20L (1200+ cu in) of space (about 1/3) left for communal gear and food. 

    Puffy Jacket


    ME Compressor Hooded Jacket PrimaLoft

    A light puffy is great during breaks. The insulation could be down or synthetic material (such as Primaloft). It should not be very big or bulky for summer time use. Synthetic insulation is preferred as it keeps most of its insulating properties when wet, but down is also a good option.  A puffy vest is a good option as well.

    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.


    A baseball cap or a comfortable hat with brim is great to have and is useful both in sunny and rainy weather. You should also have a nice pair of sunglasses and some sun-bloc – SPF 15-25 should be enough protection for most.  If you plan to be playing on snow covers summits you should bring a pair of quality sunglasses for mountaineering SPF 30 – 50 sunblock.  

    Sleeping Bag Hut

    The mountain-huts during the summer are usually warm, although most are 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 the best. 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 hut 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 huts.  

    Sleeping Bag Tent

    Camping in the arctic summer can be cold. A good quality sleeping bag is essential. Due to the favourable weight-to-warmth ratio down sleeping bags is most people’s choice. Consider a 3 season sleeping bag unless you are a very warm sleeper. Note that the pack volume of your sleeping bag should affect the size of your backpack.  Bear in mind also that temperature rating on sleeping bags are an inexact science, and you may need a heavier or lighter bag than the climate you are headed out to. Consider a liner bag for comfort, temperature regulation and to lengthen the lifetime of your sleeping bag. 

    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.

    Water container / thermos flask

    In Iceland & Greenland, you can drink from any stream, no filters, no iodine and no chlorine needed! It is good to have a small water bottle at hand. A 1L bottle should be plenty, as water is easily found all over. If you prefer warm drinks, we are 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 favorite brand. Those who like cold drinks might like to bring their favorite powdered vitamin/energy drink. 

    River shoes


    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.



    Even though the summer night is bright, the inside of the hut/tent might not be. A headlamp is also useful for those that want to do some reading. There are plenty of options available for LED head lamps that are just perfect for reading and getting around. A small flashlight 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 fully charged battery will be enough for your trip.  

    Personal first-aid-kit

    All the guides on our tours will have a first-aid kit available. However, it is still nice to have some small items for minor injuries. Band-Aids, Compeed for blisters, pain killers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs are recommended personal first-aid kit items.  

    Personal Items

    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 condition. Items for personal hygiene should also be included, having a small bar of soap handy or some liquid camping soap is a good idea. Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental-floss should be packed. Avoid liquid antiperspirant and glass containers due to risks of spilling and weight. 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.
    In most cases you are sharing sleeping facilities with one or more fellow travellers – so a pair of good ear-plugs can ensure a good night sleep – they are also helpful if the wind is howling. Contact lenses, lens liquid etc. as needed.  Think light-weight when packing your personal things on a backpacking trip – keeping clean is important, but the standard is very different than in your normal life.


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

    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 material is always a good idea. 

    Trekking pole(s)


    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. 


    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 due to high winds– 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. Note that dry-bags were out and might not be as dry as they were when you first bought them. 


    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.

    Other cool things to have

    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 notebook – to write down your good memories from Iceland. Also, a pen or pencil

    Power-bank / extra battery for your 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 huts in the highlands often is not an option or will cost you extra. Make sure you have an adapter plug and/or a voltage converter for 220 V. 

    Playing cards and travel games – or other toys you might like and can travel. 

    Cash – showers in mountain huts normally cost about 500 ISK and take 100 ISK coins. 

    Travel pillow – if it is not very bulky. Otherwise, you can just use your clothes. 

    Powder drink mix – Good water is never a problem – but you might like a bit of variety. Some powders contain vitamins and minerals that help your body after a hard day.  

    Shorts - It does get warm enough to wear shorts on occasions. They are also nice for sleeping in, and can be worn if you need to get out of your sleeping accommodations at night. For hiking, it is nice to have some pockets to hold items that would normally be in the pockets of your pants. But any old pair of shorts will do.

    Gear shopping in Iceland

    Already in Iceland and need to grab some extra gear? No worries. There are a few shops in Reykjavík to go to (remember to ask for a VAT refund slip when you buy over 5000 ISK, which will save you 14%):

    Íslensku Alparnir:  this is where IMG gets its Mountain Equipment gear, much of with is featured on the pictures above – can’t go wrong there.

    GG-Sjósport: great products, but not in the downtown area.

    Laugavegur: the main shopping street downtown has a few stores, including some local brands like 66°North and Cintamani.

    Kringlan & Smáralind are the indoor shopping centers in Iceland – both have outdoor adventure equipment stores and are open on Sundays.

    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.  Should you have any questions regarding this equipment list or the equipment on our tours, feel free to contact

    Aperitif of other heart-warming spirits

    Aperitif or 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. Additionally, limited opening hours prevent you from buying alcohol in most places unless you are staying in a hotel. Having a flask (preferably plastic or metal) to share with your fellow travellers in front of the camp fire (gas heater) can be a great way top off a good day. You can buy alcohol in the duty-free shops upon your arrival in Iceland. Just follow all the Icelanders on your flight – they will take you straight to duty-free! Also, there are government run alcohol stores in Reykjavík called Vínbuðin.  If time allows, you can purchase alcohol there but alcohol is much less expensive in the duty-free shops at the airport. 

    On trips to Greenland, you can buy alcohol in the duty-free shop on arrival in Iceland. Duty free in Kulusuk, Greenland does not sell high % spirits – but if you make it to the supermarket they will have beer. 

  • Map

For availability and more information about this tour please contact us.