Something is cooking in the Hey Iceland’s lab… We will soon tell you more but to give you a first glimpse, we are starting today our series of blogs about Hiking and Trekking in Iceland !
Are you planning to hit the Icelandic trails anytime soon ? To help you, we have made a list of the Top 10 Things to pack for a hiking trip in Iceland, making sure to scale it down to the essentials. You don’t want to find yourself at the foot of a mountain and have to give up because of unappropriate equipment, do you?
When you are accustomed to hiking in your home country, you do not necessarily expect to need winter equipment in Spring or Summer. Add to that the fact that the Icelandic mountains are not that high - Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak, rising to 2.109 meters - and the conditions can come a little bit as a surprise. Iceland’s climate can be quite harsh, and overall, unpredictable, and this is where high-quality clothing and equipment are required to keep yourself hiking safe and comfortable.
Regardless the time of your visit, the key is to dress in different layers to adapt quickly to the conditions encountered.
1. Base Layer: long-sleeved top
The only rule for the base layer, or next-to-skin layer, is to ban cotton, as it stays wet, absorbs moisture, and cools your body. Rather opt for a fast drying and breathable fabric - fine merino wool or synthetic - for your short or long-sleeved top. Merino will help regulate your body temperature in the effort, by keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm.
2. Insulating layer: warm sweater
The second layer should provide you effective insulation whilst letting your skin breathe. In summer, a long-sleeved fleece or wool sweater should be enough, while in winter, a down jacket will be your best pick.
3. Outer layer: shell coat
Let’s face it, Iceland can be rainy. Very rainy. And windy. Very often the weather forecast doesn’t stick throughout the day, meaning you can expect blue bird skies, strong gusts of wind, short yet intense rainfalls or snow, all in the span of one day ! To stay dry and comfortable, you want to rely on a waterproof gear that shields you from the wind too.
4. Waterproof Pants
The most important criterion for pants is comfort. The best option would be comfy hiking pants that are not too tight around the waist, and stretchy enough to bend with you as you climb up steps or over rocks. Waterproof softshell pants worn over long johns, or insulating hiking pants on their own, just work as good !
5. Merino Wool Hat
Even on warm summer days, the temperatures in Iceland rarely exceed 20⁰C. The strong wind also often invites itself throughout the day, so you want to rely on a high-quality hat for basically every outdoor activity including hiking.
There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
6. Merino wool socks
Merino wool socks have the clear advantages of being super soft, antibacterial and of wicking away sweat from your feet very efficiently. Say no more!
7. Comfortable Hiking Boots
Icelandic hikes can cover long distances, so sturdy shoes are a must have. Comfy hiking shoes, or hiking boots depending on the terrain, but what we can’t recommend enough is a good ankle support to navigate Iceland’s rugged and uneven hiking terrain.
8. Lightweight Backpack
This will be your home for the duration of the hike, containing all of your essentials, sometimes carrying heavy loads. Choose it in a fabric that provides a good ventilation. More importantly, opt for an ergonomically-shaped backpanel to ensure comfort, and equipped with a chest trap to distribute the weight evenly. Also make sure to pick one with compartments and pockets that can be easily accessed during the hike ! Also ensure to place the heaviest objects closest to the back, and limit the total weight (15-18 kg) for a pleasant hike.
9. Lightweight Tent
This one is for multi-days hiking trips. Your tent should offer good resistance against wind, rain, and snow, and be relatively easy to set up at the end of the day. You might want to opt for a small format that can be easily attached with straps to your backpack. What you want here is to spend as little energy as possible carrying it.
10. Winter Sleeping Bag
Together with the tent, you need a comfortable mattress and high-quality sleeping bag, which provides sufficient warmth. The challenge is to find the right balance between light weight and good insulation. Yes… even in Summer !
That’s it ! You’re good to go for the hiking trip of your life ! To render the hike even more comfortable, you might consider to take with you the following :
Hiking poles – save your knees on the way down of long hiking trails
Crampons – keep you steady on icy and snowy grounds
Sunscreen and sunglasses – protect you from the intensity of the sun’s reflection on the ice
Gloves – in case you need them !
Swimming suit – for the natural hot springs along the way !
Handheld GPS Device – a precious companion in case of bad weather and low visibility
Camera – just because !
We cannot predict the weather much in advance, but at least we can always take precaution and prepare for the unexpected. Stay tuned for more hiking craze in the coming weeks, until then discover our 8 fantastic hiking trails for the summer!