Packing for a multi-day hiking trip in Iceland can be challenging, even for experienced hikers. In this article, I will share my exhaustive packing list for (summer) hiking trips in Iceland. It's suitable for Highland hikes and other hikes in the Icelandic countryside. If you want to jump straight to the list, go ahead and scroll towards the bottom.
Iceland is one of the few places in Europe where you can embark on a multi-day hiking trip in an environment completely untouched by humans. In the Icelandic Highlands, there are no paved roads, no villages, no shops, and hardly any public toilets. You might spot an occasional mountain truck, other hikers, and a few cabins, but that’s pretty much it.
Entering the vast and unspoiled Highlands of Iceland is absolutely magical, even for those of us who were born and raised in the country. In fact, during hikes I’ve done in other parts of the world, I have always missed this unique feeling of being far away from civilization – in complete silence without a village in sight. This is something that makes hiking in Iceland so special.
Laugavegur hiking trail. Wonderguide/Nina.
However, hiking in the wilderness requires smart packing. Packing for such a trip is definitely a balancing act: while bringing too much with you weighs down your backpack, packing too little can have serious consequences. In this article, I will share my experience with packing for one-day hiking trips and multi-day hiking trips in Iceland. I have made many mistakes in that department, but I truly hope that you might be able to learn from them.
The packing list that follows is pretty exhaustive for most multi-day hiking trips in Iceland. If you are doing a day’s hike, you will need more or less the same things minus the camping gear. You will just have to scale down on food and extra clothes.
There are many fabulous hiking trails in Iceland that take a few days to cover. The most popular one, Laugavegur Trail, is usually done in 3 to 4 days. Hikers can either stay in cabins during the night or bring their tents along. Other famous trails, such as Hornstrandir in the Westfjords Peninsula do not have any cabins, making it inevitable for hikers to carry a tent. For your convenience, I have marked items that are required for camping hikes only with a star.
On the Fimmvörðuháls trail. Wonderguide/Nina.
Also, some of these things are completely optional and I’m sure you can get by without them. For instance, if you usually don’t have a problem with sleeping in crowded lodgings with people in the next bunkbed snoring really loud, then don’t bring earplugs. Just use your judgment when you’re deciding whether to bring these kinds of things. Other items, such as proper clothing, is something you need to pack. In fact, the weather in the Icelandic Highlands can be deadly, even in the summer.
As the name suggests, Iceland is a cold country. In the capital, the average temperature during the summer hovers around 10 degrees Celcius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). It is even colder in the Highlands. When I was there in July last year, it actually snowed. This is why proper clothing is so incredibly important. So here's what you need to bring with you:
You will obviously need much more gear if you will be camping during the nights. If you are buying any new camping gear, choose something light and durable.
Skógafoss Waterfall. Unsplash/Theodor Vasile.
Usually, food is not available in huts or camping sites in the Highlands. This means that you will have to bring everything you will eat during the trip with you. In my opinion, people have a tendency to overpack when it comes to food. You should have enough to sustain yourself during the trip, but stocking too much will weigh you down.
If you want to save space and keep the weight of the backpack within limits, opt for compact foods. Do not pack something that is heavy but contains few calories (my boyfriend insisted on packing a bag of carrots when we did the Laugavegur hike last summer, I thought it was a bad idea back then and I stand by it). It‘s a good idea to bring something you can mix with hot water, such as soups, noodles, dry stews or camping-style freeze-dried meals.
Packed lunch for each day. Personally, I would bring sandwiches with a calorie-rich spread, such as cheese or peanut butter. Icelandic flatbread (flatkaka) is also a personal favourite.
Dinner for each night. Preferably something you can mix with boiling water.
Breakfast for each morning. Porridge oats are a great option. Don't forget to add a bit of salt.
Energy bars. Protein bars or Snickers bars work well for me.
Trail mix/dried fruit and nuts. Something you can nibble on while walking.
Chocolate. You deserve it.
Biscuit or muffins. You deserve it and you need the calories.
Instant coffee/hot choc/tea.
Icelandic flatbread with hangikjöt. Wonderguide/Nina.
Small microfibre towel. Don't bring your old beach towel! You will need something small, light and fast-drying.
Sunscreen. I guess it depends on your skin whether it is necessary. Generally, the sun in Iceland is very gentle.
Plastic bags. For trash.
Earplugs. When the guy in the next tent/bunk bed is snoring really loudly.
A sleeping mask. In Iceland, the summer nights are brights. I for one cannot sleep without my mask.
Powerbank for your phone. You might not get (m)any opportunities to charge your phone.
GPS device or an suitable GPS phone app. Absolutely crucial. Not all trails are well-marked so getting lost is always a risk.
Water bottle. You should be able to fill it with natural stream water en route. Also, most huts have running water.
A few bandages.
Medical tape. Half a roll will do.
Immodium or other anti-diarrhea drugs. Hopefully, you will not need them.
Firestarter (matches or a lighter). Remember to burn toilet paper if you have relieved yourself in the open.
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