What should I bring? The ultimate Iceland hiking trip packing list
I am an outdoor gear junkie. I hate clothes shopping in general but put me in an outdoor shop and you had better take my credit card away from me. And so I love prepping my outdoor kit for hikes, making lists and checking things off. With that in mind here’s a handy Iceland hiking trip packing list to keep you organised for your next Iceland trip.
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Iceland hiking trip packing list: Basics
- Day pack: I use a 14L Deuter for short hikes or when I don’t want to carry much gear, or a 35 + 10L Lowe Alpine when I have more gear. Both have an air vent system which keeps the bag off your back and you cool plus they have lots of handy pockets which don’t overload the bag either.
- Footwear: I have an old skydiving injury where I basically smashed my right foot and which is now pretty picky about what I put on it. Lighter hiking shoes suit me better than higher boots and I particularly like Salomon and Columbia, currently using the Columbia Women’s Redmond Hiking Shoe from Basecamp Dublin but Mendle and Merrell are also good. My advice is to go to a reputable outdoors shop late in the day (when you feet are most swollen) with the socks you intend to wear. Bad footwear will make your hike unbearable and is pretty much the only thing you really can’t endure.
- Socks: Good socks are the most amazing thing ever. Have both thicker and thinner ones depending on the temperature but make sure they work with your boot. Here in Iceland I love Varma for cosy feet and Bridgedale do some nice lighter ones. Powder up before you go to prevent blisters. I know a veteran of the Australian army who served in Vietnam and his favourite piece of advice was always have a spare pair of socks. If your feet get wet you have a much greater chance of blisters so make sure you have spare, dry (put them in a ziplock bag)
- Jacket/Top layer: This must be wind and waterproof, with a hood. How heavy it depends on the climate but you are much better off with a lighter jacket and more layers underneath than a heavy one that will make you sweat buckets if it’s not freezing. My current one is from Icewear but I’ve also used one where you have a detachable fleece, like these from Northface.
- Trousers: I hate waterproof trousers and much prefer something lightweight that’s fast drying. Currently, I have a pair by Rab (mine are discontinued but check out these) and also 66º North (I think my ones have also been discontinued but there are others which are pretty similar). Columbia are another good brand but don’t get ones that are too heavy or you’ll melt as soon as you start moving, much better to layer up with a base layer underneath.
- Baselayer: I’m a huge fan of merino wool. It’s light, warm, wicks away sweat and don’t stink as much as other fabrics. Stay away from cotton, sweat cooling on your skin can bring down your body temperature fast as well as being uncomfortable. Layer up as you need to and leggings are a good alternative to wearing a too-heavy pair of trousers. My favourite brands are: Norrøna, Icewear, Moods of Norway, Brynje of Norway and Icebreaker. They’re not cheap but they’ll last ages and are totally worth it.
- Midlayer: Fleece or puffy jacket or both as you prefer. The puffy jacket will stow away much smaller than a fleece but are quite expensive. Mine is Cintamani, North Face and Patagonia also do very good ones. When you’re hiking it’s best to wear as few mid-layers as possible while walking and then put them on when you stop to feel maximum benefit and avoid sweating (which leads to cooling).
- Map, compass and GPS: Don’t rely on your phone, get quality maps of the area
- Hydration: Platypus or Camelbak filled with water. For longer hikes an energy drink or flask of tea/coffee/soup can be useful. Make sure you know if you can get fresh water on the way, in Iceland this is pretty easy but in Ireland a lot of streams aren’t suitable for drinking from. Something like a LifeSystems Chlorine Dioxide water purification system (two small bottles) would be good here which kills bacteria, viruses and cysts in water including Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
- Food: Whatever you like yourself really. My dad loves fruit cake, I’m happy with chocolate, maybe a ham sandwich, muesli in a ziplock bag and yogurt is good too. Energy sweets are handy to have for an emergency.
- First aid kit: Compeed plasters for blisters, assorted plasters, painkillers, dressings, adhesive dressings, bandages (triangular and roll), safety pins, tape.
- Safety gear: whistle, foil blanket, survival bag for longer hikes.
- Mobile phone: Fully charged with mountain rescue numbers stored.
- Battery power for any electronics: Spare batteries are essential, in the cold they will die quickly. I also have a small portable powerbank as a backup.
Iceland hiking trip packing list: Camping gear
- Tent: I lived in a Wild Country Zephyros 1 Tent from Terra Nova for two months and loved it. You need something with good water resistance and lightweight if you’re going to carry it yourself. Your outdoor store can advise.
- Sleeping pad/ground mat: I found the Thermarest Prolite Regular really comfortable, lightweight and small, even if it’s a pain to inflate it every time you pitch.
- Sleeping bag: I use a Mountain Equipment which is good to -15ºC and comfortable to -8ºC.
- Cooking stove
- Cutlery: A k-spork is a 3-in-1 lightweight godsend and collapsable crockery is small and lightweight.
Optional extras for your Iceland hiking trip packing list
- Trekking poles: I have Black Diamond poles from the Great Outdoors are lightweight, not too pricy and feel comfortable. I really wasn’t sure of them at first and they took some getting used to but on steep downhills they are brilliant and really save your knees.
- Gaiters: Again something I wasn’t pushed about until I tried them.
- Mountain survival kit: Firestarter, fishing line, mirror (to signal with), matches, hooks, paracord, multipurpose flexible glue (for repairing boots and gear), multitool. I’d rather be looking at it than for it and it’s not that heavy. Pick up a basic kit and add your own bits.
- Headtorch: For night hikes. And a spare, and possibly another spare. Three of our four (including spares) died on a recent night hike I did.
Depending on where you are going…
- Mosquito repellent: You can make a natural alternative to Deet with eucalyptus, tea tree and lemon oil, then again nothing is known to work against Scottish midges.
- Sun cream: Even in Ireland it’s possible to get sunburnt all too easily on a bright day, especially if there’s any breeze you won’t feel the heat.
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