Getting ready for my next big trip: two months in the Arctic! The plan is to start with an Iceland hiking trip in July and hopefully meet up with the Annabel J, a 54 foot Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter, and hopefully, if there’s not too much ice, head to East Greenland. We’ll sail around there and come back to Ireland in September. The only thing is as there is no rendezvous date to meet with the boat (with my sailing gear already onboard) I need to plan a contingency that might leave me hiking around Iceland until I have to go back to Ireland! As I’m going to be on my own on this hiking trip to Iceland I have to carry everything, but also bring everything I’ll need. All this can be got in Iceland but it’ll also be more expensive. All told this comes to about 20kg, which is a fair weight. And I’m 5′ 2″ so I don’t want a bag bigger than I am! So far the only stuff I can ditch that would make a big difference is the camera equipment (about 5kg including tripod). Which obviously isn’t happening!
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Planning a hiking trip to Iceland
- Where to go: Paddy Dillon (see below) also recommends doing what Icelanders do on an Iceland hiking trip, which is to check the weather forecast and then go where it’s not raining – which is what I’ll be doing. So I’ve marked out some 1-4 day routes and decide when I’m there.
- Accommodation: I’ll be spending a night in Reykjavik so I’m going to couchsurf here to keep the costs down. If you’ve never couchsurfed before sign up to www.couchsurfing.com, create a profile, create your trip and send some hosts requests. It’s that simple! They have a good FAQ for first-time couchsurfers too.
Iceland Maps and Guides
- Guides: I’ve used Cicerone Guides before for Ireland and their Camino one is very well thought of. I went to Paddy Dillon’s talk in Basecamp Dublin a few months ago and found it really interesting. His Walking and Trekking in Iceland is available in Basecamp for €23.95. You can also download Around Iceland for free and this is supposed to be excellent.
- Maps: These I’ll get in Iceland depending on where I’m going. There is a huge selection including from the National Land Survey of Iceland, Atlaskort and Ferðakort so I’ll have a good look when I get there.
- Apps: I’ve downloaded a few of these for Apple OS from the App Store but I haven’t gotten to try them out yet. I did get the LP Iceland guide as an ebook so I don’t have to carry another book. Though I hate ebooks as guides as they’re the one type of book I condone writing on, turning down corners and tearing pages out. And a folder of ebooks is never going to look like a shelf of guides when you’re at home planning your next Iceland hiking trip.
Clothing for sub-Arctic environments
- Trousers: One light-weight and one thicker pair of trekking trousers, both Columbia. The lighter ones unzip to shorts, though I doubt I’ll need it except for crossing streams.
- Fleece: One lightweight and one heavier. I have heard that puffy jackets like NorthFace Down Jackets are lighter and warmer but they’re also a lot more expensive and I have a hoodie/fleece addition so I’ll use what I’ve got.
- Jacket: A good waterproof, wind-breaker jacket is a must. I have a North Face Triclimate that I got years ago on sale in The Great Outdoors which has a removable fleece.
- Footwear: well-broken in hiking boots or shoes. I have Columbia Redmond Waterproof Hiking Shoes which cost about €100 and are really comfortable. They’re waterproof but not Gortex, but then again nothing is 100% waterproof and if you are higher than ankle deep in water it isn’t going to matter. I haven’t worn my boots in a while so I didn’t want to bring anything that is likely to give me blisters, which is what would happen if I had to break them in again. Paddy Dillon recommends Crocs for crossing streams but I’m trying to keep my gear to a minimum.
- Baselayers: 2 x merino under-leggings for cold days, sitting around and sleeping, I like Icebreaker, Moods of Norway, and Brynje of Norway (see fleece addiction). It’s not cheap but it insulates much better than cotton, and smells less. Not completely odour free despite what Icebreaker says but noticeably better!
- Socks and Underwear: I’m bringing 4 pairs of good hiking socks including a waterproof pair. because this is an area where you really shouldn’t skimp. Always have at least one spare pair of dry socks is a mantra I learned from an ex-Vietnam vet. Though he wouldn’t explain more than that. Also, a good sports bra like Under Armour’s high impact (approx. €55) is my favourite and some underwear. There’s going to be lots of washing but I’m trying to keep the weight down.
- Towel and swimsuit: Of course I will be going swimming! Also there are the geothermal pools! Keep the weight down with one of these super fast-drying Sea to Summit towels. Do get a decent sized one.
Food and Water while hiking in Iceland
- Cooking: I’ve made a conscious decision not to bring anything which needs to be cooked, as then I need tins, a stove, fuel and a load of other stuff I don’t want to carry. So with that in mind I was on the lookout for light, nutritious food options.
- Food: Fiona, my trainer from Metabolic Fitness, suggested Quest Protein Bars and Purition Protein Sachets. The Quest Bars are everywhere now for about €3 and you can get multipack options from www.amazon.co.uk too. I got the Purition in coconut, pistachio, almond, vanilla and chocolate and they can be mixed with milk or water. So I have about 20 of each which I’ll supplement with some easy to carry, non-cook stuff like sausage or bread and some emergency Kendal Mint Cake. (Sorry Fiona!) *Disclaimer: It didn’t take long for me to rethink my food options!
- Water: I have a LifeSystems Chlorine Dioxide water purification system (two small bottles) which kills bacteria, viruses in water including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. I’m hoping to be able to get water easily from clean streams. For that reason there are a few treks in the south-west I’m avoiding as water is scarce. Iceland has a lot of sheep so need to be careful to not drink from streams that may be polluted by sheep, or ones with volcanic debris.
- Water-storage: I have a 2lts Platypus hydration pack which I’ll be refilling as regularly as possible. I’m a bit of a camel when it comes to water. I never remember and I’ve even tried apps and alarms to get me to drink more. I also have a Sea to Summit collapsible silicone cup which I’m ridiculously excited about! It folds up so small!
- Spork: Why bring three things when one will do. Granted it’s not as easy to use as regular cutlery but it weighs practically nothing. Pick one up for a couple of euro in any outdoors shop.
Hiking and Camping gear for an Iceland hiking trip
- Trekking Poles: These Black Diamond poles from the Great Outdoors are lightweight, not too pricy and feel comfortable. With the extra weight of the pack I want something that will absorb the shock, other than my knees, and to give me a bit more stability when I’m crossing rivers. I’ve never used poles before (thinking that only softies did) so this will be interesting.
- Tent: I spent ages looking for a tent. I wanted something lightweight, small (and so a 1-man), and able to withstand the Icelandic summer of wind and rain. I got a lot of help from Basecamp Ireland, who went through a number of models and brands with me, and I finally settled on the Wild Country Zephyros 1 Tent from Terra Nova, which was only €135 with the Basecamp Member 10% discount, which really helped. Luckily I’m quite small so size shouldn’t be a problem. Specs: Flysheet: Pu Polyester R/S 4000mm FR; Floor: Pu Polyester R/S 6000mm; Minimum Weight: 1.41Kg (3lb 2oz); Measurements: 220cm x 96cm x 92cm.
- Ground Mat: I went with the Thermarest Prolite Regular, which is cheaper and when packed only a tiny bit bulkier than the Xlite.
- Sleeping Bag: I have a Mountain Equipment which is good to -15ºC and comfortable to -8ºC. Do not skimp on a sleeping bag if you are going cold places. If you’re wearing everything you have and shaking from the cold you will regret it. Always prepare for it to be colder than you think it will. Believe me I know.
- Essentials: Mountain survival kit, foil blanket (in case of hypothermia), first aid kit (get a decent one and supplement with painkillers, mini eyewash etc), whistle, paracord (for hanging up washing or emergencies), handwarmers, headtorch (and spare batteries), leatherman/multitool, matchless fire-starter (for major heating emergencies, I don’t think I’ll need it but I’d rather have it). All these are available in any outdoor shop. The multitool can be pricy, this Leatherman SUPER TOOL 300 has all the essentials. Reading this back I seem to be convinced there will be an emergency.
- Carabiners and a bungee cord: amazing essential, never know when you need them items.
- Waterproof bag: For the electrics in case I have to do something where they might fall into a river.
- Compass: My Silva is on order from Basecamp Dublin and should be here this week! I’ve purposely chosen one will mils as that’s what I’m used to and it’s more accurate.
- Toiletries/medical: soap and shampoo leaves, mosquito repellent (tea tree oil is also a good natural repellent. I’m not very confident in what I got, Arctic blackflies and mosquitos are more vicious than anything in the tropics), headnet (yes I will look stupid but I won’t be eaten alive), Compeed blister plasters, toothbrush, toothpaste, conditioner (not pictured), moisturizer, suncream (not pictured), coconut oil (good for sunburn, dry skin, mechanical stuff..)
- Misc: Passport, wallet, notebook and a pen.
I’ll do a separate post on this but in brief:
- Camera and accessories
These all go in packing cubes and compression sacks to make them easy to find and tidy. Eagle Creek and Exped do some good ones. The compression sacks should be ones with valves and straps you can tighten. Some of my cubes just zip to compress but these have two compartments to keep clothes separate, handy if you have dirty and wet things.
But what am I going to put all this into? Right now I’m looking for a pack. And the funding to buy said pack. I have a LoweAlpine Airzone Pro ND 33:40 which is great except that it’s too small. The sleeping bag and tent would have to be jerry-rigged on somehow and it just wouldn’t be ideal. Well, I still have two weeks so I’ll let you know when I figure it out!
I will probably go through this again, just to see what I can maybe get away without bringing but this is largely it. I’m not saying this is the perfect list and probably as the trip goes on I’ll have a better idea of what I should have taken and what I could leave behind, so I’ll update you as I go. What about you? What are your essential trekking items and what did you wish you had never taken?