Finance educated, mountain and glacier loving, imaginary ski extraordinary and current resident of Reykjavik.
An extensive coverage on everything you need to know and pack before you embark upon the amazing journey of the Laugavegur trail. Our expert guide Inga goes the do's and don't when packing for an Icelandic trekking adventure.
The Laugavegur Trail is a natural marvel. Within its 55 km (34 miles) you’re treated to an intense, varied and ravishing range of scenery. Volcanic mountain ranges blush geothermal oasis, black deserts and glistening glaciers all jostle for your attention.
The landscape is a smorgasbord of fire, ice, and hot springs; while the air is gloriously fresh and the sky a unique shade of blue that you’ll never forget.
There’s a price to pay though: Intense, changeable weather. Even in the summer, you might get snow!
So how do you pack for a destination that seems to pack a planet’s worth of landscape and weather into one trail? And what should you bring for a multi-day hike where you won’t have access to electricity? We’re glad you asked…
As you might expect, The Laugavegur Trail is not suited to wheeled suitcases! But that doesn’t mean you have to travel light. A supply driver can be organised to make sure your luggage gets from one campground to the next, so you can have your creature comforts without having to do anything drastic like cutting your toothbrush in half. In fact, this gives you the opportunity to pack some luxury extras like wine, a pillow, a book, a sleep mask and chargers for electronics.
The Importance of Layering Whilst Trekking
The difference between summer and winter hiking in Iceland can be as little as one layer. Layering is a fundamental part of hiking in Iceland, so it’s good to get it right.
From your underwear to your anorak, your choice of material is the most important thing to consider when dressing for Iceland’s weather. Looking at underwear; boxer shorts and a tank top or t-shirt, fine wool or silk (or a good mix) is ideal. Both fine wool and silk breathe well and will keep you from getting too hot or too cold.
If you’re lucky enough to experience the two or three days per year where Laugavegur’s temperatures go above 15 degrees centigrade, you’ll have the option to strip down to a base layer that will get you a maximum tan. For all the other days, boxer shorts often come in handy when it’s time to cross a river.
The First Layer
Your first proper layer, the base layer on top of underwear, should also be wool. A fitted long sleeve shirt and leggings (also known as ‘Long Johns’) would be ideal.
This next point cannot be stressed enough: This layer should never, ever be cotton. This applies even for expensive outdoor brands that claim their cotton is superior. Wet cotton (and it will get wet, either with rain or sweat) is cold cotton.
The Second Layer
Next up is your “soft shell”. It’s best to go with thin, lightweight hiking pants, as they’ll give you some wind protection but also dry fast if you get caught in the rain. The wool you have on underneath will keep you warm and – if you’re unlucky enough that your legs get wet – will dry quickly.
On top, a lightweight jacket-type mid layer works: This can be anything from Arc’teryx to UNIQLO. If you tend to get cold, grab an extra one of these and keep it in your pack should need a little something extra. On top of this you’ll want a light top; think something along the lines of breathable windbreaker, jacket or sweater.
Lightweight hiking pants
Optional breathable windbreaker
Since you are layered up and warm at this point, all you need is water and windproof shell, top and bottom. If you get caught in heavy rain, you can always throw on this one extra layer that will keep you shielded from the wind and rain.
Water and Windproof Shell jacket
Water and Windproof Shell pants
Bring two hats! If it looks like it’s going to rain, keep the spare one in your pack so you can switch it out if hat number one gets soaked. A neck buff that can double as a face mask is especially handy, since it is light and thin, but seal off parts of your neck that can get exposed to wind.
After some trial and error in the glove department, we have found that two pairs of knitted wool mittens are the magic combination: You can wear one pair on a less windy day, but if the wind picks up, adding that extra pair will both give you that precious wind protection!
Shoes and Socks
Now moving down, the most important part of your body during a trek; your feet. You need to invest in good socks and better shoes!
If possible, try not to start the hike in brand new hiking boots. Reliable, rugged ones that you know will serve you well are always better than brand new footwear. If you need to update your boots, try to do so with some time to break them in before the hike. We’d also recommend you get some good advice on how the shoe should fit. And above all, make sure if you are standing on a slope, toes pointed down the hill, that your toes never touch the front of the shoe! Your toenails will thank you.
Quality socks are just as important as good boots. Many Laugavegur hikers have learned the hard way that great boots do little if you are wearing subpar socks! It’s well worth splurging a bit on specialised trekking socks. Bring a few different pairs; some lightweight, others a bit heavier, as well as some comfy cabin socks to switch into when you get to the huts.
Last, but not least, bring a good pair of river-crossing shoes. Flip-flops won’t do you much good. Instead, we’d recommend some type of lightweight sandal that won’t slip from your feet (Tevas are excellent for this purpose) and can be hung to dry on your pack.
Good hiking boots
Proper hiking socks (thin and thick)
River crossing shoes / sandals
No flip flops!
For the Evening
As mentioned earlier, Arctic Adventures hikers on the Laugavegur Trail have the luxury of getting luggage delivered between cabins, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also make your time in the huts or tents as comfortable as possible.
Once you get to the hut and start boiling water for that cup of tea, it’s nice to change into comfortable sweats, fresh socks and comfy cabin slippers. It’s also important to have an extra set of cabin clothes if your first set need to be hung to dry.
To guarantee a good night’s sleep, pack earplugs and a sleep mask (especially important in summer because it won’t get dark).
For nightwear, shorts and a t-shirt will do for the huts, but a wool base layer is a good idea for camping. If you are renting a sleeping bag, a liner will make it feel like your own. And finally, a nice pillow is well worth packing.
Comfortable cabin clothing
Fresh and cosy socks
Sleeping mask and ear plugs
That luggage service comes in handy on this trip: In addition to the right clothes and gear, there are a few items that’ll make your life easier on the Laugavegur Trail.
You’ll be glad you packed; a good towel that dries quickly, waterproof bags (something like Sea to Summit Dry Bags) to organize your pack and make sure your backup hat and layers don’t get soaked, medication, painkillers, band-aids, toenail clippers (or make sure you trim right before you leave), extra batteries (you won’t have any electricity for the duration of the hike) and last but not least (if you are into that kind of thing), some nice wine.
Also, some hikers like to take magnesium supplements to sleep better and to prevent cramps at night.
Quickly drying towel
Portable battery charger or extra batteries
A bag to put it all in!
If you’re carrying all your own equipment (in other words, going on a self-drive tour without the luggage service), you’ll need a sturdy 65L backpack with good support.
A 25L daypack works well for your own hikes between the huts if you are with a tour company. Self-navigators should pack a handheld GPS, just to be safe.
Your day bag will need to carry spare layers, water, lunch, hot drinks, a first aid kit, swim kit, and a camera or phone. If you are not with a tour group, you will need to pack all enough food to last the duration of your hike, so leave about 10L of space for that.
65L backpack (if self-driving)
25L backpack (daily walking)
GPS and/or map (if self-driving)
The Laugavegur Trail is hailed around the world for its breath-taking natural beauty and clean air. From the natural hot springs of Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Þórsmörk, you will be surrounded by magnificent scenery and astounding geological phenomena. The 55 km trail encompasses the Southern Highlands’ colourful rhyolite mountains all the way to the forests and lush greenery of Þórsmörk Valley.
There’s a common expression in Iceland: There is no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. With just a little preparation, you can enjoy the legendary beauty of the Laugavegur Trail without having to worry about cold toes or getting the sniffles!