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Walking on ice - who would have thought that was possible? If conquering an Icelandic glacier is on your list of things to do during your upcoming visit, you’ll want to make sure you pack appropriately.
With 11% of the country’s landmass covered in ice caps, Iceland’s unique landscape is the ideal place to experience glacier hiking. Let us help you prepare for your glacier adventure by sharing some must-pack items.
With the right equipment and an expert guide, you will never forget the once-in-a-lifetime experience of hiking across an Icelandic glacier. Looking after your needs and making sure you can enjoy your adventure is our priority, and as such, our glacier tours are designed to accommodate individuals of all abilities.
The West Coast of Iceland is a magical place. The number of things to do here is never-ending, which is why we have compiled 10 incredible things that will give you a comprehensive experience of the region.
Are you ready to tick off the boxes on your West Coast Iceland to-do list? Let the adventures begin!
Glacier Hiking Weather
The first thing to check when packing your gear for a glacier hike in Iceland is the weather. You might be surprised that Iceland’s weather is milder than you might imagine. This is thanks to the Gulf Stream that flows along the south and west of Iceland, bringing warm Caribbean air across the island. Although this may sound nice, it certainly doesn’t make for tropical conditions, and when combined with the cold Arctic air, weather conditions can change quickly.
Iceland’s subarctic climate means that it is cold and windy for most of the year. You’ll definitely feel these elements when hiking on a glacier, so bringing appropriate clothing is key. Skaftafell and Sólheimajökull are the most sought-after glaciers in Iceland, but whatever adventure you choose to tackle, the clothes you’re wearing can make all the difference.
Dressing Appropriately for Glacier Hiking
The key to dressing well in Iceland is to wear layers. This is particularly important when going on a glacier hike. Here we have broken down the science of layering for a glacier hike in Iceland:
The base layer is the innermost layer of clothing. As this layer will be in contact with your skin, it should be comfortable, warm, and soft. A proper base layer set should include a long-sleeved top and thermals.
What to Wear
The base layer is meant to insulate you without making you sweat. This makes choosing the right fabric extremely important. We recommend Merino as it is a fine wool and will keep you comfortably warm. Alternatively, you can choose synthetic fabrics as they are also fast-drying and breathable.
What to Avoid
A common mistake to avoid when choosing glacier gear is picking cotton. It may be breathable, but it will absorb sweat and won’t dry quickly. It will stay wet and ultimately leave you feeling cool, which is not ideal for a glacier hike.
The middle layer is for insulation. To stay comfortable, this layer should reflect your body heat. The thickness of this layer will depend upon the season. In the summer, a fleece sweater will suffice. But for the winter you will need a thick hiking jacket.
What to Wear
The insulating layer should be lightweight. As always, choosing the right fabric is crucial. Fleece and wool are both good options and so are synthetics, such as a duck-down jacket. For bottoms, water-resistant hiking pants are the best. In the winter, fleece-lined pants will help to keep you warm.
What to Avoid
Heavy, bulky fabrics and clothing are not your friends during glacier hiking. To ensure comfort and freedom of movement on the hike, you should stay away from them.
The shell layer is the outermost layer of clothing and should protect you from the weather. Wearing waterproof and windproof raincoats and overpants will keep you comfortable and insulated in all types of weather.
Glacier hiking shoes are an important part of your outfit. A quality pair of hiking boots is imperative for glacier hiking. They should have a good grip and thick soles. As you will be on your feet for a long time, they should provide good ankle support. In most cases, you can rent glacial hiking shoes when booking your tour if you’d prefer not to purchase a pair.
We will provide you with specialized glacier gear on our tours. However, it is important to complete your outfit with the right accessories.
Gloves, scarves, and hats are an important part of your outfit. Waterproof gloves are handy to have on a glacial hike. You can use a buff, neck gaiter, or ski balaclava to cover your neck and ears. A soft beanie will fit easily under a helmet and will stop valuable heat from escaping through your head. Be sure to bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from the light-reflecting snow, too.
Your outfit is not complete without an ice axe and crampons, which are included in your tour bookings with us. However, we recommend having a light backpack packed with essentials such as snacks, water, trail rags, travel-friendly skincare, and of course, a camera.
Dressing for a glacier hike is an exciting adventure in its own right. We also know that layering can be overwhelming, especially when it’s for hiking across icy landscapes. By following the tips in this blog, you will master the science of layering and be ready for your Icelandic adventure.