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Travel guide – essentials for hiking Iceland’s Laugavegur trail

The Laugavegur trail is Iceland’s most beautiful mountain hike. From glaciers and water boiling from under the earth to colourful mountains and crystal-clear rivers – there’s so much to discover. In my last post of the Iceland Diaries, I shared my perspective on hiking the ‘Hot Spring Route’.

We also filmed a video during our 14-day stay in Iceland, take a look!

Today, I’m here to share many helpful tips to make your journey more enjoyable. I tell you about:

  • a few essentials for the hike
  • the food, clothes and camping gear we packed
  • what to keep in mind to stay safe
  • where you will sleep during the 4 days

 

The view between Emstrur and Lake Álftavatn

Essentials for the hike

power banks

During the 55 kilometres, there will be no place to charge your phone. If you want to use your electronics throughout the whole hike, a good power bank (or two) will be necessary.

a refillable water bottle

Every one or few kilometres on the Laugavegur trail, streams flow across your way. Staying hydrated while hiking is crucial – that’s a no-brainer. In Iceland, mother nature gives you clean, crystal-clear water everywhere so there’s no need to buy bottled water in plastic. And how much money you can save, too!

instant hot packs

Hot packs will probably turn out to be a lifesaver during those freezing nights in the mountains. Putting some in socks and gloves made my 3rd night of the trail much more bearable. Usually, all you need to do is break the packets or shake them and heat is slowly released. For camping and outdoor use (without access to electricity) I’ve only seen disposable, one-use hot packs. I was surprised at how long they gave off heat. Hot packs are also very light, so you can pack as many as you please into your backpack.

A beautiful morning at Lake Álftavatn
trekking poles

They’re not a must-have but will come in handy especially during steep climbing and crossing rivers. I personally don’t own trekking/hiking poles so I don’t have any information on whether they allow them on planes. I rented out mine in Reykjavik here and paid € 11 for 4 days. They have all the camping equipment you could want, so keep that in mind if you’re planning your trip!

cash

Although campsites do accept payments by card, you may want to stay on the safe side and bring cash with you. Card terminals may be out of service as they run on solar energy very often.

What food to take

meat-free ideas included!

Lyophilised food – In other words – freeze-dried. It’s a total must-have for the hike! There are plenty of brands out there that offer lyophilised meals, such as LyoFood, Expedition Foods and Amazon. My boyfriend and I don’t eat meat, but that wasn’t a problem. There are vegetarian and vegan options available, too. Freeze-dried meals may not be the cheapest, but considering you’re going to Iceland for a holiday, you can treat these as cheaper options from restaurants.

Nuts – packed with protein, healthy fat and B vitamins, nuts are the perfect snack for hiking so many kilometres. A handful of peanuts or almonds and you’re good to go for a few hours!

Chocolate – because everyone needs some from time to time, right?

Dry smoothie mixes, such as this one, or these. The natural sugars fuel your brain and give you extra energy for the day ahead.

Everything for sandwiches :
  • jam
  • (vegan) cheese
  • hummus or any other sandwich spreads you can find in the supermarket
  • peanut butter
  • whole-grain bread – keeps you full for longer. Choose rye over wheat bread when you can!
  • veggies that last a few days – cucumbers or red bell peppers, for example
To warm yourself up…
  • instant soup
  • coffee and hot chocolate packets

What clothes to pack

It’s good to have layers of clothes that you can put on and take off throughout the hike. Temperatures change dramatically. I won’t be writing down everything you’d have to pack (we all know socks are necessary). Here are items of clothing that are especially important during the hike.

 

Fighting the elements

A hat or a running headband to protect yourself from the strong wind

Waterproof coat (it would be great if it was a windproof one as well)

Water shoes for crossing rivers – the last thing you want is walking barefoot on sharp or slippery rocks hiding underwater

Thermo-active clothing

A scarf and gloves – yes, even when it’s summertime

A swimsuit for trying out the geothermal river in Landmannalaugar

Campsites on the way

There are 5 campsites on the whole Laugavegur trail, including 3 in between the hike. Here is a list of them, from Thorsmork to Landmannalaugar :

Volcano Huts in Thorsmork

Paweł and I never stayed here because we got to Thorsmork at 12 pm and began our hike to Landmannalaugar straight away. If you’re planning to hike in the opposite direction, you may want to treat yourself to a night in the Volcano huts after the whole trek. They offer private cottages and huts apart from the camping ground.
Note! Huts in the mountains are often already booked a couple of months prior to a trip. If you want to save yourself a warm cottage, book early!

Campsite: 2600 ISK per person, including access to showers, dining area, sauna and natural hot pool.

Emstrur Campsite 

There isn’t a lot of space on the camping ground. Keep in mind that if you arrive late, the best spots will be taken. We arrived at 8 pm and managed to find a comfortable place. It can get quite cold and windy there, too.

campsite: 1800 ISK per person
huts: 9000 ISK per person

Lake Álftavatn Campsite

I recall this campsite’s location as the most beautiful. Between picturesque mountains, overviewing a huge lake.

Campsite: 1800 ISK per person
Hut: 9000 ISK per person

Camping ground in Hrafntinnusker

Here we had the most hardcore night during our hike. The campsite is located on a glacier and temperatures can drop to 0°C at night.

Campsite: 2400 ISK per person
Hut: 9000 ISK

 

Staying safe on the trail

Getting help

To begin with, it’s a good idea to go to this website to leave your travel plan and the information needed for a rescue team to find you, in case there’s an emergency.

Weather conditions

Also, check the weather online for the upcoming days, so you know what to expect more or less. There’s always a slight chance that the weather conditions might make it impossible to hike the Laugavegur Trail.

tips for crossing rivers

  • always cross the water in the widest point
  • walk a little bit upstream
  • watch out for unsteady rocks
  • use trekking poles and help out others without them
  • don’t walk in flip-flops or barefoot – keep a separate pair of shoes for crossing rivers

 

This river wasn’t the hardest one to cross but it’s definitely harder than it looks!

Other things to bear in mind

There’s nowhere to throw your rubbish away on the trail, so you’re obliged to bring it all with you until the ending point. The less waste you produce, the easier it will be to carry it.

We had sleeping bags that we could zip up and connect together. I bought the left side and Paweł bought the right one. Just another way of keeping yourself warm at night!

If you’re on a budget and travelling with a friend, you can save money by buying one checked-in luggage for your flight. All you need is a decent amount of plastic foil to wrap two big backpacks together.

Luggage deposit

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, chances are that the Laugavegur Trail is not the only thing you want to experience. And for those other days, you need clothes, camping gear and food, too. The first 10 days of our stay in Iceland were a road trip so it wasn’t a problem to just pack all of the stuff into the car. On the trail, however, every kilogram counts. The campsite in Reykjavik offers luggage deposit. That’s where we slept the night before the hike, so it was really handy to leave all the unnecessary things behind.

I’ll be honest with you: planning your hike on the Laugavegur trail requires quite a lot of time and attention. Choosing only necessary items to pack, estimating your physical abilities and how many kilometres you’re able to walk a day. It’s especially important to assume the route may take you more days than you previously expected – it depends greatly on the weather.

Packing medicine, a first-aid kit and enough food as well as not overestimating your abilities and is a priority! If you stay safe and are well-prepared, it will be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Is the Laugavegur trail on your bucket list? Or maybe you’ve already completed the trek? If so, what other tips or information would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for being here and I hope you got something worthwhile out of reading this guide!
Zuza Xx

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