How to Prepare for a Day Hike in Iceland

October 1, 2018

One of the best things about Iceland is that you don’t have to travel far from the city to find mind-blowing hiking opportunities.
Following our guide, you can avoid some unpleasant surprises and truly enjoy exploring Iceland’s natural treasures.
Prepare for the best day hike you’ve ever had!

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Preparing for a day hike in Iceland infographic

How to Prepare for a Day Hike in Iceland

Inform Yourself About the Weather Conditions

Regardless of whether you are planning a day hike or a multi-day trek, the first step is always to get information about your destination. Learn about the average seasonal conditions where you are heading in Iceland, check the weather forecast and the road conditions.

The length of the day is an important consideration that you need to be aware of. We experience very bright nights in Iceland from June to August, but the nights are extremely long and dark in winter.

The length of daylight can also differ significantly in the northern and southern parts of the country.  For example, the days tend to be shorter than three hours in North Iceland in December, but they are almost two hours longer in South Iceland on the very same day. Always check whether your hiking plans are consistent with the amount of daylight you can expect.

Laugavgur Trail Sign

Laugavegur Trail Map

Learn About the Hiking Trail Area

Get a detailed hiking map and download one to your device. Use a hiking app and make sure you know how to use the map, a compass, and a GPS. All three of these are necessary if you intend trekking through almost untouched natural landscapes.

The difficulty level of a trail can vary according to the weather and the season, the weight of your backpack is also an important factor to consider. Check the walking distance, estimated hiking time, and also the elevations. Be aware of your own and your companion’s hiking experience and capabilities. A good hike always starts with good planning!

Hiking in winter in Iceland is possible but it requires extra care. Ensuring that you are well informed about avalanche warnings is very important if you plan to hike in the mountains.

Dress Accordingly

The weather in Iceland is extremely variable and sometimes unpredictable, in all seasons. You should always be prepared for the possibility of strong winds and heavy rain and snow, especially in the mountains. Alternatively, summertime can bring sparkling sunshine and temperatures of 20 degrees in the shade.

Dressing smart is the key. Wear at least three layers, so you can easily adapt to whichever turn the weather decides to take, and you will remain comfortable during the hike.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long johns as a base layer. Make sure to avoid cotton, since it absorbs the body’s moisture and takes too long to dry, keeping your body wet and cool on the trail.

Wear a middle layer that will retain your own body heat effectively. A down jacket in winter or a fleece sweater in summer is the smart call. Think of the elevation and the difficulty level of the trail, and try to avoid very heavy clothing that could feel too heavy and restrictive as you hike.

Wear an outer layer that protects you from wind and rain. Choose a high-quality breathable fabric that not only shields you from rain but also allows for ventilation, letting your body’s moisture evaporate, keeping you dry on the inside.

equipment and clothing for day hike iceland

Equipment for a day hike in Iceland

Have the Right Equipment and No More

Make sure you have the proper gear according to the season and the trail. You might need crampons, an ice axe, and avalanche equipment in winter, sunglasses, and sunscreen are needed in summer.

Again, always have a map, compass and a GPS with you. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged when you get on the trail in the morning and have an extra power bank with you, just in case. You should, also, always carry a first aid kit in your backpack. Or, skip all of these and join a guided hike where local professional guides take care of everything you need!

Pack enough water and snacks for the hike. If there are rivers on the trail, it is useful to know that in Iceland it is safe to drink from them, so you won’t need water cleansing tablets.

If you are not used to hiking with a heavy backpack, don’t carry any non-essential extra weight, such as photography equipment. Hiking poles are recommended and they can be very useful.

Safety Comes First

Iceland can surprise even the most experienced hikers, which is part of its charm. However, this also means that being prepared for an emergency situation is essential. It is better to be safe than sorry!

  • If you hike alone, make sure you leave your travel plan behind

  • Download the application called 112 Iceland

  • Check the warnings before you leave and don’t ignore them

  • Always have a first aid kit, water, and food with you

  • A space blanket can be life-saving in a survival situation

An easy day hike just outside of the city can be every bit as exciting and awe-inspiring as a trek in the middle of a faraway wilderness. Don’t worry if you don’t have much time in Iceland. Go ahead and explore as many of the marvels that Iceland has to offer as you can!

Hiking in Iceland with quote

Hiking in Iceland

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