As Iceland is becoming incredibly popular with camping tourists here are some tips to make the best out of your trip to this extraordinary destination.
Renting gear locally is easy and comfortable
Local rental companies like the allmighty Rent-A-Tent offer a myriad of equipment for camping. Exploited by two funny and good-looking brothers that can assist you in choosing the right gear and suggest tips for camping. They have an office near Reykjavik so after you have picked up your car, you can drop by them and stash your trunk. You can drop-off everything afterwards by self-service in a big box if they are not around (pitty for the ladies).
Local renting allows you to fill your backpack with other stuff than your tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat but also provides the best equipment for Iceland’s specific environment. We rented high performance sleeping bags that were made for these weather conditions. I wouldn’t have had a good night of sleep without them. We also couldn’t stop raving about the 6-person Stanford comfort tent that we rented, which created the perfect balance between comfort and adventure.
Other specialized companies like Iceland Camping Equipment offer even more gear but lack those bigger tents that might be perfect for larger groups.
Weather can be a b*tch, be prepared
Days and days of rain can be real party poopers and are unfortunately quite common in Iceland. Make sure you carry protective and waterproof clothes and shoes. Also, certain areas of Iceland are known to be very windy. If you’re camping you should definitely seek sheltered places with soft soil that allows tent peg anchoring. This often boils down to designated camping areas. Prices rise every year but calculate for €10-15/night. Check the Vedur app for accurate weather predictions. This is the best Icelandic Weather app currently on the market. It features the best radar maps, local forecasts, weather and northern light predictions available.
Plan your shopping and sleeping spots
Camping in the wild is not allowed in Iceland and most of the times just quite impossible to do so due to the rocky undergrounds. We also learned that Icelanders may be hospitable, but they seldomly allow you to pitch your tent in their backyard (especially in the more touristic areas, where they fear to ‘open the flood gates’ for daily requests).
Camping sites can be a 50km drive away, so plan ahead and check the maps if you don’t want to eat in the dark or take considerable detours. Campgrounds often have wellcoming facilities like hot-ish showers, indoor tables for cooking and eating and kitchen sinks. They seldomly have a mini-market so shop for groceries when you get the chance!
Open or closed
Most campsites close early to mid September. Yay! If you’re on a budget that means that these sites can be used for free camping (although most of the time their facilities are closed as well). If you’re craving for a hot shower, you should definetely check their status as well 🙂
You can use the following sources to check for campgrounds or guesthouses nearby:
- CampingCard (List of 40 camp sites with CampingCard discounts; including opening dates and available facilities)
- JA (informative map that listed campsites, shops, restaurants, gas stations etc)
- Aning Guide 2017 (detailed catalogue mostly about guesthouses and hotels)
Allow yourself some comfort
Two or three week camping trips in a harsh environment can be tiresome. Especially when the weather has been bad, you can fully reload your batteries with a hot shower and a warm bed and dry some clothes if needed. We treated ourselves with a unique guesthouse or hotel every 4 days. Read all about them in the article Unique Accomodation in Iceland.
Not without a rental car
Travel around the island with a bus or hitchhiking is not easy, or even impossible. So a rental car is a must. Everything is available, from the smallest city cars to the biggest 4WD where you can blaze through rivers and across steep mountains. We chose a standard 4WD, a Ford Escape. When you’re only on the ring road a small car will do but if you want a little bit of comfort, rent a bigger one, specially if you will drive on gravel or you want to cross small rivers.
You think, a rental car in Iceland is expensive. Yes and no. It is expensive if you rent a new(er) car. But with CC Rental (City Car Rental) you can choose between new cars and older models. These old cars are cheap and they drive like they should. Everything was included in the standard price. Insurance, gravel protection …
A hint you should think about, if you travel with 4 space is limited. Especially when you include camping gear, personal luggage, food et cetera. So rent a rooftop box, we’ve did it and it was very welcoming! 😊 It’s a small company close to the airport. They picked us up at the airport and they droped us off as well.
The all-present rental vans
Rental vans that offer sleeping space are omnipresent. Rent.is, Happy Campers and others offer fair-priced alternatives to camping by tent. These vans are incredibly compact (nice word for tiny) so if you don’t mind spending 80% of your holidays in a smelly 1.5×1.5x3m box you should definitely check them out.
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