Part 1: Planning and Packing
I’ve been curious about Iceland for ages. It has always been on my bucket list, but there were never any hard plans to go. Things like Mikkel Aaland’s Lightroom Adventure book tickled my interest (Can I say how jealous I was of all the photographers that were invited?), but it was never in my immediate plans. I’ve traveled with Richard Earney and Mark Gould to Scotland twice, and we’d talked about maybe getting a ferry and going that way. Realistically it was all a bit too expensive. Mark had been there before, and was all too aware of how much it could cost. So it was basically just talk with no material date in mind.
Last November we decided to change this and started planning a trip. Easyjet are now flying from Luton Airport in London to Reykjavík. And at acceptable prices too, so the expense element dropped quite a bit. Initially we planned on renting a car and camping, but realistically you need a 4X4 to cross the middle of the island. This is especially true if you want to see unique locations. Some roads are less than dirt tracks, with rivers to ford, so cars are a no go. We got a jeep from cheapjeep.is, as recommended by folks on luminous-landscape.com. It was cheaper than Mark’s previous trip and came in at £900 for the week. There were some issues with the jeep, which we’ll talk about later.
Our flights were £150 each, but could’ve been cheaper had we booked sooner. Initially we planned for a May trip, but eventually selected on June 24th-July 1st as camping grounds would be open, and the weather would be more like a British/Irish Springtime. I had an additional flight expense getting to/from Luton. Again had I booked sooner I probably could’ve got it cheaper. We also had to stay in a hotel near Luton as check-in was at 5am.
Planning for a camping trip in Iceland isn’t really different than anywhere else. Between the 3 of us we ran the whole gamut from 1 season to 3 season sleeping bags. I was only cold going to sleep one night, but always woke warm in my 2 season bag (A Vango Planet 50), while Richard was always cold in a 1 season. Next time, I’ll bring a silk liner to add a few degrees.
I shared a Hilleberg tent with Mark (2 man, I think), while Richard had a 1 man. In addition we used air mattresses, ‘Thermarest’ in our tent, and a standard air mattress in Richards. Both were comfortable. Y shaped tent pegs helped with stability, and in the one hard ground camp, we put rocks on the lines to prevent the pegs pulling out of the clay.
For cooking, we brought a compact stove and purchased gas upon arrival. There are often half empty gas cans left at campsites near the airport too, which can make things cheaper. We also had camping pans etc to make cooking easier. Eating out in Iceland is expensive, so it’s worth making a few meals while camping.
I brought 2 bags, one carry on and one for the hold. My checked bag contained:
- khaki travel pants
- tripod + head
- gloves with finger peepholes
- Sleeping bag (the Vango Planet 50)
- microfibre towel (MSR brand)
- washbag with toothpaste/brush/shower gel/razor etc
- 3 way plug adapter
- car power inverter
- 2 pin power lead
- Rocket blower
- Toilet Roll
The carry on bag contained:
- Canon 5DII
- 24 TSE
- Charger + spare battery
- Olympus OM-D E-M5
- 40-150 (borrowed!)
- Holga lens
- baby flash
- SD cards
- CF cards
- CF/SD reader
- Ipad/iphone charger +usb cable
- Lastolite Reflector
- Cable remote/Wireless remote + batteries
- 10 Stop/ND Grads, Polariser/lenscloth, holders, 72mm/77/77/52-77/52-72 rings etc
- Hoya R72 IR filter
- Skullcandy earphones for blocking sound/music
- Hard Drive + cable
- Spare release plate
- Hotshoe level
- Arctic Butterfly
- Passport/ check-in sheets
- Spare Boot Laces
Sounds like an odd list, but everything got used at some point. There were things I meant to bring but didn’t. I was going to bring insect repellent, but Mark said “Iceland is quite insect free”. How wrong could he be? There were really annoying flies at loads of places we stopped. I also meant to bring sunscreen and aftersun. I did get sunburn one morning, and couldn’t find any aftersun anywhere (even though the shelves claimed to have it there!). I know I’m suggesting hat and gloves with sunscreen, but they’re all needed.
Other things to note, my sleeping bag cover was fleece lined so could be turned inside out, stuffed with clothes and used as a pillow. The earphones were vital in getting asleep to shut out noise from inside and outside the tent. Campsites tend to be always busy, especially Landmannalaugar. Clothing wise, I should’ve brought more travel pants for weight. I really had jeans for the trip home, but probably could’ve had 3 sets of traveling trousers for the same weight.
Mark also brought an inverter. Both of them ran every minute we were in the jeep. A Car to multiple USB adapter would’ve been useful for the 3 iPhones and iPad. Some other things I wish I’d brought were a few tote bags, as in the drawstring type bag. Good for laundry/bring stuff to pools/showers etc. These weigh next to nothing and are quite useful.
For internet access, we went into Reykjavik and purchased a 3G sim for the iPad 5Gb for 1990ISK, which is about €13, from the Vodafone shop. This worked throughout most of the island. Shops don’t open until 1pm on Sundays though. As for photo backup, Richard imported photos onto his Macbook Air, and then onto my Hard Drive (an older Maxtor 160GB portable). This had been discussed in advance so as to try and fit below a shared hold weight of 60Kg. We still managed to come in underweight.
Next we’ll look at getting there and where we went.