The Laugavegur Trail is one of the most spectacular trails in the world. While completing this epic trek, you’ll visit stunning waterfalls, soak in geothermal hot springs, and meet countless friendly people. We truly believe it is the best way to see some of Iceland’s most stunning landscapes.
Even though our Laugavegur Trail adventure turned out to be one of our all time favorite experiences, there was a LOT that we wished we’d known before setting off. Now that we’ve completed it, what recommendations do we have for those trekkers eager to tackle Iceland’s most famous hike? To make it easy, we’ve distilled our experiences into ten key takeaways.
Here are our 10 Essentials for hiking the Laugavegur Trail:
- Bring really warm clothes
- A sleep mask & ear plugs will be invaluable
- Be prepared for all four seasons (sometimes in the same day!)
- Treat your feet
- Plan on camping if you prefer flexibility
- Arrange your transport ahead of time
- Carry your own food
- Be prepared for river crossings
- Bring plenty of cash
- Leave no trace
1. Bring really warm clothes
We hiked the Laugavegur Trail in early July expecting balmy, warm, summer weather. Think again! While we were extremely lucky that we didn’t have much rain on our trek, the temperature was WAY colder than we had anticipated. At several points, we were so cold that we found ourselves wearing every piece of clothing we had, rain pants included! This was especially problematic given that we were camping and couldn’t warm up in the huts at night.
Our advice? Bring an extra mid-layer to wear under your jacket (which should be a packable and lightweight down jacket like this one) along with long-underwear or leggings that you can layer under your hiking pants. In addition, you’ll definitely want to pack gloves, a warm hat, and a cozy pair of socks. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did!
2. A sleeping mask & ear plugs will be invaluable
We were fortunate to have brought both of these items along for the Laugavegur Trail and would highly encourage you to do the same. Summer in Iceland is beautiful, but that midnight sun isn’t always appreciated when you’re trying to get some sleep after eight hours of hiking. For this reason we strongly recommend that you pack a trusty sleeping mask in your pack. These can be purchased inexpensively (we like this Alaska Bear version) and are worth every penny!
In addition to the sleeping mask, ear plugs are essential on the Laugavegur. It goes without saying that you’ll want these if you are planning to sleep in huts, as you’re almost guaranteed to have a snorer nearby. However, we think ear plugs are essential for campers, too. Many of the campgrounds along the Laugavegur can be quite cramped with only a few feet between tents. That means you’ll almost certainly be treated to your own symphony of snores at least one night on the trail!
Do yourself a favor and be sure to pack some nice, silicone ear plugs (we love these ones from Mack’s) to ensure you can get a restful night’s sleep.
3. Be prepared for all four seasons (sometimes in the same day!)
The hiking season on the Laugavegur Trail runs from mid-June through the end of August. This might lead you to believe that you’ll be hiking in lovely, warm, sunny weather. While that certainly could be the case for a couple of hours, you’d be extremely lucky to have that type of weather for your entire trek. In reality, the weather in Iceland can change in an instant and you should be prepared for sun, wind, rain, and even snow at any point along the trail and on any day of the year.
Practically, this means that you’ll need to have versatile clothing items that can be worn in a variety of conditions, along with good rain and wind gear. For clothing, we really like merino wool items that can be layered together (see our Laugavegur Trail packing list for specific ideas) along with a good down jacket. For wind and rain, a packable rain jacket and good pair of rain pants will be worth their weight in gold should the weather turn foul on your trek. Anything with GoreTex fabric will be great for the Laugavegur Trail, and we specifically love these ultra-lightweight rain jackets from Outdoor Research and dependable rain pants from Colombia.
4. Treat your feet
Of all the gear you plan to bring, the single biggest impact on how you feel on the trail will come from how you treat your feet. This advice rings true for any hike, long or short, but it’s especially salient for treks in variable weather like the Laugavegur. We recommend a waterproof pair of hiking boots or trail running shoes. Before your trek, your shoes/boots should be broken in with at least 30 miles of hiking with a weighted backpack. Match your boots with a pair of high-quality merino wool hiking socks and you’ll be as ready as you can be for everything the trail will throw at you!
For boots or trail runners, we recommend trying on a wide variety of pairs at your local outdoor store to see what fits well and feels good. Be sure to bring your backpack with some weight in it to get a sense of how a particular pair of boots feels with a heavy pack on.
For socks, we highly recommend using a pair that’s designed specifically for hiking and made out of merino wool. Our favorite brand is Darn Tough, which makes a breathable, comfortable, and very odor-resistant hiking sock. You can bring a few pairs (2-3 should be fine) and wash them as needed along the way.
5. Plan on camping if you prefer flexibility
The popularity of the Laugavegur Trail means that advance bookings are essential for those staying in huts along the route. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll know exactly how far you need to go each day and you’ll have assurance that you’ll have a cozy bed to sleep in each night. However, you’ll also give up any ability to change your plans. If the weather is bad, you twist an ankle, or you’re simply hiking faster than you expected, you’ll have have no option but to continue on to the hut you reserved.
How can you get out of this conundrum? Pack your own tent.
Every stop along the Laugavegur Trail includes campsites that do not require advance reservations. Therefore, camping will give you the flexibility to stop at whichever point makes the most sense, given the weather and how you are feeling. We ended up hiking faster than we were expecting and loved having the ability to keep going past the campsite we had originally planned on staying at in order to get a head start on the next day. Camping isn’t for everyone, but for those interested in having the most flexibility possible, it is definitely the way to go.
6. Arrange your transport ahead of time
Despite the trail’s remoteness, getting to and from the Laugavegur Trail is actually quite easy. There are frequent and convenient bus services that will drop you off in Landmannalaugar and pick you up in Þórsmörk (or Skogar, for those also hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail). We highly recommend utilizing the Reykjavik Excursions Hiker Pass service, although there are also several other companies providing transfers to the hiker from Reykjavik.
However, the problem is that the bus services are often fully booked in the peak summer months (specifically July and August). If you simply show up at the bus station the day of your trek, there’s a good chance you’ll be out of luck with no way to get to the trail. Given this fact, you’ll want to be sure you’ve reserved your transport to and from the trail well in advance of arriving in Iceland. Ideally, you should have your service booked two months before starting your trek. Trust us, you’ll be glad to know you’ve got a ride back to Reykjavik after you’ve just hiked 33 miles!
7. Carry your own food
Iceland is known for many things: stunning scenery, remote wilderness, soaring volcanoes, and…..for being incredibly expensive. As far as Icelandic adventures go, the Laugavegur Trail can actually be quite budget friendly (be sure to check out our Laugavegur Trail budget article for more information), especially for those willing to camp and cook their own meals. Still, there will undoubtedly be plenty of things you’ll need to buy that will be shockingly expensive.
One of the easiest ways to lessen the impact on your wallet (and to ensure you’re fully prepared for your trek) is to bring food from home. Chances are, you already have a good sense of where to find backpacking meals, muesli, energy bars, and other hiking food in your own hometown. Do yourself a favor and stock up on everything you’ll need before coming to Iceland (just be sure it’s all packaged food – fresh food can get you into trouble at customs!) You’ll not only save yourself from the extremely high food costs in Iceland, but you’ll also save yourself the time and hassle of having to assemble all of your meals once you arrive in Reykjavik.
8. Be prepared for river crossings
The Laugavegur Trail is a great trek for hikers of all ability levels. For the most part, the terrain is easy to navigate, the trail well-marked, and services are available at frequent intervals along the way, thanks to the excellent hut system. However, there are several rivers that will need to be crossed without the aid of a bridge, and these can be quite intimidating. Being prepared for these will make your Laugavegur trek much more enjoyable, not to mention much safer.
To begin with, you MUST bring a pair of shoes specifically to wear when crossing rivers. Attempting to go barefoot will almost certainly result in a dangerous fall into icy cold water, something you most definitely want to avoid. We recommend bringing a pair of sturdy sandals (we prefer Chacos) or even an old pair of running shoes that you don’t mind getting soaked. Either way, they must be sturdy (no flip-flops) and relatively light to carry.
Additionally, you should always check with the wardens at each hut you pass to get the latest information on any upcoming river crossings. They’ll be able to give you an idea of the water levels (which can reach waist deep), as well as provide guidance on the best place to cross. Generally speaking, the widest part of a river is the best place to cross, as it will be the shallowest. Additionally, always be sure to unbuckle your backpack’s hipbelt when crossing a river, as you want to have the ability to easily remove it should you fall in the water. Finally, we find that a good pair of trekking poles provide welcome stability when crossing a fast-moving river. We recommend these Black Diamond poles for their durability and affordable price tag.
9. Bring plenty of cash
You won’t find any ATMs along the Laugavegur Trail, and while many of the huts do have credit card machines they run on solar power, which can be spotty at best. Rather than take your chances with the Icelandic weather, we recommend carrying enough cash to last the entirety of your trek. The amount you’ll need will vary significantly from hiker to hiker, but you can use our Laugavegur Trail budgeting article to get a sense for how much you should carry.
10. Leave no trace
Our last essential item for trekking the Laugavegur Trail should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: please utilize Leave No Trace practices on your trip. Iceland has an extremely fragile environment, and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
There are a few Leave No Trace practices that are of particular importance on the Laugavegur Trail. These include packing out all of your trash, not hiking off-trail, and choosing not to wild camp, no matter how tempting the spot may be. Remember that you are just one of thousands of people who trek this incredible trail every year, and we all have a right to enjoy it in it’s most pristine condition.
Taking these 10 Essentials to heart will go a long way in ensuring you have an unforgettable time on Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail. We think this trek is hands-down the best way to experience the incredible landscapes of Iceland and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a few days in the wilderness in this magnificent country.
For more resources to help you plan the perfect trip, be sure to check out all of our Laugavegur Trail posts:
- Laugavegur Trail | Maps, Routes, and Itineraries
- Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail
- Laugavegur Trail Logistics: Don’t overlook the little details!
- Laugavegur Trail Photo Gallery: Get inspired!
- Laugavegur Trip Report- Know what to expect on the trail!
- How Much it Cost Us to Hike the Laugavegur Trail – Make it work for your budget!
- Laugavegur Trail Packing List – Be sure you’ve got everything you’ll need!