Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is on many hikers bucket list. The trek brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery while also helping you escape from the tour bus crowds that have become all too common at many of the country’s top sights. One question we frequently hear from readers who are interested in hiking the Laugavegur Trail is how we went about navigating while on the trail. Did we bring maps? Was the route hard to follow? How hard was it to find the huts and campgrounds along the Laugavegur Trail?
Rest assured that with the proper tools and resources, navigating on the Laugavegur Trail should be a straightforward endeavor. In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated on the trail, including how we utilized GPS on our phones to make navigating a breeze and also provide some resources for those who would like to do the same. Let’s get started!
In this post
- Should I bring a paper map on the Laugavegur Trail?
- Offline GPS maps for the Laugavegur Trail
- Laugavegur Trail maps – What we provide
- Which app should I use?
- Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail
- Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail
- A note on battery life
Should I bring a paper map on the Laugavegur Trail?
The short answer is yes. You should always carry a paper map on any backcountry expedition. While we chose to rely on GPS data loaded into a navigation app on our phone, a paper map is an essential item to have as a backup. Technology has done wonders to make trail navigation easy and accessible, and we highly recommend you utilize it to help navigate on your own trip. However, if that iPhone you brought runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle, you’ll be glad you had your handy paper maps to rely on.
At a minimum, we recommend carrying the Island Serkot 04 map, as it provides a useful overview of the Laugavegur Trail and surrounding areas. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.
Once in Iceland, you’ll also be able to find maps with much better detail on the Laugavegur Trail, which we would also suggest picking up. You’re best bet in Reykjavik is to stop by one of the many outdoor stores. They should have several maps available.
Offline GPS maps for the Laugavegur Trail
One of our favorite tools to utilize on long treks, including the Laugavegur Trail, is an offline GPS map of the entire route and surrounding terrain. It makes on trail navigation incredible easy and the set-up is a breeze. You simply download the necessary GPS files on to your phone and open your chosen GPS app (more on that below).
You can then easily view your location, the trail, huts, campgrounds, and more along the Laugavegur. We utilized this frequently on our own hike to know how far we had hiked at any given point, check that we were still on the trail, and know how close we were to our stopping point for the day.
We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Laugavegur Trail and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your Laugavegur trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.
Using your phone as a GPS
Modern smartphones are incredible machines. You can send email, video chat with someone halfway around the world, and check your bank account all with a swipe of your finger. Another great feature of smartphones is their ability to act as a GPS device. You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.
The problem is your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you. Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this:
Solving the background map problem
While the issue of a background map not displaying isn’t typically a problem in cities or towns where ample cell phone service (and thus internet connectivity) exists, it can be a huge problem when you’re, say, crossing a snow field on the Laugavegur Trail without service. The solution? GPS Navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps. These apps allow you to select a predefined area, in our case the entirety of the Laugavegur Trail, and download the background map to your phone.
This allows you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Laugavegur Trail below.
Laugavegur Trail maps – What we provide
For those looking for Laugavegur Trail GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Laugavegur route along with all of the huts and campgrounds on the trail.
This data will give you the confidence to know exactly where your next hut or campground is and exactly how to get there.
These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.
Which app should I use?
There are dozens of GPS apps that will work for navigating on the Laugavegur Trail, however, we have a few favorites. We recommend utilizing either Gaia GPS or Maps.me for your offline navigating. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Laugavegur Trail displays in each of the apps.
As you can see, Maps.me can easily display the route as well as campground markers along the way. However, the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS gives the user much more information such as adjacent trails, topographic lines, and elevation shading. For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS, although we certainly understand those who prefer to use a free option. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the Laugavegur for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.
Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail
The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Laugavegur Trail GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.
Step One – Download the Laugavegur Trail GPS file
When you purchase our Laugavegur Trail GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.
Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Laugavegur Trail route and waypoints for the huts/campgrounds displayed on the map.
Step Two – Choose your map source
Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while trekking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the Laugavegur Trail. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.
Step Three – Navigate to the Laugavegur Trail and download your background map
Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the Laugavegur Trail. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:
- Navigate to the area of the Laugavegur in Gaia GPS
- Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
- Select ‘Download Map’
- Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire Laugavegur route
- Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
- Name your map ‘Laugavegur Trail’ and select ‘Save’
- Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)
That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the Laugavegur like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the huts and campgrounds along the route!
Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail
The final step to navigating like a pro on the Laugavegur is to the able to successfully use Gaia GPS on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky, which should be no problem in Iceland) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way. NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!
Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail
The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Laugavegur Trail GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Laugavegur. The primary shortcoming of using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find any topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Laugavegur GPS data with Maps.me:
Step One – Download the Tour du Mont Blanc GPS file
When you purchase our Laugavegur Trail GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.
After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to Iceland and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.
Step Two – Download the Laugavegur Trail background maps
Once you have successfully loaded the Laugavegur GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the trail as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:
- Navigate to the area of the Laugavegur Trail in Maps.me
- Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
- You’ll need to download the ‘Iceland’ map to cover the entire Laugavegur Trail.
- Verify that you’ve downloaded the required base map by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
- Once you’ve checked that the Iceland map has been successfully downloaded you’re all done!
That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the campgrounds along the route!
A note on battery life
One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.
The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.
Want more Laugavegur content? Keep reading!
Be sure and check out all of our Laugavegur Trail resources below to help plan your perfect trip!
- 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!
- 10 Essentials for the Laugavegur Trail – Our best advice