Laugavegur Trail Packing List

If you’re planning to walk the Laugavegur and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure. Below you’ll…

If you’re planning to walk the Laugavegur and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure.

Below you’ll find a detailed packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own Laugavegur Trail adventure!

Camping Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
This is the best budget tent on the market and the best overall tent on the market!
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 15If planning to camp at Hrafntinnusker plan on bringing a 0 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bag. Otherwise the Marmot 15 is a great all around bag.
Sleeping padNemo Astro Sleeping Pad If you are a side sleeper this is a must!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlampWith nearly endless daylight in the summer you may not use this, but should nevertheless bring in case of emergency.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mug

Personal Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierA handy, must-have on the trail.
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Hydration BladderPlatypus 3 Liter Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle!
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18LGreat for short day hikes and excursions in Reykjavik!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how much it can rain on the Laugavegur!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65The most comfortable backpack on the market!
Women's backpackOsprey Ariel 65
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Back Trekking polesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit DryLite TowelGreat to have for campsite showers.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.
Warm, waterproof glovesSeirus Waterproof GlovesEssential for the cold, wet weather on the Laugavegur.
Buff or BandanaOriginal Buff
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskThe sun never sets in Iceland during the summertime!
Blister padsBand-Aid Blister Pads
Lip BalmJack Black Lip Balm

Miscellaneous Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe Laugavegur Trail Hiking CompanionA great resource for planning your walk. It also includes a wealth of information about the geology of the area.
JournalMoleskin Journal
Ear plugsMack's ear plugsEssential for the more crowded campsites!
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
TripodJoby GorillaPodThe perfect travel tripod.
Unlocked phoneMoto G PlayA simple, budget-friendly phone to use for navigation and local calls with a SIM.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 20100There are no outlets for campers along the Laugavegur, so this necessary for many people.
Laundry Soap SheetsSea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket SoapThese are the greatest travel hack ever! The best way to clean your clothes on-the-go.
Travel adapterJoomfeen All-in-one adapterGreat for all of your travels.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Women’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)ExOfficio Women's Sport UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire bra
HatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1These are a must-have for the several river crossings along the route.

Men’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can bring 4-5 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Columbia Tech Shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Running shorts (1)La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
Rain pantsMarmot Precip Pants
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsThese are a must-have for the several river crossings along the route.
Hiking bootsSalomon X-Ultra 3 MidSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Laugavegur Trail Logistics

Many of the small details of planning your Laugavegur Trail trek can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that the river crossing will be difficult, but you…

Many of the small details of planning your Laugavegur Trail trek can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that the river crossing will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the Keflavik Airport to your hotel in Reykjavik and then on to the start of the Laugavegur trail in Landmannalaugar. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own Laugavegur trail adventure.

Keflavik Airport (KEF) to Reykjavik

Most, if not all, walkers will arrive in Iceland at the Keflavik Airport (KEF), which is about 50km from the center of Reykjavik. If you are flying from the United States, your flight will likely arrive early in the morning, leaving you plenty of time to get settled in your accommodation in Reykjavik before starting your walk the next day. Here are your best options for getting from Keflavik to central Reykjavik:

  • Public Bus (Straeto)By far the most economical way to get from the airport to Reykjavik is the public bus. Straeto, Iceland’s public transportation company, runs an efficient airport bus (Route number 55) that picks up from the airport and makes several stops en route to central Reykjavik. The bus runs hourly during peak times, and as of 2019 the cost for a one-way fare to Reykjavik is 1,880 ISK. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver upon boarding. Straeto has a very helpful smartphone app that allows you to plan your journey as well as pay for tickets, and we highly recommend travelers with phone access make use of it. 

  • FlyBus: FlyBus, operated by Reykjavik Excursions, is your best bet for private transfers from the airport to central Reykjavik. The bus picks up travelers from the airport and drops them off at either the central bus station (BSI Terminal) or at selected hotels throughout the city. The FlyBus can be booked in advance through the Reykjavik Excursions website and costs 3,449 ISK as of 2019. 

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

Lodging (and everything, really) is expensive in Reykjavik. Luckily, there are several good options to suit all budgets for staying in Reykjavik both before and after walking the Laugavegur Trail. Here are your best bets:

  • Reykjavik Campsite: The most economical option in town is to simply camp at the lovely Reykjavik Campsite. Located approximately 20-30 minutes by walking from central Reykjavik, the campground provides great facilities at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. As a bonus, the bus to Landmannalaugar picks up directly from the campsite. 

  • Reykjavik City Hi Hostel: The most convenient hostel for those planning to walk the Laugavegur, the City Hi Hostel is located adjacent to the campsite as well as the bus pick-up location for getting to Landmannalaugar.

  • Hilton Reykjavik Nordica: For those looking for a more traditional hotel, we would highly recommend the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Located on the edge of central Reykjavik, the hotel offers nice rooms, a fantastic breakfast, and is just a short walk from the campsite for catching the bus to Landmannalaugar. 

You can check out all the options in and around Reykjavik here:

Booking.com

The Reykjavik Campsite is an affordable and convenient option for Laugavegur hikers.

 

Getting to/from the Laugavegur from Reykjavik

For those hiking the Laugavegur Trail from north to south, you’ll start in Landmannalaugar. There is no public bus service to Landmannalaugar so you’ll need to arrange private transportation. The best option in our opinion is the Reykjavik Excursions Iceland on Your Own Hiker Pass. The hiker pass provides walkers with transportation to the start of the Laugavegur trail as well as back to Reykjavik from the finish. You can take as much time as you need to complete the hike and can be picked from any of the three main access points on the Laugavegur: Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, and Skogar (for those also completing the Fimmvörðuháls). The cost as of 2019 is 14,000 ISK and the bus picks up walkers at the campsite as well as the BSI bus terminal. If you choose to complete the Fimmvörðuháls and finish in Skogar, Straeto (the public bus company) picks up here via Route 51. Check Straeto’s website for more details and timetables. 

For those hiking the trail from south to north and starting in Þórsmörk, you’ll need to use the Reykjavik Excursions service described above as there is no public bus to Þórsmörk. If you are starting your Laugavegur hike by first completing the Fimmvörðuháls, then you will also have the option of utilizing Straeto’s Route 51 described above. 

Keep in mind that all routes between Reykjavik and any of the three main access points for the Laugavegur take several hours. The journey between Reykjavik and Landmannalaugar takes about 4.5 hours, Reykjavik to/from Þórsmörk takes about 4 hours, and Reykjavik to/from Skogar takes about 3.5 hours. Therefore, you’ll want to plan the start and end of your hike accordingly to allow for enough time to complete each segment and also catch your return bus. 

Reykjavik Excursions provides easy access to and from the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Money

There are no ATMs along the Laugavegur Trail, so you’ll need to be prepared to pay for all of your expenses with cash you’ve brought along or with a credit card. All of the huts/campsites give you the option to pay for your accommodation and anything additional you may purchase with a credit card, although savvy travelers will want to   bring at least some cash as it’s possible that the credit card machines may not be working due to limited solar power.

Luggage Storage

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might like to carry while hiking the Laugavegur Trail. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find several options for luggage storage in Reykjavik. Luggage Lockers Iceland has several options throughout Reykjavik, with the most convenient locations for Laugavegur walkers being the Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool (adjacent to the campsite) and the BSI Bus Station, as both are pick-up and drop-off points for the bus to/from the Laugavegur. Note that the maximum luggage storage time at the BSI Bus Station is 5 days, while the Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool will allow you to store your luggage for up to 30 days. Both locations have several locker sizes as well as easy to use self-service kiosks. You can check locker sizes, prices, and opening hours for all of their locations here

Alternatively, many hotels in Reykjavik will gladly store your extra luggage if you are staying with them both before and after your Laugavegur Trail. The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store any extra luggage at all!

But wait…there’s more!

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail get the all the information you need to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail

Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of…

Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of the most wonderful ways to experience the best of what Iceland’s backcountry has to offer (waterfalls, glaciers, geothermal activity, canyons, aquamarine rivers…you get the idea) is to hike the iconic Laugavegur Trail. This 34 mile (55 km) walk typically takes hikers 2-4 days.  It allows walkers to experience the remote and often harsh landscapes of the Icelandic wilderness while still providing some basic comforts and amenities. Those who want to maximize comfort might choose to stay in the mountain huts, while those seeking a more rugged (and affordable) experience can camp at every stage of the trek. Completing the hike is pretty straightforward, but there are nonetheless some important factors to consider in advance. This is particularly true if you are planning to camp along the trail. This guide will cover everything you need to know in order to prepare for an amazing Laugavegur camping adventure! 

Cascading falls on the way to Skogar.

 

First, a few basics about the hike:

Direction: We hiked the Laugavegur from north to south and we’d certainly recommend traveling in this direction if you want to avoid some very long climbs and be more likely to have the wind at your back.  If you do plan on hiking from south to north, expect a more challenging hike and plan for longer days on the trail. The “traditional” direction to hike is from north to south, but don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself if you go in the opposite direction. We saw several dozen hikers traveling northbound each day while we were out there. 

When to do it: The weather in Iceland can be extremely harsh. No matter when you go, expect cold, wet, and windy conditions for a least some parts of your trek and pack accordingly. This is especially important for campers. We hiked in early July and had great weather throughout, although it was still very cold at times. Even though it was peak season, it wasn’t overly crowded on the trail if we got an early start.  With the right gear (check out our packing list for more on this topic), campers can typically complete the hike from mid-June through early September. Make sure to always check with the hut wardens for the latest conditions and never attempt to hike through unsafe weather. 

Notes:

  • All prices in this guide are per person, per day.
  • This guide is based on a moderately-paced four day itinerary that begins in Landmannalaugar and ends in Þórsmörk (pronounced Thorsmork). There is an option to extend your hike by completing the Fimmvörðuháls Trail which connects Þórsmörk to Skogar. We have included information about this option in the guide as well. Many segments of the hike can be easily modified and these have been noted in the guide. For those hiking from south to north, most of this information still applies in reverse. Any exceptions have been noted in the guide. 
  • Wild camping is not permitted in Iceland. 
  • Campers will not have access to outlets for charging electronics until they reach the campground at Skogar. Plan accordingly. 
  • Reservations are not necessary for any of the campgrounds. 
  • You’ll find only a very limited inventory of (very expensive) supplies for sale at some of the huts along the trail. You should plan on stocking up on food, stove fuel, and provisions for your entire trek before leaving Reykjavik.

Campsite and hut at Landmannalaugar, the start of the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Day One: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

If you are planning on starting your hike in Landmannalaugar, you’ll likely need to catch a bus there from Reykjavik (see our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article for more on how to do this). The bus ride takes about 4.5 hours, so you’ll want to take this into consideration when planning out your first day of hiking. If you take a morning bus and arrive in Landmannalaugar by midday, you could complete the first stage to Hrafntinnusker in the same day. Alternatively, you could camp at Landmannalaugar and begin hiking the following morning. If you went with the latter option you could combine the first two stages into one longer day to make up time and avoid camping at Hrafntinnusker (see more on that below). Additionally, there are some great day hikes near Landmannalaugar as well as some truly incredible hot springs. 

Landmannalaugar: 

Services at Landmannalaugar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), hot showers (500 ISK for 5 min), clothesline, sheltered cooking area, trash and recycling, small shop selling snacks, beer, and hiking necessities (blister pads, maps, and stove fuel), picnic tables. Note: The ground at the Landmannalaugar campsite is very hard and rocky. You’ll need to use the rocks provided to secure your tent, as you are unlikely to be able to get your stakes into the ground. A nice sleeping pad is also recommended. 

The “Mountain Mall” is also located at Landmannalaugar. This eccentric shop is housed within a ring of retro school buses. They sell snacks, hiker meals, warm drinks, beer/wine, and hiking necessities. They also have some nice indoor and outdoor seating areas. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

The lovely hot springs at Landmannalaugar.

 

Hrafntinnusker: 

The camping area at Hrafntinnusker is adjacent to the small hut which is located near the top of the pass. This is definitely the most exposed and rugged of all the campgrounds along the Laugavegur. You should think twice before deciding to camp here, since it is likely to be very cold and windy. As with all huts along the route, campers will not be allowed inside the hut, even in stormy conditions. If you decide to camp here, you’ll want a 0°F sleeping bag and a high-quality three season tent. If you’re feeling slightly less hardcore, you have a couple of options. You could splurge on a bed inside the hut for this stage (book in advance on the Ferðafélag Íslands website), or you could combine the first two stages of the hike and camp either at Álftavatn or Hvanngil. More on these alternatives below. 

Services at Hrafntinnusker: Drop toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person

The hut at Hrafntinnusker in early July.

 

Harsh camping conditions at Hrafntinnusker.

Alternative Options for Day 1:

If you’d like to combine the first two stages of the Laugavegur into one long day, this is definitely possible if you are prepared and start early. However, due to the nature of the steep climbs and possibility of snow-covered trails late in the day, we do not recommend combining these stages if you’re hiking from south to north. If hiking north to south, you can either hike to Álftavatn (24km) or continue on to Hvanngil (an additional 3.8km, or 27.8 km total). There are some pros and cons of each option. 

Álftavatn:
Pros: Closer (it’s already a long day). More services (see below). Beautiful setting on a very lovely lake. 

Cons: More crowded. Very exposed campground-could be unpleasant in poor weather. 

Hvangill:
Pros: Much smaller and less crowded than Álftavatn. You’ll begin the third stage of the hike with a head start since you’ll be 3.8 km closer to the next hut. 

Cons: Fewer services. There is a river crossing between Álftavatn and Hvanngil which might seem daunting at the end of a long day of walking-some people may prefer to tackle it with fresh legs on the next day. 

Day Two: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (or Hvangill). 

Services at Álftavatn: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, restaurant/bar selling hot meals, hot showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), picnic tables. There are sinks very close to the camping area, while the bathrooms are slightly further away. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person. 

The restaurant/bar at Álftavatn.

 

Camping at Álftavatn.

 

Services at Hvangill: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, semi-sheltered picnic table. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

Approaching the hut and campsite at Hvanngil.

 

Day Three: Álftavatn to Emstrur

The Emstrur Hut and campground are located in a lovely little valley alongside a pretty stream. The hut has some nice decks with great views and picnic tables that are accessible to campers. The camping area is located below the hut and is reached by descending down a rather long flight of stairs to the banks of the stream. Campers will need to climb back up the stairs to use the toilet facilities and sinks. 

Services at Emstrur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, clothesline. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

The hut and campsite at Emstrur.

Alternative Option for Day Three:

It is possible to complete stages three and four into another long day and make it to Þórsmörk at the end of your second day. We chose this option in order to take advantage of good weather and free up time to complete the Fimmvörðuháls stage. Plan for 9-11 hours of hiking to complete these stages in one day. 

Day Four: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

Upon nearing Þórsmörk, hikers will reach a junction in the trail with a sign that denotes three options for camping. The campgrounds are a few kilometers apart, so pay attention to which direction you want to head before setting off. 

Volcano Huts: This privately-run campground is located in the opposite direction of the other two camping options. If ending your hike in Þórsmörk, be sure to check with your bus service to ensure that they pick up from Volcano Huts, not just the Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite. 

Services at Volcano Huts: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), indoor cooking area, restaurant/bar, free wifi access at the main service building, shop selling snacks and hiking basics, trash and recycling. 

Price: 2600 ISK (includes access to hot showers, sauna, natural warm soaking pool, and wifi access). 

Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite: This campground is a bit more basic than Volcano Huts, but is still lovely nonetheless. It is run by the Icelandic Touring Association (Ferðafélag Íslands or FI for short), which operates all of the other huts and campsites along the Laugavegur up to this point and the facilities will likely feel familiar.  It is located on the riverbed and has plenty of nice grassy areas for pitching a tent. It is well-positioned for pickup if ending your hike in Þórsmörk, but it would also be a good option if you’re continuing on to Skogar. If you plan on completing the Fimmvörðuháls hike, you should definitely plan to camp either here or at the Básar Campground. 

Services at Þórsmörk/Langidalur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, sheltered area for cooking, trash and recycling. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.  

The Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite and Hut at the end of the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Básar Campsite:  This sprawling campground is run by the Útivist Travel Association. You’ll have to walk another 1.5 km past the Þórsmörk/Langidalur campsite across the rocky riverbed to reach it, but you’ll have a head start if you’re hiking to Skogar the next day (which could be valuable since Fimmvörðuháls is a long hike). This campground doesn’t have a lot in the way of views, but it does offer nice facilities, sheltered campsites, and grassy pitches. 

Services at Básar: Indoor toilettes, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, picnic tables, hot shower (500 ISK), cell phone charging (500 ISK), BBQ area. 

Price: 1500 ISK per person + 300 ISK tax per tent. 

Conveniently located campsite at Básar.

 

Day Five: Þórsmörk to Skogar (the Fimmvörðuháls Trail)

The trail from Þórsmörk to Skogar is long and challenging, but the beautiful sights are incredibly rewarding. If you are committed to camping, you’ll need to complete the entire 25km (10-12 hours) hike in one day since there are no camping options along the way. If you would like to break it up into two days, you have the option of either staying at the Útivist-owned Fimmvörðuháls Hut or the more basic FI-owned Baldvinsskali Hut, both of which require advance reservations. Otherwise, if you complete the hike in one day, you’ll end at the impressive Skógafoss waterfall and right in the center of the Skogar Campground. Be warned that after being in the remote wilderness for the past few days, Skogar might feel like a bit of a zoo. The falls are a big destination for large tour buses, as well as individuals driving the famous Ring Road. You’ll know you’re getting close to the end of the hike when you start to see jean-clad tourists leaning precariously over the edges of cliffs with their selfie-sticks. You’ll hear all sorts of people and traffic noise late into the evening at the campsite, so ear plugs are a good idea. Because of the campground’s central location, non-campers frequently use the facilities. Expect to wait for the bathroom during the middle part of the day. If you can get past the crowds, you’ll find that Skogar is a pleasant place to camp, with grassy pitches and views of the falls from your tent. 

Services at Skogar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (300 ISK for 5 minutes), free cell phone charging (just ask the warden), picnic tables. There is also a more upscale restaurant/bar in the hotel/hostel nearby, as well as a more casual restaurant and a shop selling some souvenirs, camping equipment and snacks. There are a couple of other restaurants if you walk further down the road. 

Price: 1300 ISK per person. 

Waterfall views from the Skogar Campsite.

 

Many people are intimidated by the idea of  backpacking in Iceland, citing the prohibitive costs, tricky logistics, and harsh conditions. Camping along the Laugavegur Trail is the perfect way to see Iceland’s most beautiful sights without spending a fortune or getting caught in the tourist circuit. Hopefully our guide can help you plan out your best possible adventure in one of the most incredible landscapes on earth. Happy trails!

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience camping on the Laugavegur Trail. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Update from the Trail: Iceland

Greetings from the Reykjavik Campground in Iceland! The first two segments of our trip of a lifetime/mini-retirement are in the books. It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two…

Greetings from the Reykjavik Campground in Iceland! The first two segments of our trip of a lifetime/mini-retirement are in the books. It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two weeks since we locked up our Boulder apartment and hit the road.  We spent a wonderful week in the Midwest visiting family and friends before hopping on an easy direct flight from Chicago to Reykjavik. We spent a night in this cozy capital before heading out to hike the Laugavegur trail in the south of the country. Before we get into the hike, quick aside about our first night in Reykjavik: 

When planning for an extended trip while trying to maintain a rather modest budget, we knew we needed to keep our lodging costs down.  We have managed to travel hack our way into a nice bounty of points and miles, but not nearly enough to cover five months of travel. Therefore, we created two guiding rules for strategically booking hotels using travel rewards.  

Rule #1: Maximize value. We tried to use the bulk of our rewards-fueled hotel stays in expensive places where we’d pay a pretty penny for accommodation if using cash. Lucky us, our Europe-heavy travel itinerary includes plenty of cities that fit the bill (pun intended). When traveling through southeast Asia, on the other hand, we will use cash for more of our accommodation since lodging is typically very reasonable in those parts. 

Rule #2: Hotels on travel days.  There is nothing better than finishing a long travel day with an easy check-in process (no fumbling in the dark to find the AirBnB lockbox or waking up the host), a hot shower, baggage storage options, and a clean bed.  We will happily rough it in our tent for most nights of our trip, but we are insanely grateful for the small luxuries of hotels when arriving somewhere new sleep-deprived and weary. 

After a very comfortable stay at the Reykjavik Hilton (early check in? Heck yes. Amazing breakfast buffet? Even better), we are feeling pretty swell about how The Rules have been working out. We spent a day exploring Reykjavik and running some pre-hike errands before hopping on a bus to Lannamanalugar, our starting destination for the  Laugavegur Trail, a 48-mile trek through rugged landscapes in the south of the country. 

Starting out on the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail is Iceland’s most popular and iconic long-distance trek. It is divided into four segments, each marked by a mountain hut and camping area at the finish. At the official end of the trail, there is the option to add on another day’s hike on the Fimmvorduhals Trail, which climbs up to pass between two glaciers and then descends into the small town of Skogar. Our plan was to combine the first two segments of the Laugavegur Trail on our first day to complete the entire thing and make it to Skogar in a total of four days. 

We arrived in Landmannalaugar in the afternoon with plans to camp there for the evening and then set off for our hike early(ish) the next morning.  Landmannalaugar is known for it’s amazing geothermal landscape, which is punctuated by otherworldly colors, random steam-spewing crevices, and some truly lovely hot springs. We almost talked ourselves into skipping the hot springs, considering the fact that we hadn’t brought swimsuits and didn’t want to haul around wet clothes in our packs for the next few days. Fortunately, Ian pulled the whole “It’s not everyday that you find yourself at some dope geothermal hot springs” card and I was quickly convinced. Us Coloradans would have preferred to soak in nude, but after a quick survey of the scene we determined that Iceland wasn’t ready for all that and opted to sacrifice one of our precious few pairs of underwear for the cause. Soaking in the hot springs, surrounded by dramatic mountains and dynamic colors in every direction was truly an unparalleled way to kick off our trek. We returned to a very chilly night in our tent before hitting the trail the next morning. 

The lovely hot springs at Landmannalugar.

We began Day 1 in good spirits. The initial uphill climb helped us thaw out a bit (did I mention that Iceland is a cold place for camping?) and the views blew us away from the start. Iceland is like no other place on Earth that we’ve ever been. The geothermal activity, volcanic landforms, vibrantly colored mountains, wide rivers, black sand deserts, and powerful waterfalls all come together to give this place a character that is completely unique and totally spectacular. The first day of hiking on a long-distance trek is always a bit of a euphoria-filled blur.  For example, we were so blissed out on our first day of the Tour du Mont Blanc that we missed an obvious turn and walked in the wrong direction for an hour before realizing it. On our first day of the West Highland Way, we stopped for a very long lunch (whisky included) thinking we were much closer to our stopping point than we actually were. On the Laugavegur, the trail really gave new meaning to the expression, “a surprise around every corner.” It seemed like every hill we crested or bend we rounded presented a completely new and wondrous landscape. Despite hiking for over eight hours, we finished feeling energized and totally stokey about the next day. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we decided to combine the next segments into another big day the following day. Why sit around and be cold at the campsite when we could spend the entire day exploring the trail? 

Emily doing her best to stay warm.

On Day 2, we packed up camp in damp conditions and a literally bone-chilling wind. One plus side of this weather is that it makes instant coffee taste like the elixir of life. Another positive was that although we had nearly perfect weather throughout the hike, we did at least get a little taste of Iceland’s moody dark side. We set off towards the next hut feeling a little stiff after the previous day’s efforts but totally excited for what the trail would bring. We did have some trepidation however, as we’d read that the biggest of our river crossings would occur on this stage of the hike.  For such an expensive country with otherwise impeccable infrastructure, Iceland seems curiously reluctant to build bridges over rivers. Both people and vehicles are routinely expected to ford sizable rivers if they would like to carry on towards their destination. The warden’s notes at the previous huts warned hikers to take caution crossing the Emstur River, and recent reports suggested the water could reach mid-thigh depths. We’d hoped we’d get an hour or two of walking behind us to warm up before crossing the icy water, but lo and behold, we met it within a few minutes of starting the day. For the second time this week in Iceland, we found ourselves stripping down to our underwear and stepping into the steely glacial waters. This time, however, there was no geothermal action to soften the blow. We forged into the icy, fast-moving currents, carefully choosing every step even though we just wanted to run to the other side and get out as fast as possible. Well, that was one wickedly efficient way to wake up in the morning. 

The rest of Day 2 was tremendously beautiful, but definitely more of a slog than Day 1, due to very long stretches through rocky desert and the fact that our bodies were starting to feel the miles a bit more. Still, we saw so many amazing sights, like the enormous canyon where two rivers-one slate gray and the other sepia toned-together hundreds of feet below us. Finally, we reached Þórsmörk, the technical end of the Laugavegur. We bought a ridiculously overpriced, but yet so necessary, Twix bar at the Þórsmörk campsite shop and then continued on another mile to the campsite at Basar where we’d be better positioned to start the next day’s big hike. Upon reaching camp, the sun had fully made an appearance and we enjoyed some very relaxing evening hours soaking up the endless daylight before putting on our sleeping masks and turning in for the night. 

The confluence of rivers on Day 2.

Day 3 brought more excellent sunny weather, and we knew we had to take advantage of it and bust out the last big day of walking before allowing ourselves a rest day. Today we would complete the Fimmvorduhals Trail.  Have you ever wanted to climb between two glaciers, see the youngest mountains on earth, witness recent volcanic eruptions where black ash meets white snow, crest a mountain pass to see the ocean in the distance, or gaze at 20 waterfalls all in one day? Well we never knew we wanted all those things either until we hiked this trail, but it turns out that it definitely doesn’t suck. You’ve got to work for your views though.  The trail included some ridiculously steep climbs, a mildly sketchy exposed section, and lots of hiking through slushy snow fields. Technically, today was supposed to be way harder in terms of challenge than the previous day, but we both felt significantly better. It was one of those all-around perfect days in nature.  

Cascading falls on the way to Skogar.

Reaching the end of the hike was an interesting experience. Skogar, where the Fimmvorduhals terminates, is a huge draw for tourists due to its proximity to the main highway and its very impressive waterfall, known as Skogafoss.  To us, after being on the lightly trafficked trail for the past few days, it felt like a total zoo. Giant busses dropped off camera-wielding tourists who aggressively fought their way into position for the perfect instagram shot.  It was such an entertaining spectacle that we had no other choice to embrace it and relish the experience. The campground was smack dab in the center of the action, so we enjoyed an endless stream of premium people-watching from the comfort of our tent. The waterfall views were pretty sweet too. Although we appreciated Skogar for what it was worth, we realized pretty quickly that we would struggle hang around at the campground for the nearly 48 hours until our bus was scheduled to pick us up (since we finished a day early). Fortunately, we were able to change our tickets and decided to make the most of our extra time by heading back to Reykjavik, which is how we ended up at the lovely campground where I began this post. We walked around the city for quite awhile yesterday before enjoying a picnic feast for dinner. Soon, we will head off to Chamonix, where we’ll spend a few days in town before beginning our next trek, the Haute Route.  We’ll spend nearly two weeks traversing the Alps as we make our way from Chamonix to Zermatt, sleeping in our tent all but a couple of nights. As we wrap up in Iceland, it is easy to get caught up in looking ahead to what’s next. Sure, that excitement is certainly part of the fun, but we have to keep reminding ourselves to try to stay in the moment. We’ve been planning this thing for so long and already the days are getting ticked off the itinerary at a remarkable pace. It’s amazing how time moves when you wake up every day and get to do exactly the thing you want to be doing. It has been an incredible experience to be in a given moment and realize that you honestly don’t want to be any other place or in any other time. What a rare and fortunate feeling. Until the next post, we’ll do our best to keep soaking it all up. 

All smiles after the Laugavegur Trail!

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Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

Here at TMBtent, our top passions include travel, backpacking, and financial independence. For the past several summers, we’ve been fortunate enough to take a few weeks off to explore the…

Here at TMBtent, our top passions include travel, backpacking, and financial independence. For the past several summers, we’ve been fortunate enough to take a few weeks off to explore the world. More recently, we found a way to combine our passions and experience new cultures while trekking through incredible wild places and sleeping under the stars.  We started with the Tour du Mont Blanc, then completed the West Highland Way, and we quickly realized we were seriously hooked on this kind of travel. Now, we are getting ready to realize our longtime dream of taking a more extended trip to get our boots dirty on as many thru-hikes as we can.  We are excited to share our experiences and comprehensive trip guides as we go.  Starting in July, we’ll be loading up our packs (hopefully not with too much weight!) for six months, five major treks, two continents, and countless adventures. In this article, we’ll outline our plans, how we’re pulling it off, and what we’re packing.

The Plan

So many amazing hikes, so little time… Don’t worry, we realize this is a pretty great problem to have.  However, it was a real challenge to choose which treks to complete. Although we are planning to travel for six months, the hiking season in many parts of the world is significantly shorter than that. We used a few parameters to narrow down our options. First, we decided to start in Europe since there are so many treks there that we’ve been lusting after for years. Once we decided on Europe, we tried to string the hikes together somewhat geographically so we could minimize crisscrossing the continent unnecessarily. We also tried to plan our itinerary to maximize our travel hacking schemes and minimize our costs.  That included taking advantage of a free stopover in Iceland and using hotel points for free week-long stays in Munich and Amsterdam. Lastly, we tried to include some longer treks that we might not have the time to complete in the future when we go back to “real life” and limited vacation days. Here’s our current plan:

Hike #1: The Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

We strategically booked our flights to Europe so that we could take advantage of a free week-long stopover in Iceland on the way.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Iceland’s colorful, otherworldly landscapes and hike the acclaimed Laugavegur Trail.  This 54km trek (with an optional 25km add-on to Skógar) climbs over snowy peaks, past towering waterfalls, through stark deserts, volcanic wonders, and green valleys. We hope to complete the hike from Landmannalaugar to Skógar in four days (camping each night), which will give us a couple of days in Reykjavik and some wiggle room to wait out any poor weather.

Beautiful landscapes of the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland.

Hike #2: The Walkers Haute Route, Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland

From Reykjavik, we’ll fly to Geneva to prepare for the Haute Route.  We fell in love with this part of the Alps while hiking the TMB, and we can’t wait to explore this strenuous, high-level route that takes hikers from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. The 180km trail traverses high mountain passes, picturesque valleys and villages, and offers spectacular views of commanding peaks, stunning glaciers, and colorful wildflowers. We hope to complete the trek in 13 days, including at least one rest day in La Sage. We will camp as much as possible, only staying in huts when camping isn’t permitted and treating ourselves to an AirBnB for our rest day.

Hike #3: The Lechweg Trail, Lech, Austria to Fussen, Germany

This lesser-known trail will conveniently help us work our way towards Munich, where we will enjoy our first week off from hiking after completing the Lechweg Trail.  From Zermatt, we’ll hop on a train to the town of Lech, Austria, where we’ll begin our six-day, 125km walk towards Fussen, Germany.  This relatively new trek follows the turquoise waters of the Lech River, as it passes through quaint villages and some of the last wild landscapes in the region.  In doing research on this hike, we found that there was relatively little information about camping, so we are excited to gather information and share it with the community. As of now, we plan on camping all but one night along the route. Since the Lechweg has an overall downhill trajectory, we hope this hike will feel “easy” compared to the previous two and provide our legs with a little bit of a break!

Lech, Austria

Hike #4: The Coast to Coast Walk, England

After a week off in Munich, we’ll hop on a flight to Manchester, England to begin the Coast to Coast Walk. As the trail’s name suggests, we’ll be hiking from St. Bees on England’s western coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the eastern coast.  We’ll get to experience hiking in the celebrated Lakes District, the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, and numerous colorful towns (and pubs!) along the way. We’ve planned to take 17 days to complete this 309km trek, which includes two rest days.  With the exception of those rest days, we’ll be camping every night along the route, and gathering information about the many options for campers along the C2C!

The iconic Lakes District.

Hike #5: The GR20, Corsica

Known by many as the “hardest hike in Europe,” we are excited to take on the challenge of the GR20! This 180km trek covers about 10,000 meters of elevation gain as it traverses the jagged peaks that span the length of the Mediterranean island of Corsica.  For their efforts, hikers are rewarded with amazing views of the coast, forests, and rugged mountain landscapes.  We have allotted 18 days (including a couple of rest days) to complete this trek, and we plan to camp every night.  We gave ourselves lots of time for this one to allow for less-than-ideal weather and other challenges that might arise.  We’re also very excited to spend some time immersing ourselves in the unique and rich Corsican culture.

Stunning Corsican landscape

What’s Next?

After we complete the GR20, we’ll fly to Paris to replace all of the calories we burned in the past several weeks of hiking by consuming as many baguettes, fine cheeses, and local wines as possible. Then we’ll spend a week exploring Amsterdam by foot and bike.  From there, we’ll travel to Slovenia, where we hope to complete some additional hikes, although the length and type will depend on the weather conditions in October. Finally, we hope to head to Southeast Asia for several weeks for our final leg of the trip.  While these plans are still in their early stages, we hope to do some hiking or bikepacking in Taiwan, and also explore Vietnam and/or Cambodia.

The Logistics

Who can afford to quit their jobs and spend six months traveling?

We realize how fortunate and privileged we are to have this opportunity, but we also believe that taking a “mini-retirement” is more attainable than many people realize.  A few years ago, we learned about the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement, which basically encourages people to increase their savings rate in order to have more flexibility with their money and time. By getting more intentional about our lifestyle and making some minor tweaks to our spending, we were able to start saving more and living on less.  With the addition of some side hustles, we were soon able to set aside enough savings to get through several months without a paycheck. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we’ll be camping and eating peanuts for a lot of that time!

We also relied on some pretty nifty travel hacking to save thousands of dollars on our upcoming trip.  In essence, we strategically gathered credit card miles and points, and put them towards our flights and hotels. Check out our Travel for Free Series to learn more.

You guys seem like planning nerds, did you leave anything open-ended?

Yes, and no.  For the five hikes we’ve planned so far, we have the distance we’ll cover each day and our sleeping arrangements for each night mapped out.  Many of the campsites on the Coast to Coast and the refuges on the Haute Route get booked up pretty far in advance, so we knew we needed to get our act together ahead of time.  That being said, we know that there are going to be some unexpected surprises on a trip like this. We’ve built in extra days on the bookends of each hike to allow for illness, travel delays, inclement weather, and any other unpredictable occurrences.  For us, planning trips is a very enjoyable hobby, so we didn’t mind going through each part of the trip day-by-day.  In fact, it was essential for wrapping our heads around the practical and unique aspects of each hike.

What does one pack for a trip like that?

It is both exhilarating and a little intimidating to think that we’ll be carrying everything we’ll need for six months of travel on our backs across hundreds of miles of wilderness. To prepare for this trip, we’ve upgraded a few key pieces of gear for lighter, better-quality items.  Outside of that, we are trying to keep our pack weight down by only bringing necessary, versatile items. As hard as it is, we are trying to avoid playing the “just in case” packing game. If we really need something when we’re over there, we’ll buy it.  A full packing list is coming soon!

 

Have you completed any of the treks on our itinerary? Do you have big summer travel plans? Will we cross paths on the trail? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

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Personalized TMB Coaching

  If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist…

 

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist fellow hikers who want to have their best possible trek.

Who’s it For?

There is a TON of information out there about the Tour du Mont Blanc, so it isn’t absolutely necessary to work with a coach. However, if you don’t want to spend hours combing through books and online resources, a coach can provide you with all of the targeted, individualized information you’ll need while saving you tons of time. Additionally, if you feel anxious about the uncertainties that come with an undertaking like the TMB, working with a coach can help you feel more mentally prepared. Finally, if you have any specific needs, in terms of fitness, diet, budget, or travel logistics, a coach can provide customized advice and solutions.

What We Offer:

While all coaching packages can be customized to fit your individual needs, our basic package includes the following:

  • 30-minute Skype Consultation: Getting to know you, your goals for the trip, what you’d like to get out of working with a coach, and answering any trip-related questions.
  • Itinerary Planning Assistance: We’ll work with you to put together the best itinerary based on how many days you plan on hiking, how much distance you want to cover each day, incorporating a rest day, information on camping, etc.
  • Gear Consultation: We’ll work with to create a custom packing list that minimizes the weight you’ll need to carry, while meeting your specific needs and incorporating the gear you already own.
  • Custom Training Plan: We’ll help you develop a comprehensive and individualized approach to build your fitness and reduce the risk of injury so you can enjoy your trek to the fullest. We will also provide local hike recommendations in your area and give you a breakdown of how they compare to various stages of the TMB.

Price: $100 USD

Why Choose Us?

Both Emily and Ian have many years of backpacking and hiking experience on some of the world’s most iconic trails. We’ve tackled long and short treks in New Zealand, Europe, Namibia, as well as countless adventures in our own Rocky Mountain backyard. Additionally, Emily is a seasoned marathon runner and track coach and Ian is an avid mountain biker, which means we have a good understanding of how to train for endurance events.  As spreadsheet nerds, we have a knack for detailed planning and logistics. Being  stewards of TMBtent.com has allowed us to become very well-versed in all things TMB, and we are continually engaged in deepening our knowledge base. Finally, we truly believe that hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a life-changing experience, and we want to help as many people get on the trail and share in that joy.  We work with people from all backgrounds, ages, and ability levels, and we will meet you wherever you’re at with no judgement, only excitement and support.

If you’re ready to get started, fill out the form below and you’ll hear from us soon!

TMB Coaching Inquiry

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How Much it Cost Us to Hike the West Highland Way

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of…

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of walking, make an itinerary, and figure out your travel logistics.  Before you start all of that, however, you may be a little anxious about how much it’s all going to cost. Traveling in the United Kingdom has the reputation for being very expensive, and that’s generally true, but it is still very possible to have an amazing West Highland Way trek without selling your firstborn child to be able to afford it. One of the best parts about the West Highland Way for walkers on a tighter budget is that there are camping options on every stage of the trek, a few of them even being free. True, some of the campgrounds charge a rather steep fee for the ability to pitch your tent on their midgy, bumpy plot of grass, but relative to other accommodation options, camping is by far the best option and will allow you to keep your overall costs quite low. And, to be fair, the campgrounds are quite lovely; many offer hot showers, nice restaurants, wifi, drying rooms, and other amenities. If camping, you can also stay within a small budget by cooking most of your meals. If sleeping indoors in a bed is more your style, the West Highland Way offers a wide range of accommodation for budgets of all sizes.  The same goes for food and other services.

Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2018 West Highland Way adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that a trip like the WHW is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Accommodation

We chose to camp every night of the West Highland Way and highly recommend it for a number of reasons. Many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We preferred the privacy of our tent over the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of bunkhouses and hostels. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! Depending on how your itinerary shakes out, there are also several bothies that provide a free and authentic WHW accommodation option. Finally, we stayed in Airbnb’s the night before we started our hike and the night we finished.  If it works with your budget, you’ll greatly appreciate these little slices of luxury on the bookends of your hike.

  • Average Campsite Price: £8 (per person)
  • AirBnB in Edinburgh before the hike: £100 per night
  • AirBnB in Fort William: £80 – £100 per night

 

West Highland Way lodging

Lodging options abound on the West Highland Way

Transit

It’s a quick and easy trip to get from Glasgow to the start of the walk in Milngavie. We traveled to the hike from Edinburgh, which was also very efficient. Upon finishing in Fort William, if you’d like to return to Glasgow, you can either take a bus or a train. The bus is cheaper, but the train is very scenic, as it follows the West Highland Way for much of the way. If you choose to splurge on the train, make sure to buy your tickets well in advance. The price increases significantly as you get closer to your departure date.

  • Train from Edinburgh to Milngavie: £12 (per person)
  • Train from Fort William to Glasgow:£13.90 (per person, 90 days in advance)

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Edinburgh for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees (roundtrip): $189.36 (for two people)

Food and Drink

Instead of spending a small fortune on restaurant dinners or fancy freeze-dried backpacker meals, we preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the West Highland Way. We tended to eat ramen noodles, mac’n’cheese, or instant curry pots for most dinners. The shops we encountered along the trail had excellent cheap, fresh sandwiches, which were a welcome treat when we were able to get our hands on them.   For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins that we stocked up on whenever we found them at a reasonable price along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fruit from a local shop, and we also enjoyed our fair share of post-hike french fries. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than the space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about £9-13 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves frequent treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay on average for the following indulgences:

  • Pint of Beer:£6 – £7
  • Meal at local pub: £13
  • Coffee/Tea: £3

Many of the campsites have lovely bar/restaurants

Miscellaneous

  • Stove Fuel: £6
  • Laundry: £2 (for wash and dry)

What’s next?

Ready to keep planning your West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the…

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the TMB, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can. We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or a hotel room on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2017 Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the TMB is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Refuge du Col de Balme.

Accommodation

We chose to camp as much as possible along the Tour du Mont Blanc and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the TMB where there are no official campgrounds and wild camping is not permitted. For those situations, we opted to stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance and delicious meals for a reasonable price. We also stayed in a hotels for our rest day in Courmayeur, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:

  • Average Hut Price: €54 (per person)
  • Average Campsite Price: €12 (per person)
  • Hotel in Chamonix for before and after the hike: €85 (per night)
  • Hotel in Courmayeur for rest day: €132 (per night)

 

Transit

  • Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €43 (round trip)
  • Bus from Chamonix to Les Houches: €3 (each way)
  • Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets: €3

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Geneva for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees: $98.63 + 60,000 United Airlines miles (per person)

Food and Drink

You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the TMB. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fresh fruit from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about €8-€12 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following indulgences:

  • Beer: €6
  • Bottle of Wine: €10
  • Baguette: €2
  • Breakfast/Lunch Mountain Hut: €15
  • Dinner at Mountain Hut: €25
  • Coffee/Tea: €3
  • Sandwich: €10

Miscellaneous

As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our TMB holiday. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Tour du Mont Blanc on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Next?

Ready to keep planning your TMB adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

9 Comments on How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB

How to Train for the West Highland Way

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are…

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are a few key things you can control that will make all the difference.  Perhaps even more important than planning out the logistics, knowing how to navigate, and packing the right gear, is making sure you are prepared both physically and mentally for this major undertaking.  Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the WHW is a very approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious feat of endurance that will push you to new limits.  You will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it).  If you don’t know where to start when it comes to training, don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. Read on for straightforward advice on how to feel your best and enjoy your West Highland Way experience to the fullest.

Views from the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base

Obviously, everyone will approach the WHW with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs.  You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. While most of your days on the Way won’t be particularly steep, they will be quite long.  On our 8-day trek we averaged around 12 miles (19.25 km) per day, with our longest day being 15 miles (24 km). These distances are no joke, especially when carrying a heavy pack and hiking day after day with little rest in between. For this part of the training, if you’re already a runner/walker/cyclist/etc, just keep doing your thing!  If you don’t regularly do any sort of “cardio” exercise, or you mainly focus on yoga and strength training, start trying to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular routine in order to build an endurance base. This will lay your fitness foundation for more challenging training in the future.

Three Months Before Your Trip: Focus on Strong Legs

Relative to other popular long-distance hikes, the topography of the West Highland Way is on the gentler side.  You won’t be required to traverse over high mountain passes each day or spend hours navigating insanely steep ascents and descents. Don’t let these facts fool you into thinking this hike will be easy though- it won’t be! You’ll still be covering long stretches of undulating terrain with a variety of underfoot conditions.  In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to build your aerobic endurance and train your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline, or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to. Additionally, try to incorporate a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Highland-ready legs: 10 goblet squats (with medium weight), 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase challenge), and 10 step-ups on each leg (weight optional). Complete three sets of each exercise.

Shoreline walking on Day Two.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. For me, the biggest adjustment was learning to deal with the extra strain on my hips and knees when hiking downhill. Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! You might be wondering how to add weight to your pack without completely packing for your trip. Our advice? Look around your home and throw anything-literally anything- heavy into your bag. When we were training, we threw  five-pound weights, jars of oats, bottles of water, blankets, and textbooks into our bags. Then we headed over to our local trail. Did some fellow hikers look at us like we were crazy with our giant backpacks? Yes. But did we strike up some awesome conversations AND get our bodies in shape for the WHW in the process? You better believe it.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections!

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Way, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to  hiking for consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Old drover roads can make for rocky underfoot conditions.

Special Considerations for the West Highland Way:

Underfoot Conditions

There are many sections of the WHW that present walkers with less than desirable “underfoot conditions.” When I read that term in my guidebook before starting the trek, I kept thinking to myself,  What does that even mean? Well, let me enlighten you. It means it’s going to be really, really rocky. Like, walking for several miles along an old drover road that seems to be entirely comprised of baseball-sized stones kind of rocky.  We didn’t find this troublesome to the point where a specific training regimen was warranted, but it is worth mentioning for a few reasons. First, even though the trail might be pretty flat, challenging underfoot conditions can mean that you are expending extra energy (both mental and physical) and using additional leg and core muscles to navigate the trail.  This is where your training will really pay off! You might also consider taking an added break and/or slowing your pace on these sections to prevent fatigue. Finally, make sure you have trekking poles and sturdy boots too minimize the chance of twisting an ankle or straining a muscle.

Get Your Head in the Game

This article mainly discussed how to train your body for the West Highland Way, but of equal (if not greater) importance is the mental side of things. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that we can train our brains to improve mental toughness. It is inevitable that you will face challenges during your hike from fatigue, long days, discomfort, poor weather, or swarms of midges.  Hopefully the long training hikes you took in preparation for the WHW will have helped you to build the confidence you need to remind yourself that you can push through the less-than-wonderful moments and savor the amazing experience you’re having. If you focus on building your mental endurance prior to your trek, it will not only pay off on the hike, but also in your life off the trail.  

Chafing and Blisters, Oh My!

So far we’ve talked about training your body and your mind, but unfortunately it’s a little harder to train your skin for the long miles you’ll be covering on the WHW. However, a little advance preparation can go a long way towards making your West Highland Way experience much more enjoyable.  It’s amazing how even a small blister or a little bit of nasty chafing can derail a beautiful day of hiking! This is the most common ailment we see fellow hikers struggle with when we’re out on the trail. Due to the variable and moist conditions (think pouring rain one day and hot and sunny the next) coupled with those lovely underfoot conditions, the West Highland Way presents a huge risk for chafing and blisters. Don’t let those pesky buggers ruin your trek! The best way to prevent blisters is to break in your boots in advance.  Make sure to use the same socks on your training hikes as you plan to use on the WHW. Good quality socks and sock liners can really make a difference. Additionally, if you are especially blister-prone, more breathable trail runners are worth looking into. In terms of chafing, pay attention to any hot spots that arise when you’re training. Try to train in a variety of temperatures, weather conditions, and clothing combinations to anticipate any potential issues. Products like BodyGlide can help prevent chafing and blisters, too.  Finally, make sure to bring some good-quality blister pads in case all else fails!

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

The West Highland Way is very accessible for hikers of all ability levels.  If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
  • Consider using a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack.
  • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, and Glencoe Village all make great options.  See our West Highland Way Logistics article for more information about luggage transfer and rest days.
  • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Highland scenery from the road.

The Bottom Line:

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the WHW, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.

What’s next?

Enjoyed reading our training tips and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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10 Essentials for the West Highland Way

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be…

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be a trip we never forget. We camped along our West Highland Way adventure and highly recommend that you do as well. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the WHW? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the West Highland Way.

1. Bring good rain gear

This will come as a surprise to no one, but it can rain a lot in Scotland. Those green pastures and hills are green for a reason. While the rainy weather is a quintessential part of the West Highland Way experience, you’ll want to be prepared for long days of hiking in wet weather. We highly recommend bringing a top notch rain jacket as well as rain pants to keep yourself dry on those inevitable days when you encounter a downpour. Additionally, a good fitting pack cover is essential for keeping your belongings dry when you’re walking through the elements. Inside your pack, we recommend keeping your clothes and sleeping bag in a dry bag (or large trash bags work well, too). This will ensure that if any water does get into your pack you’ll at least have dry clothes to put on when you’re damp and cold at the end of a long day of walking. Finally, you’ll want to be sure your tent’s rain fly is in tip-top shape as there is nothing worse than a leaky tent!

Wet weather is quintessentially Scottish, but you’ll want to be prepared!

2. Take the train

As you’ve probably read in our West Highland Way Logistics post, you’ll have the option of taking either the bus or the West Highland train line for your return journey from Fort William to Glasgow. While the bus tends to be cheaper and faster, we’re here to tell you that taking the train is an experience not to be missed!

The line retraces much of the West Highland Way, and you’ll marvel at the distance you’ve walked while peering out at the stunning landscape from a cozy train car. Just be sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid a sold out coach or expensive last-minute fares.

You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.

3. Take the midges seriously

Midges-the tiny biting insects that have a mythical reputation in the Highlands-are not to be underestimated. Prior to our walk, we knew that they could be an unpleasant annoyance on our walk, but we didn’t know just how bad they can be. This isn’t to say that you should abandon all hope of camping or enjoying a cold beer outside in the evenings. It’s just that you’ll want to be sure you are fully prepared for their presence. The first piece of advice we offer all prospective walkers is to invest in a midge hat, and bring clothes that provide full coverage of your skin. Ideally these will be lightly colored as midges are more attracted to darker colors. Additionally, we found Ben’s Insect Repellent bug spray to be a very effective repellent. Finally, the midges are at their worst at dawn, dusk, and whenever the weather is overcast and the wind is still. Any substantial breeze or sunshine will eliminate them completely, which is pretty awesome. However, make sure to have your midge hat and spray ready when the sun starts to set because they really do set in quickly! Following these steps should ensure that the midges don’t ruin your trip!

You’ll enjoy the beautiful Highland’s scenery much more without midges eating you alive!

4. Be open to changing plans

If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend hours before a trip planning out all the details of where you’ll stay, what you’ll do, and how you’ll get to every place you want to see. This type of planning is invaluable and will certainly set you up for success, but you also have to be open to changing those plans, especially on the West Highland Way. Weather, the way you’re feeling on a particular day, and even the time you start can all influence a changing itinerary when you’re out hiking the WHW. Because it has so many accommodation options along the way, changing plans is relatively easy. Got a late start and the B&B is full? No worries if you’ve got your tent and the ability to find the nearest campground. Feeling especially good today? Why not put in a few extra hours of hiking to make your next day a little more leisurely? The point is that being open to different possibilities will make handling the unexpected much easier, and allow to you enjoy your adventure to the fullest.

5. Be prepared for blisters

The West Highland Way contains a variety of underfoot conditions, from the neatly placed stones along former drover’s roads to the large boulders, intertwining tree roots, and muddy banks of Loch Lomond. This wide variety of trail types makes for perfect blister conditions. Just when your feet have toughened up to a particular condition, the trail changes, your boots rub differently, and those callouses you’ve built up over the past few days are of no use.

To counter this, there are a few steps you can take prior to setting out to give your feet the best chance to withstand the West Highland Way. The first is to pack a broken-in pair of boots. There is nothing worse than unboxing your new pair of boots on the first day of a long hike. This will almost guarantee blister,s as they won’t be broken in enough to truly fit to your foot over the long hours of walking. Next, bringing several good pairs of merino wool hiking socks (our favorite are Darn Tough) will help to limit the moisture in your boots while also preventing odor and unnecessary chafing. Finally, a good first-aid kit complete with blister specific pads will help you be prepared when the inevitable first blister does show up. Stop and treat even the smallest hot spots right away to ensure that they don’t derail your next several days of walking!

6. Brush up on your navigation skills

While the West Highland Way is a very well-marked trail, you’d be wise to brush up on your navigation skills prior to starting your walk. We’re partial to using GPS to navigate along the trail, but you’ll want to be sure you’ve brought your compass and a paper map as a backup. Spend some time before the walk familiarizing yourself with the map, the route, and how to use your compass. You’re unlikely to encounter any issues, but if you do you’ll sure be glad you were prepared!

It’s important to know how to find you way on the trail!

7. Have a (realistic) understanding of how fast you hike

If you’ve brought the Trailblazer’s Guidebook along (and we highly recommend that you do), you’ll quickly notice that the description of each stage includes an approximate time for hiking. This is very valuable information because it will give you a sense of what your days will look like.   This affords you the ability to plan ahead for things like arrival times, how early you need to start in the morning, and how long of a lunch break you can enjoy. The problem arises when you realize that the times quoted in the book can vary significantly from your actual experience. You may be hours ahead or you may be well behind the times provided by our friends at Trailblazer. There is nothing wrong with being faster or slower, but you must be able to understand your pace and then estimate the distances you’ll realistically cover in a given timeframe. It’s a good idea to note your timing when you’re out on your training hikes, but you’ll want to pay especially close attention on your first day or two hiking of on the West Highland Way. A little ahead of the pace? You’ll be able to adjust your plans accordingly (and maybe snag an extra hour of sleep!) A little behind the pace? You’ll know to leave a bit earlier, or at least plan on slightly longer days on the trail. You may also want to pay attention to how steep inclines and declines impact your pace, and use the guidebook’s elevation profile to plan accordingly.  The important thing is to know yourself, and be able to accurately estimate the time it will take to cover a given distance. This will help you stay relaxed and happy throughout each day on the trail.

8. Make new friends

As you progress along the West Highland Way, you’re likely to start to recognize some familiar faces along the trail and in your campgrounds. Take advantage of this and make some new friends! You’ll surely meet people from all over the world and develop a sense of camaraderie over your shared experience on the WHW. Compare notes from the trail and plans for the next day over a pint or two with a new friend, and you’ll certainly find the experience of walking the West Highland Way more enriching.

Enjoy the lively atmosphere at many of the stops along the West Highland Way.

9. Enjoy one night out of your tent

The West Highland Way is a great walk for those looking to camp along the way. Campsites are abundant, reasonably priced, and have great facilities. You can easily walk the entire route camping each night, just like we did. However, we would also highly recommend spending at least one night out of your tent. You can save this for the last night in Fort William (what we did), or save it for that torrential rain storm that sneaks up on you. Either way, there are incredibly hospitable guesthouses, fantastic Airbnbs, and lovely hotels along the route and it would be a shame not to experience at least one of these on your walk.

10. Leave no trace

The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long-distance walks in the UK and the world. Thousands of hikers descend on the Highlands each year to enjoy the spectacular views, friendly people, and lovely lochs that Scotland has to offer. Given the popularity of the walk it is essential that walkers do their part to practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking and camping. Simply being aware of your impact on this great trail will do wonders to ensure it;s around for future generations of walkers!

Be sure and leave the trail as pristine as you found it.

What’s Next?

Enjoyed reading our 10 Essentials and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

No Comments on 10 Essentials for the West Highland Way

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