Below is all the equipment I took on my solo and unsupported Iceland Traverse hike. I hiked just shy of 600km from the southerly most point to the northerly, carrying everything I needed for the duration of the trip. You can read more about my journey through the land of fire and ice here. Due to the brutality of the Icelandic weather, the barren landscape of Europe’s biggest desert and the lack of civilisation, kit choice is paramount for the success of an adventure like this.
The equipment needed to withstand up to 120km/hr winds, which whip volcanic ash everywhere, driving rain, hail storms and possibly snow. I needed to wade through glacial rivers, but there were also sections where there is no water re-supply for a couple of days. I needed to filter most of my water and make sure I had a suitable repair kit and medical supplies for what the inhospitable environment might throw at me.
In addition, the equipment also had to be ultralight to bring the backpack weight to a minimum. This helps to reduce aches and pains, and potential trip ending injuries. The majority of the weight in my pack was made up of food. I was hiking on a large calorie deficit to keep weight down, taking just 2000 calories of food per day. Excluding food and water, and the basic set of clothes I was wearing each day, the pack weight carried came to 10.6kg’s (which I was pleased with). To see the full breakdown of kit weights, reason for kit choice and its performance, please see table at the bottom of the page.
Worn & Additional Clothing
My clothes were a layering system which aimed to maximise efficiency and minimise duplicity. If the conditions demanded it, I could comfortably wear all of my clothes simultaneously, and therefore I was carrying nothing I deemed as excess/luxury.
The items I wore and never carried were: Salomon S/LAB Qst GTX Waterproof Jacket, Salomon Bonatti Weatherproof Trousers, Salomon Aigle Warm Leggings, Salomon Drifter Air Midlayer Hoodie, Salomon Elevate Move’on LS Base Layer, Bridgedale WoolFusion Socks, Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots, Salomon The 37.5 Bra Sports Top, Salomon RS Pro Headband, Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Hiking Poles, Tissot T-Touch Watch.
In my bag was: Salomon Elevate Logo Cap, Salomon Haloes Down Hoodie Jacket, Salomon Primo Warm Seamless Tights, Salomon Primo Warm LS Tee Shirt, Salomon Logo Beanie, Salomon Fleece Neck Warmer, Salomon Warm Overmitten, Extremities Goretex Mitt, Bridgdale WoolFusion Trekker Spare Socks, Rab Down Booties, River Shoes, Sea to Summit Nano Mozi Headnet, Salomon SMax Googles, Builders Dust Mask, Terra Hiker Poncho.
The goggles and dust mask are not on your average hiking kit list, but Iceland is notoriously windy and the volcanic ash that it blows around consists of tiny jagged pieces of rock, that are sharp and abrasive. Not something I wanted in my eyes or lungs ideally. I wore the goggles a lot, but never wore the dust mask, as I wasn’t hit by a dust storm brutal enough to make breathing difficult.
I took a little bit of a risk with my sleeping choice by going ultralight. Taking one of the most amazing little tents that is the size of a 500ml drinking bottle! Despite a few nerves pre-departure about this choice, the tent proved me wrong and held up fantastically in the strong winds! I had replaced the tent pegs it comes with for some beefy sand tent pegs for better purchase in the desert highlands, and this turned out to be invaluable.
An additional groundsheet added protection to the lightweight tent fabric from the abrasive ground. I also used an ultralight bivy bag to add additional protection from wet equipment to my beloved Mountain Equipment sleeping bag. Really pleased I took this, as it rains a lot in Iceland!
The equipment mentioned is: Nordisk Lofoten 2 ULW Tent, Nordisk Lofoten Ground Sheet, MSR Cyclone Stakes, Mountain Equipment Hellium 400 Sleeping Bag, Mountain Equipment Ion Bivy Bag, Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Mat.
I am a big fan of Osprey Backpacks, particularly for comfort. Due to the large amounts of food I needed to carry, I had to go for a large capacity bag of 65L. I chose the Osprey Aura bag, which was far from the lightest of packs, BUT I felt comfort in this instance had to take priority overweight. The bag comes with a waterproof cover, but with Icelandic weather so notoriously wet I used a 90L dry bag inside the backpack, plus various dry bags for kit to go in inside the big liner bag. In addition to that, I had a poncho to go over the whole thing. That makes 4 layers of waterproof protection!
Osprey Aura AG 65L Backpack, Sea to Summit Dry Bags in 90L, 13L, 8L, 2L and 1L, Lezyne Waterproof Document Wallet.
Nearly all water for the entire journey was either pumped or treated just to be safe rather than sorry. Fresh flowing glacial water can be full of tiny rock particles and can contain giardia and other parasites. If my pump had failed then I had coffee filter papers. These are super light as a backup, and if you filter the water through a couple of times you will remove the sediment and then you can pop in a purification tablet to kill any bugs. There were two sections of the journey with no water options for a couple of days. So in addition to my Nalgene water bottles, I carryed a lightweight roll-up bladder that held 2L of water.
To keep the weight down on water and fuel, I only had one hot meal a day. I also included a seat pad, which is a little bit of a luxury item, but at just 25g I think they are great. It just means you can cook or eat without sitting on very uncomfortable rough or wet ground.
I never overlook lip balm, it can be invaluable against cracked and blistered lips from the wind even in places that aren’t hot and sunny. For long trips, powdered toothpaste is much lighter, and a little bit will go a long way.
Eucryl Powdered Tooth Paste, Albus & Flora SPF 30 Lip Balm, Mini Toothbrush, Spare hairband, Toilet Roll, Trowel.
Thankfully, none of this list was really needed, but in such a remote environment as the central Icelandic desert I think a comprehensive medical kit is worth taking for the 260g in weight. I have needed pretty much every item in my medical kit at some point across all my expeditions and therefore would find it very difficult to leave any of it out. I also keep my Wilderness & Expedition First Aid refreshed.
QuikClot Clotting Sponge, Metronidazole Antibiotics, Co-amoxiclav Antibiotics, Steristrips, Antiseptic Wipes, Eye Wash, Orajel Extra Strength – Local anaesthetic for the mouth, Sterile Dressing, Steroid for Inflammation – Prednisone, Strong Antihistamine – Inorial, Anti-inflammatory – Diclofenac Tablets, Anti-inflammatory Gel – Voltaren 2%, Paracetamol Pain Killer, Imodium, Tick Remover, Safety Pin, Micropore Tape, Strappal Strapping Tape, Blister Shoe Patches.
Electronics and Navigation Equipment
I had no possibility of charging any electrical items during the expedition, other than via a solar panel. I was be navigating with a GPS that uses lithium AA batteries. I also used a Spot tracker that runs off lithium AAA batteries. The Spot tracker was used for both my safety, as it has an SOS feature and an ‘I’m OK’ message but was also linked to an online tracking map which provided the opportunity for friends and family to follow along the journey live. I use the fantastic ZeroSixZero for my online tracking maps. You can view my Iceland map here. I knew to not expect a large amount of sunshine during the trip, so I needed to store as much power on the few days I could use the solar panel, hence the large capacity power block. This turned out to be plenty and was used to charge my small pocket camera and iPhone. I would have liked to have taken GoPro video equipment as well, but I didn’t think I would have had enough solar power to charge more items but turns out I would have.
Anker Powerport Solar Panel, Anker PowerCore 26800 Power Pack, Spot Gen3 Tracker Garmin Etrex 30x GPS, Silva Expedition Compass, Panasonic TZ90 Camera and Cable, Joby Mini Tripod, USB double adaptor wall plugs, Spare Lithium AAA’s for Spot Tracker, Spare Lithium AA’s for Etrex, Sennheiser Headphones, iPhone and Charging Cable, Maps.
Spares & Repairs
Leatherman Micra Multitool, Thermarest NeoAir Repair Patches, McNett Tenacious Tent Repair Tape, Nordisk Tent Pole Repair Splint, Dental Floss & Large Needle, Cable Ties.