Icelandic weather has one consistent characteristic: It’s bad. And it can throw everything at you within an hour: from sun, to harsh winds, to rain, to snowstorms, to the beautiful northern lights in a calm wind with a raging active volcano in front of you. And then more rain. So the first question everybody has to ask themselves before venturing out into Icelandic nature is pretty simple: How can I survive this? Luckily, we have a straightforward solution. Dress accordingly.
Remember the layers
The secret to a good hiking experience is layers. And it does matter what they’re made of! What we’ve been using is the Merino Wool Base-Layer from 66°North. Not only is it incredibly warm, but it’s also light, comfortable and, most importantly, it doesn’t chafe. The only negative here is that it’s very warm so perhaps not suitable for the notoriously hot Icelandic weather. Just kidding.
Summer Iceland can be under 5ºC. What you put on top of this layer doesn’t really matter, for this is what’ll keep you warm in the wilderness.
Not Just Shoes, Full Blown Tanks!
We literally nicknamed these beloved hiking boots ‘the tanks’ (in Icelandic, skriðdrekar or ‘the crawling dragons’). Because when you’re out with them, feeling like you can’t go on anymore and seeing your life passing before your eyes while sobbing in the brutal northern winds, these dragons will carry you the rest of the way. Yes, we’re talking about the Scarpa Kinesis Pro boots. There are many Scarpa shoes you can buy—and all of them are good—but the Kinesis Pro are the secret weapons you want. Although, like tanks, they are heavy. So if you’re going for a longer hike in the summer, lighter boots might be more handy. Anyway, we have worn these boots on multi-day hikes in all seasons, and we didn’t really notice the weight, so to each their own.
The Apartment & The Shell
There are two ways to go about outer layers. If it’s insanely cold, you could go for the Þórsmörk Arctic Parka by 66ºNorth. It’s the same one that I, Valur Grettisson, use the most in our Newscast videos. But this parka is warm, so if you’re going to hike in it, make sure that the temperature is well under 0ºC (think glacier walks). It’s also nicknamed ‘the apartment’ at our office, and not just because of the cost. No, the parka is as comfortable as hanging out on the sofa, while a snowstorm rages outside. But if you’re hiking to a mountain, perhaps the Hornstrandir Jacket by 66ºNorth is a better option. Not that it’s any cheaper, but this one lighter. It could also possibly protect you from an active volcano. [Editor’s Note: For legal reasons, that’s a joke.]
But the name alone should give you some hint about what this shell is for. It’s named after Hornstrandir, the most brutal and isolated place in Iceland—only fit for the most experienced hikers. Anyway, both are brilliant options, as well as beautiful design.
But what’s a hike without good protective trousers? The Snæfell Polartec NeoShell Pants by 66ºNorth are nothing less than magical. They are light armour that you will never notice until you’re in some nasty winds, thinking to yourself, “Am I flying, or are these trousers just this goddamn comfortable?” Now, I have been using trousers from 66ºNorth for years, and my only question is: How are these guys not bankrupt? Because these pants last for a lifetime. My oldest protective shell pants from 66ºNorth are 17-years-old, and feel like they were bought yesterday. To be honest, we just buy updated styles for vanity reasons. These clothes are built to last.
Wool Vs. A Black Condom
Some hikers like their Gore-Tex stuff to look like a black condom — all slick and slimy. We don’t judge anyone, but if you’re going to survive Iceland’s nonsensical weather, the best possible extra gear is always handmade from Icelandic wool. In Iceland, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you will get wet and Gore-Tex is incredibly cold when wet and hard to dry, becoming borderline useless. Our forefathers realised early on that the best protective gear in the Icelandic nature is always wool. If it gets wet, it only heats you up more and dries up in minutes after it stops raining. And to be frank, the only goal when trying to survive Iceland is keeping warm in all the weather conditions that Iceland will throw at you. Icelanders usually wear wool sweaters handmade by their mothers, but we understand that not everyone in the world has Icelandic mothers (unfortunately) so Handprjónasambandið is your place to go for sweaters or socks. Even mittens and caps.
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