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5 Things To Know Before Camping In Iceland (Safety, Tips, & Packing)

Camping in Iceland is one of the most insane and memorable things you will ever do! Insane because Iceland can be inhospitable at times, and memorable because Iceland is completely epic. If camping in Iceland is on your bucket list, you are not alone. Millions of people visit Iceland every year and thousands of people choose to experience Iceland by camping. If you plan to take an Iceland road trip and camp your way around the Ring Road, you are in for a real treat as this country is truly incredible.

Camping in Iceland is a unique way to see the country and offers you a different type of experience than many travelers receive. From visiting black sand beaches in Iceland to seeing lava fields, waterfalls, and glacier lagoons up close and personal, Iceland is calling your name! There are a few things to know before you go camping in Iceland to ensure a safe and fun experience.

Read next: Our Perfect Iceland Road Trip Itinerary

Tent camping in Iceland, camping sites in iceland

The Ultimate Guide To Camping In Iceland

5 Things To Know Before Camping In Iceland

#1. There are many types of camping in Iceland so be sure to choose the type that is right for your travel style

Camping in Iceland is just a broad term that covers many different types of camping! Since everyone’s travel style is different, make sure to carefully decide which type of camping is best for you! The main types of camping in Iceland are:

  • Campervan rental in Iceland: This is the most comfortable way to camp in Iceland. Campervan rentals in Iceland range in price from $80-$200 a day depending on what type of campervan you rent. Campervans in Iceland have a little stove for you to cook on and the back transforms into a bed where you can sleep. Renting a campervan is the most expensive way to camp in Iceland. If you are looking to rent a campervan in Iceland, consider taking a few friends with you to cut down on the cost. This will make visiting Iceland on a budget easier. 
  • Car camping in Iceland: If you aren’t looking to spend the money on a campervan rental, you can just rent a car and sleep in your car! This is an option that many people choose! Iceland isn’t really a trip where you are relaxing so travelers don’t have a problem pulling into a safe spot and spending the night in their cars! If you are taking an Iceland road trip, you will already have a car anyway, so why not just sleep in your car? Car camping in Iceland provides safety from the elements and keeps you warm and dry. Camping in your car in Iceland is certainly cheaper than a campervan rental but it is a bit less comfortable and you will not have a stove.
  • Tent camping in Iceland at a campground: If you want to go the traditional route, there are plenty campgrounds in Iceland that are perfect for tent camping. Tent camping in Iceland is very affordable and easy but the downside is that you are more exposed to the elements. The good part is that you will be driving in Iceland which means you will have a car. If you choose to go tent camping in Iceland and the weather turns ugly, you can hop in the safety of your car until the storm passes. Tent camping in Iceland is the best way to camp comfortably on a budget because unlike car camping, tent camping allows you to lie flat when you sleep. Make sure to bring waterproof bags for all of your personal items to avoid them getting wet!
  • Wild camping in Iceland: Wild camping, also known as backcountry camping or backpacking, is allowed in certain parts of Iceland. If you are a hardcore outdoorsman/woman, this may be the perfect option for you! Make sure to check online to ensure where you are camping is legal, but most locations in Iceland, especially more remote locations in the Highlands of Iceland do allow camping off-trail. Make sure to never set up your camp on a lava field as this could damage decades of growth.
camping in iceland in a campervan | car camping in iceland

Photo Credit: John Weatherby featuring Happy Campers

#2. The weather is fierce and unpredictable so be prepared when camping in Iceland

Sure, you have probably gone camping or campervanning before. You may have even gone trekking before or winter camping. That being said, camping in Iceland is a totally different animal. If you have never camped in Iceland, then you haven’t experienced conditions like those often seen in the country. This isn’t to scare you away from Iceland camping, but to prepare you for the weather.

Weather in Iceland is unpredictable and extreme. You may be in a hail storm and drive 5 miles down the road and be in sun and calm. The next day may be a wind storm with gusts up to 80mph. You just never know with Iceland so it is best to expect the unexpected and to be prepared. Being prepared in Iceland means having enough food, water, and warm clothing in case you get stuck somewhere or stranded for hours. Being prepared in Iceland means knowing when to turn back and when to continue. Being prepared in Iceland means knowing that you should probably sleep in your car tonight or that you probably shouldn’t head out on a multi-day trek moments before a storm.

Camping in Iceland is a memorable experience and we want you to stay safe and have a great time! Weather in Iceland is pretty crazy but that makes Iceland all the more fascinating to experience.

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#3. You absolutely cannot build a campfire in Iceland

If you have gone camping before you know that part of the fun is sitting around a campfire at night eating and relaxing. Building a campfire in Iceland is not allowed and should never ever be done. Even if you wanted to build an [illegal] fire in Iceland you would have great difficulty as there are no trees or wood to be found! The ecosystem in Iceland is very fragile and fires have the potential to harm thousands of years of growth.

So what do you do instead? If you are planning to book a campervan in Iceland, your campervan will come with a gas stove. If not, make sure to bring, rent, or buy a portable camping stove. You are good to go to use a camp stove or a grill if some of the campsites in Iceland are equipped with one, but absolutely NO fires outside of a grill.

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#4. Many campsites in Iceland are equipped with showers and electricity but they cost money

Many campsites in Iceland are equipped with basic shower facilities and electricity. Campgrounds in Iceland are heated using Iceland’s natural thermal waters so showers may smell like sulfur but will be quite relaxing. You can rent a towel at campsites in Iceland for a few USD, but if you don’t want to use a towel others have used before you, consider bringing your own towel for the trip. Shower facilities at the campsites in Iceland do cost extra in most cases, so make sure you are prepared to pay a little bit.

When traveling in Iceland, credit cards are accepted everywhere. In fact, we have never withdrawn cash in Iceland! That being said, if you visiting campsites in Iceland, consider taking out a small amount of money so you have coins for the shower facilities.

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#5. Make sure to stock up on food because grocery stores are few and far between

When you are camping in Iceland, don’t expect huge grocery stores every town you come to. Grocery stores in Iceland are often small but relatively affordable. Your best bet is to stock up on food in Reykjavik. Choose non-perishable items such as canned soup, freeze-dried foods, fruit such as apples, snacks such as pretzels, and dried fruit such as raisins. You can also get a carton of eggs and boil them for a high protein snack.

Water in Iceland is completely safe to drink but if you are worried, pack a filtered water bottle from home. Even if you plan to drink tap water the whole time, it is a good idea to buy bottles of water from one of the grocery stores in Iceland to keep them in your vehicle while you are on the road. Camping in Iceland can leave you in unpredictable circumstances so you want to be sure to have enough clean water to drink!

5 things to know about camping in iceland

What To Pack For Camping In Iceland

If you plan to camp in Iceland, check out our Iceland packing list for general tips and tricks on what to bring. Since you are camping and not just visiting Iceland like someone staying at a hotel or Airbnb, there are a few other bits of gear you should consider bringing. Camping in Iceland requires warm and waterproof gear and you really should heed that advice if you don’t want to be cold and wet!

You can bring a suitcase if you like, especially if you are renting a car [kind of the only way to travel Iceland save hitchhiking], but many people camping in Iceland decide to bring a large hiking backpack like this one. You do you and we won’t judge you either way!

  • Waterproof and windproof tent. As mentioned above, the weather in Iceland can range from calm to crazy. Having a waterproof and windproof tent like this one is a must. Make sure that the rain cover completely covers the tent so your tent doesn’t go sailing away in the inevitable wind.
  • A sleeping pad. Your back will thank you for buying an affordable sleeping pad. The ground in Iceland is frozen pretty much all year round which means it is hard as a piece of ice…literally! Sleeping pads roll up pretty small and make camping in Iceland a more enjoyable experience.
  • Cold-certified sleeping bag. You don’t want to bring any old sleeping bag when camping in Iceland. You need to bring one that is certified to keep you warm. Choosing a down sleeping bag is a great idea and make sure to choose one that keeps you toasty in freezing temperatures.
  • A microfiber travel towel. Microfiber towels are a lifesaver for travelers and athletes alike. They are the perfect thing to pack for camping in Iceland because they dry quickly and don’t take up much space. Buying one on Amazon in advance will save you from having to rent one for each and every shower at campsites in Iceland.
  • Waterproof bag/sack. A waterproof bag is where you will leave all of your extra changes of clothes or anything not in your backpack or car when you are camping in Iceland. They are a minimal investment and you will be glad you had them during your time Iceland camping.
  • Camp Stove. If you aren’t renting a campervan in Iceland, you are going to want to bring a camp stove with you. You can buy them from Amazon for under $10 and they pack up light. This is how you will cook your food while camping in Iceland so unless you want to eat a sandwich every day, make sure to invest in one!
  • A spork. If you are planning to eat anything that involves cutting or scooping or spreading, you better invest in a spork if you don’t already have one. Sporks are plastic and easily make it through airport security.
  • A camping pillow. You can pack a regular pillow if you want, but those tend to take up a lot of space! If you are trying to save space, consider a camping pillow like this one that easily folds up. Camping in Iceland has never been comfier!
  • A balaclava. Balaclavas are the perfect camping accessory because they don’t take up a lot of space yet they keep you super warm! Make sure to throw one in your backpack or suitcase and thank us later!
  • Filtered water bottle. We swear by our Bobble Water Bottles and they have seen multiple trips to Iceland. If you plan to drink the water in Iceland, you can drink it straight from the tap, but we suggest a filtered water bottle because everyone reacts to different bacteria differently. Plus, they don’t cost all that much!
  • A flashlight. Unless you are visiting Iceland during the height of summer when the sun never sets, you are going to want to pack a flashlight. If you arrive at your campsite in Iceland after dark or need to grab something from your car or take a late night bathroom run, you are going to want to have a flashlight handy!

5 Tips For Camping In Iceland On Your First Trip

How To Get To Iceland

When camping in Iceland, you will be flying into the Keflavik Airport. Many people make the mistake that Keflavik Airport is in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city, but it is actually a 45-minute drive outside of town. There is a 99.9% chance you will be flying into Keflavik Airport when camping in Iceland so keep this in mind!

If you are picking up your car or campervan rental in Reykjavik, there are 24/7 airport shuttles that will bring you into downtown. If not, we recommend skipping Reykjavik all together and heading straight out into nature! If you do want to explore Reykjavik and you plan on camping in Iceland, there are nearby options that you can choose from.

Getting Around While Camping In Iceland

Depending on what type of camping in Iceland you plan to do, there are a variety of options. The most popular is to rent a car and drive around the island and camp in a tent. You may also choose to rent a campervan for a more comfortable Iceland camping experience. A campervan will be a bit more expensive than a car but will be easier to set up and quicker to take down. Finally, some people who go camping in Iceland choose to hitchhike around the country. Yes, hitchhiking in Iceland is a thing and many people, especially those camping in Iceland, choose to employ it. If you want to hitchhike in Iceland, rest assured that it is a very safe country but you should still exercise caution!

Picking up your vehicle for camping in Iceland will be done in one of two places. You will either pick up your car or campervan at or near the Keflavik Airport or you will pick it up in downtown Reykjavik. As mentioned above, some rental agencies are in downtown Reykjavik so if this applies to you, there is a Keflavik/Reykjavik transfer bus you can take. Otherwise, many car and camper rental agencies have free shuttle buses if they are located near the airport. Getting around is quite easy when you are camping in Iceland as long as you are prepared!

5 Tips For Camping In Iceland On Your First Trip

How To Drive In Iceland 

If you are camping in Iceland and you don’t plan on hitchhiking, you will get to experience driving in Iceland. Luckily, driving in Iceland is quite easy and enjoyable as the roads are flat and straight. Even if you are camping in Iceland during the winter, driving is nothing to be afraid of. Do not be fooled, you do not have to rent a 4×4 vehicle, even if you visit during the winter! A plain 2×2 car or campervan will suffice when camping in Iceland. That being said, if you want to splurge for a larger and more powerful vehicle that is up to you! We are just here to tell you that you don’t need a 4×4 car in order to have a successful Iceland camping trip.

We created this post to teach you how to drive in Iceland so make sure to check it out for more detailed tips if you are camping in Iceland. The roads in Iceland are in incredibly good shape and drivers are not crazy, unlike many other parts of the world, so driving for the first time is easy! There are speed cameras set up around Iceland, so if you don’t want a $200 speeding ticket to cap off your Iceland camping trip, make sure to proceed with caution and stick to the speed limit!

Make sure to factor gas into your budget for camping in Iceland. Although this is the cheapest way to travel the country, gas can get pretty expensive pretty quickly! To fill up a small economy car will cost you $70-$80 USD. Luckily, since you are camping in Iceland, you will save on accommodations and food, unlike many other travelers.

Read more: 7 Tips For Driving In Iceland On Your First Trip

5 Tips For Camping In Iceland On Your First Trip

When To Visit Iceland For Camping

Choosing the best time of year for camping in Iceland is truly up to you and what you are looking to experience! If you want to see the Northern Lights, then winter in Iceland will be the best time to go camping. That being said, camping in Iceland in winter can be quite brutal, especially if you aren’t a seasoned camper. While it doesn’t get all that cold in Iceland compared to other parts of the world, the wind chill is what kills you! If you are prepared for the cold [maybe sleeping in a camper van] and want to sleep under the Northern Lights, camping in Iceland in winter may be the best time to visit Iceland for you!

If you are looking for more time for exploration, visiting Iceland during the summer when the midnight sun is out may be the perfect time to go to Iceland for camping. This way, you have almost 24 hours of sunlight so you can continue exploring all of what this amazing country has to offer!

Finally, if you are looking to save some money and get the best of both worlds, consider visiting in the off-season. Iceland in September will have a sunset around 7:30-8:30pm which gives you enough time to explore but also enough time to possibly experience the Northern Lights when camping in Iceland! Either way, choosing the best time to visit Iceland for camping should be based on what you are looking to see and do!

Getting To And From Iceland

There are two main carriers, Icelandair and WOW air which fly to Iceland on the regular. These carriers are Icelandic and offer the most flight routes, times, and options. If you are looking to visit Iceland on a budget, WOW air is the perfect airline for you to choose and they fly from many cities around the world, even New Delhi these days! Icelandair is more expensive but you get things such as a pillow and blanket included in your fare.

If you are coming to Iceland from Europe, you also have the option of flying European carriers such as Easyjet or Vueling depending on where you are coming from and how much or how little you want to spend. Although Iceland is pretty pricey to travel around, getting to and from Iceland has never been more affordable!

Icleand camping in Thorsmork in the Icelandic highlands

Additional Reading For Your Visit To Iceland

Are you ready to go camping in Iceland? Do not be afraid! Just make sure you are prepared, understand the weather, and check frequently to be sure everything is safe. When camping in Iceland, be sure to pack warm and dry clothing and keep it in a waterproof space so it is ready when you need it. Visiting Iceland is fun and memorable and camping is a great way to experience this beautiful country!

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