In a previous post I discuss my personal experience hiking Iceland’s famous Fimmvörðuháls Pass solo, a 25km trek through some of the otherworldly and emote beauty that Iceland has to offer. If you missed it, you can read about it here.
I wanted to outline the gear I packed and brought with me separately since this topic always interests me when I read about other people’s trips.
I’ll also tell you about your accommodation and food options on the Fimmvörðuháls.
Then I’ll tell you what I would have done differently regarding my hiking packing list at the end of the article.
The Practical Matters of Hiking Iceland's Fimmvörðuháls Pass
- Distance: 25 km/13 miles
- Time: 8-12 hours (can be done in one day if short on time, or split into two days)
- Difficulty level: challenging but doable for anyone in reasonable hiking shape
- Elevation: 1068 meters/3504 feet
- Starting point: Skogafoss waterfall
- Ending point: Utivist Basar Huts in Thorsmork serviced by the buses to Rekjavik and other destinations
- Yes, you can also complete this hike from the opposite direction in Básar, but I highly recommend you start at the traditional point at Skogafoss waterfall. It makes the dramatic revelation of Thorsmork all the more epic after slugging through the snow.
This is what I brought. Obviously adjust this for your personal preferences. And don’t let your lack of gear stop you. You can make do with less, or look for deals on second-hand items. Don’t feel pressured into owning name brand outdoors equipment either — this is not an expedition to to Everest nor are you discovering new continents. It’s a fairly simple hike.
I’m not brand orthodox. I buy what is on sale most of the time. I am also very partial to merino wool, silk, down, and other natural fibres whenever appropriate.
- 50 Litre Backapck from MEC. My model is no longer available, but 50 Litres is plenty for this hike. More than plenty.
- Snugpak The Ionosphere 1-Man Dome Tent. I have used this tent multiple times and highly recommend it. It takes 5 minutes to set up, weighs only 2.5 lbs, packs up tiny, and for me (5’10, slender female) it provides more than enough room to house all my gear and myself comfortable with room to spare. The only issue is that it requires multiple pegs to set up the cover for rain protection and that will not work on hard, rocky ground.
- MEC Down sleeping Bag rated to 0°
- Icebreaker Midweight 260 merino wool base layers, 1 long-sleeve top, and 1 bottom.
- 5 Pairs of Icebreaker Merino wool socks. I always bring extra merino wool socks.
- La Sportiva Wildcat Mountain Running Shoe. I can not recommend this shoe more, seriously. Although this is technically a shoe designed for mountain trail running, it has taken me on numerous hikes through various mountains and terrains. There is also a waterproof version available, the La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 GTX, which I plan on purchasing next. I wore them out of the box with not a single issue — something that has never happened to me before. These shoes are lightweight, provide the perfect amount of cushioning in just the right spots, and they are built tough with a super grippy Vibram sole. From gravel, to rock, to ice and snow, these shoes are hands down my favourite for outdoors activities.
- Gaiters. I’m glad a purchased a pair. My shoes were not waterproof and I was shin-deep in snow at times. Gaiters help keep snow out of your shoe and keep your pants dry.
- A simple rain coat from North Face. Bring a rain coat. Any rain coat. Mine is lightweight, was bought on clearance from North Face, and comes down almost to my knees. It can really rain hard here. I didn’t actually experience that, but I ended up using the rain coat as a way to protect myself from the harsh winds anyways.
- 1 Pair of thick, Midlayer Pants. I prefer them tight and stretchy versus loose. Mine were on clearance (again) from North Face. I wore them over my tights on the hike after it got too cold and windy. They’re part of the North Face Summit Series and are marketed as winter weather alpine pants for cold and snow. I wear these pants everywhere.
- Tights. I just brought several pairs of yoga pants.
- Tops/Shirts. I brought random sport tops as a first layer.
- Sweaters/Hoodies: I brought 1 warm and cozy merino/alpaca-lined hoodie.
- 1 Fleece zip-up midlayer sweater.
- 1 Merino Wool Toque.
- 1 Pair Merino Wool Mittens.
I do not hike with poles. Some people recommend them, but it’s up to you and what you’re into.
- Miniature Bodum French Press coffee Maker.
- A small carton of real cream. I prefer 35%.
- Homemade beef jerky.
- Homemade beef & lamb stew I dehydrated and vacuum sealed. I loathe the freeze-dried foods sold at outdoors stores.
Skogafoss Waterfall also has a backpackers hostel that serves up amazing food in the plain cafeteria as well as a small restaurant. The arctic char and cheeseburger were great. Food in Iceland in general is incredible no matter where you go from my experience.
- Camera or Phone.
- A Lifeproof Phone Case or similar if you’re bringing your phone to protect it while travelling.
- Something portable to charge your phone.
- Coffee/Tea mug. Bowl. Utensils.
- MSR Pocket Stove & 1 small fuel canister — you’ll have to buy the fuel canisters in Iceland and they are readily available at gift stores, including some at the bus stations.
Accommodation on The Fimmvörðuháls Trail
Camping is obviously the cheapest options. I camped at the Skogafoss Waterfall (start of the trail) in my simple one-man lightweight army tent. You can also camp on the grounds of the various huts available, it’s cheaper than staying at the huts.
Huts range from basic shelters with modest kitchens and outdoor bathrooms to full-service with hot water and even a bar and restaurant. The Volcano Huts are by far the fanciest — and most expensive.
The midway point between Skogar and Thorsmork is the only night I slept in a hut. I’m really, really, glad I didn’t camp. That midway point is very cold, windy, and prone to snow and rain; often both.
This is the hut I staid in. It is conveniently situated almost at the highest point of Fimmvörðuháls, midway between Skógar and Thormork (Básar). You will stumble across it by following the main trail. Clean comfortable cedar a-frame hut with a second story dormitory that sleeps 20 people. Thin mattresses on the floor. Outdoor composting toilet. Basic kitchen facilities.
There is no running water. Either you filled up at the last point of river access, or you’ll need to melt the volcanic snow. It’s definitely an acquired taste!
Bring your sleeping bag.
Located 30 minutes past the Baldvinsskali Hut, this hut is located on the highest point of the pass, just west of the marked hiking trail between Skogar and Thorsmork. You will easily see it as you pass.
There is no running water. Bring your sleeping bag.
At the end of your hike, you will have arrived at the large Basar Mountain huts (and campground). If you’re planning on hiking the connecting 92 km Laugavegur trail, this is a great place to stay and relax before moving on. There is also local hiking in the area. If you’re going back to Reykjavik, or other destinations, this is also where the bus will come to pick you up.
The huts accommodate 80-90 people.
Superrrr nice and I really want to stay their next time for the experience. There is even a bar and restaurant and you can order your meals in advance when you make your booking! The Volcano Huts are located in Thorsmork and offer private rooms, cottages, shared dormitories, glamping in fancy tents, and a basic campground.
Getting to The Volcano Huts
From the Básar Mountain Hut in Thorsmork
- The distance between the Básar Huts and the Volcano Huts is about 6 kilometers and walking from there should take about 1,5 hours. You will have to cross the Krossá River on portable bridges that are set up in the summer time.
From the Langidalur Hut in Þórsmörk
- The distance from Langidalur is about 1,7 kilometers and should take about 25 minutes to walk if you go through the Húsadalur Valley or about 1 hour if you walk over the Valahnjúkur Mountain for a panoramic view of Thorsmork. Both trails are marked and easy to follow.
Getting To The Fimmvörðuháls Trailhead
Bus service in Iceland is just like everything else in the country: extremely efficient. Renting a car is very expensive, so I highly recommend using the reliable and more affordable bus. They will take you directly to the starting points of numerous trails, even stopping briefly at other points of interest, and there will be additional buses to pick you up at the end of your hike.
The starting point of the Fimmvörðuháls Pass is right at the top of the famous Skogafoss waterfall in Skogar. The end is the hut at Basar in Thorsmork where the buses will pick you up right by the huts.
The distance from Reykjavik to Skogafoss is just over 3 hours, maybe a bit more, including the brief stops.
I had my ticket to Skogafoss prebooked but I purchased my return ticket to Reykjavik directly on the bus. They take cash or credit.
Please take note: gear and packing is a personal matter. If you think you need less, or more — great. Do it. Also, since Iceland was a stopover for me and I had further European travels (and mountain hikes) planned, I was pretty thoroughly equipped for the mere two-nights of camping. Normally I bring less for such a short hike.
If I could do it again, knowing what I know now:
- I would skip the tent completely. I love the huts.
- I would bring a smaller backpack, probably just a day pack at half the size of the 50 litres I had with me.
- I would bring less random tights and sports tops. I had SO many stuffed into my pack for no discernible reason.
- I would bring larger bladder to stock up on more of that incredible glacier water.
- I would spend more time in Iceland. Basically, I want to hike the entire country. I am completely enamoured with everything about it and I did not have enough time. Definitely will be going back at the first possible chance.
If you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear from you.