I know, I know, not everyone is into camping. If you like camping and have some gear already, this is a huge way to stick to a budget while in Iceland! Not to mention it gets you up close and personal to some of Iceland’s most amazing, iconic spots.
While many people opt for campervans, we found them to be too expensive to justify on this trip. We already owned a small backpacking tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping bags, so we packed a backpack with our camping gear and saved hundreds of dollars camping instead of staying in hotels. The average tent spots in Iceland range from $10-30 USD. Most have hot showers, toilets, kitchen sinks, and even laundry. Sometimes laundry and showers are an additional charge, but usually very affordable at around $2 per use. Some campgrounds are even set up like hostels with kitchens, heated common areas, wifi, and more to keep campers comfy when the weather gets iffy.
Another perk of camping: you’ll get far closer to the iconic spots on the island than you would if you were staying in a hotel. Most of the best glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs are a bit outside of towns, but the campgrounds are oftentimes located right next to the attractions!
I get it, I love a good, comfortable hotel, bonus points if it's aesthetically pleasing, too. When you're on vacation, having a nice place to stay can make or break the trip. On the other hand, sometimes hotels are pretty far removed from the places you're hoping to see while on said vacation. Iceland is one of those places that's really pretty remote, and camping gets you a lot closer to the places you're traveling thousands of miles to see. Hotels are often in cities, but campgrounds are generally very close to Iceland's most iconic spots.
If you're like us and trying to see and experience as much as possible while traveling, camping just might be the way to go! And, if you've never camped before, Iceland is the perfect first camping experience because the campgrounds we stayed at were the nicest we've ever experienced!
* If you're planning to camp in a campervan or RV there's a good chance your rental company will provide many of these items. Be sure to check with your specific rental company before you pack to see what your rate does and doesn't include.
Unless you're an avid four season camper, you're going to need to put some thought into what to pack for camping in Iceland to ensure you're comfortable and warm enough to enjoy the experience. Here's the gear we used while in Iceland...
Why we love the Big Agnes Cooper Spur HV UL2 Bikepack Tent: we love cycling and want to get into bike-packing, so when we needed a new tent this past summer we snagged this backpacking tent since it's also perfect for bike-packing because of the way it easily fits between the handlebars of your bikes. It's compact, lightweight, super easy to set up. It can also be set up anywhere so if you don't have the right type of ground to secure your tent with the spikes, it can work freestanding, too!
Chris and I have different sleeping bags but I'm linking the one that I (Sara) use because I can't seem to find Chris'. I know he has one by Marmot, but I think it's since been discontinued. I absolutely love my Sea to Summit sleeping bag. I'm a naturally a very cold sleeper and this one has kept me warm down to around 35 degrees (but mine is rated to 23 degrees). It's cushy, comfy and the perfect amount of cozy in a tent! I can't seem to find my exact model, but this is almost the same but is rated down to 15 degrees.
Before this year we both had pretty cheap sleeping pads we got on clearance. While they served us well during some really warm summer nights, we knew it was time to invest in some good sleeping pads that would be good for cold weather camping since we had this Iceland trip on the agenda. If you're newer to camping, don't underestimate the importance of a good sleeping pad! I don't just mean how comfortable it is, but how insulated it is. The difference this new sleeping pad made for me using the same sleeping bag is incredible. This sleeping pad packs light and is plenty comfortable and has an R rating 6.9. Highly recommend!
While I love the outdoors and camping, I really love sleeping in a comfortable bed. One thing I miss most when camping is the comfort of my pillow and neck support. I recently found this camping pillow and it's changed the game for how my neck feels when I wake up in the morning. This pillow is big enough to be comfortable enough but small enough to fit in the head of my mummy-style sleeping bag which keeps it from sliding around. It even has a softer front side which feels much better against my face when sleeping, and it packs nice and small which is perfect even for airplane travel!
Okay, so we opted to not pack a camping stove. If you'd like to pack one, do it. Fuel tanks are easy to find in Iceland to purchase when you arrive, but if you're not planning to camp in the backcountry, I'd recommend just sticking to stove-less meals (a.k.a. pb&j), or choose campgrounds that have communal kitchens. It's just easier!
Obviously bring pot/pan if you bring the stove, otherwise just leave it home. :)
Even if you opt not to pack your own camping stove, it doesn't hurt to bring your own utensils. They pack small and it's likely campgrounds won't provide them, so bring your own just in case!
We always travel with our Miir 12 oz Flip Travel Tumblers. These are the perfect, packable size and they keep coffee warm for hours. They feel great in your hand and they (usually) fit in car cupholders.
We packed two different lights for camping in Iceland: Our trusty Black Diamond headlamp and our solar powered Luci light lantern. We generally hand the Luci light from the ceiling of the tent then use the headlamp for midnight bathroom breaks and setup/tear down in the dark. Both pack small and are great to have on hand!
BUY OUR LANTERN OR HEADLAMP HERE
It's always a good idea to pack a first aid kit just in case because you never know what could happen. This first aid kit packs small and has all the essential for smaller injuries.
This is a new addition in our gear closet and I can't believe how long it took us to splurge on. This little piece of gear can literally save your life with the click of a button. In short, it's a 2 way satellite communication device that allows you to communicate with loved ones of send out an SOS signal for help. Yes, it comes with a price tag + monthly subscription, but the subscriptions start at just $15 USD/month and they can be paused whenever you don't need them.
In Iceland, you can camp from early June to late September. Campsites start to close in mid-September and most are closed by the end of the month.
If you're planning to camp in Iceland, you can rent a campervan or RV. Campervan rentals start at around $70 per day and RV rentals start at around $100 per day. Unfortunately, by the time we got around to booking our campervan reservation, costs were closer to $300 USD per day which was way more than we were willing to pay. So, instead we tent camped (more on tent camping below). While we've certainly had our fair share of van life experiences having lived in a van for almost 4 years in the USA, Iceland is unfamiliar territory for us, so we'd recommend you checking out this blogpost for more specific campervan rental info.
There are over 200 campsites in Iceland. Campsites typically cost around $10-30 USD per night.
Some of the most popular campsites in Iceland include:
When planning your trip, keep in mind that some campsites require advance reservations, so be sure to check before you go. That being said, most campgrounds in Iceland do not accept reservations and spots are first come first serve. Most campgrounds are large enough to more than accommodate the demand, so even a planner like me didn't stress about whether or not we'd get a spot. I ended up loving that we didn't make reservations ahead of time because it gave us the freedom to move at our own pace and stay wherever looked good along the way.
Most campsites in Iceland have basic amenities like toilets and showers. Some also have laundry facilities, kitchens, wifi, and even heated common areas. Be sure to check the website of the campsite you're interested in for more information. There are plenty of campgrounds providing these amenities that if they are important to you, you can certainly find a more amenity loaded campground in just about every corner of the country.
If you're planning to camp in Iceland, always check to see if the campgrounds you're hoping to stay at accept reservations. Like I said earlier, most do not accept reservations so don't stress about this too much, but for the ones that do accept reservations, be sure you have this information ready for them:
Cancellation policies vary by campsite, so be sure to check before you make your reservation.
Cell service is widely available in Iceland, so downloading apps is a great way to plan ahead where you want to stay along your route.
These apps can help you find campsites, make reservations, and get information on amenities and activities.
Campsites in Iceland typically cost around $10-30 USD per night, but if you'd like to have electricity at your site (for campervans and RVs), it's usually an additional $5-10 USD charge per night.
Considering hotels run for $150-300 USD per night in Iceland during peak season, camping is certainly the way to go!
If you’re visiting Iceland during peak season and plan to camp multiple nights, definitely consider getting a Campingcard. For a one time fee of €159, you’ll get camping for 28 nights at participating campgrounds. Most campgrounds on the island that we saw participated in this program, so if we go back and camp again, we’ll definitely be getting this!
A couple of things to note about the Campingcard: it expires on September 15th each year and it only covers (1) family (two adults and up to four kids). While it would be nice to pack a family size six person tent and just split the cost with a bunch of friends, Campingcard won’t go for that so don’t try. :)