Fairy Meadows & Nanga Parbat Base Camp — Guide for 2019

JUMP TO:  PROS  &  CONS  /  ITINERARY  /  ACCOMMODATION  /  WHEN TO GO  /  GETTING THERE  /  MAPS / WHAT TO PACK

Keen for a two hour perilous ride along one of the most dangerous roads on the planet? How about breathtaking views of the one of the world’s top ten biggest mountains?

Well then perhaps Fairy Meadows should be on your radar — hiking and adventure seeking all wrapped up in one trip!

Fairy Meadows is one of the most popular nature destinations in Pakistan. This beautiful alpine meadow is set with an impressive backdrop — mighty Nanga Parbat — the 9th highest mountain in the world. And it is Nanga Parbat that most people come to see.

 

The views of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows are just stunning.

 

Standing tall at 8,126 metres Nanga Parbat is located in the north of Pakistan at the westernmost end of the Himalayas. It is the second highest mountain in Pakistan after K2. It is huge, majestic, and an impressive sight to behold close up.

Nanga Parbat is known to be notoriously difficult and dangerous to climb. It has claimed the lives of many mountaineers over the years, leading to its nickname Killer Mountain.

Fortunately for those of us who are more into hiking than mountaineering, it is relatively easy to get to the base camp on the northern side of Nanga Parbat. There you can soak in dramatic views of both the Raikot Glacier and Nanga Parbat’s northern face.

 

The trail to Nanga Parbat Base Camp follows alongside the Raikot Glacier, offering mind-blowing views the entire way!

 

In this guide I provide all the info you need for a trip to Fairy Meadows, as well as the day hike that takes you from Fairy Meadows to Nanga Parbat Base Camp.

Many visitors stop at Fairy Meadows and do not venture further. However the day hike from Fairy Meadows to Nanga Parbat Base Camp is well worth it. The views along the trail are stunning and Nanga Parbat’s northern face is all the more impressive close up.

In short… this mountain is EPIC!

 
fairy-meadows-nanga-parbat-04-1500x1125.jpg
 


PROS

  • Amazing alpine scenery, including seeing the 9th highest mountain in the world close up!

  • A variety of accommodation options available at Fairy Meadows

CONS

  • Jeep track to Fairy Meadows is not for the faint hearted

  • Fairy Meadows is experiencing issues with rubbish and litter

  • Fairy Meadows can be popular in peak season (June, July, August) and long weekends


ITINERARY

Getting to Fairy Meadows and/or Nanga Parbat Base Camp essentially involves the following sections:

  • Raikot Bridge to the trailhead near Tattu Village: 90-120 mins jeep ride.

  • Trailhead to Fairy Meadows: 90-120 mins uphill hike (porters and horse rides available).

  • Fairy Meadows to Beyal Camp: 60-90 mins relatively easy hike.

  • Beyal Camp to Raikot Glacier Viewpoint: 60 mins relatively easy hike.

  • Raikot Glacier Viewpoint to Nanga Parbat Base Camp: 90-120 mins moderately hard hike (some narrow parts on the trail, and the last 30 mins is very steep).

I describe each of these sections in more detail below. Note that accommodations (cabins and camping, details below) are predominantly located at Fairy Meadows, although there is some accommodation located at Beyal Camp as well.

 
 

RAIKOT BRIDGE SERVICES

Raikot Bridge is a small junction village located on the Karakoram Highway. There isn’t much there — a few hotels, and a couple of small shops and restaurants.

However it is the starting point for the 4WD track to Fairy Meadows. The 4WD track is known as “Fairy Meadows Road” and it takes you as far as a drop-off point near Tattu village, where the hiking trail to Fairy Meadows begins.

You will find a number of jeeps located either at the start of Fairy Meadows Road or waiting in the carpark just next to the Shangrila Hotel.

These local jeeps (with driver) are the only way to travel on Fairy Meadows Road. You are not allowed to take your own car and for good reason — see details about the road condition below!

 
The trip to Fairy Meadows involves a 2 hour jeep ride along some pretty sketchy terrain!

The trip to Fairy Meadows involves a 2 hour jeep ride along some pretty sketchy terrain!

 

RAIKOT BRIDGE TO TRAILHEAD

  • TRANSPORT: Jeep

  • DURATION: 90-120 mins

  • DIFFICULTY: Easy but scary

The jeep ride taking you to the Fairy Meadows trailhead is quite an adventure in itself. The journey consists of a perilous two-hour jeep ride along what is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world.

The vast majority of the road is narrow, bumpy, and winds along the hillside high above a dramatic gorge. In addition the road is essentially one jeep-width but carries traffic in both directions. This can make for a very harrowing ride, especially when it comes time for jeeps to overtake one another.

The locals like to claim that the jeep drivers are highly trained and know exactly what they are doing. However our definitions of “highly trained” probably differ and, at the end of the day, a narrow rough track with a sheer cliff on one side doesn’t allow much room for error regardless of training!

 

The road to Fairy Meadows is pretty narrow, especially when it comes time for two vehicles to pass in opposite directions!

 

There is no denying that if your jeep driver were to make a mistake and slip off the road edge then everyone in your jeep would — without a doubt — perish. I’m not sure how many accidents happen on this road (the locals claim not many). But I’d be pretty confident the number isn’t zero.

In any case, if you survive, it will likely be one of the most exciting things you do in Pakistan!

But don’t be fooled by the popularity of Fairy Meadows — if you are someone who don’t like scary roads, has a fear of heights, or has an aversion to danger then you should probably reconsider.

JEEP COSTS: As at September 2019 the standard price for a jeep was 8100 PKR (approx. US $50). This is for the return trip and can be shared between as many people as you can manage to fit in the jeep: 2 people is luxury, 4 is reasonably comfortable, >4 is a squash but possible.

 

Waiting in a traffic jam as the drivers try and work out how to allow the oncoming jeeps to pass.

 

We had 2 people on the way up and 6 people on the way down (some guys whose jeep didn’t show up hitched a ride down with us) and it was ok. The local jeep drivers here have quite a monopoly so it doesn’t seem to be possible to bargain for a cheaper price, but you can always try!

They usually will ask you to pay 5100 PKR upfront for the journey up the hill to the drop off point. They will then give you a little slip of paper with a prearranged time at which they will collect you for the journey down.

Everyone that goes up together in the jeep must also come down together! So if you arrange to share a jeep on the way up, then you must make sure that those people are planning to leave on the same day/time as you plan to.

The same driver will then meet you at the prearranged time and collect the remaining 3000 PKR after you arrive back at Raikot Bridge.

 
 

TRAILHEAD SERVICES

The hiking trail to Fairy Meadows begins where the jeep drops you off. At the drop off point there is a small tuck shop selling water and snacks.

Once you leave the drop off point you will cross a stream and walk about 100 metres to reach an area with some toilets, accommodation (“hotel”) and a police checkpoint. There is running water available from a sink out the front of the hotel, but I’d probably treat it before you drink it (or buy bottled water).

At the police checkpoint foreign tourists will be asked to sign in. This is a straightforward formality (like everywhere else in Pakistan) and should only take a couple of minutes. The police were very friendly.

When we did this hike it was early September 2019 and even by 3pm in the afternoon there had been just five foreigners check in that day, yet hundreds of Pakistani tourists — so foreign travellers are still relatively rare in Pakistan!

Many blog posts we read before travelling there said that foreigners were given a police escort for their entire trip to Fairy Meadows. This was due to an infamous shooting that happened at Nanga Parbat Base Camp back in 2013. However when we visited there wasn’t any mention of a police escort — it seems that (unnecessary) formality has now been done away with.

 

The cool little hut that serves at the police checkpoint.

 

TRAILHEAD TO FAIRY MEADOWS

  • TRANSPORT: Hiking (porters and horse rides available)

  • DURATION: 90-120 mins

  • DIFFICULTY: Moderate (well groomed trail but quite steep uphill)

The hiking trail to Fairy Meadows is uphill, but otherwise pretty straightforward. Navigation isn’t a problem — there is just one obvious trail winding its way along the steep hillside that forms the west bank of the Raikot River. There are a couple of small shops along the trail where you can buy water or snacks if you need. For most people it will take 1.5 - 2 hours of uphill walking to reach Fairy Meadows.

Porters are available for carrying gear between the jeep drop off point and Fairy Meadows. Some domestic Pakistani tourists seemed to bring all kinds of shit for the porters to carry, including music speakers and rolling wheel suitcases. I felt pretty bad for these porters — passed a square suitcase with wheels but no handles! If you are bringing too much stuff to carry yourself, then at least bring it in a backpack. For large loads the porters have donkeys.

Or for those who aren’t particularly keen on hiking at all there are horses available for hire. You can sit of the horse while its owner leads it up the trail. (Yawn…)

The scenery on this section of trail isn’t particularly impressive until the last 15 minutes or so, at which point Nanga Parbat comes into view. And once you reach Fairy Meadows you are rewarded with even more stunning views of Nanga Parbat in the distance.

 
 

Once you are at Fairy Meadows there are several accommodation and restaurant options (described below) scattered across the area. They are all within a few minutes walk of each other. There are also several tuckshops selling bottled water, snacks, and other basic supplies.

SIDE NOTE: This trail — and Fairy Meadows itself — is littered in rubbish. This is a common theme throughout Pakistan and South Asia, but it is all the more sad in this stunning mountain environment. We filled the extra space in our backpacks by collecting rubbish as we made our way up the trail. We also tried to explain to the locals why rubbish isn’t a good thing — many of them told us to just throw the stuff we were picking up back on the ground. Please consider doing the same wherever possible. It is going to take a lot of action and education to fix this issue.

FAIRY MEADOWS TO BEYAL CAMP

  • TRANSPORT: Hiking

  • DURATION: 60-90 mins

  • DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate (relatively flat trail)

The majority of visitors make it to Fairy Meadows and don’t venture any further. This is a blessing for those who do want to reach Nanga Parbat Base Camp because it means the trail beyond Fairy Meadows is less populated and more pristine.

After leaving Fairy Meadows the trail wanders through forest high up on the hillside above the western bank of the Raikot Glacier. The trail offers numerous glimpses of the mighty Nanga Parbat in the distance.

 

The path to Beyal Camp offers some stunning glimpses of Nanga Parbat in the distance.

 

It will take about 60 minutes of walking to reach the start of Beyal Camp. Beyal Camp is a small village at which the local villagers have built a restaurant, some cabins and campsite.

There isn’t any electricity at Beyal Camp, but there is a lot more solitude and peace than at Fairy Meadows itself. We didn’t stay at Beyal Camp, but we kind of wish we did.

Beyal Camp is spread along the valley and it will take you about 15 minutes to walk through the village.

 

The view of the valley as we start to enter Beyal Camp.

 

BEYAL CAMP TO RAIKOT GLACIER VIEWPOINT

  • TRANSPORT: Hiking

  • DURATION: 60 mins

  • DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate (gradual uphill trail)

 

This viewpoint is about 60 minutes beyond Beyal Camp and a popular finishing point for those who don’t want to do the final push along the (more narrow) trail to the base camp.

 

RAIKOT GLACIER VIEWPOINT TO NANGA PARBAT BASE CAMP

  • TRANSPORT: Hiking

  • DURATION: 90-120 mins

  • DIFFICULTY: Moderately hard (trail is narrow at times, last 30 minutes is steep uphill)

 

The exact location of the “Base Camp” seemed to be a bit open to debate, but this “Nanga Parbat Tuckshop” seemed like the ideal final destination for the hike.

 


ACCOMMODATION

There are a number of privately owned accommodation options. These predominantly consist of cabin style accommodation as well as grassy areas for camping.

The majority are located in Fairy Meadows, however there are also cabin and camping options at Beyal Camp (about a 45 minute hike beyond Fairy Meadows).

I’ve provided details on several accommodation options below. However my list is not exhaustive! At both Fairy Meadows and Beyal Camp there appeared to be new accommodations being built at the time we visited. So, if you have recommendations on places I might have missed or opinions on the places I’ve list below, then do reach out!

GREENLAND HOTEL (FAIRY MEADOWS)

LOCATION & VIBE: Greenland Hotel is located in the centre of Fairy Meadows. It consists of one central block with the kitchen and restaurant, as well as a number of detached cabins and a grass area for camping.

The owner seems pretty nice. He also offered the cheapest prices (for both the room and camping) without us having to barter.

However, Greenland Hotel seemed like a popular place for large groups during busier periods. We were there on a busy weekend and there were people playing music until midnight, making it hard to find peace and quiet in the campsite.

RESTAURANT: The restaurant at Greenland Hotel seemed like a pretty smooth operation (there seemed to be specific people employed as cooks, wait-staff, etc). It seemed capable of serving food for large groups too.

ROOMS: The cabin we viewed at Greenland Hotel was probably the nicest out of the three rooms we looked at in Fairy Meadows — it was slightly nicer than the hotel room at Shambala and much nicer than the cabin at Raikot Serai.

We were quoted 3000 PKR / night for a cabin with ensuite (toilet and running water, but no shower), but heard of people paying as little as 1000 PKR on the shoulder season. I’m not sure if all of the rooms have an ensuite or not.

Unfortunately none of the cabins have a direct view of Nanga Parbat because of tree cover.

CAMPING: We were quoted 1000 PKR / night for a campsite. Some of the camping spots provide direct views of Nanga Parbat (see photos below). Campers have access to one — pretty dirty — squat toilet.

 
 

SHAMBALA HOTEL (FAIRY MEADOWS)

LOCATION & VIBE: Shambala Hotel is located about 200 metres away from the majority of the other accommodation options. This means that it can be a bit more peaceful than for example Greenland Hotel or Raikot Serai.

The owner is amazingly kind and friendly. He was very welcoming, made great conversation, and even allowed us to camp for free. The entire property (including the camping spots) has direct views of Nanga Parbat (see the photos below). There is also an outdoor area with a bonfire.

RESTAURANT: Shambala has a small kitchen where the owner can provide you with breakfast and/or dinner. It is a cosy kitchen that makes a great place to hang out in the evening and socialise. Food seemed to be prepared on a sort of “ad hoc” basis (even the guests were helping out with the cooking!).

ROOMS: The rooms were pretty basic but reasonable — the one we saw had two single mattresses on the floor and an ensuite with toilet and running water (but no shower). We were quoted 4000 PKR / night for the room.

CAMPING: The camping spots are just on the dirt/grass out the front of the hotel. There are three squat toilets for use by campers and those who do not have an ensuite toilet in their hotel room.

 
 

RAIKOT SERAI (FAIRY MEADOWS)

LOCATION & VIBE: Raikot Serai has a relatively prime position in Fairy Meadows, with direct views of Nanga Parbat. There are a number of cabins as well as a large flat grassy lawn for camping.

However we chose not to stay there. The owner quoted us 5000 PKR / night for a cabin that was shitty and not even close to being worth that. Then he got annoyed when we told him we wanted to see what was available elsewhere.

This meant that we had a bad encounter at Raikot Serai, but who knows, your mileage might differ. Nonetheless our experience was that the owners of Shambala Hotel and Greenland Hotel were much kinder and nicer to deal with than the owner at Raikot Serai.

RESTAURANT: There is a relatively large restaurant room at Raikot Serai. We didn’t eat there but I popped my head in and it seemed to be busy, even though the building still seemed to be under construction. People were eating amongst the sawdust and electrical wires. Nonetheless it seemed to be an organised operation with several cooks working in a relatively large kitchen and a couple of wait staff.

ROOMS: As mentioned above, the room we saw was so-so. But there appeared to be a large number of cabins so they might differ from one to the next. We were quoted 5000 PKR / night for a cabin with ensuite (toilet and running water, no shower), but you should be able to bargain it down for much less.

CAMPING: There is a large grassy lawn out the front of Raikot Serai, one end of the lawn has direct views of Nanga Parbat. I can’t remember the price we were quoted for camping, but it was something ridiculous (3000 PKR / night perhaps?). If you stay here, then make sure you bargain with the owner.

 
 


WHEN TO GO


HOW TO GET THERE

AND DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE!…

As with all overseas travel, it would be a wise idea to have adequate travel insurance when travelling to Pakistan.

Depending on your country of residence World Nomads is a pretty sure bet and would be my top recommendation. One upside of World Nomads is that they allow you to extend your insurance if you decide to extend your trip — something many other companies strangely don’t allow.

But be careful since World Nomads have different coverage for hiking at elevation depending on what your country of residence is. Residents of the United States appear to be covered for hiking up to 6000 metres in elevation regardless of which plan they purchase. However for residents of other countries the coverage can be less comprehensive.

For example, I live in Australia, and for Australian residents World Nomads only cover hiking up to 2000 metres by default — nowhere near high enough for hiking to Nanga Parbat Base Camp which sits at almost 4000 metres. To get additional cover for hiking up to 6000 metres I would have to buy a so-called “Level 3” activities add-on — which effectively doubled the price of the policy!

Therefore a potentially better alternative for Australian residents was Fast Cover Travel Insurance. They cover up to 3000 metres by default, but their add-on “Adventure Pack” takes you up to 6000 metres and costs far less than World Nomads equivalent “adventure” cover.

Of course, always be sure to read the policy details yourself before purchasing any travel insurance policy — to make sure it’s the right choice for you.


MAPS

You won’t really need a hiking map for Fairy Meadows or even for Nanga Parbat Base Camp.

MAPS.ME: Nonetheless, to help give you an idea of locations and distances you should download the Maps.me app — available for both Android and Iphone. It is a free offline mapping app, similar to Google maps but fully functional without a data connection.

Make sure you download the Pakistan map for Maps.me before your trip. The Pakistan map includes the trail to Fairy Meadows and it is pretty accurate. It even includes some of the hotels in Fairy Meadows.

It also includes the trail from Fairy Meadows to Nanga Parbat Base Camp. Just be careful though, because about 60 minutes beyond Raikot Glacier Viewpoint the trail shown on Maps.me was incorrect. After traversing the scree on the hillside above the glacier for about 60 minutes beyond Raikot Glacier Viewpoint the trail turned up the hill and approached a flat grass area, whereas the trail shown on Maps.me kept following the western side of the glacier.

MYMAPS (GOOGLE): You can also download the MyMaps (Google) map I created. It’s not intended to be super accurate, but it will give you an idea of the trail.

PAPER MAPS: If you really do want a souvenir map of the area then we did see some 1:200,000 “hiking” maps for sale in the in the reception-area shops at the Gilgit Serena Hotel (amazing food and accommodation at that hotel by the way!). There were about three maps that together covered the entire Gilgit-Baltistan region (including Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat). A scale of 1:200,000 isn’t much use for actual hiking navigation, but it could be useful for understanding the mountain ranges and glaciers surrounding you when you are on your hike(s).


WHAT TO PACK FOR FAIRY MEADOWS

The weather in the Icelandic highlands can be very temperamental. Even in the peak summer season you need to be prepared for winds, rain, cold… and perhaps even snow. These are some of the essentials we recommend packing for your Laugavegur Trail hike.

Note: For more detailed reviews of some of the gear listed below check out our backpacking gear reviews and ultimate backpacking gear list.

WATERPROOF & WINDPROOF CLOTHING

You will need to carry a rain jacket and rain pants any time of year.

This is a must. You should not go hiking the Laugavegur Trail without a good quality waterproof and windproof jacket and pants.

Without both of these items you could suffer serious wind chill and hypothermia if the weather turns against you.

Some hikers think they can get through with just hiking shorts or hiking pants without the need for waterproof pants for layering on top. In some environments that can work fine. But in Iceland it isn’t a wise idea. Waterproof pants are a necessity for bad weather in Iceland.

  • Jacket: Our all-time favourite jacket is the Arc’teryx Beta LT — it is feature-rich, extremely durable, and seriously weatherproof. It is quite heavy for lightweight backpacking (12.2 oz), but we just love it and so are willing to carry the extra few ounces. But if you’d prefer something a bit more lightweight then consider the Arc’teryx Zeta FL (7.2 oz), Montane Minimus Jacket (7.5 oz), or Patagonia Storm Racer (6 oz).

  • Pants: Before buying waterproof pants you should decide what length zipper you want along the outside. Waterproof pants with ankle zippers are often the lightest, but they are sometimes difficult to get on over boots and have almost no ventilation. Full length or 3/4 length zippers are heavier, but they make it much easier to get the trousers on over your shoes or boots and they can be partly unzipped from the top to provide ventilation. We opt for the Berghaus Paclite Pants (8.0 oz, 3/4 length zipper), but the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants (10.0 oz, full length zip) are another good option. If you want maximum weight savings, then the Outdoor Research Helium Pants (6.5 oz, ankle zipper) are the way to go.

  • Gloves or mittens: We also recommend packing waterproof gloves or mittens. You can probably survive a bad storm without them but you might be very uncomfortable. We carry a pair of fleece flip top mittens along with an waterproof shell mitten. The two best ultralight shell mittens currently available are the Montane Minimus Mitt (1.55 oz) and the Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts (0.71 oz).

OTHER CLOTHING

It can get pretty chilly at the higher elevations, so pack warm clothing that allows you to layer.

For during the day you should pack clothing that allows you to layer. This helps with regulating your temperature as the weather changes. Items such as a warm hat and neck warmer also provide significant additional warmth for their weight.

For evenings and overnight on the Laugavegur Trail you should have an insulated jacket that will keep you comfortable down to freezing (i.e. 32°F / 0°C) or thereabouts.

The exact clothing you pack will depend on your personal preferences and backpacking style. If you are new to backpacking then we suggest the following:

  • Baselayer (underwear): For men we suggest the Smartwool Merino 150 Boxer Briefs (we carried two pairs). For women we suggest the Smartwool Merino 150 Bikini and Icebreaker Meld Zone Sports Bra.

  • Baselayer (for hiking): We opt for a merino t-shirt, specifically the Smartwool Merino 150 T-Shirt. We also carry a Smartwool Merino 250 Quarter-Zip Top for layering. It performs well and the zip allows us to regulate our temp.

  • Hiking trousers or shorts: We tend to use lightweight nylon convertible pants, like the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants. Although on the Laugavegur trail we didn’t really “convert” them much! Nonetheless, it is good to have the option to convert them to shorts if the weather does get warm.

    The features I look for in hiking pants are: comfortable, lightweight, and quick drying. I also prefer an elastic waist with a drawstring, but some people prefer a belt. I like to have elastic around the ankles, so that I can easily wear them without shoes at camp and not have the cuffs drag on the ground. However, there aren’t many hiking pants sold with elasticated ankles — so this is usually a modification you would have to do at home.

  • Insulating jacket: Our favourite down jacket is the Rab Electron, but if you want something thinner and lighter then consider the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody. If you’d prefer a synthetic jacket (they have a lower warmth-to-weight ratio, but retain warmth when wet) then our favourite is the Arc’teryx Atom AR Hoody.

  • Warm hat, gloves and neck warmer: We love the Zpacks Micro-Fleece Hat — its ultralight but still warm. For warm gloves we opt for a pretty generic Fleece Flip-Top Mitten. We also carry a Smartwool 150 Neck Gaiter — it provides significant warmth for its weight.

  • Hiking shoes: We use the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Running Shoes and love them. Although not waterproof, they are sufficient for the Laugavegur Trail. There are several unbridged river crossings on the Laugavegur Trail. They aren’t particularly deep, but your feet are likely to get wet above the ankle line. If you choose to wear Gore-Tex hiking shoes or boots (which do not dry easily) then you may need to also carry river crossing shoes.

  • Hiking socks: We use the Bridgedale Wool Fusion Ultralight Socks. You should choose socks that are relatively light and breathable, but will provide sufficient warmth for your personal preferences. We carry one pair for hiking and one pair for sleeping.

  • Additional baselayers for sleeping (top, pants, socks): You will want a spare pair of merino or synthetic thermal underwear for sleeping. We carry a pair of lightweight merino bottoms and merino long sleeve top. We suggest the bottoms as a minimum, but whether you take an additional long sleeve top just for sleeping might depend on your backpacking style. A spare pair of hiking socks can be used for sleeping. Alternatively, if you sleep cold, then PossumDown Bushman's Friend Socks or even Goose Down Booties are warmer options.

  • Camp shoes (optional): Some people like to carry a spare pair of lightweight sandals (or similar) for evenings in camp or in the huts. If you opt for this approach then we suggest choosing sandals that can also be used for stream crossings, since the Laugavegur Trail has several unbridged stream/river crossings that have water above ankle depth.

SHELTER & SLEEP SYSTEM

A tent with a large vestibule can make life easier in stormy weather.

You will need a good quality sleeping bag for the Laugavegur Trail, regardless of whether you plan to sleep in the huts or camp.

If you are camping then you will also need a sturdy reliable tent and a sleeping pad.

  • Sleeping bag: We think the Feathered Friends Lark is ideal for the conditions you will likely encounter on the Laugavegur Trail. It is rated to 10°F (-12.2°C). But sleeping manufacturers tend to dramatically exaggerate temperature ratings. We think the Lark is pretty comfortable down to about freezing (32°F / 0°C) or just below. If you want something a bit cheaper but still high quality then check out the REI Co-Op Magma 15°. Alternatively, if you want to go lightweight then consider a backpacking quilt.

  • Sleeping pad: We believe the best sleeping pads are inflatable air pads. They are lightweight and much more comfortable than traditional closed-cell foam pads. An inflatable air pad is ideal for the Laugavegur Trail where the ground is often hard, rocky, and unforgiving. Since conditions can get quite cold on the Laugavegur Trail, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm would be our recommended pick. More info: Best Sleeping Pads.

  • Pillow: A backpacking pillow such as the Sea to Summit Aeros Premium can seriously improve your sleep quality and doesn’t need to weigh much. More info: Best Backpacking Pillows.

  • Tent: Your tent should be able to withstand high winds and heavy rains. Wardens at the huts are not always accommodating to campers — meaning that you may still need to cook and eat outside in bad weather (we were denied entry to the hut for cooking even in stormy weather). So a tent with a large vestibule that can be used for cooking is always useful. We do not recommend taking a tarp instead of a tent, as many of the campsites along the Laugavegur Trail are relatively exposed and can be subject to high winds. Our favourite tent is the Zpacks Triplex, but the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 is another great lightweight option that is slightly cheaper. More info: Best Backpacking Tents.

BACKPACK & GEAR STORAGE

For the Laugavegur Trail most people will need a backpack with a total volume of between 40 and 60 litres. This will depend on whether you are camping or staying in huts and how lightweight or dialled in your backpacking gear is.

Traditional backpacks made with heavy frames and heavy materials are no longer necessary. Modern materials mean that lightweight backpacks can be just as durable and comfortable. Our favourite lightweight backpack is the Zpacks Arc Haul Zip — its ultralight, feature rich, and almost fully waterproof. More info: Best Backpacks.

We also use dry sacks to arrange most of the gear inside our backpack. The Sea To Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sacks are our favourites. They are ultralight, waterproof, and the colours are useful for sorting gear.

CAMP KITCHEN

Regardless of whether you are camping or staying in the huts, you will need to bring cooking equipment. The huts at Alftavatn and Thorsmork have seasonal restaurants, but do not rely on them!

OTHER EQUIPMENT

The Laugavegur Trail is pretty well signposted and trodden, but we always recommend carrying a map & compass.


MORE INFORMATION

If you are heading to Iceland to hike the Laugavegur Trail, then our gear related content should help with your preparation:

Alternatively, if you enjoyed reading this destination guide then you'll likely love reading about other equally inspiring hiking destinations, such as:

Happy endeavours out on the trail!