What to Wear on a Glacier Walk in Iceland

22. May 2017 —
Björgvin Hilmarsson
Group shot!

Glacier walks. Back in 1994 when our founders (figuratively) thought "I know what we’ll do, we’ll put go and walk on those giant glaciers”. Everyone told them that they were mad:

We knew it had been done in some other countries. But the biggest challenge was convincing people that glacier walking could be a mainstream activity. Nobody thought it was possible.

Leifur Örn Svavarsson, elite mountaineer and founding partner of Icelandic Mountain Guides

Fast forward to 2017, and glacier walks are one of the most popular activities in Iceland. This actually makes us the pioneers of glacier walking in Iceland, the most experienced. We also have a class-leading safety and training program for all of our guides. 

On a glacier walk you get up onto a glacier, walk around, marvel at the ice sculptures, and then get back down again. What you’re left with is an unforgettable experience. Very often, this has been the highlight of many of our customer’s trips to Iceland. The amazing thing is that they are always changing, and regrettably they are also receding. 

Now for the big question: how do you prepare for a glacier walk in Iceland? That’s what this post is about, so here we go!

Björgvin Hilmarsson
Guide leading the way

We’ve got the essentials covered!

There are some technical pieces of equipment you definitely will need. First and foremost, you will need crampons. They’re super tough, metal and pointy so they bite into the ice and help you get a grip because honestly without them, you wouldn’t have any! However, you don’t need to worry about bringing those. We provide those for you. 

Second, you might want something to prop yourself up with whilst you’re out walking on a glacier, an extra point on the ground. An ice axe does the job quite well, and we provide that for you too. 

Björgvin Hilmarsson
Getting those crampons on!

What do you need to bring?

As you may know and you have probably been reminded a million times; the weather in Iceland is very temperamental, and is liable to change at any moment. Four seasons in a day etc…

Waterproof hard shell

When you’re out on a glacier walk in Iceland, it will probably rain. If it doesn’t, consider yourself lucky. Very lucky. A waterproof hard shell with is essential gear not just for a glacier walk in Iceland, but for your whole trip!

Good shoes (boots)

You will need good shoes in order to get the crampons on, so having good boots, above-ankle is pretty important. This one is important, but not absolutely necessary. If you don't have good hiking boots, you can rent them from us for 1500 ISK. If you bring some, please make sure they are waterproof/ GORE-TEX or similar waterproof membrane. 

Non-denim pants (trousers for the Brits) 

Jeans. As much as we love them, they don't stretch, and even if they do, they get very heavy when they’re wet, and if it’s wet and it’s windy, your legs will not thank you. They’ll be super cold, and nobody wants that. 

The situation is even worse if you ice climbing (which you can easily do as part of your glacier walk, by the way), then it’s even more important that you don’t wear denim. 

What you need when you're out on a glacier walk in Iceland is a thin, quick-drying and flexible fabric. Potentially some waterproof pants to really stay dry, but as not as essential as having a waterproof hard shell. 

Something warm (layers)

Layers. This is KEY word out here in Iceland. You can imagine that standing on top of a giant block of ice is not the warmest place on earth. So when you’re walking, staying warm is usually not an issue.

When you stop though, the situation changes. Bring an extra layer to wear while you are out on a glacier walk in Iceland, and the ideal choice here is a pack-able down jacket that you can put over everything. This is especially important if you are ice climbing and are waiting for your turn to climb.

Food and snacks

All this glacier walking makes you wanna snack, so bring something to eat. Think about bringing some high energy foods like dried fruits, granola bars and other high energy food like chocolate, if you are feeling particularly decadent. It can be a long day, so bring lunch too! if you do the full day glacier walk, you can have lunch whilst out on the glacier. If you get transferred by us from Reykjavik,we make a pit stop in a gas station, so you can stock up on some supplies. 

Leave No Trace!

For the love of everything that's good in this world, remember to take your wrappers with you! As environmental stewards in Iceland, responsible tourists are our favorite kinds of visitors. We practice and uphold the principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) at all times. 

Björgvin Hilmarsson
Taking a sip of glacial water

Rounding it all off!

So, it turns out that you don’t need all that much for a glacier walk in Iceland, basically it’s just your wonderful selves, the right clothes and some food. We have expert and rigorously trained guides, the ice features (unique formations that our guides search out ahead of time on the glacier), the technical equipment and some excellent memories.

Björgvin Hilmarsson
Those Views

About the Author

Joseph content writer for Icelandic Mountain Guides

Joseph Mattos-Hall

Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian household, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

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