Pack / Tent / Sleeping bag / Mat / Stuff sacks / Clothing / TowelPoles / Stove

This is about gear, Iceland and myself. It’s all mixed together. I mean to assess how my kit worked in Iceland but some of the sections are necessarily decontextualized, if only because I love to talk about gear, in essence because I’m talking about myself.


Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

It was only the second time I took this pack in any sort of long hike. Its most relevant feature is that it is made of Cuben Hybrid, where good old Cuben is laminated to a polyester woven face fabric in an attempt to get the best of both worlds, film and woven. Cuben Hybrid itself is waterproof and the pack has sealed seams.

The Southwest shares many of the design principles of lightweight packs: simple construction and a minimal frame that allows carrying relatively big loads. I wrote short term and mid term reviews of the pack. The Southwest was meant to be my main thru-hiking pack and it ticked all the boxes for the trip across Iceland.

HMG 3400 Southwest down to the ground

My one problem with this pack is that it’s too big for my torso size (I should have got a smaller size). Being aware of this I tried to compensate by tightening straps. In hindsight I can say this was a mistake. It took me a few painful days to realize. When I loosened the straps a bit I was much more comfortable. The pack is still a bit bigger than I need but I can still carry it comfortably.

I hadn’t had this pack under the rain yet and I was eager to test the waterproofness. The idea is to avoid using any other waterproofing means, get rid of pack covers or liners. I had some serious rain in Iceland and the result was mixed: at least one time I had water pooling at the bottom. The rest of the rainy spells were resolved with just some minor dampness inside. The latter was quite acceptable, the former not so much. It remains to be seen how and where the water got through. It might have been due to my own handling. I took great care to avoid water ingress but sometimes the rain is just too much.

I consider the waterproofness still an open issue.

The 3400 size was perfect for this trip. With 7 days worth of food max, the pack was rather full but not over the top. I routinely carried the tent in an outside pocket, more to avoid getting humidity inside the pack than for lack of room. I’ve seen the 2400 size commonly used for similar length trips, I feel it’d be too small for my needs.

The one thing that really needs improvement in this pack is the hipbelt pockets. They’re barely usable, which is a shame. Good hipbelt pockets are invaluable, I use them a lot and the fact that they were a standard feature was one of the reasons why I got this pack. The pockets look nicely three-dimensional but when the pack is worn and the hiptbelt fastened, they’re very difficult to access.

One possible problem is placement. I think these pockets are located too far to the sides where the belt bends as it wraps around the hips. There is some tension on the opening zip. When the zip is open, there’s just a narrow slit to access the space inside. The other possible problem factor for the narrow opening is that the zip opens all the way down to the bottom on the front but not on the back side. It’s very difficult to take anything out or put it in, even if there’s room for it in the pocket.

As they are, these hip belt pockets feel well integrated and streamlined but they’re awkward to use. I think they should have been more centered so they sit in a straight section of the belt. Additionally, the zip opening could go part way down on the back side, maybe not that far down on the front side to avoid the pocket losing any side walls when open. This would make more sense if the pocket itself was a bit taller.

The side/back pockets are fine and I routinely use them. A water bottle on one side, the tent on the other for this trip. Wet stuff would go on the back pocket. Business-as-usual thru-hiking stuff.

This trip was meant to be a tough one and I particularly struggled during the first few days to the point that I hated every aspect of it, including my gear. I felt the pack as a burden and I wouldn’t find a proper fit. I don’t blame the Southwest for that: it was my own body trying to adapt to trail life plus some tough weather that didn’t help.

The 3400 Southwest turned out to be a great trip companion. We made friends.

The solo hiking family pic


Stephenson’s Warmlite 2C

The tent challenge was far milder than I expected. I didn’t go through any violent weather, the conditions were actually nice for camping with mild temps, low wind, light rain and often a steady breeze that would keep condensation down. I did go through harsher weather during the daytime but for some reason it all came quieter later.

Shallow gullies would provide shelter from the weather

The Warmlite is a 2 hoop, asymmetric tunnel, a double wall in the area in-between hoops and a single wall in the sloping ends. There’s no inner tent independent from the rest, the inner wall is sewn to the outer along the top. This design avoids part of the weight and complexity of traditional double wall tents while keeping the insulation value that contributes to avoid condensation inside. The tent is long enough for my 5’8″ frame, taller people might prefer the 2R model which is the same design, just longer in between hoops.

The terrain in Iceland is often flat and featureless but I found it still allowed some shelter from the wind. I did seek such shelter if only just in case. I usually staked down the rear wind stabilizers to avoid coming out in the middle of the night in case the wind picked up. Some of the windier nights I’d fasten the front wind stabilizers when I was ready to go to sleep. This is done from inside. The front wind stabilizers come in the way somewhat but they’re not a bother while sleeping.

Front wind stabilizers. The pole supports itself

In the highlands, there’s no proper ground, it’s all sand, gravel, gravel-covered sand or solid lava. Anchoring the tent was not as straightforward as usual. I surely appreciated the Warmlite only needs 3 proper anchor points. It takes a total of 9, I’d commonly use 5 (main 3 plus the rear wind stabilizers) or 7 (plus the front corners)

The most typical ground scenario was a mix of sand and gravel. I’d first find the most sheltered location possible, take care of having a good supply of smooth surfaced, heavy stones nearby, then choose the most gravelly ground around. The stakes alone wouldn’t hold the tension so I’d piled rocks on top. I think it would have hold to high winds every night but I didn’t have the chance to find out.

Overall I’d say camping is not particularly difficult.

The Warmlite was up to the task. It’s a livable tent for one. It was my welcome shelter at day’s end. This had an enormous psychological value: the day’s work would wear me down to pieces and the environment outside, while hardly ever catastrophic, was often unwelcoming. Getting into the tent was the utter, very best moment of the day, it was relieving beyond belief and the Warmlite met perfectly this sheltering role. I’d live in the tent for anything that wasn’t actual hiking. The Warmlite 2C is big enough for this. I was comfortable at all levels and this was key to waking up ready for the battle next day.

Plenty of r oom for one

Sleeping bag

Nunatak Arc Specialist

It turned out that the temperature range in Iceland was much narrower than it usually is in the mountains of the lower latitudes, i.e. Iceland was cool throughout the day but the temp wouldn’t drop much at night. On average, there’d be warmer nights than at altitude in the mid latitudes. My summer++ bag worked fine with a set of base layers and the possible addition of a light fleece. Only rarely did I welcome my down pullover on while sleeping and it was due to a combination of temperature and exhaustion.

Humidity buildup was never a problem. I had some in the foot area every morning (I still need to assess the physical explanation for this), as usual every time I hike in cool/damp conditions but nothing even close to compromising the bag’s insulation. The conditions in Iceland were cool and damp but not soggy and they weren’t a challenge for the high loft insulation. After every rain dump, the drying machine was always on.

Sleeping mat

Generic CCF

I hardly ever talk about this item, maybe because I’ve been using the very same one for more than 10 years and I take it for granted. It may be the time for a long-standing career mention.

It’s actually more about the idea than the actual gear piece. I get the impression that inflatables have become the norm to the point that hardly anybody uses Closed Cell Foam anymore. I use CCF exclusively.

Despite latest improvements in inflatable technology, the insulation/weight ratio of CCF pads is still best, though the gap has narrowed. Inflatables win big time in the insulation/volume ratio. The tie-breaker for me is the ease of use and reliability of CCF. Lack of padding is usually a deal breaker for many people but I keep sleeping great over CCF. Not only that, I actually LIKE lying on CCF. It’s a psychological thing but I find that it helps me connect with the land and the activity. It means something of its own to me.

I keep using a more than a decade old, good quality, simple pad, shoulder to feet length. It’s good for any 3 season condition. I don’t recall ever being cold from the ground while using this pad.

It’s interesting to note that the pad choice influences the way I pack. These things are big. I roll it inside the pack, unroll against the pack inside walls and stuff everything in the resulting cylinder. As a consequence, I favor packs of a cylindrical shape and I can do fine with frameless ones. I don’t like small packs.

Packing and organization

I went all Cuben for all stuff bags, not as much for the weight savings but for the waterproofness. It worked fine, no more soggy stuff inside a silnylon bag from humidity out of another silnylon bag with wet contents.

I have it clear now that Cuben is best bonded, not sewn. All my newest sacks are bonded so manufacturers seem to agree but one of my oldest sacks came to this trip that was sewn and the seam quietly blew:

Cuben doesn’t like to be holed

This actually makes sense. Cuben is a film with a very open thread web meant for stopping rips but for holding a seam.

I retrofitted the damaged sack with a plastic bag for the rest of the trip. No more sewn Cuben for me.

The other remarkable little thing in this area is how odd sizes are in the commercially available sacks. All the sacks I find are long and narrow. I’m not sure if it’s a modern trend or a classic, I used to make my own sacks when silnylon was the state of the art and I made them more evenly balanced in dimensions. Most of my loads (clothing, accessories) are rather even in dimensions.

I also find many sacks that are flat, two-dimensional: this is easier to build and has less seams than a three-dimensional version but it wastes space and is just less elegant in use.

I may need to make my own to get the best stuff sacks.


I love clothing kit building. It’s the perfect example of teamwork and there’s lots of room to tune into the perfect team. A demanding environment like Iceland and the need to go light mean a good test and a great chance to learn from it.

Base layer

Smartwool Lightweight zip-T

I had this one on 24/7 for 13 straight hiking days. I only took it off briefly to have a shower in Asbyrgi and Myvatn, where I stayed in campgrounds, and not so briefly in Landmannalaugar, where I spent 1.5 h in the hot spring. The shirt was comfortable in all situations, this flavor of lightweight wool is about perfect for the Iceland weather, which is hardly ever too warm for it. Even if it was sunny, it was often breezy enough so the wool shirt was perfect. In fact, I hardly ever wore the shirt alone.


Smartwool Lightweight zip-T says hello

Wool was true to its fame of being comfortable even when wet. It didn’t get too wet anyway, see later the section about the waterproofs for comments on my odd non-sweating hiking experience.

The most remarkable, striking fact about this shirt was how comfortable and odor free it was even after 2 weeks of use. I had a spare shirt that I meant for sleeping and for the trip back home, a lightweight but not very stylish silk top. I felt so fine with the wool shirt that I kept it on all the way home, flight and everything. I even asked for an odor cross-check in case my sense of smell was too used to my own stink and the shirt passed the test! Simply amazing.

Wool is known to hold back odors but maybe not this much. I blame Iceland weather. Once again, see below in the waterproofs section.

Mid layer

Haglofs Solo Top fleece

This is my mid layer, active insulation of choice. I considered taking a wool layer instead thinking of the potential for sustained harsh weather in a cool-to-cold environment. I didn’t and it was the right decision. The fleece was widely used and it was about perfect for the conditions, mostly under a shell. The temperatures were consistently cool but not cold enough to demand a thicker layer.

Thin fleece, great warmth for active conditions in a lightweight package: only 187 gr

Wind shell

Quechua Helium

This is a simple wind jacket, not much to comment on the particular item, just stating the obvious: it’s a key piece in an exposed, windy place like Iceland. I’d have worn it constantly except under the rain and except (additionally) for the fact that the waterproofs were comfortable beyond usual expectations. Once more, please see below.

A simple layer of woven nylon

Waterproof shell top

Sierra Designs Elite Cagoule

The cagoule is a very sensible design strangely forgotten by the mass markets. Iceland was a good test that the Elite Cagoule passed with high marks. The design itself proved useful, keeping the dripping off the most sensitive parts below the waist and it also worked very well at a psychological level: wearing the cagoule felt like being “inside” while the weather was outside. This was invaluable. It is very similar to the feeling of wearing a poncho but without the cumbersome feeling of a poncho. It’s just a long top.

Bulge above hipbelt is front pocket content. Definitely not stylish

The hood in the Elite Cagoule is simple and effective. It stands up out my viewline better if I’m wearing a beanie hat underneath.

The chest opening closes with snaps. It has a considerable overlap that is great for a good seal but makes closing a bit tricky: both halves of the snap meet in the middle of nowhere and you can’t see what you’re doing. I (sort of) developed a (sort of) technique for a one-hand operation that was actually easier than two-hand by holding the inside half in place with my mouth.

The chest pocket is flat and without any closing either side it’d appear fairly useless but I eventually used it quite a lot for anything I put on / took off on the go if I didn’t want to stop: gloves, hat, neck warmer… I also stored maps here. I never lost anything. I’d still feel better if this pocket could be closed. I may retrofit it with simple hook & loop strips.

Front pocket

The lower side openings are a weak point in anything but straight-down rain, which was hardly ever the case in Iceland, it was always breezy. I just stopped threading the pack’s hip belt under the front of the garment and buckled over it, just like with any standard jacket. This would defeat part of the garment’s ventilation strategy but, surprisingly, to no ill effect. See why:

The fabric is a most typical PU laminate, nothing fancy. PU laminates are lightweight and waterproof (at least while they’re fairly new) but they breath poorly. The Elite Cagoule is supposed to rely heavily on ventilation to avoid condensation, which is fair enough. And here comes the interesting part: there was no significant condensation. I could wear the garment for hours and still be comfortable, so much that I kept it on when it stopped raining but still looked like it’d rain again, which was most of the time.

PU laminates haven’t got magic all of a sudden, neither the Elite Cagoule is a ventilation miracle. I blame this welcome effect on the Iceland weather. I was just not sweating. It feels like I could have been wearing a plastic bag and it’d have been the same. I argue that I was barely drinking anything. I was just not thirsty and I take this as a side effect of not sweating (i.e. not the other way around).

This lasted for pretty much the whole trip. I was back to normal after I got home.

Iceland may be an excellent place to wear waterproofs and an awful one to test their wearability.

Waterproof shell bottoms

As Tucas Acher pants

Yes, spanish speaking fellows have already warned Marco @ As Tucas about how odd this name may sound in English speaking circles. Marco knows already anyway. He’s the manager.

Acher pants

Just a little background: I was so disappointed with waterproof pants that I haven’t used any for backpacking for a long time. Years. Can’t remember how many. I’ve been all over the place with no waterproof pants, including the long distance in damp/remote/exposed locales such as Lapland, Scotland, Rockies, Cascades, Sierras, Alps or Pyrenees. This time, it was Iceland and I got concerned. Then I knew about these pants from As Tucas brand fame and I thought 80-something grams were worth the try.

At first sight, they reminded me of the paper-like Propore fabric that works so poorly for pants as it doesn’t stand to normal use. The Acher pants don’t appear to have anything to do with that. They feel paper-like but they’re tough.

As with the cagoule above (and for the same reason), I have been wearing the Acher pants for hours straight. Sometimes I’ve worn them for the whole day. After the trip they still look like new.

These are shell pants you’d normally wear over your normal hiking pants. I wore them on their own instead thinking I’d rather have wet skin than wet hiking trousers unless it got too cold. It didn’t. I didn’t have any significant condensation either but I got so used to wear the shell pants on their own that I kept doing that.

Same as above, I don’t dare to judge the breathability of the Acher pants until I use them in, say “normal” conditions. In Iceland, I’d have no condensation at all. This was shocking but obviously welcome, I could wear the pants all day through and be comfortable beyond the odd looks. I spent whole days in them just to avoid the painful take-off/put-on series. The main drawback was how odd I looked on the pics.

The Acher pants may be my best new love affaire after a long divorce.

I crossed Iceland looking this odd

I could have hiked across Iceland with just a pair of shoftshell pants and no waterproofs, as I’ve been doing before. In fact, I tried leaving the hiking pants on during some rainy spells: they wetted through soon but they were still wearable in relative comfort, at least while I kept hiking. The waterproofs added comfort and some safety level at a very low price: just 87 gram. I’d take them again.

I’ll also add how great it is to buy from small, dedicated manufacturers as As Tucas. I may be slightly biased as they’re so close to me geographically but other than that I’m just a very happy customer. Marco did his best to change the item for a bigger size and to deliver it on time for my trip. Plain great service.


Rab Vector

Pants are rather easy, nothing fancy here. My usual strategy is to use rugged, do-it-all pants in a full-length that I can roll up if it’s warm. Not much room for layers here. As much as I’m an advocate for heavy layering in the torso, I find the legs are far more forgiving and they do well with something that takes the abuse on the outside and it’s comfy against the skin. This usually means some woven nylon outside, possibly with a bit of stretch built in, and some microfleece inside. And yes, this is pretty much the description of a softshell… just a minimal flavor of softshelling so the pants are still usable in the summer months.

A minimal flavor of a shoftshell

Such kind of pants works perfectly in cool weather places like Iceland. It may be not comfortable in really warm environments but I usually stretch their use if the warm part is somehow temporary by rolling the lower legs up.

For quick rolling up/down, I like a elastic cord + cord lock on the lower hem. The Vectors didn’t have that so I retrofitted them. It’s an easy hack, just open a buttonhole on the hem channel, thread some elastic cord and add the lock.

A very useful feature to raise the pant legs on the go, an easy retrofit

The other feature I like in pants is good pockets. I need them to be secure (top loading or closable with zip/velcro) and to place the load at the front, above the quads so it doesn’t bulge. The Vector pants have such pockets in a zipped, side opening. Good enough.

The fabric was rugged and comfortable. It would stand to some light rain but it would wet out eventually. I left them on under prolonged rain some times and they were still comfy enough to wear when wet.

The pants were still very wearable by trip end. I wore them all the way home.


Merrell All-Out Terra Trail

The good thing about shoes wearing down so quick is that you have the chance to try different ones. Tents, packs, sleeping bags lasting for years are so boring…

A bit fed up about shoes wearing down so quick, I aimed at durability when thinking of a new pair. Being that Iceland is rather cold and gravelly/sandy, the Terra Trail sub-model looked like a good idea. It ticked all the boxes. This is the verdict:

Durability: see pics below. That’s after 500+ km plus some previous, shorter hikes.


The lugs are worn down, the rest is in excellent condition. Thumbs mostly up. I’ll keep using them for many more miles.

Baking factor: not a problem in Iceland. Might be in warmer climates.

Sand ingress: the neoprene bootie would have been good for dust but sand is a worse beast. It’ll get in, no matter what you do, and once it gets in, it finds itself room inside the shoe. I wore low gaiters and I still had sand getting in, don’t ask me how. I guess the neoprene bootie at least avoided the dusty toe area factor.

So far so good but how about the actual walking… I usually skip that part. My feet are very welcoming to any shoe that roughly fits and they usually take any beating, no problem…

Not this time. Something was really tough on my feet during this trip. Maybe Iceland, maybe the marathon pace, maybe just nothing in particular. This time, my feet suffered. It felt like the whole bone structure was being badly beaten with every step. The feet were swollen. They’d be fine while at rest but the next step would be painful again. It had never happened to me before.

I don’t think I can blame the shoes. That said, at some point I felt like the Terra Trails had little cushioning, which is something I’d have never cared much about but once my feet were in pain it looked like a burden. Nothing really wrong about the shoes anyway.

My feet were swollen for weeks after the trip. No pain, no bad looking, just somewhat swollen. Eventually, they came back to normal.

I’ll keep using the Terra Trails. They’ve still got several hundreds of miles left.


CEP Outdoor Merino mid-cut

I needed new ones before the trip. This is one of the items I don’t usually browse around for, just visit one of the local outfitters and see what they’ve got. And they’d got this great looking, wool blend socks of a brand I didn’t even know before. You can’t go wrong with wool so I went for them.

I actually find wool blend a very sensible idea over 100% wool as the durability of the latter is rather poor, yet the 14% wool content against a 64% nylon looked a bit poor so I had my reserves. These socks are also supposed to promote blood circulation. Not of particular interest to me but the seller put a lot of emphasis on it.

The socks were fine in all aspects. They’re on the thick side for summer backpacking but Iceland wasn’t warm enough to require thinner socks. I wore them for 13 hiking days straight (plus 1+ days before the trip) and they were still wearable. Crossing streams regularly does help though, I’d have surely washed them on purpose if the washing was not built in.

So far I can attest to the excellent durability of these socks: after so much beating, including some sandy chapters that are usually very aggressive on socks, they still are in excellent condition.

I got the Mid-cut and the Short versions. They’re nearly a crew and ¾ crew, respectively. I used the former in Iceland but I think I’ll like the latter better as the leg area is long enough.

Short version on the left is still long enough

The one thing I don’t fully like about these socks is how tight they are. They’re comfortable once worn but it takes a really good pull to put them on or take them off. Try that at the end of a very long day!

Beanie hat

MEC Charge Toque

This is one of these items that packs an amazing amount of usefulness in a tiny bundle, particularly in the shoulder season or for that matter in the summer of Iceland. It is well known that protecting the head is vital to keep body warmth but it’s also easy to forget it: the brain can’t cool down (it’s too sensitive to cold) so we won’t feel the cold on the head itself but the body will do whatever necessary to keep the brain warm and we may be spending massive amounts of energy on that. Helping the body keep the head warm will save plenty of that energy. It may be pointless in urban life but not out there. A beanie hat probably has the highest ratio of insulation efficiency per weight of any clothing item.

It’s a very simple item so there shouldn’t be much to discuss about the actual flavor but I still hold a strong opinion in favor of shoft-shell-like beanies, i.e. borrowing from the soft-shell concept as applied to the torso garments, a double layer of insulation inside and shell outside. Such combination is powerful and in this case breaking both functions apart for such a small item would be unnecessary detail.

Many beanie hats are not shelled. Some users may argue they can rely on a hood from a torso garment. This would be similarly functional. I still prefer the beanie to have its own windproof shell. I can’t think of a situation where this shell would be a burden.

Tubular neck warmer

I’m not impressed by the hackneyed images of the 278+ different uses of a stretchy, tubular thing. These are nice for the marketing but little else. I need an item that does one thing and does it well.

Where the tubular neck warmer shines is at covering the neck with the option of going over mouth/nose. This item fills the gap between torso and head insulation. The stretch is great for fine-tuning on the go.


I hardly use this item while hiking, it’d need be really cold, which didn’t happen while in Iceland. It’s part of my standard camp and sleep wear though, covering neck only while still moving around and going over mouth and nose during my sleep so I avoid breathing cold air and hurting my throat. The fabric is easy to breath through and provides a flow of warm, moist air that keeps the breathing pipes healthy. This is particularly useful in the cold and dry environment of the winter but applies equally to any night outside that’s on the cold side.


Btwin 2mm neoprene

I barely used them. Once again, Iceland was consistently cool but hardly ever really cold as it often happens at altitude in the mid latitudes. I had pictured cold, wind-driven, long lasting rain conditions which is when the neoprene gloves shine and most gloves fail miserably, no matter how waterproof they’re supposed to be. Such conditions just didn’t happen. Deep cold didn’t happen either.

I’d take them again anyway.

Gloves to keep you warm when it’s wet

Sun cap

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap

A sun cap in Iceland? What’s next? Waterproofs in the Sahara?

The thing is the sun takes no prisoners when it does shine. Iceland may not be warm but it may be sunny and the UV rays will burn your skin no matter the temperature. It should be cool enough to wear long pant legs and sleeves but you don’t want a burnt face. It may happen.

And not only a cap with a visor, also a neck skirt that wraps around for full neck coverage. Detachable so the cap can be worn in town and still feel stylish.

It may seem like a silly thing but the detachable neck skirt thing doesn’t seem straightforward to get right. This is actually my third model in a row until I’ve found one that works! The first one had a hook & loop attachment that I didn’t like: tricky to join, it’d come undone unexpectedly. The second would attach through some plastic pieces that would clamp the visor sides. Didn’t like this one either. The OR model uses snaps. It works well, easy to put on / take off, secure and robust.

Common snaps for a quick, easy, solid join. It was that easy

I didn’t use the neck skirt in Iceland but I did use the cap and it was very welcome during the few hours of the few days I was hiking under the sun. The whole bunch is only 82 gr.

Kitchen wipe

clever man’s towel

The kitchen wipe, that most unique piece of kit. At some point in the trip, for a split second I thought I might have lost it and immediately my brain went over all the problems that would arise and how to get over them. It turns out this little thing fills a very unique role and it wouldn’t be easy to replace.

First of all, it is my towel. If you think about it, backpacking towels are just oversized, way overpriced kitchen wipes.

Second, it’s my generic water sink. Every time there’s water anywhere, there goes the wipe.

It’s just magic. It swallows everything. If it seems it can’t swallow anything else, just wring it out and keep wiping forever. If it’s not raining, hung it out to dry. The Iceland breeze would get it dry in a short while.

The odd yellow hang plaguing many of my walking photos

The wipe is a great way to get water out of the shelter which would always be wet in the morning from condensation, rain or both. You know how much water a tent fly can hold and how heavy it is. Most of it can be shaken off but wiping is a quieter and much better work. I’d regularly wipe the inside condensation just to make the tent more livable and ended up wiping also the outside to pack a nearly dry shelter every morning.

The kitchen wipe must have the best ratio of utility/area of any textile out there.


It’s debatable whether poles are a core item or a nice have. In a place like Iceland, river fords are a strong argument for poles, don’t expect to find a staff substitute. You can spare the rest of the usual arguments about fending off dogs or fighting bears, you’re unlikely to find any in Iceland.

My old Lekis

I use poles just because I like them. I can be glad that there’s major factors in their favor but I don’t really need to justify myself.

I like poles at both physical and mental levels. Physically they do help to share the load, if only a bit, and they can get really helpful when I’m tired or somehow injured. On the mental side, they help me with my walking rithm. It’s weird because if I try to see the poles from outside, they appear clumbersome and out of place but that’s not what I feel when I’m actually using them, right on the contrary, I feel they flow with me and I flow better with them.

I recently realised how old my poles are when I thought about clamp designs taking over the high-end market. All of a sudden, my twist-locks look so dated. The thing is these old Lekis still work fine and I don’t have a reason to update as long as I can still find replacements for the parts that do wear out.

One funny fact in the Iceland trip is when I lost one of the tips. The plastic cap over the pole body was still there but the metal part had joined the icelandic environment somewhere. I have no idea where or when because I just didn’t notice until some undetermined time later, i.e. the pole was working pretty much the same. No need for a metal tip in the gravel/sand of the Iceland Highlands. I obviously didn’t have any spares so I just kept using the pole. It worked so equally well that I might just keep using the truncated tip as is!

Going tipless


I like butane/propane gas for the ease of use, compact carry and the high calory content that provides a wide autonomy in a tiny package. Finding the fuel is usually the trickiest part but I’d only need to sort this out once. For a short thru-hike like this, a small canister is more than enough. Get one and forget.

Butane/propane canisters and stoves are safe enough to cook inside with some care. This is important in an exposed, unwelcoming place like Iceland where cooking outside is often not enticing. It’s the only cooking system that I’d use this way in a tent with no vestibule.

Safe enough to cook inside


You can see most of my reviews are positive. This is to be expected, I’ve been fine-tuning this kit for many years. The most unpredictable variable is the location, even though I had been to Iceland before but not on the same requirements. Given this variable, I would only take equipment I trust, experiments are left for other less demanding trips/environments.

It’s reassuring to see that everything worked mostly well and there were no significant failures. I’m aware the conditions were fairly mild and there was still ample margin for endurance exercises from my gear. Not so sure about myself.

If I’d travel in Iceland again, my kit would be pretty much the same. For a full reference, this is the final gear list: