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Across Iceland by Packraft
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Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Wonderful on 06/10/2011 11:16:35 MDT Print View

Beautiful, audacious, captivating, humbling, epic, and bold!

I am taken by the video. Obviously you did some extra hiking to get the long shots of the two of you.

Just incredible stuff.

Thank You!


Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
All along the watchtower on 06/10/2011 19:51:08 MDT Print View

As good as it all was the lip syncing was the best part

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
I call dibs on the next trip... on 06/11/2011 00:04:05 MDT Print View

Awesome. Just awesome. Wonderful trip, and amazing wilderness. I call dibs on tagging along for the next trip you plan.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Across Iceland by Packraft on 06/11/2011 06:32:19 MDT Print View

Fantastic trip & video! Thanks for sharing.

peter tooke
(petersont) - M

Locale: NYC
Across Iceland by Packraft on 06/11/2011 07:08:40 MDT Print View

+1 on the route map, but with more detail than on your site... please.

I was actually on your web site months ago looking ( read: dreaming big...) over the trip, as well as Skurka's site who walked west-east.
Really interested in any planning tips, including basics on exactly which maps you used. I don't think I would packraft, but just walk instead. But the beautiful & eerie landscapes have sold me.

Thanks for posting!

Edited by petersont on 06/11/2011 07:10:57 MDT.

Robb Kenny
(robb155) - MLife

Locale: Tri-state area
Across Iceland on 06/11/2011 08:03:33 MDT Print View

Looks great. Pack raft now on list.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Wow! on 06/11/2011 20:46:49 MDT Print View

I finally got the chance to take a look at this. And boy I'm glad I did. You soft Englishmen! Ha. Regardless of the name of this site, you guys are awesome. Thanks for wanting to share it with us. Thirty days unsupported is no mean feat. And you guys did in style and safety.

Very cool report. So, what trip are you planning next?

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Kool!!! on 06/23/2011 18:37:18 MDT Print View

Very kool.

Patrick Starich
(pjstarich) - MLife

Locale: N. Rocky Mountains
Rafting Iceland on 06/26/2011 17:51:21 MDT Print View

Good story and spectacular photos! Thanks for the great write-up and insights. One more for my bucket list.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Pad on 07/11/2011 12:03:42 MDT Print View

Indeed you can hardly be called soft with that trip.
If you want more comfort than a closed cell pad, try a Neo air instead of a self-inflating pad. You didn't say which Thermarest you had, but any of the Neo airs is lighter than even the thinnest of self inflatables. So you can save weight and increase comfort as well.
Clothing is another option, you didn't specify what clothing you brought but there is a huge difference in weight for garments with equal insualting of waterproofing function, you will have to check that item by item.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: Re: Across Iceland by Packraft on 08/24/2011 16:42:54 MDT Print View

We didn't try to fish but we should have done (although it was illegal)

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: well done! on 08/24/2011 16:43:26 MDT Print View

I think that is a good rule for everyone making videos: the more you leave out the better your video is!

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: The Scream on 08/24/2011 16:45:20 MDT Print View

That rocket tent does seem perfect.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: Re: Across Iceland by Packraft on 08/24/2011 16:47:15 MDT Print View

Thanks Douglas - that is really helpful. I have a lot to learn! (And a lot to buy!)

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Re: Across Iceland by Packraft on 08/24/2011 16:48:48 MDT Print View

I know this is really against the point of a practical site like BPL, but I deliberately don't include good maps about my trips: I'm more into encouraging people vaguely to just go DO stuff rather than actual solid guidance.
I don't think one approach is better than the other, just different...

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Across Iceland by Packraft" on 08/25/2011 13:49:59 MDT Print View

Hi alastair,
I did say this when you asked first time on this forum, but watching your video I repeat, you need front pockets like We are going to the High Andes with unsupported trips of only 15 days maximum. I have spliced Aarn expedition pockets onto my preferred pack. Which is a Golite pinnacle but much modified. If you look at your photos you are leaning forward markedly under the weight of your pack. 18 litres of water, cameras and food infront of you will balance you and pay for the weight of the pockets in increased ergonomic efficiency many times over. You complain about sore shoulders, you could carry nearly all the weight on your hips and vary the amount, if you had more front to back balance.
Having cameras and other things accesible without taking off the pack is another significant advantage.
Anyway an impressive video and an even more impressive trip

Derek Goffin
another soft but rather older Englishman

Edited by Derekoak on 08/25/2011 13:52:50 MDT.

alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
Front pouch on 08/26/2011 02:38:09 MDT Print View

Thanks Derek. You are right - having a front pouch is great - I wore this one in India that I removed from my original Marathon des Sables pack:

I took it to Iceland but my pack was so big that adding this to the front just felt too constricting. I think I need an Aarn pack...!

Marcel Bak
(Rzez) - F
A few comments... on 08/31/2011 13:57:32 MDT Print View


I would like to say hello to everyone as I registered just recently, but for more than 2 years I've been reading the BPL forum a lot ;)


Great photos indeed!

However, in my opinion you guys simply took too much gear for your trip and did not plan it properly. Here are some points:


1. In 2009 I made solo East-West traverse based on A. Skurka's and Olivier "Rando léger"s descriptions. My route was: 980 road/Geldingafellskali/Karahnjukar/Alftadalur/F910/Askja/Nyidalur/F26/Versalir/Hald/Klettur/Helgaskali/Hloduvellir/Botnsvogur.

2. The trip took 16 days during which I covered ~460 km by foot. The weight of the pack was around 20 kg (though I had non-UL equipment/food - I was simply too poor to buy high-tech gear/dehydrated food etc.).

3. My friend Piotr (first UL person I got to know) have seen you and Chris when you were on your way from Akureyri to Nyidalur (and also in the camp) so I also know his first-hand impressions;)

4. Last month (July/August 2011) together with Piotr and my girlfriend Luiza we went on 16 day trip on Hardangervidda, Noway - hiking and packrafting UL style. The weight of both packs - Piotr's and mine - was around 20 kg each (with whole camping/packrafting gear, clothing and mine with DSLR - Canon EOS 7D with two lenses Sigma EX 10-20 and Canon 50mm). Luiza's pack was around 13 kg (with clothing, packraft, food etc.)

And here what comes:

1. "However, it was backpacking as light as was possible."

Check - - here you can find my gearlist for 2011 - hiking/packrafting (glacier equipment would add no more than 2/2,5 kg).

(i) actually I took a bit less
(ii) it could have been a bit lighter.

I bet a lot of people on BPL would prepare even better (read: lighter/more effective) gearlist.

Most of the things you took could have been much lighter, but still enough for hiking through Iceland - starting with shelter, sleeping bags, clothing, stove, trainers instead of boots and ending with compass and other small stuff.

2. You do not need to plan the 250k trip for 25 days with 40 kg of gear (compare this to Andrew's or Oliver's trips or even my 460 km/16 days (with 5 days of rest)/20 kg).

This is true especially when you are walking through a flat/rolling surface like Iceland. There are only two problems there - rivers (which mostly can be crossed/packrafted) and weather (you simply need to get used to it).

Right now I think that you can plan trip like the one you had for no more than 8-10 days of really easy walking. And if you are at least bit fit and the conditions are quite ok - less than 5 days.

3. Having read your articles, seen photos, watched movies and heard what Piotr told me - I can tell that you were not prepared both:

(i) physically (carrying 40 kg around twice as slow as he and his companion - Valdek - and they are not some hardcore ultramarathoners), and

(ii) in terms of logistics (not enough food/calories; too much gear/bad gear choices - taking a TOO MUCH of very light gear instead of taking ENOUGH of very light gear).

4. I also met people who made wrong choices in 2009 - two guys from France who read Oliver's article and decided to traverse Iceland. They had no previous experience, they were not fit and bought light packs (Golite Pinnacle) but took traditional gear - tent, boots etc. They finished their trip in Askja because of leg injuries.

5. I guess that you trapped yourself also with food: long trip --> more food --> heavier pack --> slower pace --> more days needed to cover the distance --> need more food.

6. "We had a map, the best I could find anywhere. It was from the 1930s."

I'm not sure but you can buy the map of every place on Iceland in 1:50 000 scale (dating 1988-1990 + CD Maps from Ferdakort + download very good, free GPS map from Dieter Graser's website

7. "We didn't try to fish but we should have done (although it was illegal)"

Fishing on Iceland is not illegal you just need to buy proper permit.

8. It's hard to call it expedition. There are a few companies offering different traverses - north-south, east-west etc. Prices starting from £2000/€3500 and a lot of independent people who completed various routes through Iceland - solo and unsupported.

PS. Oliver utilized front pouch during his trip and as his report indicates - it worked very well.


"Another idea would be to burn wood. It looks like you spent quite a bit of time in areas where there wasn't any fuel though. If you did spend time in places where natural fuel was plentiful than planning to build a fire might be a good fuel-saving strategy. Perhaps even carrying a small wood-burning stove as well as the other stove."

There is almost no wood on Iceland - mostly volcanic ash, sand and lots of Reindeer lichen etc. Generally speaking - very little vegetation (and it is protected). Alcohol/gas cartridge/kerosene - these work better on Iceland.


alastair humphreys
(alastairhumphreys) - MLife

Locale: UK
crikey! on 08/31/2011 14:45:29 MDT Print View

Wow - that's quite the debrief!

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Wow on 08/31/2011 15:58:05 MDT Print View

Awesome stuff Alistair, well done. I doubt Marcel factored the boat into his ultralight estimate? Five days. Lol.