Iceland - campervan recommendations
July 21, 2016 5:25 AM   Subscribe

We want to go to Iceland late August/early September. We've never camped, or vanned, much less campervanned, but it sounds like an adventure! Now seeking advice from Iceland holiday veterans, van connoisseurs and fellow travelers.

About us: We're a couple in our mid-30's, flying from the UK, and both have years of stick-shift driving experience. We'll be going for 4-6 nights around the end of August this year. Travel dates aren't finalized yet - we're definitely open to airline recommendations (WOW are cheap - but that usually means sketchy, so are they worth it?). We like moderate hiking and pretty views and hot springs.

Right now, we're looking at various campervan companies. If you look hard enough there's always disgruntled people leaving negative feedback, but it's hard to know which of it is serious and which is just grumps being grumpy - personal recommendations from fellow MeFites would mean a lot. We don't need a 4x4, but my wife's tempted by on-board wi-fi.

We'd also like some input on how difficult it is to just roll up to a random campsite without previous notice - do they fill up? Do we risk getting turned away if we don't arrive early and claim a spot? Accommodation in general seems to be important to pre-book - are there any exceptions? Given the local feelings on "free camping" tourists in campervans, we're not interested in just stopping along the road - we'd like to be respectful and use designated campsites only, but one of the draws with campervans is the flexibility they offer.

Without any experience to guide us here - what are the absolute must-haves for comfortable nights in a campervan? Some companies charge you extra for each item you want (including pillows, sheets etc), so the temptation is to forego some to make it more economical. Is there anything that's better to bring over on the flight, or is it fine to get everything through the rental company?

And here's one to pass on to our mothers: is it safe to campervan in Iceland? When we were in New Zealand there were plenty of warnings about car and camper break-ins, but we haven't seen anything like that for Iceland. If we park our and go for a hike, can we expect it to still be there - intact - when we return?

Finally, if anyone has reasons to recommend car + accommodation instead of going down the campervan route, please let us know!
posted by harujion to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (6 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just got back from campervan-ing in Iceland with my SO! First off, we flew WOW from Boston-KEF and actually thought it was pretty comfortable. You do have to pay for everything extra, but it was definitely a legitimate airline.

We used Go Campers and found it to be a good value and perfectly comfortable. My only complaint with our campervan is that the shelves were suspended across the back instead of under the mattress, meaning you couldn't just throw open the doors for a view. I've also heard good things about SADCars but haven't tried them. I think campervans are definitely the way to go for convenience and cost.

We rented sleeping bags and camping chairs. I would recommend both, along with pillows and a camping stove if not included. We stopped at a Bonus store in Reykjavik before setting off to stock up on cheap groceries (pasta, bread, cheese) but brought our own teabags.

We always showed up to campsites pretty late and never got turned away. The most crowded were Reykjavik and Vik by far. I felt safe everywhere in Iceland, but did put camera equipment in the back when we left as a basic precaution.

One last thing--we went to Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and it was possibly the most stunning view of my life! I highly recommend.

I'm happy to answer any more questions about our trip through PM as well!
posted by bonifate at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Without wanting to be a party pooper, have you checked that there are actually campervans available for the period you want? There was a question back in april which suggested that options for this summer were already narrowing.

I know you're going towards the end of peak season, but I'm heading out in the middle three weeks of August on a hire-car/hostel/hotel basis, and I booked hotels in January and found that some towns and villages were already booked out - even with 6 months notice we had to take our 4th or 5th option for accommodation.

You may need to consider a car and camping instead, or be flexible about what you can do/where you can go and if you're intending to head outside of Reykjavik/the Golden Circle then I seriously suggest you do not delay in booking a vehicle and/or accommodation.
posted by AFII at 6:34 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, actual camping is not really something we're looking to do, and we're not looking at the RV/motorhome option mentioned in AFII's thread from April. We're definitely looking to book a campervan as soon as we've gotten a good idea of which company to go with.
posted by harujion at 6:57 AM on July 21, 2016

I have several answers about Iceland that you can find in my profile. Here is a link to one. We were very happy with Happy Campers and would rent with them again for sure! The van came with basically everything we needed but food.

We were able to find campsites easily in early August, and experienced no safety issues.

Feel free to Memail if you have questions!
posted by TrarNoir at 7:09 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We just returned from a week with a party of 8, and also used Go Campers. We must have had the same type of van as bonifate with the shelves over the sleeping area - ours was a Renault Kangoo which drives like a car (pro!) but wasn't as large inside especially for sleeping or escaping weather (con!). Our mates had a Dacia Dokker from Go that was bigger inside, but also had the shelving in the same place. The Happy Camper that TrarNoir used has more amenities and their office is closer to the airport; be advised that some companies aren't near either the airport or downtown Reykjavik so you may have to get a taxi or a shuttle of some sort.

We brought our own sleeping bags and used our jackets along with the provided pillows. No issues with finding space in campsites anywhere around the ring road, a couple nights we arrived after the ranger station closed and we paid in the morning. We did have to squeeze in at Reykjavik Campsite on the last night because it was full of RVs for some reason.

Definitely bring your own Turkish towel for the hot pots— some of our mates used terry bath towels which never dry, or camp towels which aren't absorbent or large enough for after the hot pot. I got a 1GB Nova SIM at KEF duty-free and used that in my phone for data and communications. Our camper came with a Primus stove and the fuel is readily available. We rented camp chairs and never used them but if you plan to spend a lot of time relaxing in camp it may be a good idea.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We ended up getting the simplest camper offered by, and had a great trip! No issues with the van (pickup and dropoff both went smoothly), and no problems finding spots in the campgrounds. It would probably have been helpful if had included some kind of demonstration or information leaflet showing us how to properly use the heating and the on-board cooler, as it took us longer than I'm proud to admit to figure both out fully, but now that we know how it works we'd be happy to rent from them again!

And I cannot recommend campervaning in Iceland enough - with the caveat that the weather can be very, very changeable and downright dangerous. (Large vehicles blown off the road by strong winds type dangerous even outside of the obvious hazards presented by snow and ice.) But it's a brilliant experience once you're fully prepared for all the variables!
posted by harujion at 6:10 AM on September 10, 2016

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