Iceland: Clothing

The one clothing mistake we made was: not bringing the Buffalo mitts!

They would have been worth every gram of the 70-80gms that they weigh. Instead we took synthetic liner gloves and MLD eVent Shell Mitts. Which worked in the sense that our hands were usable but they still got cold and wet in the foul conditions.

Which was a shame since I’ve absolutely loved the MLD Mitts all the rest of the wet summer in the UK and very much recommend them if you get cold hands as I do. But they really are summer use items.

Which illustrates the point that Iceland is well named. It is cold.

Although this summer apparently saw record high temperatures in the 20s Centigrade (70s Fahrenheit) we hardly experienced anything above 14C (57F) and usually much less. With frost on some nights and wet, wet snow. Passing a memorial to someone who died from hypothermia only 400 meters from one of the huts was sobering. And he wasn’t the only person to go that way in the last few years according to a hut guardian I spoke to.

But I don’t want to give the impression that it’s harder than it is – the guardian insisted that the people concerned were all very badly equipped. I believed her. There was a couple of South Korean girls who started out at the same time as us who had no waterproofs with them at all.

They were told they were not allowed to start the walk by the safety team at the Landmannalaugar Hut but went anyway (they have a team for such things apparently – it’s not uncommon for people to attempt it with no proper kit). Some Dutch walkers coming the other way handed them their spare ponchos but those eventually shredded in the wind. After two days of walking a warden drove in, in a large 4X4 and took them off the trail before they attempted any more river crossings.

Overall, if you can walk in the wet hills and mountains of the UK or Scandinavia then Iceland in summer should present no problem at all. The usual warm layers, waterproofs and waterproofing within your pack (more on that soon) are all you require.

I carried my own design of Cioch Liner Jacket (Paramo appear to have been reading my blog because they are now planning a similar setup for 2009!). As I said on a comment on the original posting, it worked all barring the non-Pump Liner material that was used around the edge of the hood. Once that was folded out of the way it worked fine. I was dryer than those in eVent or Gore. Would I take a Paramo based jacket again? Very probably – especially if it could be based on the new lightweight liner.

Sadly the trail attracts a lot of people that have no idea what they’re getting themselves in to since it’s so famous. Sadly mainly because if those people knew what clothing to bring they would have a far more enjoyable time but also because on rare occasions they really don’t enjoy it – and never enjoy anything else ever again.

Waterproof socks were pretty much essential. Although at one point I made the classic mistake of ignoring pain in my little toe until I’d pushed up a hill. Only to find the Sealskinz sock had rucked-up, thereby crunching up my toe, and I ended up with a bruised and blackened toenail.

Although I’ve been a fan of Sealskinz for ages, I’m not at all happy with the robustness of them. My old pair failed so I got a new pair from Needle Sports just before we went, but they were DOA (water dribbled from the central seam as soon as I put half a sock full of water in them). The next set held initially but failed after about six days of walking in Iceland.

I’m now trialling Rocky Gore Tex socks at the moment (cheers for the tip *PTC!) and I’m already happier with the fit. They’re converted to UK sizings on the Brookbank Canoe And Kayak website and you don’t need to size-up for liners. So I take a size 11.5 UK and I selected “UK 12” from the drop down – they’re slightly roomy – enough for a much thicker liner. They seem to be warmer too by virtue of not having a thick outer sock that holds the cold water like the Sealskinz do. I’d imagine that they’re also cooler in warm conditions for the same reason.

The one thing that we didn’t experience but the (much mentioned) French father and son certainly assured us did occur, were dust storms. The volcanic dust had damaged a lens and popped the zips on both the monster Gregory Palisade packs they carried.

We did take neck gaiters and wrap-around sunglasses. Though from what they said, those things would only just about allow you to function. It certainly wouldn’t be comfortable.

It seems rain can have its advantages.

10 Replies to “Iceland: Clothing”

  1. Interesting that the Koreans don’t seem to share the fixation that the Japanese have with kit for every eventuality..

    Your Sealskinz comment intrigued me. I’ve been considering them for a couple of years but never made the plunge. Looking forward to hearing your views on the Rocky Goretex socks and how they hold up as a possible alternative!

  2. It was surprising to find anyone quite that ill-prepared especially from a country that I have always thought of as having a “sensible” and thoughtful attitude overall. But hey – it takes all sorts.

    The girl with the shredded rain-cape asked me to help repair it since it was “very, very uncomfortable” otherwise. I said yes, it was actually more than that, it was very dangerous.

    She went wide-eyed at that – “Dangerous?”. Well yes, didn’t they see the memorial on the path for the guy who died near to the hut? “No”. “Oh, maybe you missed it in the blizzard…”.

    I kid you not.

    LB’s been trying the Rockys. She’s only had two days in them and I’ve only managed to clock up four myself but we’re both very impressed.

    The reviews I linked to above that mention being surprised at how the seams give no problem – we’d certainly agree, with thin socks being no problem at all.

    We did a 25K in them followed be a 13K the day after, up and down some fairly steep stuff and they were no bother at all.

    Completely forgot we were wearing them in fact – which is what it’s all about of course :)

  3. One thing – were you still using the half length sleeves and if so how did you get on with them?

    I’ve yet to have problems with them in my Glamaig but also yet to have it out in the sort of ‘proper’ sustained rain you seem to have managed :)

    iirc it’s since become clear that the Velez UL simply uses a lighter face fabric with the same liner.

    The Glamaig already does this to some extent of course. Oh well.

  4. Aha – and yes I’d gleaned that the lightness was actually in the face fabric and not the liner from summat *PTC mentioned. I’ve been meaning to ask him but it’s good to have it confirmed thanks.

    And yes – Cioch will not be pleased to have got there first again but not really have anyone taking much notice. Ah well – Paramo themselves seem to have taken long enough to work out what “publicity” is!

  5. I am trying to get some of those MLD mitts. Also I think for the Challenge I might get a Paramo waterproof top. Good report and some testing terrain for kit is Icelend.

  6. I’ll have to get myself some slide in upper arms then….

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that Cioch were very busy with Glamaig orders. So they’re probably not complaining! Nice in a way that Paramo are paying attention ;)

    Just double checked on OM and they’ve got: ‘The crucial pump liner remains the same, though it may be lightened in the future.’

    It won’t be easy for them though – a lot of customers like the current amount of warmth for winter.

    I actually reckon that Paramo’s strategy is quite clever. They’re not trying for world domination – which would be terribly hard – just a stable, dedicated customer base. They seem to be managing that quite nicely.

  7. Martin – The MLDs are great – though more expensive these days with the exchange rate being less favourable of course. Glad you liked the report – I have more to come on other aspects when I find the time to finish formatting them…

  8. Martin (Carpenter this time!) – Thanks for comfirming the pump-liner/face fabric thing.

    I can’t see a lighter fabric making all that much of a difference to the warmth – at least not to the extent that people would need to change the insulation that they carry. But even if it did, they’ll sell more if they can make it lighter (especially to me!)

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