CategoriesAdventuresTravel

Great Backpacking Destination: Iceland

backpacking destination
On one of Iceland’s best-known trails.

Iceland is made for backpacking. It has a wealth of trails that are supported by smart amenities and relatively easy to access. The country has embraced the backpacker, with plenty of touring groups, sports shops and hostels. Here are some other reasons why it’s a great backpacking destination.

Incredible Scenery

Icelanders realize what makes the country special: incredible scenery. Much of the land is young since it straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Some lava flows are just 20 years old. This creates some dramatic landscape unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else. The scenery also changes quickly. Walk three miles, and the scenery changes completely.

backpacking destination
Trails everywhere. And lots of solitude.

High-Quality Huts

Major hiking routes have sturdy, high-quality huts ever eight miles or so. You can book reservations there, or just pitch a tent nearby (you’re not supposed to camp outside designated areas along the hiking routes). “Hut” is a bit of a misnomer since these structures actually have bathrooms and cooking facilities. Those who are tent camping can still use the bathrooms, but not the cooking gear.

backpacking destination
How’s that for a sweet hut? Amenities like this make Iceland a perfect backpacking destination.

Iceland isn’t the only backpacking destination to have incredible huts – New Zealand is also solid in this respect, as are many Scandinavian and Nordic areas.

No Dangerous Animals

I live in Arizona. Backpacking here brings the risk of rattlesnakes, scorpions and other potentially painful creepy-crawlies. We might have the Grand Canyon and very diverse scenery, but the state is just not set up to be backpacking destination. Iceland is a different story. Aside from sheep and harmless insects, the only animal you might encounter in the Icelandic back country is the Arctic fox – or possibly a Speedo-clad German taking a dip in a natural hot spring. In reality, the foxes are seldom seen and are too small to present a real threat.

Lots of Daylight During Summer

One of the challenges of backpacking can be the sudden drop in temperature when night falls. In Iceland, that’s not much of a concern. That’s because you’ll have about 22 hours of daylight. Even when the sun dips below the horizon, the sky still stays fairly light. That means no rushing to set up camp and dive into your tent and sleeping bag before the temperature turns frigid.

Solitude for Your Inner Hermit

Iceland is a decent-sized country. But it has only about 300,000 people in in it. So it’s slightly smaller than my home state, yet its population is about the size of a Phoenix suburb. That adds up to some empty space. Even at the popular Landmannalaugar hiking area, I hiked for hours at times without encountering another person. You’ll feel like you’re in some post-apocalyptic world with that sort of scenery, silence and solitude. Even areas like Dimmuborgir and the psuedocrater fields near Kirkjubaejarklaustur seem remote and rarely traveled.

Words of Warning

Though Iceland’s summer temperatures are often mild, things can change quickly. A driving rain can appear out of nowhere, with howling wind to accompany it.

The weather can do more than make you uncomfortable: It can kill you. In the mid-90s, a hiker died during a freak summer blizzard. He was just about a mile from the safety of the Hrafntinnusker Hut.

Plan ahead. Dress well. Bring the right gear. Then, you’ll be ready to have a great experience at any Iceland backpacking destination.

CategoriesGear

A Look at the Outdoor Products Tech Backpack

Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech packpack
The Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech backpack, ready for some action.

I have a new piece of travel gear I’m pretty excited about: the Outdoor Products Power Pack Glide 2.0. It’s a technology-oriented backpack designed to get your portable electronics – and possibly liquids and gels – through a TSA checkpoint without a fuss. It seems the "tech backpack" has become a new category of its own.

I ran across the Power Pack Glide 2.0 after a buckle on my old Patagonia backpack broke. There was no fixing this problem. And I never loved the Patagonia pack (which was not really a tech backpack). I headed to REI, where the Power Pack Glide 2.0 sells for $64.50; apparently, this is the only place you can get one of these cool tech backpacks. I’d never heard of the Outdoor Products brand -- and holy cow, is that name generic! I was mistrustful and suspicious, scrutinizing it in the same way a housecat examines just about anything new that appears in its house.

  • After all the sniffing, here are some of the interesting features I found in the Power Pack Glide 2.0 (check the video for a demonstration):
  • A cool retractable panel that secures your boarding pass – it’s far better than stashing it in a pocket.
  • A semi-hidden zippered pocket that perfect for stashing a passport or checkbook (remember those?).
  • Small internal pockets for USB drives and memory card.
  • A fleece-lined pocket for my Switch Vision sunglasses (yes, I’m very protective of them).
  • A laptop sleeve that slides out and clips to the backpack for TSA inspection; this seems like a nice concept, but it also strikes me as a feature that will confound TSA personnel. I have yet to test it. But I can see it causing consternation and confusion among the blue shirts.
  • Mesh water bottle sleeves on both sides. They could stand to be deeper. I like big bottles, and these can’t quite accommodate them.
  • A special pocket for tablet-sized items.


It has the usual inner pockets and places to stow pens and whatnot, too. Outdoor Products put more creativity into making a modern technology backpack than they did in choosing a company name. This is some good thinking.

I’ve only had the Power Pack Glide 2.0 a few weeks, and I haven’t boarded a plane with it yet. The build quality seems better than my less-versatile Patagonia pack -- which admittedly wasn’t a full on tech backpack.

The Power Pack Glide 2.0 tech backpack will be an automatic choice for my domestic flights; it probably won’t get much work on my international flights since I don’t take much technology with me. The computer stays home, and I usually just roll with a Kindle. That, and I have my big Kelty backpack with me, and just have a small daypack for short jaunts around cities or quick hikes.

If you need a tech backpack, give the Power Pack Glide 2.0 a look at an REI near you. Its features and price will be enough to make it a good choice for many travelers.

UPDATE APRIL 12, 2014

Since my first blog post, I traveled with the Power Pack Glide 2.0. It caused no fuss with TSA, even with a tablet computer, MP3 player, Kindle PaperWhite and a wealth of chargers and cables.

Also, my wife picked up a Power Pack Glide 2.0 a few weeks ago. She told me three times this morning how awesome it is. So … there you have it.

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CategoriesfeaturedGear

Backpack Tips for New Travelers

backpack tips
Your backpack can be your best friend – or your worst enemy.

I saw a soon-to-be first-time traveler ask online about backpacks – specifically, which one he should take for a three-week trip. The question opens a massive can of live eels. Let’s see what I can do to offer some quality backpack tips.

1. What kind of backpack traveler do you want to be?

Your backpack can just be a suitcase you wear on your back from hotel to hotel. Ot it can signal intent to camp, ability to cook on the fly and a desire to go hiking a lot. So which are you? Be honest with yourself. If you’re the first option, you’ll have more room for extra shoes, evening wear and various fancy city shit. If you choose option 2, your tent, sleeping bag and cooking/eating gear will eat up space when you load your backpack. Plan accordingly.

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