Expedition Planning

I receive lots of emails asking about expedition planning. Although I feel the most important advice I can really offer is ‘be safe and have fun’ here are a few helpful hints and handy tips.

Planning a first expedition can feel really daunting and time consuming. My first trip took a lot of time staring into google and library books: if I am honest a lot of which was procrastination from ‘real work’ in the form of university assignments.

When asking for advice from others make sure it isn’t something easily found with a quick google search, it is worth putting a little effort into your own research first. Although I am delighted to help if you ask for an entire detailed and comprehensive trip itinerary I won’t have the time to reply. That said here is what advice I can give.

SPONSORSHIP:

There is no ‘secret trick’ to finding a sponsor. Start small and deliver good stuff in return.

1. You have to sell yourself. There are literally hundreds of expeditions being planned right now, companies get approached all the time. What makes you different? What can you offer in return for their support? Are you worth their time? To get anywhere in today’s media orientated world it is a good start to set up a blog, a social media presence and take lots of photos/videos. 

You can always try being clever in who you approach, Bear Grylls for example successfully persuaded a window glazing company with ‘Everest’ in its name for support on his Everest expedition.

2. Think small. Local businesses are far more likely to help than big corporations. Unless you have a good contact big companies will rarely even look at your letter.

3. Write letters. For my Iceland expedition I made a basic itinerary which I then tailored into over 200 hand written letters to individual equipment companies of which 14 replied and only four ended up supporting with gear, two only in the form of a 20% discount.

4. Get a job. Most of my expeditions have been funded by summer jobs and buying gear over eBay. Creative fundraisers like selling tea on mountain tops also help. 

BUDGET:

Go expensive and travel for a short time

Be a dirt bag and travel for ages.

GEAR:

With a tent, stove and a sleeping bag you can travel very cheap anywhere on earth.

Don’t get too fussy over weight; ‘ultralight’ costs a lot and breaks quickly, go for cheap and tough.

3. I used to be a total gear freak, it took a long time to realise I was spending more on fancy clothes than the adventure itself…go cheap and go further instead.

FEARS:

Not completing an adventure is by no means a failure. It is better to be Shackleton than Scott. Being afraid of a first, second third or 52nd trip is totally fine. 

CROSSING ICELAND EXPEDITION LOGISTICS:

I get asked all the time about how I planned and executed a crossing of Iceland. I think it is wonderful that other people are planning to do the same so here is an attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions; I hope it helps and happy planning!

Kit

Here is a list of kit that we took with some honest opinions on how it performed.

Camp.

Tent: A Hilleberg Soulo and a Terra Nova Laser which we later referred to as the ‘tear-a-nova’ due to its continual breaking parts; eventually forcing us to share the one man Soulo. Sleeping bags: Mountain Hardwear & Alpkit. Thermarest: Z-lites. Stove: Primus Omni-fuel (burning canister gas). Sporks, strike-light flints, mugs and a 900ml pot. Alpkit & Petzl head-torch. A basic first aid kit (plasters, bandages, epi-pen, painkillers….lacking anti-worm pills which are worth taking!) A shaved toothbrush.

Clothing

Rab Latok waterproofs. Icebreaker merino & ‘cheap as chips’ budget base layers. Cheap gloves, hats and a great big thick woollen jumper each.

Gadgets

Canon cameras: 5DMKII with 24-105mm lens & 600D with 18-200mm lens. Batteries…5 each. Powertraveller solar panel. Memory cards & Nexto hard-drives. Katadyn water filter (expensive and unnecessary…take coffee filters instead. A good book.

Route details

We started just south of Vik, a small community in the north. From there we traversed on road in a rather tedious slog to reach Skogarfoss where the real adventure began. Crossing the Fimmvolorhaus pass we then followed the Laugarvegur trail to Landmannalaugar; this section was popular with other hikers and well set up with trails.

Our plan was to skirt the fringe of the Vatnajokull glacier, however a recent sub-glacial eruption at Grimsvotn had flooded most of our route. Instead we followed a dirt road optimistically named the F26 highway.

From Askja we headed north through the desert to Lake Myvatn and then followed the western side of the Aysbergi canyon to the coast. Our final destination was Hraunhaufnartangi and Rif (two points separated by about 20km both considered the north).

Why did you go south to north?

To follow the prevailing wind.

Diet and re-supplies

To save carrying a truck load of food all at once Remi and I decided to split our load into three separate food drops across Iceland’s interior. Unable to find much useful information over the net we arrived into Reykjavik with zero idea on how to do this.

Our first re-supply was Landmannalaugar at the end of the Laugarvegur trail. We mailed our food in two boxes via the BSI bus service in Reykjavik which cost 2000IKR each.

Our second re-supply was at an outpost hut in Askja. We mailed another two boxes to a local tour company in Myvatn who shuttled them down to Askja, again for about 2000IKR each.

Our third re-supply was in the small town of  Reykjahlíð on the northern shore of Lake Myvatn. This in hindsight was a little pointless as the town has a well stocked shop.

Our diet was slightly limited by allergy requirements. For safety we opted to remove all nuts, dairy and eggs to prevent any accidental emergencies (although I could take cheese and butter).

Breakfast: Pre-made muesli & oatmeal in two flavours; one with custard and cinnamon the other with milo chocolate powder.

Lunch: I enjoyed cheap (almost plastic) cheese whereas Remi due to allergies and being far more hard-core went for neat lard. We both used cheap Ryvita crackers for bulk.

Dinner: we enjoyed excellent freeze dried meals from Expedition Foods (although if sharing a tent they have some rather smelly ‘side effects.’) It would be possible to replace these with cheap noodles, smash potato etc which we did later in the trip.

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