Iceland Campervan or Tent Camp: What to Know Before You Travel
To tent or to campervan… That is the question.
When planning a trip to Iceland, it can be overwhelming deciding the best way to see this stunning country.
There are many nice hotels and Airbnbs in the bigger cities, but they ain’t cheap. Even staying in hostel dorm beds can take a toll on your wallet. And the bigger problem is that outside Reykjavik and Vik, there aren’t many places to choose from.
If you really want to explore Iceland’s nooks and crannies, the best way to see the country is to camp.
And now the debate:
Should you tent camp or hire a camper van in Iceland?
The answer depends on many things: your budget, the level of comfort you desire and the time of year you plan to travel, to name a few.
We’re going to go through the pros and cons of each option so you can decide whether tenting or hiring a campervan in Iceland is best for you.
Rental Car & Tent Camping in Iceland
This is the route that we went while traveling in Iceland. We were on a tight budget (aka we were on the tail end of a year-long round-the-world trip and were down to the last of our savings!) and we really didn’t mind roughing it.
We loved the freedom that camping gave us. Plus, we were able to see so much more of the country than we would have had we just stayed in hotels.
You can either rent a tent once you arrive in Iceland, or fly with all of your own gear.
Pros of Tent Camping in Iceland
This is the absolute cheapest way to see the country, especially when you know how to find a cheap rental car.
You can wake up with some pretty epic views.
Campsites in Iceland are really nice.
Smaller cars can get better gas mileage than vans.
Cons of Tent Camping in Iceland
Rain can happen at any time of year, and a tent doesn’t protect you from the elements very well.
Iceland gets cold at night and a tent can only keep you so warm.
Yes, it’s cold even during the summer! One morning we woke up to frost (in August!). Needless to say, we didn’t sleep all that well the night before.
You can’t cook when it rains. It’s possible to rent all the things to need for cooking through Iceland Camping equipment, however, you’ll need to cook outside (having an open flame in your tent is a NO NO!). If it’s raining, this can be quite difficult, if not impossible.
You need to set up your tent each night and take it down in the morning.
Renting a Campervan in Iceland
Since our trip to Iceland, we built our own campervan and spent 3 months calling it home. It was honestly the best 3 months of our lives, and we absolutely fell in love with #vanlife.
Had we tasted the campervan life before visiting Iceland, we most likely would have chosen to go this route, as cooking would have been easier and our sleeps more comfortable.
The next time we visit Iceland – yes, there will absolutely be a next time! – we will be renting a Happy Camper and will spend at least 10 days exploring all the places we weren’t able to visit on our last trip.
Pros of Hiring a Campervan in Iceland
Sleep on an actual mattress rather than on the ground.
A campervan will protect you from the elements like rain and wind.
Campervans come with a built in kitchen, so cooking is easy (even in the rain!).
As soon as you park, your camp is ready. And in the morning, you’re ready to leave whenever you want. No setting up or tearing down tents!
You only need to deal with one rental company. When you rent a tent and a car, you'll need to make two different stops when you enter and leave the country.
Cons of Hiring a Campervan in Iceland
You will go through gas more quickly than with a small car. The 2-person campervans have significantly better gas mileage than those that fit more than two people. So our advice would be to choose the smallest model that fits everyone in your group.
You’ll need to feel comfortable handling a larger vehicle. Plus, most campervans in Iceland are manual transmission, so you should know how to drive a stick shift or be prepared to pay a bit more (and book far in advance!) for automatic transmission.
It is slightly more expensive than renting a tent and a rental car.
Need more help deciding? Both options are great, and we think you'll love Iceland no matter which you choose. But if you need just a little extra help choosing, this should push you in the right direction.
Tent vs. Campervan
A tent is right for you if…
You have a super tight budget.
You don’t mind “roughing it”.
Are visiting during the summer months.
You’re not sensitive to the cold.
A campervan is right for you if…
You want a bit more comfort.
You want to cook more easily.
You have a bit more money to spend.
You’re traveling with a family.
You’re visiting Iceland during a colder time of year.
Our Pick: Best Campervan Rental in Iceland
If you’ve decided to hire a campervan in Iceland, your next big task is going to be choosing a rental company.
We’d encourage you to do your own research and find the company that best suits your needs. There are a lot to choose from, and trust us, it can be overwhelming.
So if you want to save time, we’re sharing our favorite campervan rental company in Iceland and explaining why we recommend them.
Happy Campers is a family-run business and the most experienced campervan company in Iceland.
The campers they rent are well thought out, warm and comfy. They have heaters for cold Icelandic nights (and even when the summer months get chilly!). They're equipped with sinks with running water as well as a fridge. What more could you need in a campervan?
The vehicles are well equipped, yet still small enough to navigate some of the smaller roads, which is a huge factor to consider when road tripping in Iceland.
And the best part is they are priced well so travelers with all budgets can experience the beauty that Iceland has to offer.
Our Pick: Best Tent Rental in Iceland
We chose to rent a tent, as we were traveling in August (one of the warmest months), and we were on a super tight budget, and coming off a year-long round-the-world trip.
We did some research and chose to go with Iceland Camping Equipment because they are a small company and offer the best prices and quality on a wide range of quality equipment.
Tips for Camping in Iceland
We've put together an entire guide to camping in Iceland that you can read in entirety, but here are two things you should know before your trip:
Camping in the winter
If you are hoping to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, you’ll want to visit between October and February for the best chance of spotting them (though you could get lucky like us and see them during the off season!).
An important thing to know is that many of the campgrounds in Iceland close at the end of September. There will still be some open, but the good news is that even when they are closed, you can often stay for free. You just won’t have access to facilities like the toilet, kitchen and WiFi.
Our advice: Unless you have experience camping in winter conditions (and the proper equipment!) we would only recommend a campervan if you're traveling to Iceland in the winter.
Finding a Campsite in Iceland
Whether you're in a tent or a campervan, you'll need to find a place to call home each night. You’ll find campgrounds all around the country, and it’s fun to go with the flow and see where you end up each day.
But if you want to plan out your route more, Happy Campers has created this map of campsites around Iceland to help you plan your trip. The campsites in green are open during the summer only where as the blue campsites are open all year.
We want to hear from you!
Which would you pick: a tent or a campervan? What questions do you still have? Let us know in the comments below.