Bikepacking Iceland Mid-Winter

Bikepacking Iceland Mid-Winter

Summer 2021, I was leaving for a 3 months bikepacking trip in Iceland. We visited most of the country, the famous places of the road 1, the Westfjords, crossed from north to south and east to west by the highlands. I fell in love with this incredible country and since that time, I dreamed of coming back in winter to experience Iceland in its wildest nature, challenge myself with the cold and go for my first fat biking adventure. 

The itinerary quickly came to mind: cycling from Seydisfjordur, in the Eastfjords, to Bjargtangar at the end of the Westfjords. A 1000 kilometers route that will bring me to the most beautiful and remote places of Iceland, crossing north of 3 huge glaciers (Vatnajokull, Hofsjokull and Langjokull).

I rode a Rocky Mountain Blizzard with 4.5 studded tires. I used a ‘pulka’, a little sled that I pull behind my bike to carrying all my stuff in order to lighten the bike on the snow. For the road parts, I could put the pulka on my rear rack. I had a full setup from Restrap: Fork Bags, Frame Bag, Stem Bags, Top Tube and 2x22L Panniers which I put in the pulka in the Highlands. 

bikepacking iceland joffrey maluski winter riding

I spend a few months working on the itinerary and gear I´ll bring. I take care of each detail, rivers, bridges, huts, plan B itineraries. I equip myself with the best gear and brands for snow storms and heavy wind:

- Bike : Rocky Mountain Blizzard Allow (11-51 / 30T)

- Tires : 45nrth Dillinger 5 (27.5x4.5)

- Pulka : Acapulka tour 100

- Racks : Old Man Mountain Divide Fat and Elkhorn

- Straps : Myfixplus

- Packs : Restrap

- Saddle : Brooks B17

- Gps watch : Suunto 9 peak pro

- Satellite communication : Garmin Inreach mini 2

- Sleeping bag : Helsport Svalbard -29°C

- Sleeping mat: Sea to summit Ether light XT + foam mat

- Tent : Helsport Lofoten X-trem 3 camp

- Sunglass : Julbo_eyewear Ultimate 2-4 & Goggles 0-4

- Helmet : Smith Forefront 2

- Shoes : 45nrth Wolfgar

- Headlamp : Golum Piom2

- Clothing : Patagonia

- Waders : Patagonia, for river crossing

- Base layers : Merino, Thermowave

- Down pants and down boots : Cumulus Outdoor

- Poggies : 45nrth

- Gloves : 45nrth & Black Diamond guide finger

- Stove : Primus Omnilite (3L of fuel)

- Pot : Sea to summit 2.7L

- Food : 25 days Dried meal Mx3, Clifbar, nuts, chocolate, soup, electrolyte

- Thermos : Klean Kanteen 2L + 0.6L

- Camera : Canon R6, RF 24-105 F4. Gopro Max & Hero 11

- SD card : Pny

- Tripod : Benro Rhino

- Drone : Dji Mini 3 Pro

- Powerbank : Zendure 27ah + 10ah

- Solar panels : 28w Big Blue

bikepacking iceland joffrey maluski winter riding

bikepacking iceland joffrey maluski winter riding

I had different conditions north of each glaciers. Not too cold (-13°C) but lots of snow and bad visibility north of Vatnajokull. Then temperatures drops to -20/-22 for 10 days and north of Landjokull, I was stuck one day in the tent with 150/160kmh wind. I also had 2 small river crossing but easily managed them with my waders.

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

I like this feeling of loneliness, going at your own pace, relying only on myself… It’s just me, my bike, a cozy tent for miles and miles. It’s in these moments of solitude that I find myself truly alive, surrounded by nature’s breathtaking beauty. 

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

It’s sometimes more difficult than being with friends but when it’s the case, I focus on things I have to do, things I can control, on today’s goal, why I’am here and step by step, I keep going. In the past, I did a few trips with friends (Iceland, French Pyrenees) and already traveled solo (French Alps and France to Norkapp, both in winter) but the main differences on this adventure were the rough conditions and being fully alone, far from everything for more than 20 days in the highlands. 

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

The hardest moment was at the beginning, north of the Vatnajokull glacier. There was a lot of fresh snow, 10 to 30 cm, and bad visibility. I had to push the bike a lot and even put it on the pulka for one day. I told myself that if the whole Iceland is going to be like this, it would take a long time! But I keep going, came out of the Vatnajokull mountains after 5 days and then the conditions were easier. About highest moments I also find them in difficult moments! But if I have to choose one of pure happiness : Maybe arriving in Hveravellir and jump into the hot spring by night after and a nice 48km closely following the north part of Hofjokull glacier.

I have some ideas for a future fatbike expedition next winter, but I'll talk about them later :)

Words by Joffrey Maluski

All photos self-shot by Joffrey Maluski - @joffreymaluski

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking

joffrey maluski iceland winter bikepacking