Why compass is still important hiking equipment

With modern technology it is easy to overlook simple navigation equipment like compass in your hiking trips. You have GPS with maps and you have your smart phone even with GPS and maps, you know exactly where you are.

The drawback of this technology Is that it´s powered by battery packs that can run out of power. What are you going to to when that happens?

Compass is easy to use. It´s a lightweight device that you can have hanging from your backpack or hanging around your neck. It is all about having it in a reachable spot during your hike.  The biggest advantage is it does not run out of battery and it can tolerate bad weather and rain.

As a part of search and rescue team, INLHQ team members where reminded about the importance of proper navigation tools when called out searching for hunter that got lost in the Icelandic high lands for two days. Over 400 team members looked for him for over to days in tough conditions.

Fortunately the hunter survived and was found on the third day of searching.

But the moral of the story is this, if correctly equipped this huge search had never taken place.

Compass navigation

How does compass work?

Compass is a simple tool that works with the earth magnetic field. The magnetic field runs between north pole and the south pole. The compass points in the same direction as the earth magnetic field and showing us in what direction we are walking compared to the magnetic field.

For simple navigation you hold your device in front of you with your arm straight out so you are like a pointer. Now you can read from it in what direction you are looking.

When you have decided in what direction to walk you look at the compass and it will give you the direction. When you start walking you can look at it regularly to see if you are heading in the right direction.

For more advance use you can take direction from map and put it in your compass to get between two point. You can as well take direction from the compass and put it down on maps to see what is in head of you. This methodology has been used through the centuries in navigation.

Learn how to navigate like the pros

What type of compass

There are many tapes of compasses available and for simple navigation all of them works. You can have:

  • Simple hiking compasses to take heading.
  • Durable metal compasses.
  • Baseplate compasses specially made for maps.

Avoid all compasses mounted on key rings and wrist bands, a fun toys not made for hiking.

INLHQ prefer baseplate compasses used with maps. They are light weight and durable. The prices varices based on features and build quality / durability and the prices are in the 9$ – 100$ range.

The basic features in a baseplate compass are following:

  • Magnetised needle that points to the magnetic north.
  • Rotating bezel (or azimuth ring) that adjusts the heading
  • Baseplate with build in rulers to use on maps.
  • Orienting arrows and lines to work with maps.

Other features to consider when buying compass are:

  • Declination adjustment to account for difference between the magnetic pole and north pole.
  • Sighting mirror for more precise navigation.
  • Clinometer to measure hill angle for avalanche risk etc.
  • Global needle for world travellers.

What to be aware of when using compass

So compass is great little device that is easy to use. But it has weaknesses that can easily be worked around if known.

Electrical devices can affect the accuracy, but you will decrease the risk by putting your arm straight out from your body when navigating. Power lines can also affect your compass, just be a ware of it when you cross area with powerlines (normally around 100 meters / 300 feet’s each side of the powerline.)

And above all do not have magnet or equipment with magnets anywhere near the compass when navigating it´s will affect the accuracy greatly. It can also affect the accuracy to store the compass near magnet for long period of time even though it is not near the compass during hiking.

Remember to take good care of it during hikes and as well back home. Do not store the compass near magnetic or electric fields then it will work just fine.


Compass and map are essential part of your hiking gear even if it is only for short hikes it can be your life safer. It will continue to work when other devices are out of power or stopped working due to weather (cold, rain and water etc.).

Learn how to navigate like the pros


Best time to visit Iceland

When people are planning there trip to Iceland the first question they often ask is, “should I go in May or September?”, “should I go to Iceland in October or November?” So when is the best time to visit Iceland?

There is only one answer to this questions!

What is your main goal visiting Iceland?

Depending on your goals, what time is the optimal for your visit to Iceland? To be able to decide when the best time is for you to visit Iceland you need to know how things go around the year. Each month is like a one of twelve seasons as the weather, brightness, road condition, tourist traffic, services and more changes from month to month.

One point about weather in Iceland. It´s tends go around in 3 to 6 week phases and does not always follow the seasons. So it can be warm and rainy for few weeks during the winter. On the other hand, it can be blue skies and cold or cold and blizzards every other day.

When to visit Iceland


One of Iceland Northern Lights HQ least favorite months, but the month can have it charm if the weather is favorable.

Daylight: 4 hours and 22 minutes (11:19 to 15:42)

It´s the northern lights high season and it´s winter. The weather is very unpredictable, can be warm, rainy or cold with blizzard and every thing between.

If you want to see the country and nature during winter time this is not the best time due to short days and very unpredictable weather. Consider February or Mars.

Follow the weather and road condition and be safe.


Days are getting longer, but sill less than a regular working hours.

Daylight: 7 hours and 03 minutes (10:09 to 17:13).

If you like outdoors sport like skiing this is the high season that will last into April. You can even ski after dark as the ski areas have their trails lit up when it gets dark.


The northern lights season is still on.

Daylight:  10 hours and 13 minutes (08:33 to 18:47)

Spring equinox is mars 20th.

It´s still winter. Weather wise this month can be really good or really bad like in January and February.


Late April is the end of the northern lights season.

Daylight:  13 hours and 35 minutes (06:44 to 20:20)

First day of summer is April 21th.

The end of the northern lights season is in early April.


One of Iceland Northern Lights HQ favorite months.

Daylight:  16 hours and 54 minutes (04:58 to 21:453)

First of all you will get snow in the mountains, the summer is on it´s way and every day getting longer and longer.

May is often sunny, but can be could and windy as well.


The tourism season is kicking in.

Daylight:  20 hours and 09 minutes (03:22 to 23:31)

Summer solstice – the longest day of the year: June 20th. Daylight 21 hours and 08 minutes (02:55 to 00:03)

The roads to the highland start to open up late June, it depends how much snow is in the highlands and the weather in the spring.

The best info for the road condition can be found here.


It´s the high season in tourism, a lot of people in many of the popular tourism attraction.

Daylight:  20 hours and 48 minutes (03:06 to 23:55)

But keep in mind, if you are traveling on your own car you can control at what time of the day you visit the popular places, early in the morning or late in the evening. Passing the bus traffic.


The biggest travel weekend for Icelander´s is around comer’s day first weekend in August with a lot of traffic all around the country.

Daylight:  17 hours and 54 minutes (04:35 to 22:29)

In good weather the twilights can be really beautiful.

Late August around 20th to be exact is the first change to see the northern lights in the upcoming fall and winter.


The autumn is settling in and you can see nature prepare for winter with many beautiful colors.

Daylight:  14 hours and 30 minutes (06:11 to 20:41)

Autumn equinox is September 22th

The tourism high season is over, but there are still many on the roads.


Natures theme color in October is, black and brown.

Daylight:  11 hours and 17 minutes (07:37 to 18:58)

First day of winter is October 22th.

This month is often time really wet and windy.

It´s time to start follow closely the weather and road condition to be safe. The highland roads are closed on this time of year.


Real transition from autumn to winter.

Daylight:  7 hours and 56 minutes (09:12 to 17:09)

The weather is really unpredictable and this is not the best month to drive the ring road.

Many travelers get in trouble trying to drive between towns way to late in the evening or during the night and get stuck in snow. Remember to check the road condition. Roads are not serviced after 9 pm to 6 am. So if there is snow and windy the roads get blocked really fast.


It is the best time to hunt the northern lights. Normally you can see the northern lights after 6 a clock in the evening and through the night to 5 am.

Daylight:  04 hours and 59 minutes (10:47 to 15:46)

Winter solstice – the shortest day of the year: December 21th. Daylight 04 hours and 07 minutes (11:22 to 15:29)

Many restaurants will close during the holidays, specially Des 24th and 25th, but this old habit of Icelanders is changing due to increased tourism especially in Reykjavík. So just be prepared for that.

Ok being in Reykjavik for new year evening is a new and breathtaking experience, the city goes wild with fire works, something that you will not see in many other places. Find a place where you have good view over the city.


What you want to see and experience during your stay in Iceland will help you to determine when to visit Iceland.


Now, let me know what you think? When do you want to visit Iceland and why? 

Three essential apps for your stay in Iceland

When traveling abroad safety during your travel is the most important thing for enjoyable visit. Now when you travel around Iceland you have extreme everywhere. The weather can be extreme, the nature is extreme and the road condition can be extreme. And you can’t count on the summer for good weather and road condition.

So what help is there available during your traveling?

There are three essential apps for your mobile phone that come in handy when traveling Around Iceland. These are all apps that the INLHQ team use in their outdoor activities all year around. The three apps are:

About the essential apps

112 Iceland

112 Iceland is really simple and need app. It has two language option,  English and Icelandic. It is offered for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone.

The app has two major functions.

  • First function is to call for help by pressing the red emergency button. Your location will be sent by text message to the 112 response center. Remember that even though your phone shows no signal there is a possibilite that you can send text message.
  • The second function is to leave a trace by pressing the green Check inn button. Only the 5 last location’s are stored and it is recommended that you use this, especially when you are hiking in the highlands where mobile connectivity can be poor.
Essential app for mobile - 112 Iceland

112 Iceland app

Here you can download the app for Android phones, Windows phones and iPhone.

Weather app

The weather is one of the hot topics in Iceland all year long. It can change many times a day and can vary greatly in very small area. It´s not uncommon to have rain, have wind, sunshine and calm wind all in the same day.

The weather app is one of the essential apps for your mobile phone when traveling around Iceland. It has two language option,  English and Icelandic. The main screen will show any weather warnings and the weather at your location. The app has as well push notification for weather warnings. Very simple and need app.

Tips: If your app is in Icelandic and you want to have it in english click the main menu in the upper left corner and go to “stillingar”

Essential app for mobile - Weather app

Weather app

Here you can download the app for Android phones and iPhone.

Road condition

The last one of the essential apps for your stay in Iceland is the road condition app. It is not really a app but a mobile friendly web. Like the two other essential apps we have talked about above this is fairly simple to use. Just choose the category that you want to look at. Normally you have the option to look at different part of the country depending where you are located.

If you are not sure about the info you can call the phone services for further assistant.

Tip: Save the bookmark to your desktop and you will have it as a icon like the apps above.

essential apps for your stay in Iceland

Road condition app

Here you can go to the road condition mobile friendly web page: http://m.vegagerdin.is/en

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Three major cell phone carriers in Iceland

As the internet is becoming bigger and bigger part of our every day live it is difficult to leave it behind when traveling abroad. Especially to remote country like Iceland. In this article we will go through what the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland offer.

Today people talk less and less in their phones and communicate through social media more and more. They use their phones for navigation, looking for information and so on, the possibilities are endless. However the telecommunication industry has not evolved to support this evolution for people that travel abroad. The only offer fair rates for cellular usage in their own countries/areas. Thats why it is normally very expensive to use your domestic cell phone carrier in other countries.

Big step in the right direction was made by the European Union of summer 2017 when implementing new rules “Roam as Home”. This means that all people with mobile phone plans in the EU pay the same price in all countries in Europe including Iceland. For further Q&A visit European Union website.

But what option does the rest of the world have?

One option that travelers have is to use hotel or restaurant WiFi or other hot spots but can be quite arbitrary. Many people do not stay in hotels or motels but travel on their own and camp on their own. In Iceland its as well very popular to rent a car that you can sleep in as well.

The best option for traveler is to get a local prepaid SIM card from one of the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland.

Note that some people can not use other cell phone carriers due to phone lock from their provider so check it out before you plan your trip. If your phone is locked you have two option:

    • Check what deals your carrier provider offers for travelers, they might have some international travel plans but they are still more expensive compared with local ones.
    • Get mobile hotspot device and use the SIM card from the Icelandic provider in that device.

Some people would say, ok now people can’t reach my as I don´t answer my regular phone. Well you just let your most important people know how to reach you through social media, Skype or FaceTime. In emergency people can call you directly using +354-xxx-xxx and you can call back as well.

The three major cell phone carriers in Iceland

There are three major cell phone carrier available in Iceland that cover all the country. They are Siminn, Vodafone and Nova. Their GSM services cover most Iceland, there are though some blind spot in all the system, especially around big mountain rigs and fjords.

Internet connection (3G and 4G) is not covered well in remote areas but is normally very good in all towns and villages in Iceland.

Siminn and Vodafone have good web sites in english and Vodafone has web site in Deutsch as well. Nova website is not in english so it is tough for non Icelandic speaking people to figure things out there.

But look at what each carrier provider has to offer.


The most important thing for travelers going around Iceland is to lock at coverage that the carriers provide and how it will support your traveling around Iceland. In fact it can be more important than their prices.

3G/4G coverage for each carrier difference a lot around the country as they run their own distribution system but regular GSM coverage (very slow internet connection) is almost the same for them all. 4G is only available in very small areas at the moment. Mainly around Reykjavik.

So lets look at the 3G coverage, thats the most important one.

As we can see on the maps the best 3G coverage is offered by Siminn (it is the oldest phone company in Iceland). It has the best coverage for all the country. If you are mainly traveling around Reykjavik you can go with any of the providers. The big difference is when you travel to the highlands and around the cost of Iceland away from Reykjavik.

Three major cell phone carriers in Iceland

Siminn cell phone coverage map


Three major cell phone carriers in Iceland

Vodafone cell phone coverage map


Three major cell phone carriers in Iceland

Nova cell phone coverage map

Options and prices

The three major cell phone carriers in Iceland have couple of options when it comes to cell phone plans.

Siminn offers two prepaid plans for voice and data starting at 2000 ISK (15$) and one for data only (for tablets and computers). We recommend to go with the Siminn Prepaid deluxe package. It includes both voice and data and is better when using the data more than voice. On Siminn home page is where to buy section. If you are traveling with Icelandair you can buy your SIM card onboard.

Vodafone offers one prepaid plan for voice and data at 1000 ISK (8$) and one for data only (for tablet and computers). For retailers look at Vodafone where to buy section.

Nova offers four prepaid plans for voice and data starting at 990 ISK (7,5$) and one for data only (for computers). For retailers look at Nova where to buy section.

For usage rate and more details on the carrier providers check their web sites as the rates changes over time (healthy competition)

Mobile Apps for refill and usage monitoring

All of the three major cell phone carriers in Iceland have mobile apps for top up on prepaid SIM cards, usage monitoring along with many other features. They all have apps available for android  and iOS. Vodafone is the only one that offers app for Windows. Here are links to the mobile apps for all the providers.


iOS app 

Android app


iOS app

Android app



iOS app

Android app

The mobile hotspot option

If you prefer to have your SIM card in your mobile phone and you also want to have only one SIM card you can go with mobile hotspot device. The main advantage are that you only need one SIM card and you can connect all your mobile phones to it through WiFi.

The other advantage is that you are not as dependant on poor mobile signal in different rooms in your accommodation (especially out in the country site). You only need to locate the mobile hotspot device for the best mobile signal and you will have all mobile connected to the internet through its WiFi.

At a glance

The three cell phone carriers in Iceland all proved good services. Their cellular coverage have all their strengths and weaknesses but you are in good hands with all of them.

One tip that you can use when you are traveling more than one together. Purchase one SIM card from Siminn and other from Vodafone (or Nova) if it is really important to be connected. You will be more likely to have 3G connection that way and even GSM connection. The coverage between all the carriers is bit different. You can have good signal on one system and no on the other.

If you are traveling around Iceland alone INLHQ team recommends that you go with Siminn. Their all around coverage is still the best.

To get even better connection we recommend to use mobile hotspot. You can locate it in different places in your accommodation depending on the best mobile signal and have all phones connected to the hotspot through WiFi

Now that you have your cell phone covered, take a look at three essential apps for your stay in Iceland.

About the author

The INLHQ team are native Icelanders living in the east fjords of Iceland. We have more than 15 years experience as volunteers in ISCAR (Icelandic association for Search and Rescue). We are outdoors and snowmobile enthusiast that have compared the Icelandic cell phone carriers extensively through the years in your adeventures.