Living in a van not on the top of your list? I have to admit, it definitely wasn’t on my list. However, I knew that in order to do Iceland the right way, I’d have to rent a camper van for the full experience. But not just any camper van. The best one. Campervan rentals are a dime a dozen in Iceland due to its rising popularity among tourists from all over the world. After doing a ton of research, the one company that really stood out to me was Happy Campers. So, here’s what living in a van in Iceland is like with Happy Campers.
First, you guys know I am the king of research. I like to think that’s why you trust me so much to recommend fabulous places and brands! I knew I had a ton of research ahead of me when it came to choosing the best campervan company in Iceland. Happy Campers immediately drew me in. Their name, their branding, their happy-go-lucky attitude, and their pricing all really stood out to me.
I found Happy Campers to be one of more cost-effective campervan rentals in Iceland. Renting a camper van can be insanely expensive. It’s literally your hotel-on-wheels for five nights, so it makes sense. Price was the huge decision that led me to take interest in their rentals. Second, was their branding and happy customers. You could spend hours sifting through reviews of happy people who loved their vans. This is one of the main reasons that led me to reach out to them to see if they’d be open to a collaboration. They are the nicest people with huge hearts! I loved every moment of working with them.
The day we picked up the van was a breeze. They picked us up from the airport and drove us to Happy Campers HQ, which was only about 15 minutes from the airport. When we arrived, they had hot coffee and biscuits waiting for us. Their headquarters was impressive with a gorgeous interior and a little camping exchange where you could pick up free stuff that campers wanted to get rid of before returning home. The process was easy but definitely took some time. They go through everything with you like what to expect on the road and how the van works.
Tips for renting
- Choose Happy Campers, duh.
- Be prepared for the process to take a minute and load up on hot coffee and biscuits.
- Make this the time that you ask any and every question you can think of!
- Get all the insurance because you just never know. We did the packaged one that came with everything and after having been out on the roads, I am so glad we did.
And we’re off! At this point, I should definitely mention that Happy Campers currently has only manual transmission vans for rent. They are working on automatic, but if you do decide to rent with them you need to know how to drive manual. It had been a good ten years since I had driven manual, but it was sort of like riding a bike. If you can drive manual, your costs will be way lower too. Automatic rentals in Iceland are much pricier.
Driving in Iceland in a campervan was definitely challenging at times. I for one was not used to driving such a large vehicle. I also wasn’t used to driving manual. So, take those two things and mix them together with a new country, and it is a little challenging at first. However, I always felt 100% safe in our vehicle which really helped. One of my favorite things is the guidebook they leave on the dashboard that literally has all the answers to your questions. It also has their phone number and an emergency number.
Tips for driving
- Always make sure to check the parking brake isn’t on.
- To put the van in reverse, first lift up on the stick and then move it to R.
- Always have two hands on the wheel when it’s raining and windy, and especially when semis drive by you.
- Don’t forget to downshift on hills!
Cooking was super easy in our campervan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a freaking process but that’s always how camping is anyway. Your van comes with a mini fridge, a portable gas stove, a sink with water, dishes and utensils, cups, and pots and pans. It really is full service! We opted for ramen noodles in a cup almost every night.
Tips for cooking
- Don’t overbuy food from the grocery store. Most of the time you’re going to be too lazy to cook huge meals at the end of the night. So definitely under buy rather than overbuy so it doesn’t go to waste.
- Make sure your portable stove is set up on a flat surface. If it’s not flat, the gas can leak from the can.
- Heating water on the stove takes a while.
- I highly recommend the cup of noodles from the grocery store. Super easy!
Sleeping in the van was definitely my least favorite, as it would be anyone’s. Actually, for what it was, it was super comfy. There’s just never much comfort to be had when you’re two women crammed into a bed that’s smaller than a twin. Every campervan company is like this unless you get one of their really huge vans, which just isn’t necessary for two people.
Basically, in the back of the van was a ‘bench’ setup. During the day you could use the bench for sitting and lounging, and then at night it pulled down into a flat bed. It’s actually quite genius and super savvy with space! The bed was, again, comfy for what it was. They gave us a huge bag of blankets and each a pillow. We had enough blankets to each put two down like a bed sheet, and then we each had two thicker blankets to cover ourselves with.
The van does have a heating system but you cannot leave it on all night. You’d probably kill your battery that way. So while it’s amazing it does have heat, it still gets pretty cold into the late hours of the night. We’d keep the heat on right until we fell asleep and then the first one to show a millimeter of an eyeball in the morning reached over and turned it on, and then we usually slept for another hour more.
Tips for sleeping
- Turn the heat off right before you go to bed, and first one awake in the morning turns it on.
- Don’t park on a slope, and if you do, make sure it’s in a direction that’s not going to make you dizzy when you lie down to sleep.
- Layers layers layers. I wore two layers to sleep and thick wool socks. Do not underestimate good pajamas on this trip.
- Go as long as you can without washing your hair, or bring a hairdryer. I’m not kidding about how cold it gets. Sleeping with wet hair will get you sick.
Hopefully, you’ve mapped out where you’re camping each night. This is something you absolutely must do. It is now illegal to ‘free park’ in Iceland. The side of the road next to a glorious waterfall would be wonderful, but you just can’t do it anymore. You have to park at a designated campsite for the night.
Parking your campervan for the night and camping costs money. It can range anywhere from free to $15 I believe. I think the most we spent was about $15. Some campsites are free. Actually, the best campsite we parked at was completely free and came with its own waterfall!
Most campsites have showers and toilets for use. The cheaper they are, the more likely they will not have these amenities. Some even have communal kitchens where you can use a microwave. I definitely recommend you do your research before picking campsites. If take a look at my 5 Day Iceland Itinerary, you can see all the campsites we stayed at. I planned it very well so that only one of our campsites did not have showers and it was on the very last day.
Tips for parking
- Don’t crowd your neighbors if you don’t have to. People want to experience nature.
- Be prepared to pay camping fees. Debit cards could be used at every campsite we visited. Check out the list here.
- Never pass up a chance to use the shower. You never know when you’ll get to shower again!
- If you camp at Vik, there are only communal showers (boys and girls separate). So be prepared to bare it all.
One of my favorite things about Happy Campers is that all their vans are equipped with wifi! It was such a sigh of relief knowing we would have unlimited access to wifi. The wifi was a little slow at times, but for the most part, it was pretty damn good considering you felt like you were on the surface of the moon sometimes.
As I mentioned earlier, the van is also equipped with a heating system that works magic in the evening hours. There is no built-in GPS or other technology, but I believe you can rent one. Honestly, with the wifi in the car we had no problem using Google Maps and finding where we needed to go. While the van is pretty basic, it has everything you need to get through your Iceland Ring Road journey.
Tips for technology
- Make sure you have a backup if the wifi isn’t working. I made a google doc of all the stops we were making with directions from one place to the next. You can also use my downloadable itinerary while on the go.
- The van does have a USB port, but only one.
- You can download a map of Iceland before you leave with the maps.me app, that way you can use it offline.
- Don’t forget to turn the heat off at night and make sure your headlights are off too.
- Buy a car charger that has multiple USB ports to plug into.
That about covers it! If you have any questions about something that I didn’t cover or want more information, don’t hesitate to comment below or reach out. I know Iceland is on a lot of people’s lists and if I can help you to better plan by answering your questions, then I am ready to do so!
A special thank you to the owners and team over at Happy Campers who provided me with a van on our trip. I can honestly say that this company really cares about its customers and treats everyone like family. You can check out my journey with them over on their Instagram account in their Highlights!