Stage photo à Hornstrandir

Photo tour in Hornstrandir : what equipment do I need?

At Wildlife Photo Travel, we’re lucky enough to offer a photo tour in Hornstrandir, Iceland. If you don’t already know this nature reserve, you should know that it’s a unique place in the world! This peninsula is isolated from civilisation and can only be accessed by boat. The Icelandic government decided to make it a protected area in 1975. Since then, it has become the only refuge for Arctic foxes in Europe.

We are regularly asked questions about the equipment needed for a stay in the Hornstrandir nature reserve, and we will try to answer them in this article.

The climate of Hornstrandir nature reserve

The geographical position of Hornstrandir nature reserve means that the climate is extreme! The north face of the reserve is exposed to polar winds all year round. This position and the mountains that form the peninsula make it an effective protection for Iceland’s Westfjords. This means that wind strength and rainfall are greater in the reserve than elsewhere.

What’s more, the weather in Hornstrandir nature reserve is unpredictable. It is not uncommon to have big blue skies, a storm and then blue skies again on the same day. Moreover, winds in excess of 50km/h are frequent in the reserve, particularly on the north face in the bays of Hornvik and Hlöðuvík.

Notre stage photo à Hornstrandir
Our Hornstrandir photo tour

Having said that, when it comes to photographing the Arctic fox, we can consider that the climate in Hornstrandir is less extreme than in other Arctic regions such as Greenland and Svalbard. Summer runs from mid-June to the end of August. During this period, snow is rare, if not exceptional. There is always plenty of daylight and the winds are lighter than in winter. On the other hand, precipitation can be heavy.

Finally, Hornstrandir’s climate means that particular attention must be paid to equipment and clothing. A stay in the reserve can be the experience of a lifetime, as well as a real nightmare if the equipment is unsuitable. During our photo tour, we advise and assist our participants in their choice of equipment. We make sure that everyone who embarks with us for Hornstrandir has the right equipment for their stay.

Clothing for our photo tour in Hornstrandir

Depending on cloud cover, wind strength and the presence or absence of precipitation, the temperature you feel can vary by a few degrees, or even twenty. So it’s important to be able to adapt your clothing to the day’s weather. The best way to do this is to adopt the onion peel technique. If you’re not already familiar with this principle, then you’ve come to the right place!

The onion peel technique involves building up several layers in a precise order, and then being able to remove them as the situation demands. Here are the different layers and our tips for optimising them:


During our photo tour in Hornstrandir, the ideal is to avoid all cotton underwear. We recommend synthetic materials that don’t retain moisture and dry quickly. Decathlon‘s hiking underwear, for example, is designed for this purpose, and is still affordable.

The first layer

The principle behind the first layer is that it should remain thin. We strongly recommend that you choose Merino wool garments. Merino wool is fine, warm, dries quickly and continues to provide insulation even when wet. What’s more, merino wool is known to limit odours, unlike cotton or synthetics.

The perfect duo for the first layer is a merino wool undershirt and silk or merino wool leggings. These two layers will keep your body warm in all circumstances.

The second layer

The second layer is thicker, reserved for colder days. For the top layer, you can choose between a thick fleece or a merino jumper that’s thicker than the first layer. During our Hornstrandir photo tour, you’ll need this layer during photo sessions (to stay static when cold…), in the morning when you wake up and in the evening at camp. You’ll also need it as soon as the sky gets overcast or it rains.

For bottoms, a good pair of hiking trousers, ideally lined on the inside for extra warmth. If you can afford them, we recommend a winter model from Fjällräven. Alternatively, Decathlon has a wide range of winter hiking trousers.

The wind and rain jacket

The main rule during our photo tour in Hornstrandir is to stay dry in all circumstances. This means wearing waterproof clothing from head to toe. This is the purpose of our final layer. It consists of a (thin) rain jacket, windproof and completely waterproof, and rain overtrousers.

Finally, it’s a good idea to use a waterproofing product on your shoes before the start of the photo workshop to limit water infiltration. If your feet get wet, your whole body will get colder.

For feet, hands and head

For your feet, we recommend that you pack a few pairs of merino wool hiking socks. It’s very important to keep your feet warm, so you’ll be free to enjoy your Arctic fox photo tour. Unlike other materials, a pair of merino socks can be worn for several days. So it’s not necessary to have more than 3 or 4 pairs of socks for this photo tour in Iceland.

For your hands, you’ll need two pairs of fleece gloves. On rainy days, it’s not possible to wear fleece gloves. In fact, you have two options: either you bring waterproof ski gloves, which aren’t very practical for taking photos but are perfect for keeping warm, or you opt for the waterproof gloves from Verjari. The latter are thin and not very warm, but completely waterproof. They will insulate your hands from the water and are practical for handling a camera.

Finally, a woollen cap will protect your head from the cold, especially if the wind is strong. If you wish, you can add a second, thinner cap, made from fleece or merino wool, for cooler days.

Photo equipment for our photo tours in Hornstrandir

If you’re used to taking part in photo workshops, you already know that depending on the region of the globe where the workshop takes place, the needs are different. In Iceland, the needs are the same as in Scotland or Ireland, with a few Icelandic peculiarities we’ll cover here.

Useful accessories

The first accessory we recommend is obviously a rain cover for your camera. You should know that photographing Arctic foxes in the rain can be very photogenic. Small beads of water form on their fur, creating poetic moments to observe and photograph.
The purpose of such an accessory is to be able to practice photography in all circumstances. Protecting yourself and your equipment is the right approach to give yourself every chance of photographing special moments.

What’s more, once your equipment is protected, you’ll need autonomy! Given the length of our wildlife photo tour (8 days), no less than 4 charged batteries will be needed for a reflex camera, and 6 for a mirrorless camera. We always provide solar panels for emergencies, but we recommend that you do everything in your power to avoid battery failure.

The same applies to memory cards. During our sessions, Arctic fox observation and photography times are significant. You’ll be able to take thousands of images, so make sure you have enough to store them!

Secondly, we always recommend mobile equipment that’s easy to transport (a lens that’s not too heavy, for example). But a tripod, despite its weight and bulk, will still be useful. If you’re a wildlife photographer, we don’t need to tell you. However, you should opt for mid-range tripods weighing around 2 kg, for ease of transport.

As far as video is concerned, if you want to capture images during our photo tour in Hornstrandir, you’ll need a microphone with a windscreen to limit the impact of the wind. The main challenge in such cases is to stabilize the image (which can be put to the test by the wind) and protect the microphone from unwanted noise.

To keep your lens clear, a microfiber cloth can be useful. As you may know, water droplets and fog can ruin an image. Keep your chances of getting great Arctic fox photos by making sure your lens always stays dry.

Finally, if you’re planning to travel around Iceland before and after the photo workshop, there may be other constraints. For example, if you’re planning to photograph in the south of Iceland, particularly around Vik, be aware that the fine sand and volcanic ash are very dangerous for your photographic equipment, especially your lenses. These small particles infiltrate everything, including lens rings. The damage is often irreversible.
We therefore recommend that you take along a dust bag to protect your equipment in these situations. This bag can be a simple, well-closed garbage bag, which will prevent sand and ash from reaching your lenses.

Accommodation in a camp or in a house during our photo tour in Hornstrandir?

For our Arctic Fox photo tour in Iceland, we offer both permanent and camping accommodation. We leave it up to participants to weigh up the pros and cons. Camp accommodation allows us to be as close as possible to the wildlife and not waste too much time walking, while permanent accommodation offers more comfort but is further away from the areas we’re interested in. Depending on the situation, the equipment required is not necessarily the same.

Camp accommodation

Camp accommodation is necessarily less comfortable, but it puts us right in the heart of Arctic Fox territory. For these photo tours, you’ll need a good sleeping bag. Even if temperatures remain around 10 degrees in summer, we always recommend a sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of 0° to -10°. In fact, it’s always a good idea to leave a few degrees to spare for more restful nights.

Permanent accommodation

If you’re staying in permanent accommodation, you won’t need a high-performance sleeping bag. Indoor temperatures range from 15° to 25°, so you’ll be able to sleep comfortably with a 10° sleeping bag.

As far as clothing is concerned, whether you’re staying in a permanent accommodation or in a camp, your needs are the same. During the long hours spent outside photographing Arctic Fox and seabirds, you’ll need to protect yourself from the elements and keep your body warm and dry.

How to take part in our photo tour in Hornstrandir?

Finally, if you’d like to join us on our photo tour in Hornstrandir, simply fill in the booking form or write to us via the contact form. We’ll be delighted to discuss it with you and count you among our participants!

We only take a few participants per year. Our aim is to keep our groups small, so that we can offer Arctic Fox photo tours where there’s something for everyone. The aim is to create a unique adventure!

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