Happy Campers vs. Go Campers – Iceland by Camper Van

One of the best ways to enjoy Iceland is to rent a camper van and spend the day driving from sight to sight while spending the night in one of the various campsites that can be found all over the country. If you are planning a trip to Iceland and you are thinking about going this route, there are a few things that you need to know about traveling this way. If you want to get that information, look at my post about tips for traveling by camper van. If you are interested in knowing which camper van is right for you, I have a comparison of two of the bigger and more affordable companies that can be found just outside of Reykjavik, Happy Campers and Go Campers.

Organization

Both companies use the same type of van for their smallest version of a camper, the Nissan        . It is really funny to get in the driver seat of both vehicles and have it feel exactly the same. They do have all the bells and whistles that you need to drive comfortably and safely, but as soon as you get in the back of the vehicles, the organization of them change dramatically.

Happy Campers tries to make the back of their camper vans to feel like a mobile home. On the side behind the driver’s side they have a couch that at night can be folded down to become your bed. Underneath this, they have some storage space that they claim is easily accessible, but this is not the case. The lifting and lowering of the couch becomes a chore if you store the wrong stuff in this part of the camper van. The side behind the driver’s side is where they have the kitchen area. This consists of a sink, more storage space for dishes and pans, a place for the stove, and the refrigerator. It takes up a large portion of this side of the van, and if we used the couch more, it would have been a comfortable way to cook. Unfortunately, there never seemed to be enough space in this camper van. We spent a lot of our time moving stuff from the front of the van to the back of the van depending on whether we were driving or settling down for the evening. Granted we took too much of the extra, such as the bedding, a table, and chairs which we should have scaled down on, but I think that the way the van was organized, we would have had to continued to do this with our stuff anyways.

Go Campers went for a more stripped down approach. The kitchen equipment is located in the very back and you have to open the back doors to access it. It definitely puts it out of the way, and as long as the weather holds out, it is a great location for this stuff. Unfortunately, this was not the case while we were in Iceland, and it made cooking in this camper van a little bit of a chore. Still, most of the campsites have kitchens that make for easier cooking, so the fact that we used the kitchen so little made this one a better one for the overall organization of the van. The bed is folded up and placed on top of the kitchen equipment. When bed time rolls around all you have to do is pull the bed out, climb on in, and get some sleep. Our stuff became a little disorganized in the back because there is a huge open space in between the back and the front where we put all of our stuff. The bed just covers up all of this stuff, so there was never a need to move all our stuff from the front to the back every evening.

Though they both had their flaws, I do believe that Go Campers organized their vehicle better than Happy Campers make it the better choice in this category.

Comfortability

Let me start off by saying that being a six foot two man, living in a camper van for three weeks will never be a comfortable experience. With that in mind, I still got some wonderful nights’ sleeps while on the road. This was due to the fact that we rented sleeping bags with the van, and did not rely on the duvets that they gave us with this rental. I do believe that this was one of the most important things that we did on our trip to make it more comfortable, but it did add to the overall cost with both companies.

The front of the car was comfortable for both vans as well, and both were organized the same way. They both had nooks and crannies that allowed you to put all of the important stuff that you needed while driving, and there was not much difference there. It was the beds and the movement in the van that mattered when we stopped.

In the case of the Go Camper van, there was a lot more freedom of movement and I did not feel as cramped inside. There was also a lot less of the moving stuff from the front to the back as we prepared for either driving or the night. They did only supply one door to exit the van at night, so if the person sleeping on the left had to get up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, they were forced to wake up the other person which was a poor design. The bed also had wide open edges on either side that I some times felt threatened that I will fall off. The heater was in a more wide open space though which allowed for more access to the heat, and the lack of windows made it very dark in the land of the midnight sun.

The Happy Camper van did have windows which made for a feeling that you weren’t staying in a cave. They did give you some blinds for the windows to make the space dark during the evening, but they did not close well enough and you could never make it dark enough at night. The bed also fit in almost perfectly to the back of the van with the kitchen adding a nice space to put your stuff at during the middle of the night. The bed was a little skinnier which sometimes caused some struggle for the fight for space at night, but it was still big enough for a good night sleep. The door on either side of the van made for easier entrance and exit access which was great for the middle of the night as well.

For the most part, either van had some flaws with its design which made it difficult to completely get comfortable, but that is part of the appeal of traveling this way in the first place. Despite this fact, I would still give the edge to Go Campers but it made things a little more simple to move around in which was much appreciated after a long day of exploring Iceland.

Friendliness

Both companies did a great job when getting us to our camper vans. They had somebody come and pick us up from our hotel and take us to their office so we could go through the paperwork and start our adventure. Both companies did not do a good job of getting us back to where we needed to go after we dropped off the van. Basically we were on our own, except Happy Campers did supply a shuttle once a day to the airport which was nice. Otherwise, we needed to pay for a cab which are ridiculous expensive or to work our way to a bus stop with all of our gear if we wanted to get anywhere. Both companies are not located in central locations with Happy Campers being the further out of town, but they are located closer to a bus stop. Figuring out this problem would be nice for both companies to figure out because it was a struggle both times to make it where we needed to go.

As far as the people helping us out and making sure we understood what was required of us, there was one that I felt more comfortable with. Happy Campers were more willing to answer our questions, and had a more warm and inviting office that when we left, and made for a better overall experience. They were a bigger company with more vans, but that did not take people away from giving us the help we needed when we needed it. At Go Campers, it felt like we were rushed through a little more, and it wasn’t because both places weren’t busy. They both had about the same amount of customers, and employees to help out those customers, but Happy Campers took that little extra time to make sure we were ready to head out on the road than Go Campers did.

Price

Of course, this is a really important thing to consider before renting a van especially in a country where things are really expensive to begin with. Considering you are getting the same van for each company, and both of them gave us coupons to N1 gas stations for free coffee, there is not a lot to say about the differences but the bottom line.

As of July 2022, Happy Campers 90 Euro a day/ Go Campers 129 Euro a day. Both include heaters, and kitchens. They both had strong batteries that would allow us enough power to run those heaters and kitchens when we needed them. So if I was just looking at the cost, Happy Campers are obviously the choice to go with.

Extra Perks

Both companies have a list of items that you can rent with the van that can supply you with the experience that you are hoping for. These can be anything from camping chairs, French coffee presses, tables, coffee mugs, and bedding. You can get wifi as well, but we found that all we needed was a SIM card at the airport when we first arrived, and had enough GB of data to make it through a three week trip with some even left over at the end. The prices between items were very comparable between the companies, but there is something you want to keep in mind when you add these extra bonuses. Whatever you rent, you have to carry around with you, and that will take up precious space in these vans. So before you keep adding on the comforts of home, thing about the size of the item, and if you will really need it. There is nothing more annoying than spending each night rearranging the whole van so you can be comfortable. With that in mind, Go Campers recognized this and would warn people if they kept adding things that would make their vans more crowded. Happy Campers just kept on adding it on to the bill and pulling it out from the supply.

They both had a pantry of food left behind from other campers that you could grab for free. This was a great perk, and an easy way to get started on our trip. Happy Campers’ pantry had more of a selection but this was probably because of the size of the company as opposed to Go Campers.

Happy Campers also gave free gas for the camp stove which was a life saver. The stoves were not always needed though because many of the campsites had a kitchen with a stove that you could use instead, so I do not know how important this really was.

Happy Campers also had a stack of flannel blankets and allowed each customer to take two for free. This was a great perk, and we used those blankets on a regular basis, and felt the absence of them when they were gone.

Overall

Once again, both companies were great, and which ever one you choose, you will not be disappointed about it. It really comes down to what is important for you when you make the choice. For me, personally, it came down to how comfortable I was in the van. With all things put into consideration, I would lean more towards using Go Campers again in the future rather than Happy Campers. Because of the organization of their van, it was easier to move around in, and I enjoyed my experience with them more because of that.

Either way, Iceland is a great adventure, and you will want the right camper van for yourself to make the most out of that experience. I know this will not cover everything, but I hope it helps you out a little bit when you make that important decision when flying off to Iceland for that adventure.

Camper Van Tips for Iceland

One of the best ways and also most common ways to enjoy Iceland is to get a camper van and drive the Ring Road. Along the way, there are many campsites where you just park your van and then just camp for the night. Some of these campsites are right in the heart of some quaint Icelandic towns; whereas, others are out in the middle of nowhere, and no matter where you go, you will always run into crowds. Despite this, there are things that you can do to make these crowds more manageable, and the time that you spend at these campsite more enjoyable.

Be Early

This is the most essential tip I can give, especially if you are coming from some other place than Europe. There are a lot of Europeans in Iceland, and they are pretty much already adjusted to the time zone. They are on vacation and want to take advantage of the ability to sleep in a little bit later than usual. Because of this, the camps don’t get moving early in the morning, but around 9 o’clock, things start to get busy in the kitchen and bathrooms. Considering that there are limited burners, and showers, this means if you start moving around this time as well, you will have a harder time accessing these things. It is amazing how easy these things are to access if you are up and moving as late as 7 o’clock. 

It adds another little extra bonus. You will be pulling out of camp before everybody else which means that you will be getting to the sights earlier as well. Sometimes you will be at extremely busy locations all by yourself until the middle of the day which makes it feel like you are truly in the wilderness that is Iceland.

Another bonus to this practice is that you will also arrive at the next campsite before everybody else. There are many times that we showed up at our campsite at 5:30 or 6 and basically had our pick of the sites, but by the time 8:30 rolled around, the campsite was so full that we would have ended up at the worst spot available.

Buy Pre-Seasoned Meals

We spent some time at home before we left getting a couple ramekins together with the spices that we thought we would enjoy the most when we arrived in Iceland. On our first day we ran to the grocery store to buy some food for the trip. We thought that we would have to find various meats and then prepare them at the camp at night. On a whim, we picked up a couple packs that were already marinated. They cost about the same, and little did we know how good they would be. We liked them so much that we bought more of them and were pleased each time. The best part of these pre-seasoned meals were the fact that they made cooking exceptionally easy.

Basically, it made us feel like we were eating something good instead of the ramen and hot dogs that seem to be the typical fare that is found in Iceland. They do cost a little bit more, but if you buy your food at Kronan or Netto, these meals will not break your budget. We still squeezed in the cup of noddle of hot dog every once in awhile, but this made our meals in Iceland so much better.

Park Close to the Facilities

This one goes hand in hand with being early. If you are moving an hour or two ahead of the crowds, this means that you will arrive at your next campsite before everybody else, and get your pick of where you want to stay. Some camps have some amazing views with them, and they are great places to sit, have a cocktail, and enjoy your dinner. And on nights where the weather is going to work with you, these are going to be the places where you are going to want to park. However, Iceland weather is unpredictable. There were many nights on the trip where we went to sleep with the sun shining, only to be woken up in the middle of the night under a wind storm and a torrential downpour. Of course, it worked the other way as well.

When the weather is great, traveling in a camper van is fun and exciting. When the weather is terrible, living in a camper van is a challenge. The nice thing about most of the campsites is they have facilities where you can get out of poor weather. Some of them are bigger than others, and it is not fun to make the trek there through this inclement weather. This is even worse when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to use the facilities. I would suggest trying to find that place that gives you the amazing view, but also allows you easy access to the facilities, especially if you know that weather is the going to be terrible that night. It won’t make it better, but you will have to deal with the weather for shorter amounts of time.

Run the Heat before Bed

A lot of the features of the camper vans run on batteries. In this modern age where people are always looking for ways to charge their devices, and the fact that you will want to run a refrigerator all the time to keep some of your food cold, it means that you will have limited power that you can tap into. Some of the camper vans, such as the company, Happy Camper, supply a battery that charges with the spinning of the tires. The guy that rented the car to us, told us that it should give us enough energy to keep the heat running all night long, but we discovered that this wasn’t actually necessary. This isn’t the heat that comes out of the front console of the car, instead, it is a big blower right under the bed that just cranks out hot air. It does take a little bit to warm up the whole car, but once you get the car heated up, it takes some time for it to cool down as well. Because of this, if you run the heat for an hour before bed and you get some good sleeping bags, you should have enough heat to keep you comfortable for the whole night.

The reason for this is quite simple. If the battery for your van dies, you are not moving further on your trip. Though there are a bunch of people at the campsites that could help you if this becomes a problem, this might not always be the case. We did run into a couple of people out in the middle of nowhere whose battery had died, and luckily we had some jumper cables to help them out, but in one case, they had been there for quite some time. The rental companies do give you a number to call if you do break down, but there were a couple of places where we ran out of cellular service. The bottom line is that you do not want to get stuck in the middle of some place because you wanted a toasty camper van instead of power in your battery.

Enjoy the Sun while You Get It 

Part of the reason that we decided to go to Iceland is because we had a friend a couple of years who went, and the pictures she brought back with her were stunning. She had sunshine for the ten days she was there and she was smiling underneath the warmth that it brought.

This summer, we were constantly told that Iceland was experiencing the coldest summer that it has had in thirty years. We rarely saw the sun, and there were many days where we were under five different layers, including rain gear, to go see the sights in the wind and rain. We were excited when we saw the temperature reach 4 degrees Celsius, or about 40 degrees in Fahrenheit. It did not prevent us from having a great time while we were there, but it was a much different experience than the one enjoyed by my friend.

With this in mind, when the sun did come out and we had those warmer summer temperatures that Iceland usually has during the summer, it was an amazing experience. It did not always last long, so when the sun did come out, we made sure to get out of the camper van and enjoy it. Iceland is one of those places where you have to take advantage of what is given you, and when you do that, those moments will become your favorite ones on the trip.

Bring Slide Sandals

This tip goes closely with the place where you park, and enjoying the sunshine. You will spend a lot of your time in Iceland wearing hiking boots. It is the safest way to see a lot of the sights, and they do keep your feet warm. But when you get to the place where you are going to stay for the night, you are going to want to take these boots off and stretch those feet for a little bit. During these moments, you will want your feet to be as free as they possibly can. This is where slide sandals come in. They don’t necessarily need to be slide sandals, but something that you can easily slide on and off.

There are added bonuses to having shoes like this with you. If you wake up in the middle of the night, and have to go to the bathroom, it is a lot easier to slip on these sandals and run off to the facilities than spending the time putting on your shoes again. They can also be used in the showers. All of the showers that I saw were always well maintained and clean, but this did not mean that you wanted to take a shower in your bare feet. The slide sandals give you that little extra protection, and they always dry off quickly. If you bring a pair of these with you, you will find that you will use them more often than you would have thought, and you will be happy that you have them with you.

Shower When You Arrive

Anybody who has ever spent time in hostels in Europe knows how busy the showers get in the morning. People tend to line up just so they can look their best for the day ahead of them, and there are times when you will wait a good hour before you can get your turn. Iceland campsites are no different. I was really surprised at the amount of people I saw making sure that their hair was perfect, and they looked good in their hiking gear. Didn’t they know what they would be doing the whole day? They would be hiking, sometimes in bad weather. They would not look good at the end of the day, so what was the purpose of standing in line to try to look good in the morning? Also, there were not that many showers to share in the first place. Some of the campsites only had one shower to share which made the lines longer and harder to endure.

When I first started on the trip, I was one of those people waiting for the shower, but as the trip progressed, I learned something. When I made it to the campsite, the showers had just been cleaned and nobody was waiting in line to take a shower. I also felt dirty from the day of running around seeing stuff, and really wanted a shower at that time. It made more sense to me to take the shower when I first arrived at the campsite instead of waiting in the morning and battling the crowd. It was not as if I was going to dirty myself while I was at the campsite, and I could wash away the grime of the day. I was also ready in the morning to move, and we beat the crowds because we were able to get out of the campsite that much quicker that everybody else. I am not saying that this is the way you should do it for other European countries, but I found that it worked best for Iceland.

Traveling Iceland in a camper van is an adventure, and the best way to see all of the sights on your own terms. It took me a little while to figure out how to make it work, and I hope these little tips help save you some time and pain as you figure out your camper van when you get to Iceland. It will give you the adventure that you are looking for without the trial.