Do You Need a 4×4 Camper in Winter?

When planning a winter trip to Iceland, one question that many travelers have is whether or not they need to rent a 4×4 camper. After all, Iceland can see some pretty harsh weather during the winter. Iis a 4×4 camper really necessary, or can you get by with a regular campervan? It is one of the most common questions we get. So if you are wondering the same – you came to the right place.

Happy 4x4 on the winter road in Iceland

Pros and Cons of 4×4 Camper in Winter

Here are some pros and cons to consider whether to rent a 4×4 camper for your winter trip to Iceland:

Pros of a 4×4 Camper:

  • Better traction: A 4×4 camper will have four-wheel drive, which means it will have better traction in slippery conditions. This can be particularly useful if you plan on driving on some of Iceland’s more remote roads, which may not have been plowed or treated with de-icing agents.
  • Higher ground clearance: A 4×4 camper will typically have a higher ground clearance than a regular campervan, which can be helpful in navigating through deep snow or rough terrain.
  • More capable on gravel roads: If you plan on taking some detours from the Ring Road on unpaved roads, a 4×4 camper will be better equipped to handle the rough terrain.

Cons of a 4×4 Camper:

  • Higher cost: 4×4 campers are generally more expensive to rent than regular campervans. This can be a significant consideration if you are working with a tight budget.
  • Poor fuel efficiency: 4×4 campers are typically not as fuel efficient as regular campervans, which can add significantly to your fuel costs.
  • More difficult to maneuver in tight spaces: 4×4 campers are generally larger and more cumbersome than some other campervans, which can make them more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces if you do not have enough driving experience.
Happy 2 on a winding road in winter in Iceland

Winter safety in Iceland

Regardless of what camper you choose, make sure that your vehicle is equipped to handle Icelandic winter. Here are some general safety tips and resources.

Winter equipment

  • Studded tires – these tires are specifically designed to provide better traction on icy and snowy roads and are a must-have for safe travel in Iceland during the winter months.
  • A shovel – a useful tool to have if you get stuck.
  • Ice scraper – this one is self-explanatory. A must-have in winter; always check if you have it before driving off.
  • Jump start cables – if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation when the car’s battery is dead, having started cables can be very handy and save a lot of time and headaches.

We include all these items in the winter kit for all Happy Campers. Additionally, all our vans have wool insulation and an overnight heating system. Moreover, most vans have two extra batteries (3 total) to guarantee to keep you warm.

Useful resources

The most important thing when it comes to safety in Iceland is keeping up with weather updates and road conditions. Driving in Iceland can be a challenge and sometimes downright impossible due to roads being difficult or closed.

  • 112 – Emergency number in Iceland
  • Vedur.is – The best source of up-to-date weather conditions. Memorize the URL or get their app on the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and check daily (if not multiply times a day).
  • Safetravel.is – Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue has put together a great website on how to travel safely around Iceland. You can also sign up to get important alerts via text message.
  • Road.is – a go-to source for live information on road conditions. The newly updated map also includes a lot of additional information, webcam footage, etc.

At Happy Campers, we prioritize the safety and convenience of our customers. That’s why, when you book a van with us, you’ll get access to our Happy App. It is a tablet-based navigation system that provides real-time road conditions and weather updates (included in all rentals, except EX models). This handy tool navigates according to your itinerary and helps you stay informed while on the road, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.

Additionally, we highly recommend having a working phone with you at all times. You can either opt-in to an international plan from your local provider or buy a pre-paid SIM card at the airport or any gas station in Iceland.


Traveler holding map of Iceland in Happy 2 camper from Happy Campers

So, do you really need a 4×4 camper for winter travel in Iceland? The answer really depends on your specific travel plans, driving experience, and preferences. Generally, when traveling to Iceland in the wintertime, a 4×4 camper may be worth the investment. However, as long as you follow safety rules, a properly equipped 2WD campervan is sufficient.

With our weather warning system, winter kit, GPS tracking, 24/7 emergency service, studded winter tires, extra power, and other safety features, Happy Campers is the safe choice for winter rentals.

For more winter tips, make sure to check out our Winter Travel Guide, and do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions before or during your rental.