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Scavenging Reykjavik

Scavenging Iceland

“You have been really lucky so far,” a friend exclaimed after I told him of my clutch scavenging successes around Reykjavik.

“Yes,” I agreed, “I am definitely being lead somewhere.”

It is a funny thing when you find exactly what you are looking for in the first place you look for it. However improbable, you go on some sort of goose chase for a choice object and, somehow, find it right in front of you. This is the Divine hand of scavenging, and I was provided for well in Reykjavik.

I needed a way to haul all of the gear on my bicycle, and have used old milk crates for this on my previous two long distance bicycle trips. I went poking around in the trees and brush that surrounds Reykjavik stadium, looked down upon busting through my first row of bushes, looked down, and found a perfect red plastic tub: perfect. I did it up and slapped it on my bicycle.

Scavenging Reykjavik

Around this stadium I also found a synthetic fiber Reebox sport shirt (just my size) that was sort of grotty as it had been sitting in the bushes for a while, but still a good find, as these shirts often cost over $50 and are almost essential for athletic activities in climates as temperamental and extreme as Iceland. I hand washed the gunk out of the shirt and, although not as good as new, was a pretty clutch score none the less.

Now equipped with a bicycle I began my rounds of the dumpsters of Reykjavik looking for anything thing else that I could use or eat along my bicycle journey. A few minor scores became insignificant upon finding one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen: a professional grade mountain bike wheel with an awesome tire pumped up to perfection leaning up against a dumpster. My jaw dropped as I ran over to claim it. I spun it in my hands, it seemed to work — the spokes were tight and in line, the rim was perfectly straight, and the tire fully inflated and with a good tread. It was almost brand new. I slapped it on my bike the next day, it fit to perfection.


I also scavenged a tarp, a stainless steel pot, a grill lighter, denatured cooking alcohol for my tuna fish can stove, and some other important odds and ends. The camp ground staff gave me some additional stakes for my tent. Food came mostly from the leftovers at the camp site. Many hostels and camp sites around the world have bins in their kitchens where travelers can leave behind food that they do not want to consume or take with them when they leave for other travelers. Reykjavik is the place where travelers often begin and end their journeys in Iceland, and the camp was stocked full of left over food that campers left behind as their trips came to a close. I make a round of the kitchen early in the morning to swipe up the goods left by the night before’s diners, and another sweep around checkout time to knab any food left behind by those departing. I filled up my panniers and bags, ate nearly for free in Reykjavik and collected enough food to lay the base of my diet for the following two weeks. Big score as I kept one of the three elements of travel at bay for a little while longer.


There is another advantage of traveling in expensive countries: they are often places of excess, places where people throw perfectly good food and supplies into the trash. Like so, expensive countries like the USA are some of the best places to find free food, gear, and equipment, if you have no fear of diving head first into a dumpster. Expensive countries often have an excess of resources. Iceland certainly does. I went around Reykjavik for a week peaking into dumpsters, scavenging biking supplies, and collected enough supplies to begin my bicycle trip around the country.

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Filed under: Bicycle Travel, Budget Travel, Europe, Iceland, Western Europe

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3169 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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