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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 [...]

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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.

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

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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4 comments… add one

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  • the candy trail ... | Michael Robert Powell July 3, 2011, 12:37 am

    Wade, you have an extraordinary knack for vagabonding. If I ever completely broke (again) I may yet be diving dumpsters and getting grittier (even thou it’s something I thought I’d left behind in my youth).

    MRP | the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

    PS: On another post you had a pic of the open road of Iceland – flat, well-graded gravel; easy biking terrain; why do others need “better” bikes for that surface. Or does it get worse?

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    • Wade Shepard July 3, 2011, 6:56 am

      Thanks MRP,

      Think I like looking into the dumpsters for fun haha, it is part of the game. I think if I was a millionaire I would still do the same.

      About the roads I think that photo was VERY misleading haha. I guess I wanted a nice open road picture to make this look fun haha. Yeah, the roads get worse, way worse, but the biggest challenge is the wind, which is hard to photograph in a landscape that has already been blown raw. But in the upcoming videos a picture of the wind will be shown better. If it wasn’t for the wind, bicycling in Iceland would be a walk in a park, but that wind makes it a supreme challenge haha. Also, the weather changes really fast, so you may be going for an hour in beauty and wonder and then all of a sudden get caught up in gale force winds with freezing rain. Strange, wild, untamed place, naturally chaotic if that is possible — think you would love it here. The girls are also . . . well, you get the picture.

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      • Chaya Shepard July 3, 2011, 7:58 pm

        the girls are what, Wade? Not nearly as attractive as your wife, who is single parenting and working so you can ride your bike in Iceland?

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        • Wade Shepard July 4, 2011, 4:35 am

          The girls are not reading the comments to this blog as thoroughly as my dear wife.

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