Hiking multiple days can be quite daunting when you’ve never done this before. Once the idea of a multi-day hiking trip has lodged itself in your mind, you may be unsure of how to realise this idea. Planning your trip means you are better prepared and therefore more confident to start your trip. Not all hike-planning requires detailed day-to-day activities and schedules. Some flexibility is actually quite good because multi-day hikes rarely go exactly according to plan.
So, where to start with planning?
First, where do you want to go? Personally, I am always planning a hiking trip at some level, because I have a continuously transforming list of locations in mind for a next trip. The decision of where to go I usually base on the amount of time I have, how far I want to travel, and how I want to travel.
Second, what route should you hike? You have narrowed down the general area, so now you can think about how many days you have and how many kilometres you intend to walk each day. For a beginner, start easy. The most important thing is to keep it fun. Don’t set an unrealistic number of kilometres a day. Best is to start with shorter days and increase the number of kilometres each day as you get stronger and your feet are adjusting to walking all day. If you are unconfident with map reading and navigation, choose a trail that is waymarked. The list of well-marked long-distance trails in Europe is almost endless. If you are travelling to the area using public transportation, make sure you can reach the start of the route and that there is public transportation near the end of your hike.
Third, what will the weather be like? Do you need to pack for cold, rain, sun, mosquitoes, or…? The number one rule for dressing warm is to use layers. A sunhat protects your face, neck, and head from the effects of harmful UV rays. Research the area where you are going and pack accordingly. I like packing lists. The internet has plenty of examples for different destinations and activities. I make my own packing list for each trip and use my old lists as reference, so I won’t forget the essentials. You can see some of my packing lists here.
Fourth, what type of accommodation do you want? If you do not want to carry too heavy a rucksack, you may choose to stay in lodges or huts. This will save weight on sleeping gear and perhaps even food if your accommodation serves dinner and/or breakfast. Tip: some accommodations do require you to bring your own sleeping bag (or sleeping bag liner). Staying in lodges or huts can also be attractive because you will meet other hikers who are always very happy to share their experiences, give you tips, and talk about their hiking adventures.
Another option is to camp, which is always my preferred choice. When you decide to camp there are again a couple of choices to make. Are you staying at campsites or are you wild camping? A campsite will likely have facilities such as showers, a water tap, and perhaps even a small grocery shop. If you’re wild camping, are you sleeping in a tent or in a bivvy bag? A tent feels more secure, protected, and less vulnerable compared to a bivvy bag, but sleeping in a bivvy bag means that you are really sleeping outside; you wake up and see the sunrise, or stars, or wildlife.
Fifth, where will I start and end my days? Based on the average (and realistic!) kilometres you aim to hike per day and your chosen type of accommodation, you can start planning your days. Locate all the accommodations along the route and start puzzling. It may be advisable to book all your accommodations before starting your hike to make sure you won’t be turned away, especially if reaching the next accommodation means walking for another hour or more. Of course, if you are wild camping you have more flexibility, but it might still be useful to identify potential locations of where to set up camp.
Sixth, how much food should I carry? Similar to the accommodation puzzle, investigate the route using online maps and mark all the grocery shops and petrol stations with shops near your route on the map you’ll be bringing on your hike. Tip: also check the opening hours. If I am hiking in an area where I expect to encounter a shop every day, I make sure I have food for two days in my rucksack. The extra day worth of food is in case a shop is not there or open after all. I usually re-evaluate my strategy as I go, based on the number of shops I marked on my map for the following days.
Seventh, start packing and let’s get outside!