Everyone knows this scenario: You’re sitting at your desk at work, doing the same thing day in, day out and you feel like you need a break. You start dreaming of getting outside, perhaps on a hiking trip. So when you get home in the evening, you start planning. But somehow you don’t even know where to start, there’s so much to it. Don’t worry, I have made a little guide to help you through it!
Step 1: Choose your destination. It’s as simple as that. Well, maybe don’t be too broad when choosing where you want to go. Something like “Canada” doesn’t quite work, but something like “Carpathian Mountains” is a perfectly fine start.
Step 2: Do your research. Google hiking routes in your area of choice. Most countries have websites listing outdoor opportunities. There are many established trails everywhere. If you opt for a multi-stage hike, you can either pick an established multi-stage trail or make your own route. Either way, don’t overestimate your abilities! If you have never done something similar before, do not pick the advanced routes.
The Alta Via Trails in the Dolomites are a good example for established multi-stage trails. You’ll find plenty of descriptions that break the trail in manageable sections and give places to stay for the night. Especially if you haven’t done many hiking trips before, this is a tremendous help. If you are experienced enough to set your own daily stages without overestimating your abilities, you can also just grab a map and start planning your unique adventure. However, be careful. You are much slower with a full backpack, and you are much slower when you have to cover altitude differences! If in doubt, do a short rather than a long section.
Step 3: Make your reservations. I know, it’s such a romantic thought to just hit the trail without knowing where you’ll end up for the night. In reality, this may be an issue. Especially in summer, European mountain areas are full of hikers, mountain bikers, climbers and all sorts of adventurers. That means that you might well run into a fully occupied place. If you are turned away and the next place to stay is another 10 km away, that’s everything but romantic. If you have picked lodges for the night, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make a reservation.
Step 4: Make your preparations. You’ve picked your route, you’ve made your reservations. So far, so good. No you just to add final touches to your preparation. Gather your gear (I will write another post about what to take). Some of the most important items are: compass, map in rainproof map cover, head torch, emergency phone. Carrying a map and compass may seem old fashioned. A lot of hikers carry GPS devices for navigation. But these gadgets may always fail you, there can always be a battery error or something similar. In that case, a map and compass are a valuable backup. A head torch is crucial in case you get lost and have to walk in darkness. And obviously an emergency phone in case you need to call rescue services.
Step 5: Go on your trip. Have fun. And don’t be afraid to change your plans if weather conditions don’t permit passage of the originally planned trails. Better safe than sorry!