Plan your hike

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It is essential to properly plan for your thru-hike. You don’t want to discover that the hut you wanted to stay in for the night is closed or that there is no water anywhere in the nearby area when you just ran out. There are many things to consider, so therefore it is a good thing that planning and preparing are part of the experience! Because there are several important things to consider, we have made a list of some of the essential aspects:

– Research your trail
– Determine your travel dates and walking direction
– Create and maintain a logbook
– Take care of administrative and personal business
– Be flexible

Hike compass

Read well

Research your trail

One of the most exciting things about planning your hike is being able to immerse yourself into the trail you want to walk. Get to know all the ins and outs of the trail by reading blogs, buying books, and watching movies and seminars about the hike. Don’t worry if this results in you wanting to grab your backpack and start hiking immediately, this is normal! But don’t only look for the beautiful stories, also try to read about tips and tricks from other hikers. Get to know the difficult parts of the trail so you know what to expect. It might be beneficial to complete a wildlife course when hiking solo through remote areas or make sure you know how to use a via ferrata set when this is needed on the trail. The better your preparation and research beforehand, the easier it will be once you are on the trail.

NoBo or SoBo?

Determine travel dates and direction

Once you have chosen your trail and have done some research, you are able to make a good judgment on when to start hiking. Depending on the type of trail and the time of year you want to hike it, you can determine the walking direction. Are you hiking “Northbound” or “Southbound“? On most trails there is a direction that is more popular and/or easier. Don’t forget to consider whether you need to complete the trail within a certain timeframe or not. This will ensure that you don’t encounter unwanted snow on the higher mountain passes or extreme heat in warmer climates. There are of course also trails where the walking direction is of less importance.

Dig deeper

Create and maintain a logbook

Once you have determined your starting date, the next step is to dive into your day-to-day planning. Grab a map and determine the location of your start and endpoints. Calculate how many kilometres you want to hike each day. Remember that this depends on the number of days you have to complete the hike. The number of kilometres per day might vary depending on the terrain, facilities, and weather. Don’t forget to plan your ZERO days. Some thru-hikes already have a detailed schedule, which might make them easier to plan. On the Slovenian Mountain Trail, you sleep in mountain huts and therefore the location of these huts determines the distance you can cover each day. Even if the route is somewhat pre-determined, it can be helpful to write it down in your own logbook. By doing this you will know exactly how fast you must walk, how much elevation gain you will experience and when/where you can take a rest day (for example in a city to buy food). It will help you to determine the difficulty of the trail and enables you to schedule your ZERO days. Once you have done this, you can make a good estimation whether you need to adjust the planning or not.


Take care of administrative and personal business

Since you will be away from home for a long(er) period of time, you don’t want to worry about personal business or stuff from home. It can be helpful to find a person that will take care of your things when you are on the trail. You might not always have signal on the trail, so it is important to make clear arrangements before you leave. When you are back, make sure to thank this person a million times! Before you leave, you also need to arrange your administration, especially when you are leaving for several months. Cancel subscriptions and make sure you have enough money in your account to pay for any direct debit transactions. When hiking outside of Europe, check if you need any visas or permits. And when hiking in the European Alps where you need to sleep in mountain huts, make sure to book these in advance.

Don't be too hard

Be flexible

And last but not least: be flexible! Relax, you are on the trail, and it is your hike. You don’t have to keep to the schedule if it is not working and feel free to take a rest-day when you feel like you need one. It is more important to listen to your body than to keep to a tight schedule. And who knows, maybe you can catch up to your schedule later on. Hike your own hike! External factors, such as the weather or gear failure, might force you to deviate from your schedule and being flexible will make it a lot easier for you. It therefore is helpful to keep some space for unforeseen circumstances in your planning.

Take also a look:

Calculate the cost of your next thru-hike.
Think about your resupply strategy.


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