HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FIRST LONG DISTANCE TRAIL WALK

On the trail
On the trail

If you’ve never attempted a long distance trail walk before, then it can seem very daunting. There is always a fine line between bringing too much and bringing enough with you to be comfortable – or in some cases, to survive the trail’s harsh environment. Whether you’re heading to the Highlands of Scotland, the vast landscapes of the Appalachian Trail or the lush countryside of Japan, preparation is key when attempting your very first long distance trail walk.

Hiking

Research

Step one on your itinerary should be to research your chosen trail. What’s the weather usually like there? What type of terrain is it? Is it a busy trail, or a very quiet one? The answers to all of these questions are important when you’re considering how to prepare.

The Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain is one of the most popular trail walks in the world. It is a Christian pilgrimage route spanning from different points across Europe and ending in Santiago de Compostela. With so many different route options to take, there is sure to be a way to suit everybody. When considering which route your trail walk will take, consider whether you want the camaraderie that comes with large groups walking together, or whether you’d prefer the solitude of a less well-trodden path. I like to use the solitary time to catch up on my extensive TED Talks reading list, improve my quick-thinking skills at PokerStarsCasino and plan my next move using Todoist.

It is important to decide fairly early on in the planning stages what time of year you will be walking the trail. This often relies on other life commitments like work, pets or partners. Just remember that if you’re walking through a hot country in the middle of summer, you need to be prepared for soaring temperatures and numerous irritating insects. However, you’ll also be able to nap during the afternoon and walk later into the night. If attempting a trail in a cold country during wintertime, you’re going to have to carry a lot more gear and plan your route carefully to avoid getting stranded.

Training

Some trail walks do not require any hardcore training. For example, the Coast to Coast in England is suitable for most fit and healthy adults. However, it is worth attempting a few day walks and shorter trail routes beforehand to build you up to the real thing. Otherwise, you’re at risk of falling at the first hurdle as your body won’t be used to handling a heavy pack or the impact of walking all day every day for sometimes weeks or months at a time.

Breathtaking sights

Packing

Figuring out just what to bring on your hike can be stressful if you aren’t properly organised. During your research stage, have a look round and find blog posts or reviews of what other walkers have taken with them on similar routes. This can go a long way to eliminating some of your questions around the subject. You can also pick up some really useful tips this way, like reducing weight through carrying the dry or dehydrated versions of products. Liquid always adds a lot of weight to your pack, so you want to keep is as refined as possible.

After a good pair of walking boots, buying the right pack is the most important thing that you can do. Make sure the pack fits you comfortably, sitting well on your shoulders, back, hips and across your chest. You may need to try on a few different ones to find Your Pack. Once you have it, pack smart! Utilise its features, such as keeping your sleeping gear in the easy access pocket at the bottom, or handy items like torch and toothbrush in the zip-up side pockets. Thinking carefully about how you pack can save time and precious energy in the long run.

Packing

Last Minute Checks

Finally, make a checklist that you can tick off just before you leave. Check it a month before, a week before, and then the day before you set off in order to make sure you’ve done absolutely everything that you can. Inevitably, something will be forgotten but don’t worry too much, you can always pick it up along the way if it’s essential. Double check that your pack is comfortably adjusted to your shape, that your hiking boots fit well and are worn in, and that you have the map safely tucked away!

Doing a final check can make the concept of the trail seem very real all of a sudden, so make sure that you do it in plenty of time to enable some relaxation and a good night’s sleep the evening before you embark on your journey. Practical preparation can go a long way, but having a happy, healthy mindset is also crucial to keep you going. Remember – this experience may be tough at times, but it will also be fun, educational and, most likely, life changing too!

Checking map