Long-distance hikes are fascinating but they do come with their own challenges as well. Especially for those day-hikers who are planning for a transition to long-distance hikes they need to plan their hike accordingly.
Even though hiking is quite a personal thing and everyone has their own style on the trek. But putting some thoughts into planning our way ahead, considering the terrain and our physique, saves us from a lot of troubles.
ALSO, we can’t have one general plan for a long distance hike that we can follow each time. We can’t compare a few days hike in the countryside with an entire Pacific Crest trail like hike. It all depends on the terrain, weather conditions, accessibility of supplies, etc when it comes to planning for a certain hike. BUT, there are certain factors such as packing lightly, avoiding common mistakes, etc that are applicable for all long-distance hikes.
Before heading to that, let’s first understand what are the rewards of a long-distance hike.
Why Should We Go for a Long-Distance Hike?
A Long-distance hike isn’t just a hike with a longer distance. It’s a whole new experience when you’re cut off from city life and your daily routine for quite a few weeks and spend time close to nature. You might face certain challenges out there. You will get tired, exposed to weather, and who knows what. BUT this whole adventure is worth it when you see mesmerizing mountain views, awesome campsites, and cool water sources. You must have this soulful experience at least once in your lifetime.
Can Everybody Pull Off a Successful Long-Distance Hike?
A big YES. Every normal person can plan and pull off a successful hike. All it takes is good planning, considering the terrain and your stamina.
There is a phrase famous in American Long-Distance Fraternity which says; Hike Your Own Hike (HYOK). To put simply, take inspiration from others but don’t make their achievements your standards. Do what you’re comfortable with and what you like.
There is no benchmark that you have to cover a certain number of miles per day in order to successfully do a long-distance hike. You don’t have to force yourself to do something you don’t want. Go easy, cover as much distance as you easily can, and take proper rest.
You need to have a good judgment of your stamina on the trail you’re planning for, so that you can plan for your time & supplies accordingly.
Now let’s move to some of the tips and suggestions we’ve prepared for your next long-distance hike.
i) FOOT CARE | INVEST IN GOOD SHOES
This is what I consider the most important thing when it comes to planning for a hike. Invest in getting waterproof hiking shoes. Some hikers go for bulky boots, considering them sturdy and reliable on the uneven terrain. But the thing is, they put an extra burden on you. Bulky boots make your feet tired and you will need to take them off and massage your feet after each few miles of hike.
We recommend going for good quality lightweight hiking shoes. There are plenty of options available in the market. They’re faster & comfortable and the feathery feel makes them worth it. Get a pair that has the correct balance of weight, comfort & durability.
Also, don’t forget to pack an extra pair of hiking socks, skin care lotion, petroleum jelly, blister plasters, etc.
ii) KNOW THE TERRAIN
Another important aspect of planning for a hike is getting yourself familiar with the terrain. The more you know the trail, the better you will be able to plan for it. Gather all the info about the route, elevation, vegetation, topographic maps, daylight, precipitation. Exploring Google Earth could be very helpful in this regard. You should also spend some time learning basic map reading skills. This will be very useful.
Check the following resources to know about the weather:
iii) PREPARE YOURSELF
Along with preparing your stuff and getting all the info about the terrain, you need to prepare yourself as well. You will have a hard time on the trail if you don’t have any physical activity in your daily life and suddenly plan and set off on a long distance hike. Daily walk, and some time in the gym helps a great deal.
Mental preparation is as important as your physical preparation. You need to be confident that you will cover the trail you are planning for. The first few days of hiking are always tough; Your backpack is heavy, your body isn’t used to this new daily routine, and you have hundreds of miles ahead of you to cover. This will make you rethink and wonder if you should really continue this long hike or head back to the comfort of your bed.
So, get yourself clear on WHY YOU NEED THIS HIKE and why having this experience matters to you. Once you are clear on that, you will feel yourself more confident, more energetic, and more ready for the hike.
iv) SMART BACKPACKING
Some people pack everything they don’t need and end up with a huge & massive backpack. They regret carrying the unnecessary stuff throughout their trip. On the other hand, some people don’t even carry the necessary things fearing the weight of the backpack and end up running out of supplies shortly.
One needs to pack smartly considering the terrain, weather, and the resupply points. Invest in a good quality waterproof backpack and pack everything you need until the first reapply point. Don’t carry anything that you don’t absolutely need on the trail.
v) SMART EATING
At the start of the trail, you will have plenty of food to eat. You will probably start with your favorite food first and go for the less delicious ones later on. Going like that, you will find it hard at the end of the trip to find food that you are willing to eat but not sick of already. That is the reason food rotation on a long-distance hiking trip is very important.
We have also written a detailed blog on Backpack Meal Planning for Your Next Long-distance Hiking Trip. You will get many good tips and ideas from there.
vi) A GOOD SLEEPING PAD & SLEEPING BAG
A good night's sleep is important whether you are home or out there on a campsite. But it just becomes way more important when you’re on a long-distance hiking trip. You need a good quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad that provides you comfort as well as the ease of carrying.
vii) IT’S NOT ALWAYS FUN
Prepare yourself mentally for the hurdles on the trail. Not everything is going to happen as per your plan. It’s a journey of good times, bad times, highs, and lows. You will get tired, get bristles, bitten by bugs, rained on, sweaty, and maybe injured as well. Prepare yourself well and carry appropriate equipment with you that you can use in case of these mishaps.
Be realistic, everything is a part of the journey and you need to be ready for anything that comes your way.