Put on a backpack and some hiking boots and set off to foreign places?
Not quite: Route planning is definitely part of a long distance hike! Unfortunately, the planning of the route is a true abomination to many hikers.
We want to do something about that! With the following article, we want to take away your fear of planning routes and show you step by step what to look for when creating multi-day routes.
What you need is a map – doesn’t matter if it’s paper or digital. If you want to plan the route on the computer make sure the map data is capable of routing viz. you can draw a route to which you will be given the corresponding distances and climbs.
Now to the actual planning. You probably already know where you would like to start and where to end your tour. Planning a route is all about the way between these points. Let’s get started!
Are there points of interest, such as certain cities, viewpoints, castle ruins, etc. that you would like to see on your tour? Draw the route mentally on the map. Start at the place you’ll start your tour, connect the points of interest and finish drawing at the endpoint. This will bring the points into an order that will form your rough route.
What ways are there already? There are probably roads and paths on your map. To consider which way is best for you, you should be able to read maps. Don’t worry – it sounds worse than it is! Mainly, you should pay attention to these aspects:
- Altitude profile
The elevation profile is taken from the contour lines, which are listed with the corresponding altitude meters in the map. Crossing contour lines means there is a climb or descent.
Your map also offers information about the terrain you will be walking through. For example: alpine terrain, forest, meadow, scree or snowfields. The terrain thus gives you hints of the weather that you have to expect. For example, you can expect a fresher wind to blow on alpine terrain, whereas in a forest area you will be sheltered from the wind and shady. That means, that you can draw conclusions about the appropriate equipment. Different terrains not only make different demands on your equipment, but also on your skills. Your route leads you over a snowfield? Then you should have the right equipment AND know how to use it … . The terrain and the altitude profile also give you indications of possible dangers such as rockfall or avalanches
- Path – types
The map not only gives you information about whether there are paths, but also what kind of path it is. For example, there may be hiking trails, paths or bike paths near your rough route. Therefore you should think about which path you choose. Exclusively on hiking trails? Is Highway ok too? Rather asphalt? Rather natural soil? Road conditions are often related to the prevailing terrain and, just like the altitude you have to cope with, they affect how fast you can get on the road and consequently how many kilometers you will make on the day. For example, dirt roads or very sandy tracks will cost you more time and energy than prepared trails.
In addition, different paths require different levels of orientation ability, sure-footedness and equipment (such as shoes, via ferrata set, etc.).
From now on it goes into detail! The planning of the daily stages is pending.
- How long should the distance per day be?
The basic requirement for this is a realistic assessment of yourself How far do you want to hike with your luggage on your back during the day and how much altitude do you want and can accomplish? Especially as a beginner assessments of this kind are difficult! That’s why there are a few rules of thumb that you can use to orientate yourself (please note that the information may vary based on individual fitness level, baggage to be carried and the rails nature).
- On a flat level the average hiker runs about 3 to 5 km/h.
- In the mountains about 200 – 300hm per hour.
But how do you know how far a distance is on the map and how much altitude is to be expected? PC programs such as Garmin’s Basecamp will show you the data. If you are using an analogue map (yes, many people actually do that – even during their tours), again it needs a bit of knowledge about maps. The scale of the map, which is listed in the legend, only partially helps you with the question of a distance and the corresponding altitude meters. While roughly speaking, you can estimate how many kilometers the section will cover – but the paths will probably not be straight, making it difficult to guess. In addition, you really want the most accurate information to plan your days trip as precise as possible. For this reason, we recommend a really useful device: a map measurer. You roll it on your map along the path, and it will show the distance. Then you look at the elevation meters based on the contour lines that are listed in the map. Now you know the mileage of the track sector and the altitude difference that can be expected at this distance. Along with the rules of thumb you can find the right distance of a day’s stage.
- Where do I want to sleep?
Each day’s stage should end at an overnight stay that meets your expectations.
For this, you should be aware of the way in which you want to spend the night. Tent? Hotel? Hut? Youth hostel? … According to your answer, you will search for suitable accommodation near your route, check the opening times of huts and campgrounds or deal with the legal regulations for wild camping in your holiday destination … .
- Water and food
Finally, it is still necessary to clarify the supply of water and food. If you plan to sleep in hotels, inns, etc., this should not be a problem. If you would rather stay for yourself, you should add water sources to your route. Depending on the local conditions you might need a water filter or water purification tablets to purify the water first before you can drink it. Alternatively, you can look for localities or other human settlements near your route and ask for water or buy it there. For our tours we plan in temperate climates with 3 liters of water per day per person (for drinking and cooking). In our experience, you should plan to have the opportunity to replenish drinking water every day, so you not have to carry too much water.
For food, we recommend stocking up every 4 days, so plan the route the way you get past supermarkets or similar every 4 days. Of course, you can just have more food with you, which in turn means more luggage.
Tour planning is not rocket science! Plan plenty of buffers and breaks for your first tours. Step by step you will get to know yourself, your needs and your travel speed better and you will be able to organize your next tour accordingly. As everywhere in life is also here: practice makes perfect!