Preparing for multi-day hikes: my week-by-week guide
So, you want to do a multi-day hike. How do you prepare for it? Despite my blog’s name and purpose, I am quite meticulous when it comes to preparing and planning for multi-day hikes (I even got a special category for that). The only way to be fully into the moment of a hike is to be well-prepared for everything nature’s going to throw at you. So here are the different horizons when I’m planning a multi-day hike:
Read on below
On preparing for multi-day hikes
After many multi-day hikes throughout the years, I became more and more convinced that the most important thing is your mental fitness … and preparation. The readiness to walk through the more difficult moments (that will certainly come during your hike). Whether it is a tough climb, heavy rain for days, slippery snow or whatever nature throws at you. Most of the trails I’ve done, whether it is the Laugavegur/Fimmvordurals, the Kumano Kodo and even the Jordan Trail are totally doable with mental fitness … and decent preparation. And a large part of being mentally fit is preparation. Being sure you know what to do when the shit hits the fan (also, see my separate post on safety), being sure you mentally visualised what is going to happen. So here are my planning horizons.
Infinite – 12 months before: planning my hikes
I keep a list of hikes I would like to do – a bucketlist so you will. I usually stumble upon these online when researching other trails, I find them on Walkopedia’s Top 100, I find them when looking for trails in a specific land or region or -most commonly-, hear about them from friends. As soon as I am convinced of a trail, I often already set up a blogpost on this blog with some information I gathered, like I did with hikes like the West Highland Way, the Kungsleden, the John Muir or Annapurna. This is a convenient way to already capture my thoughts, ideas and build upon them later. Whether it is travel plans, best dates to travel, some first day plans, etc.
What occasionally will happen as well is that friends and/or strangers who stumble upon the blog contact me with tips, which allows me to build an even better picture over time. I found it one of the best things about sharing my plans, ideas and preparations on my blog (and it was one of the big reasons for me to start the blog in the first place).
12-6 months before: locking in the trip
This is usually the time when I start planning my hike.
I tend to do 2-3 larger multi-day hikes per year (next to my family holidays and business travel). As not all hikes are accessible all year long, this is the time when I start scheduling – e.g. do you want to do the Jordan Trail before or after summer, when it’s way too hot?
So in these months, I will:
- Make a rough planning when I’m going to hike in that next 12-6 months.
- Discuss my plans with my wife.
- Discuss my plans with hiking friends.
- Look for as many books, blogs, Facebook groups, Instagram posts and YouTube videos as humanly possible.
- Start filling in the details of the hike on my planning pages (for an example, have a look at the Arctic Circle Trail one).
- Start making a rough day planning (for an example, have a look at the Arctic Circle Trail one).
- Start locking in the key variables: plane tickets, hotels, etc.
- I usually send an first email to my family (usually my brother, sister and parents) announcing and detailing my plans.
- I also send an email to my colleagues and/or, giving them a heads-up of my plans.
6-3 months before: the trail
This is usually the time when I focus on the trail.
- I start making a packing list (like the ones for the Arctic Circle Trail and Jordan Trail).
- Based on my packing list, I usually start buying gear in discount (also, see my other hiking gear inspiration). Planning ahead, usually makes me benefit from discounted sales from either the brands themselves (like my all-time favorites, Icebreaker)
- I spend quite some timing analyzing, planning and picking apart the trail: what are the difficulties, challenges, etc
3-1 month before
- I will finalise my detailed day planning.
- I make sure to finalise my packing list and I buy all the additional gear, food and other things I need.
- I keep checking blogs, YouTube videos and books to prepare even further,
- If needed (like for my Kilimanjaro climb), I apply for a necessary VISA
- I will send another reminder email to colleagues.
- I will send a detailed email to my family with a detailed planning.
4-2 weeks before: details, details
These weeks are to make 100% sure I have all the gear I need – as it sometimes might take some time to have all the gear delivered when you wait till the last week. This is usually the first time I fully pack my backpack (before usually unpacking, repacking it again and again and again). Be 100% sure I know the weight of the bag, the balance, have all the gear, etc.
- Small things emerge in these weeks. While I was prepping for my most recent hike, the Arctic Circle Trail, I realized I had not washed my liner bag yet. I realized I missed toilet wipes and vitamin pills.
- Final decisions have to be made. Up until two weeks before my Arctic Circle trail hike, I doubted about bringing my MSR thru hiker tent over my normal MSR Elixir (I chose the latter).
1 week before: focus
I tend to go over the days, distances and maps over and over and over again.
So, what are your horizons from week to week when it comes to planning your multi-day hikes?