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Plan a hiking trip

Have any of you perhaps wondered why the blog is named? Rucksack (backpack)? Well, because our best vacations are ones where we have a backpack on and walks in forest and fields! But going on a hiking trip requires a bit of planning – you can't just throw a bikini in your hand luggage and head off. I have tried to collect my thoughts and tips in a practical little list, focusing on day hikes. We are definitely not tent people and we also hike with children, so the tips are mainly for nice day hikes with family.

Destination: Where are you going to hike?

Before you even start packing your backpack, you need to think about which climate zone you will be hiking in. Desert? Swedish mountains? Alps? Madeira? Tyresta National Park? Civilized or not? We have done some of our toughest hikes at high altitudes above sea level in the US deserts, with kilos of water on our backs and liters of sweat under our shirts. Hiking in the mountains often means changeable weather, but if you're hiking in the Alps, you're never far from a hut for shelter. It can be worse in the Swedish mountains, where the service is more limited.

Read up on your hiking trip and be prepared for any type of weather that might arise! And if the weather forecast even before you start hiking says it will be bad weather - stay home! It's not worth getting stuck in impenetrable fog on a mountain top!

Distance: How far will you hike?

Don't stare blindly at the route on Google maps. 2 km in steep terrain can take 2 hours in bad conditions. Try to find a good map or guide before you set out, so you have a feel for the elevation differences and challenges along the way. And remember: A hiking holiday is not for accumulating kilometers and getting there the fastest! A hiking holiday is for experiencing, absorbing and enjoying - so expect the hike to take longer than you think. If you're hiking with children, it's also better to hike several short trails than one long one, because you never know when you need to pee or when your shoes suddenly don't feel right.

Clothes: What should you wear?

There are only two rules about hiking clothing that never get old. Good hiking shoes and The layer-on-layer principle. If you're hiking in the desert, you can skip the all-weather jacket and invest in a sweater that protects against the sun instead, but everywhere else in the world, the all-weather jacket is a good friend. High altitudes (or any hike in Iceland) very often means changeable weather. Adapt your clothes both according to the weather forecast and according to the slightly worse weather that is not in the weather forecast. Exactly what you need to wear is then very individual. Our daughter always wore a top hat when we hiked in New Zealand, even if it was summer and sunny. I usually wear long hiking pants regardless of the temperature, as I hate ticks. The taste is like the back.

And for God's sake don't forget to put on your hiking boots before you set off on the day hike! Hiking shoes often need a few miles under the soles to be comfortable!

Backpack: One for each hiker

Don't buy a backpack because it looks good, buy a backpack that fits your body well! There is a lot to be carried when hiking and all liquids and food usually weigh a lot. I think it is good if the children learn to carry their own backpack early. Even if they don't carry more than some snacks and their own water bottle, they help and feel like real hikers with them.

Safety: Choose marked trails and take breaks

In the same way that I'm not an off-piste skier, I'm also not one to hike straight into the woods off the beaten track. I stick to secured and marked routes. If you do venture into the wilderness, off-trail, or more strenuous hikes, make sure you communicate your route and estimated time of arrival to a friend.

An important part of safety when hiking is that you allow yourself to take breaks and rest. Tired legs can lead to sprained feet and broken bones, which isn't much fun in the wilderness.

Choose hiking trails with care when hiking with children! The safety of everyone is the most important thing! And you: Dare to cancel if the hiking trail becomes too difficult! If you suffer from vertigo - sit down. Does the trail seem too difficult and scary? Turn around!  

The three M's: Food, mellis and yums

Nothing can be as motivating when the energy is low as getting a small treat. Fruit in all its glory, but if you're out in nature, it's extra good with muesli bars and chocolate pieces when you reach your goal. For lunch, we often have pasta salads and, for example, mozzarella/tomato sandwiches - if we're not hiking in the Alps, then we eat in the mountain huts instead. Fruit is a good sweet on the road, but it does not replace the pleasure of a small piece of dark chocolate when the energy is low.

By the way, ALWAYS bring more water than you think you will need. If something happens on the road, water is the hardest thing to be without.

Motivation: Make the hike a game!

Did you see the squirrel in the tree? Look what a big anthill! Whoever sees an edelweiss first wins (works best in the Alps though...)! There is so much to discover after a trail, so make the whole hike one big game for the kids! Happy children make the hike a pure pleasure!

Hiking tips

Packing for a day hike

I have a small list that I usually start from when we go on a day hike, which usually covers what I usually take with me into the forest.

  • Mobile phone and Powerbank (make sure both are fully charged)
  • camera
  • Binoculars
  • Simpler knife
  • Seat pad (preferably foldable)
  • Matches / Lighter / Paper (to light the fire with)
  • Plastic mug / Cheese
  • Cutlery (I often forget!)
  • Water bottles
  • Thermos with coffee/tea
  • Garbage bag
  • Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
  • Backpack protection (usually included automatically)
  • Hiking poles (I don't have any yet, but am considering buying!)
  • Map & compass
  • Headlamp or flashlight (for the tunnels on Madeira, among other things!)
  • Extra clothes (depending on destination)
  • First aid kit with chafing plasters and pain relievers
  • Sun cream
  • myggmedel
  • Wallet (always needed when you least expect it!)
  • Cap (or other hat against the sun)

Well: Are you ready to hike now?

Now you are almost done! Just one last tip from me! For God's sake, don't forget that hiking should be enjoyable! Enjoy the views, enjoy the coffee vapors that reach your nose before you take the first sip and enjoy the feeling of firming cheeks after being out in the fresh air for a whole day. Life is at its best in nature, right?

Hike with a pram
Picture from a time when we hiked with a pram 🙂

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About the blogger

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

4 Comments

  • Katarina
    19 January, 2020 at 13: 52

    Hello Eva
    My daughter and I will be hiking the Amalfi Coast at the end of April and was wondering if you could help us with any questions.
    What clothes are suitable for hiking? Should you wear shorts, rain gear? I've also looked at hiking boots (Salomon ultra 3 mid with goretex) that they recommended in the store because I have a bit of a problem with pronation) but maybe it feels a bit overpriced? Maybe they get too hot? Maybe walking shoes are enough?

    Would be very grateful for some tips

    With kind regards
    Katarina

    Reply
    • Eva Gyllenberg
      26 January, 2020 at 12: 30

      Hi Katarina! It's always good to have a pair of sturdy hiking boots that you can wear for many years and are suitable for most hikes. A lot of people in Italy hike in shorts and high hiking boots, so it wouldn't be strange. Personally, I almost always hike in hiking boots and long hiking pants (unless it's 30+ degrees), as I neither like ticks nor tearing my legs on thorny bushes. So shorts or not is a matter of taste – my husband hikes in shorts as soon as the temperature is 18 degrees and above. A gore-tex jacket is always a good investment even for Italy, as it can be windy in the spring. Hope you have a lovely trip and rather bring too many rain/wind jackets than too few! Also remember to break in your new hiking boots before the holiday! Really good hiking boots usually need a few miles before they become comfortable.
      // Eva

  • Peter Andersson
    November 4, 2021 at 20: 22

    Hello -
    Great blog!
    Thinking of taking my elderly Father (84 years old but reasonably fit) on a long weekend and hiking in the Alps - is on his bucket list. Thinking of short day stages, eating in cabins and maybe sleeping one night in a cabin and the others in a nice hotel. Where do you think you should go - must be reasonably close to the airport as it is a long weekend. Italy or Austria perhaps? Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
    • Eva Gyllenberg
      November 8, 2021 at 14: 57

      Hello Peter!
      What a lovely trip you are planning for your father!
      How close to the airport is "fairly close"? I am very fond of the Italian Alps, as the weather is usually a little more stable and the peaks a little more dramatic in the Dolomites. From Innsbruck to Bolzano, however, it is almost 2 hours by car. From Bolzano you can reach many wonderful hiking areas in about an hour by car in all directions. We hike with our daughter, so we've always only done day trips and there are plenty of easier hiking trails everywhere. Seiser Alm and Val Gardena are super nice areas just east of Bolzano.
      Another favorite place is the Jungfrau in Switzerland (2h by car from Zurich) where in three areas (Mürren, Wengen, Grindelwald) there are hikes of all possible degrees of difficulty.
      In both of these areas, it's easy to find half-day trips with lunches and a monkey strudel in cabins up in the mountains, but you can stay comfortably in the villages at night. Switzerland may be a bit more expensive than Italy, but this particular area is well worth the money.
      Curious: I don't know if it's just me who was unlucky, but we have _always_ encountered fog and rain in Austria when we would hike there in June. So we ended up taking the car over the Brenner Pass to the Italian Alps to find the sun.

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