Day hikes are addictive but there is nothing like spending more time in the wilderness. A multi day hike is the best kind of hike. For me anyway. It’s a way to disconnect with the busy world for a few days, refocus back into the moment and check out of social media for a while. I’ve done some incredible multi day hikes all over the world and I am currently planning some more in the UK. So what’s the difference between a day hike and a multi day hike? Well, a lot. But the biggest one is the endurance and the mental focus. The biggest questions I often get from my friends and family (when I’m trying to recruit for buddies) is how do you prepare and train for multi day hikes?
A multi day hike is a challenge, so before you shoot off and read the romantic (but great) book of ‘Wild’ and decide to give it a go with no training. Try out some of these preparation techniques to ease you into it. Before I scare you too much here’s one of my favourite quotes that always motivates me when I’m on a multi day hike.
“You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.”
1. Get Hiking Fit by Hiking
The old saying of nothing prepares you to do it, like doing it does. Well this is similar when it comes to training for multi day hikes! The best way of getting fit for hiking is by hiking! By no means should you just start your multi day hike with no training. Why not go for some nice short half day hikes. Push it up to full day hikes and then an overnight once your confident in that. Hiking is great fun and shorter, training trips can then include the rest of your family and friends as well. Which is always more fun!
Top tip, start hiking with a weighted backpack and get used to carrying one around. When you go on your first multi day hike the toughest challenge will be carrying all your kit on your back. So train the muscles in your shoulders, arms and back as well as mentally preparing yourself.
2. Invest In Your Kit
Multi day hiking is hard without added weight on your back, broken kit or not so water proof shoes. So invest in some good quality kit that will serve it’s purpose on your trip and make it as comfortable for you as it can. On many multi day hikes you’ll probably be wearing sturdy shoes such as hiking boots. So when you’re training for your multi day hike, remember and walk around in your new shoes before you go. Not only will this get you used to the weight on your feet but it will wear your shoes in, making them more comfortable.
Get a lightweight tent. Multi day hikes often involve camping so invest in a lightweight, waterproof and wind sturdy tent to keep you comfy in the night. Hiking is hard enough without carrying a heavy and complicated tent, so invest and make your life easier. We love the tents from Vango, they are super lightweight and perfect for hiking adventures long and short!
The backpack you choose will make or break your trip. Treat choosing a backpack like you would a pet or a lover. You will be spending the next however many days with it. You’ll carry it and have it clinging to you while you walk. So you want to make sure the backpack you pick for your multi day hike isn’t going to pinch you in places. You don’t want it to break or find out the straps just don’t offer the comfort you need. So do your research before you go and wear them out hiking while you are training to get a good feel for it. We highly recommend the Osprey range of backpacks. Not just because we love them, but because they have a lifetime guarantee. Meaning, if it breaks, they will fix it for you!
If you want an idea of what gear we use on a multi day hike, check out this post here! (Coming soon)
3. Research Your Route
This should be a basic preparation tactic right? You would be surprised by how many people head off on a train they haven’t really researched just because they think there should be way marks. Well that is not you my friend! Researching your route before you go is a great advantage. Scouting out the best camping spots is just one reason to research your multi day hiking route. The big reasons too, at least so you know what to expect, but plan some exit routes on harder sections just in case, find out where the next town is and where there is running water to fill up your bottle. These are handy things to mark on your map.
Everyone’s needs are slightly different and you will know when you start researching what you want to know from your route. But if you’re not sure, mark the important ones on there for sure. Multi day hikes often take you away from main roads and local towns, they are designed to throw you into the wilderness and nature. So plan and prepare and think about Plan B’s, we’ve all had to use them. When you know the route your about to tackle, you’ll be confident on the decisions you make and the path your walking.
For me, I like to research the route by finding other people’s stories about them. For example, when hiking the Routeburn track in New Zealand I read loads of blogs. They all gave me different ideas of what to expect and they all highlighted some incredible places to stop, relax, have a snack and enjoy the view. So yes, when I research my route I like to mark down the view spots on the map.
4. Buy the Maps.
With all the technology we have now it’s easy to hop on apps like OS Map and plan your route. Save it to your phone and rely on GPS to guide you the right direction. But what happens when your phone dies? What happens if you manage to hit an area that your GPS can’t pick up? Then you’re going to run into trouble for sure! So what can you use as a back up you ask, what about a good old fashioned map!
Maps are the most reliable thing to take with you on a multi day hike. Get familiar with them when you are preparing for your hike! Map reading is a skill and navigating using one, is such a useful skill to have. I highly recommend taking maps with you on day hikes and preparation walks to train yourself up using it. Learn to figure out where you are, how to plot your route and get back on track.
If you’re new to navigating with a map, take an experienced friend and learn or join a taster course. There are loads of beginner navigation courses around that are great to do! On all the multi day hikes a map and compass are always in my backpack and are often used! The best thing about maps these days is they are waterproof, flexible and some come in the sections you need. Saves you carrying multiple maps!
When you are making the choice on whether to pack maps or not, just remember, these never run out of power. They wont smash or get you lost. They do require some skill, getting that skill down on your first multi day hike will get you ready for future ones!
5. Think About Your Food
Your multi day hike may be 2 days or more than a month long, and we all have to eat. So how do you carry enough food? That question is like ‘how long is piece of string’ question. It’s all up to the hike that you are doing. But we do have some methods to share with you!
If your multi day hike is no more than about two weeks. You can probably carry the food you need with you, especially if there is a few of you. Some people may prefer to have a resupply stop worked out but for now lets think that you are carrying all your own food. So when preparing for your multi day hike you have to think of what you will eat, how much you’ll eat and the food you want to pack.
A multi day hike is hard on your body and will tire and change your muscles so you need to eat well. That means forget just living off dry packet noodles, that’s not going to cut it. When on multi day hiking trips pack dehydrated meals, ones that have already been prepared and all you have to do is add water. In the UK there are tonnes of brands, the best we have found are Summit and Wayfayrer. Honestly, the food is so good and you don’t miss out on any of the taste and they are packed full of calories. The reason for choosing dehydrated or freeze dried meals is they are super lightweight, only require some hot water or boil the bag in the pot to eat. They take up little room in your backpack and mean you can take the right amount for the hike!
You can of course carry your own food to cook with. It does take more time to cook, you’ll have more to carry and a heavier backpack. Cooking for yourself is great but think about it realistically. After a 35 km day of hiking, do you really want to sit and wait for you pasta to cook, or would you like to rip open and boil your meal bag for 5 minutes? I know which I would choose!
6. Prepare to bring out what you bring in.
We are all conscious of our environment these days. Those of us who spend time in the outdoors need to be prepared to bring out what we bring in. That famous saying of ‘Take nothing but memories, Leave nothing but footsteps.’ Is super relevant to hiking and especially, multi day hikes!
When researching your route you may be in a national park of protected land. So check what the rules are when it comes to wild camping and pooping in the wild! Some places may need to pack it all out, and I mean all of it! The best tip is doing a quick sweep of your area before you leave. When you stop for a lunch break or overnight stops, check them before you move on. It’s always good to leave places you visit as you left them, or if possible, better!
We always pack a reusable plastic bag with us and collect our rubbish in that as we go.
7. Make a Hydration Plan
There are no water taps to refill that reusable water bottle on the trail. Instead you’ll likely have to rely on streams and rivers to get a supply of fresh water. So plan it out and make sure you mark on your map or navigational device where the water supplies are. When filling your water up from a river make sure it’s from a flowing river and not stagnant. Carrying some water purifying tablets is always a good idea, you can add these to your water bottles. It’ll clean out any nasty things that might be hiding in there!
We always carry re-hydration solution with us as well which is a life changer on multi day hikes. Giving a nice boost of energy and relief. Dehydration is real when you are on a multi day hike. So prepare for that and pop some re-hydration tools in your backpack. Trust us, it makes all the difference!
8. Make an Emergency Plan and get a First Aid Kit.
It’s always good to tell someone your plans. Rather than disappear off the face of planet, give people a rough idea where your going, when you’re leaving and when to expect you back. These basics mean that those who expect to hear from you on your return date, but don’t will know what to do.
Thinking of the worst case scenarios are not fun to think about, but they are realistic. Having a first aid kit with you can save your life in an emergency situation or at the very least, buy you some time. Take more things than you think you will need and pop some cash in your first aid bag. This will give you quick access to money if you need to replace something. Also a good hiding place for it!
Hiking alone or in low signal areas, why not invest in a personal location beacon. These things are not too expensive but will send out an emergency signal if you’re lost or need some help. Depending on where you are hiking will depend on what emergency equipment or protection equipment you take with you. But the basic knowledge of first aid, a first aid kit and telling someone your plans are the real lifesavers.
These are our top tips of how to prepare for your multi day hiking trip. There is so much variation and ways you can prepare but these are our go-to’s. And we’ve used them for years! We hope this helps you take on your next multi day hike! Let us know where you go and what you’re planning, we would love to know!
Get outside folks! The world is here for us to explore!