Active vacations such as walking and backpacking are great fun for anyone looking for that little bit of adventure. Not only are they a great form of exercise, but they will also allow you to see some of the world’s greatest travel destinations in a whole new way.
What is your trip style?
Whether you’re going on a highly adventurous hiking trip or a chilled walking vacation, there are a few things to consider before heading off. From picking the right location to finding the proper footwear (hint: comfortable sandals should probably be left at home!), the following points will help you prepare for your next trip.
The first step is to define your trip style – only then can you choose the right destination! Backpacking through the Rockies is a very different trip to leisurely strolling from one cute European town to the other. So, once you find out what you want to achieve from your vacation, the real planning will begin!
Choose your destination wisely
Once you’ve figured out what you want to be doing, research different companies that offer walking, hiking, and backpacking trips. Every single one will be different, so now is the time to do your homework and find the one that is tailored to you and your fitness levels.
Some European walking trips even have cars that can drive you to the next part of the journey if you decide not to walk the whole way, which might sway your decision.
Assess your fitness level
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the trip will entail, and don’t feel disheartened if the trip you originally wanted seems a bit too adventurous. Think about your walking history and ability. You may be able to walk for hours on a flat pavement with ease, but can you walk up to five miles a day on varied terrain without collapsing? Your trip is meant to be fun after all, so take this into consideration when planning to avoid complete exhaustion.
It’s always advised to start training a month or two before heading off. Go to the gym a few times a week, and do a mixture of cardio and weights. The treadmill, StairMaster and stationary bike are great forms of cardio, as is going for a long walk or hike during the weekend. If you happen to find some nearby dirt trails, even better!
More adventurous hikes such as Mount Everest or the Inca Trail in Peru, for example, call for much more preparation, including how to get used to the high altitude. The companies running these trips will always give you their specific recommendations at the time of booking.
Get used to carrying a heavy load
The sooner you get used to wearing and walking with a loaded backpack, the better! The size and weight will depend on the type of trip you are going on, so be sure to check with your tour operator to know exactly what you should and shouldn’t take.
Bring a backpack that fits your body comfortably, while also having room for all of your essentials such as your water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and jacket.
Buy the right boots
Nothing is more important than the right footwear. Invest in a comfortable pair of hiking boots with good ankle support, and ensure they fit you like a glove. Most hiking boots need to be at least half a size bigger than your normal pair of supportive sneakers, but we always suggest heading to an actual store to be measured properly for the perfect fit.
Once you find the perfect shoes, make sure they are broken in prior to the trip to avoid blisters and discomfort. Finally, bring several pairs of high-quality hiking socks, preferably one pair for each day. Opt for synthetic high-tech materials that wick away moisture as opposed to cotton – your feet will thank you for it!
Choose the right clothes and accessories
Your tour operator should provide you with a list of appropriate clothing specific to your trip, which will more than likely consist of comfortable and breathable waterproof pieces. Pants with zip-off bottoms are very practical for walking and hiking tours, as are clothes with their own sun protection.
Don’t neglect the first aid kit, and pack essentials that will come in handy in emergencies. These include sunscreen, energy bars and protein-rich snacks, a flashlight, bandages, a whistle, a compass, matches, and even a space blanket. They may take up some room in your backpack, but you’ll be extremely grateful that you planned ahead should an unexpected emergency strike.
Preparing to go backpacking requires a different set of considerations than your average vacation, but all of your preparation will be absolutely worth it. Your trip will allow you to connect with your destination in a unique and unforgettable way.
Written by guest editor Rae Steinbach. Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course)