Which is the best mountain for trekking

Wilderness hiking: 8 steps to an individual trekking adventure

Hiking off the beaten track requires particularly good planning and preparation. These instructions reveal which areas are best for wilderness hiking and what to consider on multi-day tours.

More and more people want to go out: into nature, the mountains and the landscapes that they know from various images on the Internet, from television reports or from stories. More and more areas are opened up by a better network of paths, and more and more mountains by cable cars. Many regions that were difficult to access a few years ago have now become accessible to many people. If this hustle and bustle is too much for you, you are looking for new ways - or even better: for areas without Ways.

What is wilderness hiking?

Wilderness hiking is hiking or trekking away from infrastructure, and thus away from civilization. It means leaving marked paths and signposted, described routes. This is also where its greatest attraction lies.

A tour away from the infrastructure also means taking care of yourself - often without the possibility of replenishment - and finding suitable overnight accommodation. The route and schedule are usually not specified, or at least not specifically specified. Each step is considered independently and the feasibility is assessed independently. In the course of a wilderness hike, you are largely on your own. The next street, the next town and often also the cell phone reception are several kilometers or even a day's march away.

Does the description already arouse uncertainty and discomfort? Are you thinking about the next warm hotel bed with full board? Then please be sure to read point 2. Because it pays to trust yourself - even if it is only a small tour to get closer to.

Why should one hike in the wild?

Secluded tours in the wilderness have many charms. However, they all have two things in common: 1. Every stimulus is also a challenge. 2. Every hiker experiences and evaluates these individually.

  • On a wilderness tour you can (and must) determine, plan and carry out almost everything yourself - apart from weather and geography.
  • Leaving the marked paths gives the tour a more adventurous character. You don't know what exactly to expect.
  • The experience of nature becomes more genuine and intense, not least because you have to deal more closely with the path finding, the nature of the path and the environment and progress more slowly.
  • You get to know nature as it looks without human changes.
  • When choosing where to stay overnight, you usually have a lot of freedom and do not have to limit yourself to fixed locations and angles of an existing hut.
  • Even if the route and destination do not offer any explicit sights (this is of course always subjective), the tour will still be something special because you have searched, found and reached your own goals.

In the end, when it comes to wilderness hiking, the saying goes more than ever: “The journey is the goal.” Even if it does not play a role at first.

Eight steps to a successful tour

1. Which areas are suitable for pathless hiking?

Apart from your own abilities and personal preference, there are no restrictions on the areas in which you can hike without a path. In mountain regions such as the Alps, however, you will quickly find that the passages either already have a path or cannot be conquered without very good climbing skills. Climbing routes are left out at this point.

In order to find suitable landscape types or regions for wilderness hiking, the topography can be used as a good guide: the flatter an area, the easier it is usually to hike. The vegetation also plays an important role. Densely forested areas are often confusing. Depending on the undergrowth or bushes, it can be difficult to get ahead. Another factor is the water. On the one hand, this is about which streams and rivers run through the hiking area and how the subsoil is made up of them. Deep, wide, and fast flowing waters can be an insurmountable and dangerous obstacle. But swamps also pose great challenges for wilderness hikers. On the other hand, you need water for drinking and cooking. So you can't do without water either. You can find more about this under “How do I take care of myself on the go”.

Since you want to spend both the days and the nights in the area of ​​your choice, it is important to know the local framework for wild camping. The time available for the tour also plays a role in the selection of the area. There are also questions about the infrastructure: How do I get to my wilderness hiking area? Are there good transport routes that bring me as close as possible and without spending a lot of additional time to the desired region? Last but not least, personal preferences are also relevant: How densely populated the area is and is there already a (dense) network of paths that I would like to avoid or use if necessary?

In summary, the following factors make a good area for wilderness hiking tours:

  • Topographical suitability
  • Good infrastructure on the edge (accessibility of the start and end point of the tour)
  • Suitable vegetation (e.g. not too dense forest)
  • Presence of drinking water sources at a sufficient distance
  • Overcome natural obstacles (e.g. rivers, rock steps)
  • Overnight accommodation (wild camping / huts)
  • Little settlement, few roads

The very simple rule is: the less experience you have, the more of these factors should fit.

If you take a look at the map and consider the general conditions for wild camping as well as the other factors, you will soon end up in the northern regions of Europe. The Scandinavian countries with Norway, Sweden, Finland, as well as Scotland, Ireland and Iceland offer very good conditions for wilderness tours, as they all meet the above-mentioned factors - of course in different forms.

2. How do I find a specific goal?

When hiking in the wilderness, possible tour destinations are less often found in travel guides, route books or magazines. Still, there are some tried and true methods of finding beautiful and appropriate destinations. For example, if you have already walked a long-distance hiking trail such as the Padjelantaleden in northern Sweden, a closer look at the area around the path is a good idea: Does the map reveal areas that are not yet directly accessible and that look interesting from the experience?

It is also advisable to browse through various Internet forums and magazines in which travel reports from like-minded people can be found. There you often get inspiration or get an insight into areas that might offer opportunities for a wilderness hike.

It is almost classic, of course, to simply study a map. Often something like this begins with the question: "Is it possible to go directly from place A to place B?"

There are hardly any limits to creativity in the search for hiking areas. It is advisable to just try a little and search with open eyes. A rainy afternoon in connection with overflights on Google Earth has already given rise to one or the other tour.

3. How do I plan a wilderness trekking tour?

It becomes specific: What do I have to pay attention to when choosing a tour and how do I go about it? When looking for a suitable area for wilderness hiking, many of the planning-relevant points have already been addressed. For planning, they have to be checked for their feasibility.

What topography can I expect? Study the map and aerial photographs

The most tried and tested method for assessing the landscape and topographical conditions is to use a combination of maps and aerial photographs. Whether it is purely digital or classic paper-based is a matter of taste and brings different advantages, as described in this article on tour planning. Due to the (mostly) lack of descriptions, it is usually necessary to work with very precise maps in order to discover insurmountable obstacles and circumvent them accordingly.

It is advisable to compare the neuralgic points with Google Earth or other aerial photographs (e.g. for Norway “Norge i Bilder”) in order to form a better judgment about the nature of the terrain. However, you have to weigh up between a thirst for adventure and dedicated planning: By planning too precisely and taking too many aerial photos, you have already experienced the hike in front of the screen without even having set off. However, good planning should be given priority, especially on the first tours.

Rules of thumb for calculating the tour duration

The biggest challenge in wilderness hiking tour planning is the combination of feasibility based on terrain and time. If you are convinced by the map and aerial photos that you can technically do your tour, the question always arises as to whether you can do it in the time available. In order to estimate how long it will take for the planned sections, everyone has to be honest with themselves: How well can I deal with obstacles? How fast am I usually traveling? How have I cope with ascents and descents on previous tours?

In simple, pathless areas (dry, grassy vegetation, little difference in altitude, no river crossings and level ground) you can expect around 70 to 80 percent of the speed on normal roads. The more complex the terrain becomes (uneven ground, swampy, steep ascents and descents, dense forest, river crossings), the longer it takes. General statements are almost impossible, but for each "obstacle" in the terrain you could subtract ten percent more speed. A buffer for bad weather should also be taken into account, because when it is wet, simple surfaces are often difficult to walk on.

Alternatives, abbreviations and detours

Depending on personal fitness, experience and skills, distances in easy terrain of up to 15 kilometers per day are a rough guide. In the event that you should make better progress, it is advisable to look for detours in advance at the end of a stage or to prepare another loop at the end of the trekking tour as a supplement.

During the planning phase, options for bypassing obstacles (including large areas), bad weather alternatives, possible shortcuts (if you do not make progress as planned) and even abort options should be explored. So you stay flexible and can end a day's stage earlier to enjoy a beautiful area.

4. Where do I stay on the way?

Finding a suitable campground can take a lot of time and energy. It is therefore advisable to look for suitable overnight accommodations during the planning phase. Although this is seldom reliably possible with the resources available, there is a very high probability of excluding places where one cannot sleep restfully.

A suitable campground should meet the following requirements:

  • flat and not damaging to the material (e.g. sharp stones, thorns, etc.)
  • dry (a damp surface is colder than a dry one)
  • Sufficiently large to be able to use all tent anchoring points safely (always use all anchoring points in order to be prepared for sudden weather changes)
  • outside of danger areas (falling rocks, avalanches, flooding)
  • some distance from animal trails to avoid unexpected nighttime visits
  • Adequate protection from the elements (large stones protect against wind, but wind aisles protect against mosquitoes, the valley floor is often the coldest and brings fog; a campsite under or next to trees and bushes can provide additional warmth)
  • in the vicinity of a drinking water source
  • optional: orientation to the sun (natural alarm clock)
  • optional: near firewood (only use dead and fallen wood; only in areas where there is no prohibition)

Depending on the area, there may well be shelters or huts without a direct path connection. Otherwise, huts can sometimes be integrated into a pathless wilderness tour. Such huts are often a fixed point of the tour and offer the opportunity to dry yourself, clothes and equipment better.

5. How do I get food?

Once you have found a suitable wilderness hiking route and consider it feasible, it is time to prepare: What equipment and food is necessary to be able to take care of myself completely during the periods when there is no replenishment? How much food a wilderness hiker needs depends on the route (difficult, exhausting = more consumption) and the personal calorie requirement. In order to achieve a guideline value, a test tour at home comparable to a day's stage is recommended, which can be a little further and “more strenuous” in order to simulate pathless hiking as well as possible. A further 20 percent should now be added to the empirical values ​​gathered in this way in order to find a good basis for the supply on wilderness tours.

With food, as with all other items of equipment, it is important to ensure that the weight / performance ratio is as good as possible. As a rule, energy bars, dry or trekking food as well as long-lasting, high-energy foods (e.g. chocolate as an addition) are possible. If the route is chosen well, enough water is available and you can refill it frequently (depending on the area, using water treatment accessories).

An example of a typical menu for one day:

  • Breakfast: 120-140 grams of muesli (mixture with additives such as chia seeds, nuts and dried fruits) with powdered milk and instant coffee
  • Morning snack: half a bar (e.g. Oatsnack) and half a Landjäger (sausage)
  • Noon:Energy bar (approx. 500 kilocalories)
  • Afternoon snack: half a bar (e.g. Oatsnack) and half a Landjäger
  • Dinner: Trekking food (e.g. pasta Bolognese). Sometimes even double portions, especially towards the end of the tour. Between 650 and 1,000 kilocalories).
  • For the soul": two ribs of chocolate and dried fruit (e.g. apples) and beef jerky

In total, that's around 800 grams (in the dry form) of food per day. This amount is often very high in the first few days. But what would only be consumable at home on long tours has, in my experience, proven to be a good amount, especially at the end of a wilderness hike.

Small things are especially important for a good mood. A small piece of chocolate, a couple of gummy bears or a small sip from the hip flask (depending on your preference) round off a day. Those who like to fish can fish something with them, provided it is allowed in the respective area. It is, however, urgently not advisable to put your food supply on the Anglerglück!

6. Do I need special equipment?

Compared to trekking on a long-distance hiking trail, wilderness hiking does not require any additional or special equipment. The packing list for trekking tours is therefore a good guide. Depending on the route, however, special emphasis should be placed on some items.

  • Due to the lack of a path, the trekking shoes are even more important. Even if it doesn't rain for a long time, shoes are mostly exposed to moisture. Be it from below through wet grass, small streams to be crossed or the rain from above. Trekking boots, preferably made of full leather and with a Gore-Tex membrane, help to protect yourself from the cold, blisters and moisture. If the surface is difficult and the backpack is heavy, you should of course ensure that the shoes are sufficiently stable. To avoid excessive wear and tear on shoes and trousers, it is advisable to wear gaiters in particularly damp and swampy areas.
  • If you have to cross a river during the hike - also called ford - you need your own pair of shoes, unless you want to completely soak your hiking boots. Quick-drying, light outdoor sandals are recommended here. At the ford it is important to protect your feet and to have a sufficiently secure footing. The ford without shoes is an absolute no-go!
  • Trekking poles are also very helpful in pathless areas because they offer additional stability on difficult terrain or when crossing a river.
  • An emergency (e.g. illness, injury, disorientation) poses a particular challenge in areas with no roads. Since mobile phone reception is often not possible in remote areas, you should think in advance whether you want to bring satellite devices or the like with you in an emergency.

Reading tip: Backpack pharmacy for hiking and trekking

7. How do I get around on the way?

With this question, too, wilderness hiking hardly differs from multi-day tours on predetermined trails. Nevertheless, there are a few special challenges that you should be able to face:

  • The ability to orientate oneself in the landscape without a predetermined path, even in bad weather and poor visibility, is essential. How to navigate safely with compass, map and the landscape can be found in the article "Orientation with map and compass".
  • The best course of the march route can often only be seen on site. It can often happen that you have to adapt flexibly to the circumstances and sometimes even deviate from your planned route - for example through impassable rocky steps, dense vegetation, swamp and impassable rivers. Ideally, such points have already been identified in the planning and suitable alternatives or workarounds are available. If not, don't rush to change your route. A closer look at the map may avoid further difficulties.
  • In order to make good progress in unpaved terrain, it is advisable to follow small animal paths, because animals usually also look for the most suitable path around obstacles. The search for a route is therefore easier.
  • In confusing terrain or on difficult ground, you should look for possible points on the map for better orientation (e.g. small hills) and head for them if possible. If you hike along a valley, there are often two areas that make good progress possible: Directly on the valley floor along a river bank (pay attention to bank vegetation here) or right at the edge of the valley, if possible above a chain of vegetation (e.g. dense forest / bush vegetation on the valley floor , above a slope, but still below a steep valley edge).
  • Crossing rivers - the ford - is a frequent obstacle in pathless terrain. You can read more about the technology of the ford here.

8. Tips for beginners for the first pathless tour

Wilderness hiking is a lot of fun and can lead to beautiful places with unique experiences. But, one should approach slowly. Although the differences to “normal” multi-day tours are not “enormous” in principle, a few factors make a big difference. Especially with a view to the demands of a tour. In Scotland and Scandinavia in particular, there are many areas in which to build short, pathless sections, for example between two long-distance hiking trails. There are often tour descriptions in these regions that contain pathless sections and are therefore also suitable for beginners.

A tip for beginners is, for example, the Cape Wrath Trail in the north of Scotland. The designated long-distance hiking trail can be walked in several sections. The last of these ends with two daily stages that lead through a trackless area. Thanks to very good descriptions and rather simple terrain, you will find a good introduction to a longer tour here. But here, too, the following applies: Only good planning and the correct assessment of your own abilities and the area enable safe hiking and an unforgettable time in nature!

More on the subject in Bergzeit magazine:

Andreas Lindebner

... prefers to look for a challenge in nature. He enthusiastically plans and hikes multi-day tours in remote areas. In doing so, he enjoys the original landscapes and being able to “rely on himself”.
More posts by Andreas Lindebner