Hiking off the beaten track requires particularly good planning and preparation. Which areas are best for wilderness trekking adventures and what to pay attention to for multi-day tours, reveals this guide that I researched and put together for you.
More and more people are looking to get out into nature, the mountains and the landscapes that they know from various pictures on the Internet, television reports or narratives. More and more areas are being developed by a better network of paths, more and more mountains have cable cars. Many regions that were difficult to access a few years ago have now become accessible to many. For whom this hustle and bustle is too much, who are looking for new ways – or even better: adventurous areas without roads.
What is wilderness adventure trekking?
Wilderness trekking means being away from the usual infrastructure for hikers and living a real adventure. Unlike multi-day tours on described and marked trails, you have to think for yourself, what the route looks like and where to sit down.
Wilderness walking is hiking or trekking adventure away from infrastructure, and thus away from civilization. It means leaving marked trails and sign-posted described routes. At the same time, this is also the greatest attraction.
A tour away from infrastructure also means to provide for yourself – often without replenishment – and to find suitable accommodation. Route and schedule are usually not specified or at least not concrete. Every step is considered, the feasibility assessed independently. In the course of a wilderness hike you are largely on your own. The next street, the next town and often the mobile phone reception are several kilometers or even day marches away.
Does the description already arouse uncertainty and discomfort? Are thoughts to the next warm hotel bed with full board awake? Then please
absolutely read point two. Because it is worth to dare – even if it is initially only a small tour to get to know it.
Why should you trek in the wilderness?
Trekking in the wild means adventure and unknown challenges.
Departed adventure tours in the wilderness have many charms. However, all have two things in common: 1. Each stimulus is also a challenge. 2. Every hiker experiences and evaluates these individually.
• In a wilderness tour, you can (and must) plan, plan and carry out almost everything yourself – apart from weather and geography.
• Leaving the marked trails gives the tour a stronger adventure character. You do not know what exactly awaits you.
• The experience of nature becomes more genuine and intense, not least because you have to get more involved with the path-finding, the way you are going to get there and the environment, as well as you will move forward more slowly.
• You get to know nature as it looks without human change.
• When choosing the place to stay, you usually have a lot of freedom and do not have to confine yourself to fixed places and viewpoints of an existing hut.
• Even if the route and the destination do not offer any explicit sights (which is of course always subjective), the tour will still be something special, because you have searched, found and achieved your own goals.
Finally, the wilderness hike is more than ever the saying: “The path is the goal.” Even if this initially does not matter.
Eight steps to a successful adventure trekking tour!
1. Which areas are suitable for trail-less trekking?
When choosing a region, the less experience you have, the more factors mentioned in the text should fit.
Apart from one’s own abilities and personal preference, there are no restrictions in which areas one can wander pathless. However, in mountainous regions like the Alps, you will quickly notice that the walk-in places either already have a path or can not 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 the wilderness trekking, the topography can be taken as a good guide: The flatter an area, the easier it is usually to wander. The vegetation also plays an important role. Densely wooded areas are often confusing. Depending on the undergrowth or bush vegetation, the progress can be tedious. Another factor is the water. On the one hand, it is a question of which streams and rivers run through the trekking area and how the subsoil is made. Deep, wide and fast-flowing waters can be an insurmountable and dangerous obstacle. But also marsh areas pose a wilderness hiker with great challenges. On the other hand you need water for drinking and cooking. So it is not possible without water. More about this at the point “How can I take care of myself”.
Since you want to spend both the days and nights in the area of your choice, it is important to know the local conditions for wild adventure camping. The time available for the tour also plays a role in the area selection. In addition, there are questions about the infrastructure: How do I reach my wilderness trekking area? Are there good traffic routes that bring me as close as possible and with little extra time to the desired region? Finally, personal preferences are also relevant: How densely populated is the area and is there already a (dense) network of paths that I would like to avoid or, if necessary, use?
In summary, the following factors make a good area for wilderness trekking tours:
• Topographical aptitude
• Good infrastructure on the edge (accessibility start and end point of the tour)
• Suitable vegetation (for example, not too dense forest)
• Presence of drinking water sources at a sufficient distance
• Overcoming natural obstacles (e.g., rivers, rock steps)
• Accommodation (wildcamps / huts)
• Low population, few paths
The simple rule is: the less experience you have, the more of those factors should fit.
If you take a look at the map and take into account the 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 adventure trekking tours, as they all – of course in different configurations – fulfill the above mentioned factors.
2. How do I find a specific target?
The way is the goal – even if there is none.
When trekking wilderness, possible adventure tour destinations are less common in travel guides, route books or magazines. Nevertheless, there are some proven methods to find beautiful and suitable goals. If, for example, you have already walked a long-distance hiking trail, such as the Padjelantaleden in northern Sweden, a closer look at the surroundings of the trail offers itself: does the map perhaps reveal areas that are not yet directly connected with a path and which look interesting from the experience?
Furthermore, it is advisable to browse through various Internet forums and magazines in which travel reports can be found by like-minded people. There, you can often get inspiration or gain insight into areas that may offer opportunities for a wilderness hike.
Of course, it is almost classical to simply study a map. Often, such a thing begins with the question: “Is it possible to go directly from location A to location B?”
The creativity in the search for trekking areas are virtually unlimited. It is best to just try a little and look with your eyes open. A rainy afternoon in connection with overflights on Google Earth has already caused one or the other tour.
3. How do I plan a wilderness trekking adventure tour?
In concrete terms, what should I look for when choosing a tour and how do I go about doing that? In the search for a suitable area for wilderness hiking, many of the planning relevant points have already been addressed. For planning, they must be checked for their feasibility.
Which topography awaits me? Study map and aerial photographs
The route planning is best made by using the map and aerial photos of the destination region.
The best method for assessing landscape and topography is to use a combination of map and aerial photographs. Whether purely digital or classic paper-based is a matter of taste and brings different advantages, as described in the tour planning. Due to the (mostly) missing descriptions, it is usually necessary to work with very precise maps in order to discover insurmountable obstacles and to avoid them accordingly.
Tip: For most areas there are free topographic online maps.
It is advisable to compare the neuralgic points with Google Earth or other aerial photographs (for example for Norway “Norge i pictures”), in order to form a better judgment on the condition of the terrain. However, one must balance between the thirst for adventure and dedicated planning: Too much planning and too many aerial shots, you have the end of the hike in front of the screen, without even wandering. Especially with the first tours, however, good planning should be given preference.
Rules of thumb for the calculation of the tour duration
The biggest challenge for wilderness trekking adventure tour planning is the combination of terrain feasibility and time. If you are convinced by the map and aerial photography to be able to make your tour technically, the question is always whether you can do it in the time available. In order to assess how long it takes for the planned sections, everyone has to be honest with themselves: How well can I handle obstacles? How fast am I usually traveling? How did I manage to get on and off in previous tours?
In a simple trackless area (dry, grassy, with little difference in altitude, no river crossings and flat ground), you can expect about 70 to 80 percent of the speed on normal routes. The more complex the terrain becomes (uneven ground, marshy, steep ascents and descents, dense forest, river crossings), the longer you need. All-inclusive statements are almost impossible, but one “obstacle” in the terrain another ten percent in speed
could be deducted. A buffer for bad weather should also be taken into account, because when wet often simple surfaces are difficult to walk.
Alternatives, shortcuts and detours
Hikers in the wilderness should know and follow the rules for wild camping.
Depending on your personal fitness, experience and abilities, distances in easy terrain of up to 15 kilometers per day are a rough guideline. If you want to get on better, it is a good idea to make a detour at the end of a stage or to prepare another loop at the end of the adventure trekking tour as a supplement.
Already during the planning phase, options should be explored for avoiding obstacles (even large ones), bad weather alternatives, possible shortcuts (if you can not make headway as planned), and even stopping options. So you stay flexible and can finish a day’s stage sometimes earlier to enjoy a beautiful area.
4. Where do I sleep on the way?
Finding a suitable campground can cost a lot of time and energy along the way. It is therefore advisable to look for suitable accommodation during the planning phase. Although this is rarely reliably possible with the available resources, it is very possible to rule out sites where one can not sleep restfully.
In some areas there are shelters that are not right on paths and can be well integrated into the trekking adventure tour.
A suitable campsite should meet the following requirements:
• even and not harmful to material (for example sharp stones, thorns, etc.)
• dry (a moist surface is colder than a dry one)
• big enough to safely use all tent stays (always use all guying points to be prepared for sudden weather changes)
• outside hazardous areas (rockfalls, avalanches, flooding)
• some distance to animal paths to avoid unexpected nightly visits
• adequate protection against the elements (large stones protect against wind, but windscreens protect against mosquitoes, valley floor is often coldest and brings fog, a campground 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: close to firewood (use only dead and fallen wood, only in areas without prohibition)
Depending on the area, there may well be shelters or huts without a direct route connection. Even otherwise, huts can sometimes be integrated into a self-guided wilderness adventure trekking tour. Such huts are often the focal point of the tour and open the possibility to better dry yourself, clothing and equipment.
5. How do I provide food?
For the “normal” daily calorie requirement on more strenuous day hikes at home you should add about 20 percent for multi-day wilderness adventure trekking tours.
If you have found a suitable wilderness migration route and consider it as feasible, then it goes to the preparation: What equipment and food is necessary to provide me in the periods without replenishment completely self-sufficient? How much food a wilderness hiker needs depends on the route guidance (difficult, strenuous = more consumption) and the personal calorie requirement. To achieve a guideline value, a test trip that is comparable to a daily stage is recommended at home, which can be a little further and more “strenuous” to optimally simulate trail-less hiking. In addition to the experience gained here, another 20 percent should now be added in order to find a good basis for the supply on wilderness tours.
For foodstuffs, as with all other items of equipment, it is important to pay attention to the best possible weight / performance ratio. As a rule, energy bars, dry or trekking foods as well as long-lasting, high-energy foods (for example chocolate as an additive) come into question. With good route choice, water is readily available and you can refill it frequently (depending on the area the use of water treatment accessories is advisable).
An example of a typical meal plan for one day:
• Breakfast: 120-140 grams of cereal (mixed with additions like chia seeds, nuts and dried fruits) with milk powder and instant coffee
• Morning snack: half a bar (for example, Oatsnack) and a half Landjäger (sausage)
• Lunch: energy bar (about 500 kilocalories)
• Afternoon snack: half a bar (e.g., Oatsnack) and half a field hunter
• Dinner: Trekking food (for example couscous with chicken). 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 (for example apples) and Beef Jerky
In total, that’s about 800 grams (in dry form) of food a day. This amount is often very much on the first days. But, what would be consumable at home only on large tours, has proved, especially at the end of a wilderness migration as a good amount.
Especially important are little things for the good mood. A small piece of chocolate, a few gummy bears or a small sip from the hip flask (depending on your preference) complete a day. If you like to fish, you can fish for something in the area. But it is urgently advised against turning off ones food supply on the fishing luck!
6. Do I need special equipment?
The equipment for wilderness adventure trekking is basically the same as for treks in known ways.
Compared to hiking on a long-distance adventure trail, there is no need for additional or more specialized equipment for wilderness trekking adventure. The packing list for trekking tours therefore offers a good orientation. Depending on the route, however, special emphasis should be placed on some items.
• Due to the missing path the trekking shoes get an even higher value. Shoes, even if it is not raining for a long time, are mostly exposed to moisture. Be it from below through wet grass, to crossing small streams or the rain from above. Trekking boots, preferably made of full leather and with a Gore-Tex membrane, help to protect against cold, blistering and wet conditions. With difficult ground and high backpack weight, of course, attention should be paid to sufficient stability of the shoes. In order to avoid excessive use of shoes and trousers, it is advisable to wear leggings in particularly damp and swampy areas.
• If a river has to be crossed during the walk – you will need your own pair of shoes if you do not want to completely soak your hiking boots. Here are quick-drying, lightweight outdoor sandals advantageous. In the ford, it is important to protect ones feet and to have a sufficiently secure stability. An absolute no-go is the ford without shoes!
• Trekking poles are also very useful in the trackless area as they offer additional stability on difficult terrain or river crossings.
• The emergency (such as illness, injury, disorientation) is a particular challenge in off-road areas. Since in remote areas often no cell phone reception is possible, one should first think about whether you want to carry in case of emergency satellite devices or the like. A useful knowledge to have is also: Basics First Aid on Outdoor Tours.
7. How do I get on the way?
Dense vegetation, swamps, rocks and rivers make it difficult to move forward while wilderness adventure trekking.
Even with this question, wilderness trekking hardly differs from multi-day tours on given paths. There are still a few special challenges that should be met:
• Essential is the ability to orient oneself without a predetermined path in the landscape, even in bad weather and low visibility. How to safely navigate with compass, map and the landscape is a necessary basic skill.
• The best course of the route can often only be recognized directly on site. Often it can happen that one must adapt flexibly to the conditions and sometimes even deviate from his planned route – for example, through impassable rock steps, dense vegetation, swamp and unconquerable rivers. Ideally, such positions have already been identified in the planning and appropriate alternatives or workarounds are ready. If not, do not be too hasty to change your route. A close look at the map may avoid further difficulties.
• In order to make good progress in trackless terrain, it is advisable to follow small animal paths, because even animals are usually looking for the most suitable way around obstacles. The search is easier.
• In confused terrain or difficult terrain, seek out possible points for better orientation (such as small elevations) on the map and, if possible, navigate them. If you walk along a valley, there are often two areas that allow for a good progress: directly on the valley floor along a river bank (pay close attention to bank vegetation) or at the edge of the valley, if possible above a vegetation chain (for example above it a slope, but still below a steep edge of the valley). In trackless terrain, crossing rivers – the ford – is a common obstacle.
8. Entry tips for the first trackless tour
Wilderness adventure trekking brings a lot of fun and can lead to beautiful places with unique experiences. But, you should slowly approach. Although the differences to “normal” multi-day tours are not “enormous” in principle, a few factors make a big difference. Especially with regard to the claim of a tour. Especially in Scotland and Scandinavia, there are many ways to build short, trackless sections, for example, between two long-distance trails. Also, there are often touring descriptions in these regions, which include trackless sections and are therefore suitable for beginners.
A tip for beginners is for example the Cape Wrath Trail in the north of Scotland. The designated long-distance trail, can be committed in several sections. The last of these ends with two daily stages leading through trackless terrain. By very good descriptions and rather simple terrain you will find a good entry for a longer tour. But also here: Only good planning and proper assessment of your own abilities and the area allow safe hiking and an unforgettable time in nature!
Are you an experienced wilderness hiker and do you have adventures and additional trekking tips to share with me here below – don’t hesitate and touch base in the comment box below.