Travel Guide Hiking Long-distance hikes
Wanderer im Tannheimer Tal

Long distance hiking trails

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Do you still dream of packing your things and going on a big trip? Whether you are planning your own route or following one of the signposted long distance hiking trails, whether you spend a week or several months on the road, whether you are hiking over the mountains or in the plane. Your experience will be unique and leave lasting memories.

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A definition of long distance hiking trails

Long distance hiking trails are supra-regional and often meander through nature for several hundred kilometres. They can be discovered on several daily stages. All signposted hiking trails are to be classified as "long distance hiking trails" if they are at least 185 miles long and uniformly marked.

Since there is a large number of long distance hiking trails, particularly attractive trails are being awarded with seals. Classification is based on criteria such as the quality of the path, the route, the signage, the destinations and the variety.

Long distance hikers on a bridge
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Excercising for a long distance hiking trail

It is very important that you don't start a long distance hike physically untrained. The optimal preparation includes, of course, to hike on routes that are similar to the stages of the long distance hike in terms of length and altitude.

While training, you should also carry the luggage, that you are planning to take with you. This ensures that your body is prepared for the load – and you might even decide that you packed in much more than you actually need...

Different possibilities for your overnight stay

Camping

The easiest way to find a place to spend the night is to carry it with you. A tent offers the greatest possible flexibility with regard to the place and time of the night's rest.

But there are some things to consider, because camping is not allowed everywhere where you could camp. In principle, most countries prohibit wild camping – i.e. camping overnight in tents outside signposted campsites.

However, camping is often tolerated. The prerequisite is that you don't set up your tent until dusk and pack it up again in the morning, don't make a fire and don't leave any rubbish behind.

If houses or huts are in the immediate vicinity of the selected campsite, you should ask the residents for permission.

And of course, instead of taking a warm shower after a strenuous day's hiking, you often have to do with an icy mountain stream. And anyone who has ever spent a stormy, rainy or even snowy night in a tent will certainly raise their objections here.

Nevertheless: There is nothing like the feeling of waking up with the first rays of sunshine, only having to open a zipper, and already having the whole, beautiful nature in front of your eyes.

Tent in a mountain landscape
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Cabins, guesthouses, hotels

The much more comfortable alternative to a tent is an overnight stay in a hut. 

For this, one has to accept the snoring of the neighbor, especially in large and frequently visited huts, and possibly accept exorbitant prices for overnight stays and food.

Depending on the trail's infrastructure, it is of course also possible to stay overnight in hotels, guesthouses or private accommodations. The advantages are that you can start the new day well rested, refreshed and strengthened with a delicious breakfast.

But of course, this is not the most money-saving way to spend the night and all accommodations have to be booked in advance, which makes a spontaneous change of plan very difficult.

Equipment for long distance hiking

Of course, the type of overnight stay determines the luggage fundamentally. Those who decide for a hut or even a hotel can do without ballast in the backpack. If you want to camp, you will carry at least twice as much with you.

That's why it's essential to consider exactly what you really need. For tours from hut to hut, up to 8 kg rucksack weight are normal. For self-sufficient trips, it can get up to 20 kg including tent, stove and food.

Basically, the body can carry a quarter of its weight over long distances – and here you really should set the upper limit.

Choosing the right luggage isn't witchcraft.
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Clothing

  • 2 T-shirts (one for walking, one for staying overnight)
  • 1 longsleeve/midlayer/fleece
  • 1 long and 1 short pants (or zipper pants)
  • 2 pairs of socks (one for walking, one for the evening)
  • Hat and thin gloves
  • Rain jacket and trousers
  • suitable footwear

Hardware

  • drinking bottle
  • pocket knife and lighter
  • sunglasses and sunscreen
  • maps (at least on a scale of 1:50,000, even better 1:25,000)
  • first aid kit
  • mobile phone (make a note of emergency numbers beforehand and save them if necessary)
  • headlamp
  • hygiene articles (small towel, e.g. made of microfibre, toothbrush, soap)

Camping

  • tent
  • sleeping mat and sleeping bag
  • warm pyjamas depending on the season
  • camping stove and fuel
  • pot and camping utensils
  • possibly tea bags, cocoa, spices
  • biodegradable soap
  • toilet paper
Camping pot over a campfire
Photo: CC0, pixabay.com

Rations

When staying in a hut, you only need to take a small lunch – preferably made from durable products such as salami, hard cheese, pumpernickel, chocolate or muesli bars.

If you camp, you will of course also have to carry your food yourself. Couscous, pasta, red lentils or potatoe mash can be cooked quickly and without great loss of fuel; muesli or porridge made with milk powder and dry fruits are suitable for breakfast.

European long distance hiking trails

Among the most famous and longest long distance hiking trails are the European long distance hiking trails. The European Ramblers' Association (ERA) was founded in 1996 and has developed and marked twelve different routes:

  • E1: North Sea – Lake Constance – Gotthard – Mediterranean Sea
  • E2: North Sea – Lake Geneva – Mediterranean Sea
  • E3: Atlantic – Ardennes – Ore Mountains – Carpathians – Black Sea
  • E4: Gibraltar – Pyrenees – Lake Constance – Lake Balaton – Rila – Crete – Cyprus
  • E5: Atlantic Ocean – Lake Constance – Alps – Adriatic Sea
  • E6: Lapland – Baltic Sea – Wachau – Adriatic Sea – Aegean Sea
  • E7: Atlantic Ocean – Mediterranean Sea – Lake Garda – Southern Hungary
  • E8: Irish Sea – Rhine – Main – Danube – Carpathians – Rhodope Mountains
  • E9: International coastal route Atlantic – North Sea – Baltic Sea
  • E10: Lapland – Baltic Sea – Bohemian Forest – Alps
  • E11: The Hague – Weserbergland – Harz Mountains – Havelland – Potsdam – Berlin – Or – Masuria
  • E12: "Mediterranean Trail" from Spain to Croatia via France, Italy and Slovenia

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