How to Plan an International Hiking Trip
Planning an international hiking trip requires more prep than a local hike. Here author Clariza Alvarez shows her carry-on cache. (Minus the dog; pooch stays home.) All images: Clariza Alvarez
Over the years I’ve combined my love of travel with my love of hiking to take some spectacular international hiking trips. I’ve learned how to prepare just enough but never too much, how different climates can quickly change plans and expectations, and how each trip just makes for amazing stories in the end.
Planning a weekend hiking trip can come super natural to a lot of us. Some of us, even have a hiking pack always at the ready next to a pair of our favorite hiking boots (I always have a pair in the back of my jeep… you never know). Packing for a hiking trip abroad can require more planning and research, and hopefully I can help get you started!
First off, the biggest thing you’ll need to plan for is the weather. If you’re planning your trip a week out, it’s easy to check and predict what to pack for. However most of us plan our trips abroad well in advance.
Typically I’ll research average climate data for a particular month in the country I plan on visiting. It won’t be ultra-accurate for the exact date you plan on being out there, but at least it will give you a rough idea on what to expect.
Now for the fun part, planning your trek without hiring a guide. If you’re like me, you prefer adventuring out on your own vs having a guide or going with a tour. It will save you quite a bit of money but cost you just a little more effort in planning.
First, research various trails. Next, add these to your checklist to make sure you’re ready to hike the trails you choose:
- Check to see the dates/time of year these trails are open (most outdoor trails might be year round, but there ARE some that are only open to hikers certain parts of the year, best to find out sooner than later)
- Transportation: how will you get to your trail? Is there a bus that you need to take to get there? If so make notes of the schedules for drop off and pick up. Will you be renting a vehicle? Make sure you are aware of the driving difficulty to get to where you’re going, and importantly, where and if you’ll be able to park nearby.
- Terrain type and climate. A group of friends and I learned very quickly about how messy some terrain could be and how much of a temperature drop we’d experience when we were hiking some trails in Ireland last fall. This will greatly affect your choice of clothing and what to pack.
What to Bring
So, you’ve got your trip all figured out, now, what and how to pack. Obviously every trip will be different and packing plans will vary based on when and where you’re going but here are some basic tips that I’ve found to work for me and hopefully will work for your trip as well:
- Wear your hiking boots on the plane: I know a lot of people prefer to wear ultra-comfortable shoes or sandals going through airport security and for travel, but a good pair of broken in hiking shoes are the one things you do not want to lose in a luggage. 1. Buying a new pair might end up being way costlier in a different country 2. You don’t want to spend part of your trip with aching feet and blisters from having to break your new boots/shoes in and 3. Depending on where you’re traveling to, you might not be able to find a shop or place in time to find new shoes. If you prefer not to travel wearing them, fitting them into your carry-on works too.
- Pack for the weather but pack in comfortable layers. This way you can easily add or subtract to modify what you wear based on each day. This will also allow you to pack lighter items vs a few large bulky pieces of clothing. A lot of brands now also offer packable options for things like ultra-light down jackets that can be rolled up or thin base layers that fold up super tiny but add quite a bit of insulation/warmth.
- Pack what you need but don’t stress! Always remember, you’re not traveling to Mars, so wherever you’re going, if you forget something, you most likely will be able to find a shop that should have something similar to what you’ve forgotten. Or if you’re traveling with a friend, you can also split the load on some things that your trip might need that you could share (sunscreen, bug repellent, etc.) I always make a list and check things off as I pack them into my bag.
- Factor clothes washing into your lodging: if you’re staying in a home rental or hotel, sometimes to lighten your packing for longer trips, it helps to stay in a place with a washer/dryer or even mapping out to see if there’s a laundry place nearby (or some sort of clothes washing alternative that you could use like a camp laundry wash bag). This way you can pack for half the days or less and wash and re-wear items. I found this super helpful when packing for colder trips since bulkier clothing takes up so much more room in a bag!
Hope you can find some of these tips super helpful! Start searching for awesome flight deals and amazing adventures!
Clariza Alvarez is an avid traveler who always incorporates hiking into her travels. With a camera always in hand, she’s always searching for beautiful landscapes and new challenges that take her to places that she’d never think she’d see in person! Follow her on Instagram: Instagram.com/helloclariza