How to prepare for a nature trek

Hardangervidda, Norway (2015)

This how-to post consists of two parts. This first part contains general information on how to prepare for a nature trek. The second part is a checklist called a TrekDoc (with sample data) that you can fill out in preparation for your own trek.

Introduction
Goal of your trek
Where to go
When to go
Trekking route
Fitness
Weight
Water & food
Sleeping
Washing & toilet
Navigation
Gear
Weather
Animals & plants
Costs
Risk

Introduction

I love being outdoors and since the early 2000s I have made over 30 nature treks, most of them in Northern Europe. I trekked on foot or by canoe, sometimes on snowshoes or skis, mostly with friends, sometimes alone.

My treks typically last about about a week, involve carrying all supplies in a backpack, and include wild camping. Often, I go to remote nature areas, sometimes off-trail, and sometimes my treks include rock scrambling in the hills. For me these trips are an excellent way to escape busy modern city life for a while and to reconnect with nature like maybe our nomadic ancestors did 🙂

If you consider doing a nature trek yourself, and wonder how to prepare for this, this post is for you. I will be focussing on the type of trek I did most, and that is not too challenging to start with in terms of length, time of year and equipment needed.

Trek type focus

5 daysPlus 2 travel days is 1 week. No food resupply needed.
Northern EuropeAbundance of nature and wild camping mostly allowed
SummerLittle snow and ice
By footNo extra equipment needed like canoes, snowshoes, skis

I believe that the British military saying, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (the five P’s), also applies to nature treks. A trek will be safer, easier, and more enjoyable if you prepare well. This takes some time though. Even if you already have all the required gear and trekking experience, every trip requires you to research a location, design a trekking route, arrange transport, prepare food etc. Planning a 1-week trek easily takes a full week of work that way. But in return you likely get a great nature experience that most other people only read about.

Goal of your trek

First, you have to determine the goal of your trek and how you will move around (hiking, canoeing, etc.) Do you want to cover as much distance as possible? Or is your emphasis on camping or some other activity like fishing or photography? This focus should be agreed upon by the entire trekking party. One way of making this more concrete is to plan the number of hours you will be moving each day. For most of my treks this is 4 to 5 hours, which makes moving the main daily activity, but leaves ample time for camp activities like making a campfire, picking berries and fishing.

Where to go

If you are looking for an immersive nature experience, you need a large and quiet nature area that you can explore for a week and where you are allowed to wild camp. In Europe unfortunately, wild camping is not allowed in many countries. (See for instance these wild camping regulations per country by Caravanya). The rules are different from country to country, and even from region to region.

In Northern Europe fortunately, there are a number of countries where wild camping is allowed, like Sweden, Norway, and Scotland. (National Parks can be especially attractive for nature treks because of their beautiful nature but they might have extra regulations). If you want some inspiration on good trekking locations, check my list of nature treks, other blogs or hiking guides.

Elevation

An important consideration when choosing your trek area is its elevation. When you trek above the tree line, the views might be great, but you are more exposed to cold, rain and wind. Even in summer you might encounter snow and ice and in bad weather it can be challenging to find a protected camp site, especially from the wind. Trekking below the tree line might have less spectacular views but offers more protection and gives you the option of making a campfire. Sometimes a combination is possible where you hike above the tree line and camp below.

When to go

In Northern Europe, and in mountainous terrain in general, most areas will be covered with snow and ice a large part of the year. This makes trekking much more difficult and is not the focus of this post. If you are going to those regions, and you want to keep things relatively easy, the best months of the year are June, July and August because then most of the snow and ice is gone.

Even in summer you find little snow fields like on the Hardangervidda in Norway (1.400 m, July 2017)

Trekking Route

Much of your trek preparation time will be spent on planning your trekking route and camp sites. Here I’ll share my approach to this.

Paper map

After I have roughly decided on the the trekking area, I like to get a paper topographic map of it. These maps show many details like elevation lines, open and wooded areas, lakes and streams, houses and, conveniently, hiking trails. Ideally the map has a scale of 1 : 25.000 but often there is only 1 : 50.000. Based on the map, online information from other trekkers, hiking guides etc., I think of a possible route and sometimes of a bad weather alternative.

Topographic map of the Cairngorms, Scotland

A drawback of using paper topographical maps is their cost. A typical price is €15 per map and sometimes you need a few to cover your entire trekking area. The reason I still buy them, and haven’t switched completely to digital maps, is because they give me a great overview of the area (when folded out) – better than I would get on a computer screen. I can also easily note my planned camp sites on the map, and during the trek I will use them extensively for navigation.

Digital map

By the time I have a good idea of my trekking route, for sharing purposes, I like to draw it on a digital map like Google Maps. For instance, this was my planned route on Google Maps for a trek I did in Femundsmarka, Norway, in 2021 with two friends:

Trekking route plan Femundsmarka, Norway (2021) drawn on Google Maps

Satellite view of Google Maps also gives you some initial impression of the surroundings which is nice.

Distance and speed

The distance you can cover each day depends of course on your speed and the number of hours you are moving. Your speed in turn depends on a number of factors (e.g. weight of your backpack, weather conditions, etc.) but for hiking I use these rough estimates for level ground:

Hiking speed

Off-trail/rough terrain 3 km/h
Medium quality hiking trail4 km/h
Good road5 km/h

Of course, when climbing, your speed goes down and you need more time to cover a distance. For every 100 m in elevation, I like to add an extra 10 min. of walking time. And I do the same for steep descends on rough terrain/off-trail.

The speed for canoeing, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing also varies but this is a rough guideline I use:

Other speeds

Snowshoeing3 km/h
Canoeing4-5 km/h
Nordic skiing5 km/h

In general, when planning your trekking route, it’s wise to plan distances conservatively, especially the first few days. Your ‘city body’ probably needs some time to adapt to the outdoors and you may be unsure about the trail conditions. For instance, I seldom plan more than 10 km on the first day.

When I have an idea of the route and possible campsites, I like to make a day planning like this one for the Femundsmarka trek in Norway:

Day planning

 DayDist. (km)Asc. (m)Desc. (m)Time (u:m)*Destin. (elev.)
7 Aug.00000:00Camping (664m)
8 Aug.113007003:00Camp 1 (870m)
9 Aug.1515025004:00Camp 2 (765m)
10 Aug.121107004:00Camp 3 (786m)
11 Aug.125010004:00Camp 4 (758m)
12 Aug.1322017004:00Camp 5 (808m)
13 Aug.77022002:00Camping (664m)
TOT.7090090021:00
Avrg / day1215015003:30
* Time = estimated hiking time depending on trail conditions, excl. breaks

Campsites

A key element of your trekking route are the places where you set up camp. For a comfortable night, I try to find a location with the following characteristics

Critical

  • Ground that is flat so you can lay horizontally, large enough to pitch a tent if you expect rain, and relatively dry
  • Enough protection from wind when necessary

Nice to have

  • Near water (for drinking, cooking, fishing etc.). Not strictly necessary if you can carry enough water with you.
  • Soft ground like forest floor or grassland so your bed will be softer (especially when you have a thin sleeping pad). It will also be easier to get your tent pegs in the ground.
  • Near wood for a campfire
Campsite in Femundsmarka, Norway (2021)

Finding a good campsite is often a tradeoff between these factors, and it can be difficult to infer them from a map. But it’s good to keep them already in mind when planning.

River crossings

When planning your hiking route, pay extra attention to river crossings. If you’re lucky there will be some sort of bridge when crossing a stream but these don’t always show on the map. Without a bridge, calculate some extra time for crossing the water.

Fitness

Physical fitness is a key ingredient for most nature treks. You might be walking 5 hours per day with a 15 kg backpack on challenging terrain. You’ll be exposed to the elements like rain, wind, snow, heat, mosquitoes and you’ll be missing the usual comforts of home like a chair, a soft bed and running water. This whole situation makes a typical nature trek require much energy.

How to prepare? For a typical trek with 4-5 hours moving a day, I would prepare by doing at least two strenuous 1-hour workouts per week. If you’re in bad shape to start with, you’ll probably need a few months to build up your fitness level.

Ideally, in your workouts you train the same muscles that you will use on the trek. So, for hiking you could run as training, for canoeing paddling would be ideal, etc. The perfect workout would be to train exactly like you would be trekking – something that’s called ‘train like you fight’ in the military. So, for a hiking trek in the mountains, ideally you would train by walking long distances with a backpack in the mountains. Unfortunately, often this is unpractical living in a city with little time on your hands so you have to improvise.

Weight

Another key component of a trek is the weight you will be moving: that of your body and that of your gear. This has a large effect on the energy you will expend. With much climbing on your route, this effect will even be larger.

For body weight, it makes sense to have a healthy BMI, say 18-25. (See for instance this BMI calculator of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In general: the lighter you are, the easier a trek it will be, as long as you have enough muscle mass for efficient movement.

For the gear on a typical 5-day trek, I keep these maximum weights as a rough guide:

Maximum weight gear

In backpackGear10 kg
Food4 kg
1 liter water1 kg
On your personClothing & Gear2 kg
Total 17 kg

You can accomplish this low weight by bringing only a few items (which has the added advantage that it’s easier to find and organize things in your backpack) and by bringing items that are lightweight. More on gear later in this post. A light backpack will have more advantages besides saving you energy. You will be able to travel further, it will be easier to keep your balance on difficult terrain and it will make your shoulders hurt less over time.

Water and food

Water

You will easily need about 3 liter of water per day (drinking, cooking) so it’s practically undoable to bring it with you on a 5-day trek. Fortunately, in most nature areas in Europe there are enough local streams and lakes to get water from.

It’s a good idea in that case to purify the water before drinking it. My preferred method is using a simple water filter which is quick and easy. For breakfast and dinner however, I like to have hot water so in that case I boil it and I don’t need to filter.

An alternative purification method is using UV light, but UV devices are more expensive and need batteries. You can also use chemical disinfectants (pills, drops) which are cheap and lightweight, but you have to wait 30 min. for them to work and they give a funky taste to the water. Because they are lightweight and small however, I like to bring them sometimes as a backup.

Purification methods

MethodHow I use itExamplePrice
FilterOn the moveKatadyn or Sawyer€50
BoilingIn campPrimus Express Spider€75
UV lightNot anymoreSteripen€100
Chemical(As backup)Micropur€25

For carrying water, I use a simple lightweight 1-liter bottle from the supermarket. I also like to bring an empty lightweight 2-liter water bag, in case I want to camp away from a water source and need to carry more water.

Food

For a 5-day trek you can bring all your food with you, and you won’t need a resupply. It’s still important though for your food to be lightweight and compact (so preferably dehydrated meals instead of bean cans and watermelons) and even then, for five days, your food will weigh something like 4 kg. This is typically what I eat on a day:

What I eat daily

BreakfastCruesli/porridge with milk powder and hot water
LunchHartkeks (= crackers from the outdoor store) with toppings like cheese and salami
DinnerFreeze dried expedition meal (for sale in outdoor stores). Preparation: just add boiling water to the bag and wait 10 min.
SnacksChocolate, muesli-bars, dried fruit, nuts
Freeze dried expedition meals are lightweight and convenient: just add boiling water.

How much to bring? Inexperienced trekkers tend to bring way too much food which will be heavier than needed so you want to avoid that. On the other hand, keep in mind you will most likely need more energy than when at home. Typically, on a trek I burn about 3.000 kcal per day vs 2.000 kcal at home.

To keep things organized in my backpack, I like to carry all food together in a large stuff sack.

Cooking

Camp stove

Although strictly not a necessity, it’s nice to eat a hot meal at night and even in the morning. If you’re eating freeze dried expedition meals at night and cruesli/porridge with milk power in the morning (see above), you will only need hot water to prepare them. In that case you only need a cooking pot and a camp stove/campfire.

For camp stoves, the easiest option is one that uses a gas canister because it’s quick, easy to operate and pretty reliable. For instance, I have been using my Primus Express Spider camp stove for over 10 years.

A particular lightweight and cheap alternative could be this self-made alcohol stove (designed by American long distance hiker Andrew Skurka). It’s more a 1-person stove though, takes more time to boil water than with a gas stove and is more finicky to operate.

Besides a cooking pot and stove, you will also need a windscreen and fuel.

Fuel

How much fuel to bring? I like to estimate this by calculating how much water I want to boil. Typically I need to boil 1 liter water per person per day (0.5 liter for breakfast, 0.5 liter for dinner). So, if I’m out for 5 days with 2 persons, I need to boil 10 liter water.

If I’m bringing a gas stove, I found out that my Primus Express Spider stove can boil about 10 liter of water on a 230 g gas canister, so one of those canisters should be just enough. (Gas canisters typically come in sizes of 100, 230, and 450 g). For my alcohol stove I found out it boils about 7.5 liter of water on 0.5 liter alcohol so I can make a similar calculation.

Remember that if you’re flying, you can’t bring stove fuel on an airplane, and you must get that at your destination.

Campfire

The lightest and cheapest option is to cook on a campfire. This has the added benefit of warmth (e.g. drying socks), possibly smoke to keep mosquitoes and midges at bay and some coziness. It’s only an option however if you have (dry) wood on your campsite, enough time, some fire skills and a pot that you don’t mind getting black, and has a handle of some sorts.

Cooking on a campfire in the Scottish Highlands (2015)

How to place the pot on the fire? Most of the time I carefully put it on a platform of burning branches and use a separate pot gripper to move it around. If you have a pot with a bail, you have more options to suspend it over your campfire.

Sleeping

The basic sleeping setup on a trek is a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a tent. The challenge is to keep this lightweight, say below 2.5 kg, and comfortable at the same time. (You’ll find my personal choices for these items in the list of gear in part two of this post).

Sleeping bag

For the sleeping bag it’s critical that it’s warm enough. At night, even in summer, temperatures in the mountains might go down to freezing level (0 °C) so your bag should be able to handle that. A down filling is ideal (warm, lightweight, compressible) but more expensive than a synthetic filling. If you’re cold in your sleeping bag, you can improvise somewhat by putting on extra clothes, like a puffy jacket, but preferably your sleeping bag alone is warm enough.

Sleeping pad

If you sleep on soft ground (e.g. moss, forest floor, heather), and it won’t get too cold at night (say not below 5 °C), a closed cell foam pad could suffice. Compared to an inflatable pad, this will save on weight and cost and still works fine with a puncture. To save even more weight you could cut the length of the pad down to two-thirds of its size. This way your torso lies on the pad, and you can put your (empty) backpack under your legs, and some clothing or your food sack under your head as a pillow.

If you’re unsure how hard the ground will be, or are looking for more comfort, or expect low temperatures, an inflatable pad is a good choice. Here too there are models of two thirds length in case you want to save weight.

Tent

If you don’t expect precipitation, no shelter is needed, and you can sleep under the stars. Most of the time though, it’s not clear if it will stay dry that night and then it’s saver to set something up.

A tent will give you most protection from the elements. It should be waterproof of course, and if you camp on exposed locations (e.g. above the tree line) it’s critical that it can handle strong winds.

Windy conditions on the Scottish Highlands (2013)

If you’re expecting mosquitoes and other stingy insects, it’s also preferable that your tent has bug netting.

Most popular on treks are lightweight 1-person tents but you might be able to save some weight by sharing a 2- or 3-person one with people in your party.

Tent alternatives

Tarp

Lighter than a tent, and giving a great open sleeping experience, is a tarp. Often this is combined with a bivy bag (a waterproof and breathable bag for around your sleeping bag) although just a groundsheet could also work if you’re careful no rain reaches your sleeping bag. When there are bugs around, you might want to bring separate mosquito netting. While a tarp normally is lighter than a tent, when adding a bivy bag and maybe mosquito netting, the weight difference might disappear.

Another limitation of a tarp is that you need two anchor points for setting it up. If you camp below the tree line, you can use trees of course. If you’re above the tree line, you could pitch your tarp between two hiking poles or sticks if you can find them, but it won’t stay up in high winds. Here are some ways of setting up a tarp.

Bivy bag

Sleeping in just a bivy bag is also an option, but when it starts raining it will be difficult to keep the rain off your face.

Hammock

Finally, if you camp below the tree line, you could also sleep in a hammock. It requires a little skill setting one up, especially in combination with a tarp, and you might have to get used to sleeping in one, but some people find it more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.

One thing to keep in mind with a hammock is that you will need some insulation of your back, unless it stays warm during the night. You can do this by putting your sleeping pad inside the hammock or by attaching an underblanket (especially designed for this purpose) underneath it.

Washing & toilet

Since there are no bathrooms and showers in the wild, expect to go with little washing during your trek. Of course, you can clean up a little at streams and lakes, and when the water is not too cold (which is rare in the mountains) you could even go for a swim, but typically washing when trekking is minimal.

Going to the toilet also requires a different approach than normal. I usually do the following: I walk a little distance from camp and water sources, kick a little hole in the ground and do my business. Sometimes I can lean my back against a tree or large rock which makes the squatting position more comfortable. For toilet paper I use moss or grass or other vegetation. (You can also bring toilet paper with you and burn it after use to leave no trace). After I’m done, I cover the place with moss or other vegetation and often I stick a branch in it, or put a rock on top, to mark the place. Going to the toilet like this might feel weird the first few times, but you get used to it quickly 🙂

Navigation

A crucial skill in trekking is navigation. Getting lost in nature can become a serious problem so you have to make sure you can find your way.

Electronic devices

Fortunately, navigation has gotten much easier with the invention of GPS. First, we had dedicated GPS devices and now it’s built into every smartphone. It’s brilliant because you always know where you are and, in combination with a digital map and a route, you know where to go. But keep in mind the following limitations:

GPS limitations

  • You need a GPS signal to fix your position which sometimes is challenging when don’t have a clear view of the sky (in a canyon, in a forest)
  • You need an internet connection to access your map unless you downloaded it beforehand at home
  • Your device can run out of power (smart to carry an additional power bank) or it can break
  • If your device only has a touch screen, it can be difficult to operate in the rain or with gloves on

Digital maps

For mapping software you can use Google Maps (especially in satellite view) but better is dedicated topographic mapping software because it will show more detail like little trails and more elevation lines. On my smartphone I have been using the app TopoGPS for some years. It has maps of most European countries, it is accurate, you can import trekking routes in multiple formats like GPX, and it only costs a few euro’s per country.

Paper map and compass

Some of the limitations of GPS are avoided when using the good old paper map and compass. An added advantage of a paper map is that you get a better overview of the trekking area than on a small screen. Also, you avoid having to walk with your device in your hand all the time. (You won’t have this problem with a GPS watch with a built-in map, but they are expensive).

Therefore I always bring a paper map and compass on my treks. I carry my map in a transparent waterproof case (against rain) in my pant’s hip pocket and my compass on a cord around my neck so it’s always easily accessible.

I think in the end, combining GPS with a paper map and compass is best. It’s also a good way of backing up your navigation means that way. Personally, I still use the paper map most of the time, but it’s great to be able to verify my location on my phone.

Navigation tips

Learning to confidently navigate, especially with paper map and compass, takes practice. Much practice in my case because I have a terrible sense of direction 🙂. Here are some tips.

Setting the map

Navigation is easiest if you keep your map orientated with the real world (e.g. North on the map always points to North in the real world). This is also called “setting the map”. This way, you don’t have to rotate things in your mind when deciding where to go.

Route section table

Before taking off, I like to break up my route of the day into sections. Each section has a general direction, distance, time estimate, possible change in elevation and a characteristic landmark at the start and end. I like to note these sections in a table on a little piece of paper and put it in my map case. This helps to keep track of where I am, and how far I still must go. Here’s an example of a route section table that I used on a trek in Norway:

Date: Thu 12 Aug. 2021

 Dir.Dist.
(m)
Tim.
(min.)
Asc.
(m)
Desc.
(m)
DescriptionElev.
(m)
ZZW2505River cross760
ZW2505River cross760
ZW200040+100Oasen860
ZWW270055+100-20Trail split940
ZW330055-100Trail split840
Z2505River cross840
ZZE250040+20-20Svukuriset840
W300040-120Trail split720
WWN75015-50Femunden670
TOT.15000255+220-310
Route section table next to topographic map in map case

Dead reckoning

When you know how fast you are moving (see speed tables above), you can estimate how long it will take to reach certain landmarks in the terrain like a trail fork, a river crossing or a change in steepness. This is called dead reckoning and can be a valuable check on your location because when you haven’t reached your landmark in time, you know something might went wrong.

Thumb on location

Finally a very simple tip. When walking with a paper map in you hands, every time you look at it, you need some time again to figure out where you are on the map. To make this process slightly quicker, you can keep your thumb on your current location on the map. (Of course, so now and then you have update your position a little). This way your finger always points to your current location and you know immediately where you are on the map without having to search.

Gear

I have to admit I have a love-hate relationship with trekking gear. On the one hand it’s a crucial and fascinating part of trekking. The right gear will allow you to walk, navigate, camp, and carry all your things with comfort. On the other hand, when researching what gear to get, you run the risk of spending more time and money on shopping than on actually being outdoors. So, try not to get sucked into the gear vortex 🙂

My gear for a 6-day trek on the Hardangervidda in Norway (2017)

In this part of the post I’ll limit myself to some general guidelines concerning gear and some tips about footwear. In part two you’ll find the list of gear I typically bring on a trek. Finally, if you’re looking for more details on gear, I can recommend Andrew Skurka’s The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide.

Some general gear guidelines:

  • Don’t bring to much. Beginning trekkers tend to bring items for every possible eventuality and carry a heavy backpack as a consequence. Most of the time, there are only a few crucial items you need, so stick to those (see my list in part two).
  • The gear that you bring, try to keep it as light as possible while still being reliable. My old army backpack for instance weighed almost 3 kg. Granted, it’s indestructible but I paid for it in weight. (My current backpack weighs about 800 g, saving 2 kg). A downside of lightweight gear can be its high price, so it might not be attainable for everyone. If you’re lucky, you can find some secondhand items but unfortunately the market for lightweight gear is not that big. Finally, you don’t want to push the weight thing too far and go, what Andrew Skurka calls, stupid light. This is when there is a high probability of breaking your things during a trek and making your situation uncomfortable or unsafe.
  • Test new gear before you take it on a long trek. If you’re in a remote nature area and you find out something is not working, it’s too late to do much about it.

Footwear

Of all the gear, footwear is one of the most important things during your trek so here’s a bit more info on that. Its function is to protect your feet against rough ground and the cold, provide good grip, avoid blisters and at the same time be as light as possible.

For a long time, the golden standard for hiking has been the rugged (waterproof) hiking boot. But recently, from the world of long-distance hiking, came along the trail running shoe. Trail running shoes have less ankle support than hiking boots, are rarely waterproof, are less warm and sturdy but they are more comfortable, cheaper, and lighter. See the differences summarised below:

Hiking bootTrail running shoe
WeightHighLow
Water resistanceHighLow
IsolationHighLow
Ankle supportHighLow
PriceHighLow
ComfortLowHigh

So, which one to pick? In winter, when you have to walk trough much snow and ice, I would go for hiking boots because they will keep your feet dry and warm. For summer however, I switched to trail running shoes 10 years ago and haven’t looked back. The main downside with trail running shoes however is that your feet get wet.

Wet feet

When trekking, you will have to go through rain, wet grass, streams, etc., so with trail running shoes, your feet will very likely get wet. In winter, like I mentioned above, you’re better off with waterproof hiking boots. In summer however, wet feet are less of a problem as long as you’re on the move because then your feet don’t get cold. Only after you stop in camp will your feet get cold and you need to dry them. This can be done by taking your wet socks off, replace them by waterproof socks (yes, they exist, e.g. Sealskinz), and put them back into your wet shoes. Alternatively you can put on ordinary dry socks and put a plastic bag over them before putting them back into your wet shoes. This last method might make you feel like a hobo, but it works, and your feet will be (reasonably) warm 🙂

Weather

Weather conditions obviously can have a big impact on your trek. It’s important therefore you know what to expect in your trekking area in terms of temperature, precipitation, wind, amount of daylight, mosquitoes, etc. Fortunately, climate data and weather statistics of most areas can be found online so you can do some research and prepare accordingly. Some additional tips:

  • If your trek is in mountainous terrain, keep in mind that the mountain weather forecast often is very different from the valley one. The temperature drops about 0.8 °C every 100 m of elevation (called lapse rate) and the wind generally increases.
  • It’s good to know (where applicable) the tree and snow line elevations.

Animals & plants

For each trek I like to do a little research on what animals and plants I might encounter. In Europe, fortunately you seldom have to worry about dangerous animals like bears, wolfs and snakes because they are rare and often afraid of humans. If there is frequent hunting in your trek area, you might want to check when the hunting season is, because there might be closed off areas.

Bugs

Bugs like mosquitoes and midges can be a real nuisance in the summer months. (Midges are really small flying insects that sting). How much there will be, depends on a number of factors and is somewhat difficult to predict. In general though they like to come out when there’s little wind and just before sunset or after sunrise. If it gets bad, the most effective protection is to cover all bare skin. This means wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt and sometimes even a head net and gloves. In camp you might have the option of making a campfire and sit in the smoke a bit.

Wearing head nets against the midges in the evening in the Lake District, England (2016)

When walking through the woods or long grass, you might get bitten by ticks that can carry Lyme Disease. If you suspects ticks in an area, it is smart to check your body every evening before bed, to see if some have attached to your skin and to remove them, for instance with tweezers. If you do this within 24 hours, normally you’re fine. If you get bitten by a tick, it’s a good idea to make a note of the date and the location of the bite on your body. If later concentric red rings form on your skin in that spot, you have to see a doctor to get antibiotics to avoid Lyme Disease.

Fish

If you’re into fishing like me, it’s smart to check what species might be around in your trekking area and what kind of fishing gear and bait to bring. You probably have to buy a temporary local fishing permit (cheap most of the time). If you want to eat the fish, make sure you have a plan on how to clean and cook it (e.g. bring a pan and cooking oil, or cook it on a stick over a campfire).

Berries

In the right season you might find edible berries like bilberry, lingonberry, blackberry, raspberry and cloudberry. These can be a welcome little addition to your freeze dried expedition meals 🙂 Make sure though you can confidently recognise these types of berries before eating them.

Bilberries (Sweden, 2012)

Costs

The main cost of a nature trek will probably be your gear. If you’re starting with nothing, this can easily run up to a few thousand euros. Borrowing and renting gear will be more feasible for beginners. You can also test pieces of kit that way before spending your hard-earned money on them.

Besides gear however, nature trekking is one of the cheapest forms of vacation you can find. If you are wild camping, and bring your own food, your main costs will be transport to the trek area. As a rough indication, most of my 1-week nature treks in Europe won’t go over €600.

Risk

No matter how well prepared you are, trekking, especially in remote nature areas, remains unpredictable and not without risks. Hazards include getting lost, falling and injuring yourself, and hypothermia. Furthermore, your mobile phone might not work in remote areas, so when you’re alone, it can be hard to get help. Here are some tips to reduce your risk:

  • Test your skills and gear before you go anywhere remote. And when it’s time for your first remote trip, it’s smart to first camp a couple of days on the edge of the area, on an official camp site, and do a few easy day hikes from there. This will give you the opportunity to acclimatise, do some final gear testing and maybe replace some items that are not working.
  • When going anywhere remote, always let someone know when you will be back so they can notify emergency services when this doesn’t happen.
  • It’s recommended that at least one member in your trekking party has some basic first aid knowledge. You seldom have to deal with anything more than blisters, but since help can be many hours away, it’s good if there’s someone with basic medical knowledge.
  • Since phones often don’t work in remote areas, you could bring a personal locator beacon. This satellite device can send out an SOS signal and your location to emergency services when you’re in trouble. An example is the Garmin inReach Mini 2, which even can be used for two-way texting. I’ve never taken a beacon on my treks, and they are quite expensive, but it can give you, and the people at home, some peace of mind.
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