Earning my Hiking Stripes on the Alpe Adria Trail.

This post was originally published on the travel blog An Ocean Away.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Recently I set out to earn my hiking stripes on the Alpe Adria Trail.

Not being a seasoned hiker, I imagined travelling with a bunch of well-worn and road tested travellers with oversized backpacks, through epic mountain trails for days on end. I imagined steep rocky scrambles and shear vertical faces. I imagined me, red faced and out of breath, trailing back down the valleys and struggling to hold my own among a group of intrepid explorers.

Like Frodo, off on his big adventure, I felt I was off on a big adventure too – mostly to conquer myself, and a brand new pair of hiking boots fresh from the box. And after weeks of weddings, wine tastings, parties and pies, this molehill was looking like a serious mountain to overcome.

Leading from high in the Austrian alps, all the way down to the Mediterranean, this borderless itinerary weaves it’s way through 43 stages, and 3 countries – Austria, Slovenia, and Italy.

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But I shouldn’t have fretted in the slightest as all the myths and worries were dispelled. My shameless lack of confidence was restored as soon as I set off, and this easy to walk pleasure became one of the best trips I’ve ever done.

Being prepared helped a lot though, and should you also wish to set off and lose your hiking virginity, here’s what you need to know:

Dress well. Pack well. Eat well.

Dress Well: Layering is the key to happiness

Baselayer: The layer that’s next to your skin needs to be wool or synthetic fabric that will absorb the moisture away from your skin. Avoid cotton at all costs.

 Midlayer: This goes on next and needs to be able to keep you warm. Personally I rate the old kiwi swandry, but fleeces are a good idea too.

Outer Shell: This is your waterproof layer. Try Gortex for something light and breathable that will keep the wind off. Don’t leave home without this!

Socks:  Crappy socks = blisters and discomfort. Again, avoid cotton and if possible invest in some super fancy merino-wool socks. They’re worth the investment.

Hiking Boots: Your needs will differ greatly depending on the type of hiking you’re doing. I would recommend going into a sports store to get boots fitted properly –there’s no substitute for trying on a million pairs when you know you’re going to get the perfect fit.

I invested in a pair of Salomon Comet 3D GTX Ladies Walking Boots from Complete Outdoors. While I was fearful of breaking them in on the trail, they wore like a pair of old slippers – comfortable and extra cozy with not a blister in sight. They’re more durable than regular trail shoes, and kept my feet bone dry.

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Pack Well: And don’t forget your sunscreen.

Now, a lot of this will depend on how long your planned hike is and what sort of adventures you’re hoping to embark on. Here’s the essentials to get you started – and what I packed for my day to day trail walking.

  •  A small backpack
  • A fully charged cellphone
  • A camera
  • Bug spray
  • Basic first aid kit – Band-Aids, Panadol, hand sanitizer and tissues are a must.
  • Pocket knife – although remember to put it in your checked-in luggage or it’ll get confiscated if you’re flying.
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat
  • Trail snacks
  • Lipbalm
  • Spare pair of socks, just in case.
  • Water bottle
    drinking from a stream

    Water so clean you can drink it

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Eat Well

Don’t make the mistake of skimping on supplies just to lighten your load, it’s just not worth it. There’s nothing better than a cheeky snack on the trail, and it seems that keeping the stomach full is the answer to most problems.

We all know life is more positive with some dark chocolate and a few cashews.

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All in all, you’re in for a treat. Would love to hear about your first hiking experiences. Who has different packing essentials to me? I always like to take a mini notebook too 🙂

Ocean Belcher Editor

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