Route Planning for Hikers

Route Planning for Hikers

Embarking on a hiking adventure is not just about stepping into the great outdoors; it's a journey that unfolds with every step, presenting hikers with breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and a connection to nature that is unparalleled. For those who seek to explore the beauty of the wilderness, effective route planning is the compass that guides their expedition and is kind of an art on its own.

In the realm of hiking, predefined routes serve as the roadmap for enthusiasts, offering a structured and well-thought-out path through various terrains. Whether trekking through dense forests, ascending majestic peaks, or traversing serene meadows, the art of route planning ensures that hikers can immerse themselves in the wonders of nature while minimizing unexpected challenges.

When venturing out for a hike, there are three primary options for determining our route:

  • Group Hiking: Opting to hike in a group under the guidance of someone familiar with the route. In this scenario, hikers follow the leader without meticulous consideration of the specific path being traversed.

  • GPX Track Following: Choosing to follow a pre-recorded GPX track created by another hiker. This method involves relying on a digital trail previously mapped by someone else who actually walked the trail, ensuring a guided experience based on their recorded route. GPX tracks can be found on many hiking sites.

  • Self-Planned Routes: Embarking on a personalized adventure by planning our own route using available tools. This involves creating a GPX file that outlines the intended path, which we subsequently follow in the wilderness. This option grants hikers the freedom to tailor the journey according to their preferences and exploration goals.

For this article we are mostly interested in the latter option. A route can be planned using different applications, ranging from mobile, through desktop to web platforms. Obviously, the larger the screen, the more comfortable is the experience as the user has a better view of the map. Probably the best choice are apps that have both a web and a mobile version as this allows you to plan the route on a big screen and have it readily available within your account in the mobile app. Examples of such apps are Gaia GPS and Komoot.

For planning a hiking route it is important that the app supports the following features:

  • Should have the ability to connect different points using existing trails. This is usually done using (OSM) maps which contain most of the popular trails around the globe.
  • Should allow you to draw parts of your trail manually if not covered by (OSM).
  • Should display the vertical profile of the planned route. This is important so you can tailor the difficulty of the route to your liking or abilities.

Once you're happy with your track, you can save it as a .gpx file and transfer it to any app or device that supports GPX file tracking. I usually upload GPX files to at least AGPS-TrackerOm and my Garmin eTrex 32, but also any other apps that I plan to use on the hike.

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