This is part of a three-part series. See here for details.
As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to hike the E5 European long-distance hiking trail from Lake Constance to Verona this year. For a start, let me give you a quick overview of what I did to prepare for this trip.
Aiming for a backpack as light as possible, I spent a great deal of time optimizing weight. After much thinking, Excel lists and weighing everything with the kitchen scale, I came up with the following packing list – including everything I was wearing while hiking:
- 18 l backpack
- 1 medium dry sack (4 l) for clothes and sleeping bag
- 1 small dry sack (1 l) for electronics
- 3 merino wool shirts (no sleeves, short sleeves, long sleeves)
- 2 merino wool underpants
- 1 pair of long underpants
- 1 pair of zip-off hiking pants
- 1 soft-shell jacket
- 2 pairs of hiking socks
- Rain jacket and rain pants
- Headband, doubling as hat and sun protection
- Hiking boots
- 1 fast-dry towel
- First aid kit
- Nail clippers and pliers
- Multi-purpose soap*
- Toothbrush & chewing tablets*
- Contact lenses, contact lense solution, glasses
- Camera and charger
- Phone and charger
- 2 0.5 l bottles of water
- Granola bars, mixed nuts and dried fruit
- Light-weight collapsible trekking poles
- Silk sleeping bag
- Guide book and map
- Notebook and pen
- Money, credit card, ID etc.
In total, my backpack weighed little over 6 kilos, including water and food supplies. What I can already tell as a preview to the next post: I had by far the smallest and lightest backpack of our hiking group and I received comments from fellow hikers, mountain guides as well as bus drivers on how nice and small my backpack was. Still, there wasn’t anything I missed. I guess starting packing and optimizing as much as three months before the actual trip does pay off in the end.
What I learned for next time: I played really safe when it comes to bottle sizes of toiletries. In the future, I will refill sunscreen, soap and contact lense solution into even smaller bottles, which will probably save another 500 g or so.
My general fitness status was quite low before I started my training. But with an actual target in mind, motivating myself to work out felt surprisingly easy. I focused on two main areas: stamina and strength.
For stamina, I worked out on the cross trainer of my local gym two to three times a week, with increasing duration and difficulties. In addition, I did several tours by bike on the weekends, mostly between 50 and 70 km per tour. Here, also, I increased the speed as my training progressed.
In addition, I participated in a course focusing on building muscular strength, especially for back and leg muscles. I also exercised by myself daily, mostly with squats, planks and the like.
Hiking & Backpack Training
Lastly, I also wanted to train sure-footedness and hiking with a six to seven kilo backpack on my back. As I had never hiked with trekking poles before, this was another thing I wanted to get used to.
I started the hiking season at the actual start of the E5: in the city of Constance at Lake Constance, which is just a short ferry ride from where I live. From there I walked across the border to Switzerland pretty quickly and then passed the cities of Kreuzlingen, Münsterlingen and Uttwil on my way to Romanshorn. From there, another ferry ride took me back home. The hike was nice, but not very spectacular. As the path runs along the lake’s shore for almost the entire time, there isn’t much to see except for the lake on the left and camping sites or large mansions on the right. Also, there is close to no change in altitude, which makes the hike fairly useless for alpine training.
So I chose the Pfänder as an additional training site. The Austrian mountain is easy to reach for me by train or car and with its elevation of 1064 m, there is a difference in altitude of almost 700 m to climb from the lake. Even though the path is partly paved, there are also some bits where using trekking poles actually makes sense and where you need some degree of sure-footedness. I hiked up and down the Pfänder several times for preparation. I believe it helped me a great deal, especially when it comes to getting used to the weight of the backpack and using trekking poles.
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