How Much it Cost Us to Hike the West Highland Way

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of…

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of walking, make an itinerary, and figure out your travel logistics.  Before you start all of that, however, you may be a little anxious about how much it’s all going to cost. Traveling in the United Kingdom has the reputation for being very expensive, and that’s generally true, but it is still very possible to have an amazing West Highland Way trek without selling your firstborn child to be able to afford it.

One of the best parts about the West Highland Way for walkers on a tighter budget is that there are camping options on every stage of the trek, a few of them even being free. True, some of the campgrounds charge a rather steep fee for the ability to pitch your tent on their midgy, bumpy plot of grass, but relative to other accommodation options, camping is by far the best option and will allow you to keep your overall costs quite low. And, to be fair, the campgrounds are quite lovely; many offer hot showers, nice restaurants, wifi, drying rooms, and other amenities. If camping, you can also stay within a small budget by cooking most of your meals. If sleeping indoors in a bed is more your style, the West Highland Way offers a wide range of accommodation for budgets of all sizes.  The same goes for food and other services.

Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our West Highland Way adventure (updated for 2020 prices). We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that a trip like the WHW is more within reach than you originally thought if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

If you’re interested in camping on the WHW, be sure to check out our ultimate camping guide. It’s guaranteed to save you tons of time and money!

West Highland Way camping guide

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Accommodation

We chose to camp every night of the West Highland Way and highly recommend it for a number of reasons. Many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We preferred the privacy of our tent over the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of bunkhouses and hostels. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! Depending on how your itinerary shakes out, there are also several bothies that provide a free and authentic WHW accommodation option. Finally, we stayed in Airbnb’s the night before we started our hike and the night we finished.  If it works with your budget, you’ll greatly appreciate these little slices of luxury on the bookends of your hike.

  • Average campsite: £10 (per person)
  • Bed in a bunkhouse or hostel: £20 (per person)
  • Private room in a guesthouse & breakfast: £50 (per person)
  • Airbnb in Edinburgh before the hike: £100 per night
  • Airbnb in Fort William: £80 – £100 per night

 

West Highland Way lodging

Lodging options abound on the West Highland Way

Transit

It’s a quick and easy trip to get from Glasgow to the start of the walk in Milngavie. We traveled to the hike from Edinburgh, which was also very efficient. Upon finishing in Fort William, if you’d like to return to Glasgow, you can either take a bus or a train. The bus is cheaper, but the train is very scenic, as it follows the West Highland Way for much of the way. If you choose to splurge on the train, make sure to buy your tickets well in advance. The price increases significantly as you get closer to your departure date.

  • Train from Edinburgh to Milngavie: £14 (per person)
  • Train from Glasgow to Milngavie: £5 (per person)
  • Bus from Glasgow to Milngavie: £3 (per person)
  • Train from Fort William to Glasgow: £25 (per person, purchased 90 days in advance)
  • Bus from Fort William to Glasgow:£20 (per person)

Flights

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Edinburgh for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees (roundtrip): $189.36 (for two people)

Food and Drink

Instead of spending a small fortune on restaurant dinners or fancy freeze-dried backpacker meals, we preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the West Highland Way. We tended to eat ramen noodles, mac’n cheese, or instant curry pots for most dinners. The shops we encountered along the trail had excellent cheap, fresh sandwiches, which were a welcome treat when we were able to get our hands on them.   For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins that stockpiled whenever we found them at a reasonable price along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee.

Occasionally, we’d pick up some fruit from a local shop, and we also enjoyed our fair share of post-hike french fries. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than the space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about £9-13 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves frequent treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay on average for the following indulgences:

  • Pint of Beer:£5 – £7
  • Meal at a local pub: £15
  • Coffee/Tea: £3

Many of the campsites have lovely bar/restaurants

Miscellaneous

  • Stove Fuel: £7
  • Laundry: £4 (for wash and dry)

 

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What’s next?

Ready to keep planning your West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How to Navigate on the West Highland Way | GPS Maps

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond,…

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond, and take in incredible Highland vistas. While this incredible variety of landscapes undoubtedly has you excited for your adventure, it might also make you wonder how you’ll ever navigate the West Highland Way. Should you bring a map? Is the trail well marked? How will you find all the campgrounds you’re staying at?

This post will explain how we navigated on the West Highland Way, including which maps to bring, the tools we used, and even some custom resources for those using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Let’s get started.

Map of the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way winds its way north from Milngavie to Fort William

 

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Should I bring a map?

This is one of the questions we get most often from readers who are getting ready to head out on the West Highland Way. They’ve heard that the trail is very well marked, well maintained, and that hikers are rarely far from a road of town (all of which are true). However, our answer is always a resounding YES- you should bring a map with you on the West Highland Way!

As you’ll read below we relied heavily on our smartphone’s GPS features and a handy app that allows you to navigate even without cell phone service. It’s a great system and one we highly recommend, but we would have been out of luck if our battery died or a torrential downpour rendered our phones useless. In some situations, there is nothing more useful than an old fashioned paper map to help you find your way and ensure that you have a great West Highland Way experience. We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire West Highland Way in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.

Now that you’ve got your maps safely tucked away in your pack in case of emergency, let’s get started learning how to harness the power of your smartphone to navigate your way to a successful West Highland Way walk!

Offline GPS maps for the West Highland Way

An offline mobile map of the West Highland way is one of the easiest ways to navigate while you’re on the trail. You’ll simply open up your chosen GPS app (more on that below) and be able to view your location as well as the trail, alternate routes, and stopping points along the West Highland Way. We utilized this to find our campgrounds, check that we were still on the route, and know how far we had hiked at any point in the day.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the WHW and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your own trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your smartphone as a GPS

If you’re anything like us, you use your smartphone’s mapping capabilities on a daily basis. Whether it’s checking how bad the traffic is, consulting the bus schedule, or looking up the best bike route, apps like Google Maps provide tremendous value for navigating our world.

These apps work by using the GPS location data that your phone provides, combined with a base map that shows you the surrounding context. You need both of these features (the GPS location + the base map) in order for the mapping app to be useful. Normally, your phone is able to source the base map information by utilizing  an internet connection or cellular data. This works great in most situations, but won’t help you when you’re hiking along the shores of Loch Lomond without cell phone service. In that case, all Google Maps will be able to show you is this:

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate

In order to use the incredibly useful GPS functions on our phones to navigate in more remote areas (like the West Highland Way) we have to solve the base map problem.

The solution?

GPS navigation apps that allow us to download base maps ahead of time. These apps allow you to select the area you’ll need to access and download the base map directly to your phone. Then, when you’re without cell phone service, the app will pull up the downloaded base map and be able to show you exactly where you are on the trail!

Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. In the next section I’ll show you exactly how to set up your phone to navigate on the West Highland Way.

West Highland Way Maps – What we provide

For those looking for West Highland Way GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire West Highland way route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional, 8-day itinerary.

For those who aren’t following this standard 8-day itinerary, we offer a number of solutions to help you navigate on the West Highland Way. From our detailed Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way to custom itineraries we’re here to help!

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Which app should I use?

There are two main offline GPS navigation apps that we recommend for those hiking the West Highland Way: Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the West Highland Way displays in each of the apps.

As you can see, Maps.me can easily display the route as well as location markers along the way. However, the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS gives the user much more information such as adjacent trails, topographic lines, and elevation shading. For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS, although we certainly understand those who prefer to use a free option. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the West Highland Way for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Using Gaia GPS for your West Highland Way map

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom West Highland Way GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the West Highland Way GPS file (either .kml or .gpx)

When you purchase our West Highland Way GPS download or one of the premium versions of our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .GPX or .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the West Highland Way route and waypoints for your specific itinerary displayed on the map.

West Highland Way - Gaia GPS

Success! You’ve imported the West Highland Way GPS data in Gaia GPS.

 

Step Two – Choose your map source
Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the West Highland Way. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

 

Step Three – Navigate to the West Highland Way and download your background map
Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the West Highland Way. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the West Highland way in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire West Highland Way
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘West Highland Way’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the West Highland Way like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the campgrounds along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step for navigating like a pro on the West Highland Way is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow.

Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.

NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

Interested in camping along the West Highland Way? Our Premium Guide includes custom GPX data for your itinerary!

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Maps.me GPS for your West Highland Way map

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom West Highland Way GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the WHW.

The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find detailed topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our West Highland Way GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the West Highland Way GPS file

When you purchase our West Highland Way GPS download or one of the premium versions of our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. Be sure to select the .KML file as Maps.me cannot read .gpx files. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you should do.

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the West Highland Way and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

Step Two – Download the West Highland Way background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the West Highland Way GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the route as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the West Highland Way in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download two distinct regions in Maps.me to cover the entire route. They are:
    1. Scotland – South
    2. Scotland – North
  4. Continue to zoom in on different segments of the trail until you have downloaded both of these regions
  5. Verify that you’ve downloaded all of the required base maps by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  6. Once you’ve checked that both regions have been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

To verify that you’ve successfully downloaded both of the required base map regions in Maps.me follow these steps:

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Select ‘United Kingdom”
  4. Select each country and verify that you have both of the following maps downloaded:
    1. Scotland – South
    2. Scotland – North

 

That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the West Highland Way like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stopping locations along the route!

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

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What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way

After camping our way through the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. For…

After camping our way through the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel.

For our next adventure, we chose the West Highland Way (WHW), a 94-mile (151 km) trek that begins just outside of Glasgow, winds its way past the iconic Loch Lomond towards rugged moors and emerald hillsides, and ends in the stunning Highlands at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis, West Highland Way

The clouds parted momentarily to allow for a rare glimpse of Ben Nevis on our final stage of the WHW.

 

In addition to its dramatic beauty, the West Highland Way offers some other great perks:

  • Both ends of the hike are easily accessed by public transportation.
  • It can be completed in just over a week.
  • Services are widely available along the route, simplifying resupply and logistical considerations.
  • It’s possible to camp every night (many long-distance treks require at least one or two expensive hut stays).

If you haven’t considered camping, we are here to tell you that you should! Camping along the West Highland Way allowed us to meet so many great people from all over the world, sleep in stunning locations, keep our trip expenses very low, and earn the satisfaction of carrying everything we needed on our backs.

Convinced? Keep reading for everything you need to know to camp on the incredible West Highland Way!

 

Two tents and two chairs at a campground on the West Highland Way

Camping on the West Highland Way=living the good life!

 

For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for less than $10! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the WHW. Save yourself time and money with this amazing resource! 

Purchase your digital Guide for under $10 here

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What’s in this guide?

 

A hiker walks along the West Highland Way with views of Beinn Dorain in the distance.

The West Highland Way traverses a wide range of rugged and beautiful landscapes.

 

About the Hike

Many consider the West Highland Way to be one of the best long-distance hikes in all of Europe. This 94-mile (151 km) trek begins in Milngavie and stretches north to Fort William, encompassing an impressive variety of landscapes in between. The southern portion of the walk is characterized by bucolic pastoral landscapes, rolling green hillsides, and peaceful woodlands. The middle section of the walk traces the entire length of the storied Loch Lomond, allowing walkers to experience its wild, tangled shoreline. In the north, the Way traverses the best of the Scottish Highlands, one of Britain’s last remaining expanses of true wilderness. History, culture, natural beauty, and adventure-the West Highland Way truly has it all!

 

How long is the West Highland Way?

Distance: 94 miles (151 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: 13,000 feet (3,900 meters)

How long does it take to hike the West Highland Way?

Most walkers take 6-9 days to complete the West Highland Way. If you want to hike the entire route in a week or less, be prepared to cover at least 15-20 miles each day. If you prefer to move at a more relaxed pace, your longest day need not exceed 15 miles with most days averaging around 10 miles. Our stage-by-stage camping guide (below) is written for a moderately-paced 8-day itinerary, but could be easily adapted for other lengths. We’ve made note of places where you could lengthen or shorten your itinerary in the stage-by-stage guide.

Read more: West Highland Way Trip Report

 

The path from Milngavie to Drymen on the West Highland Way

Easy walking from Milngavie to Drymen.

Still trying to figure out your itinerary? Let us help!

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When is the best time to hike the West Highland Way?

Although some hardy souls brave the wind, rain, cold, and snow to walk the West Highland Way during the winter months, most will prefer just the wind and rain of the spring/summer/autumn…and hopefully some sunny days too! When it comes to deciding when to complete your trek, you’ll need to consider factors such as weather, midges, and crowds.

April

Unpredictable weather, but few crowds and midges. Snow will likely remain in some areas. Be prepared for shorter days and therefore fewer daylight hours for walking.

May

May is a very busy time on the trail. Expect warm temperatures, wildflowers, relatively little rain, and few midges. You’ll need to book (non-camping) accommodation in advance.

June

Good weather, tolerable midges, and generally less crowded on the trail (compared to May). However, try to avoid walking during the Caledonian Challenge and the West Highland Way Race, both of which take place in June.

July & August

Crowds, midges, and rain are all plentiful during peak summer these months. It’s still very possible to have a wonderful time if you trek in July or August, just make sure you book your (non-camping) accommodation in advance and pack rain gear and a midge net!

September

This is a fabulous time to walk the WHW, although it can be quite wet. The trail is relatively quiet and the midges tend to be less of a problem later in the season. Be aware of the increasingly shorter days as the month progresses.

October

Early October can be a lovely time to trek, with beautiful fall colors painted across the woodlands and hillsides. However, the chance of colder, wetter weather increases with each day that passes. By the end of the month, the days will be short and the conditions are likely to be pretty rough.

Read more: Pack right and be prepared for all of the elements the WHW might throw at you!

 

A snow capped mountain on the West Highland Way

It’s possible that you’ll encounter snow in the Scottish Highlands from October through April.

 

How Difficult is the West Highland Way?

Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the West Highland Way is a very approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious feat of endurance that will push you to new limits. You won’t be required to traverse over high mountain passes or navigate steep ascents and descents each day, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy!  You’ll be covering long stretches of undulating terrain with a variety of underfoot conditions. The rough and rocky paths can be taxing on leg muscles and create a hotbed for blisters. However, if they train ahead of time and keep reasonable expectations, walkers of all ability levels should be able to complete the West Highland Way – and enjoy themselves while doing it!

What makes the West Highland Way a challenging trek?

  • Long distances covered each day
  • Potentially difficult weather conditions (wind, rain, heat, cold)
  • Rough underfoot conditions (such as large stones or wet paths)
  • Undulating hills

What makes the West Highland Way a beginner-friendly trek?

  • No major ascents or descents
  • Low elevation throughout (plenty of oxygen, unlike higher altitudes)
  • Frequent and plentiful services and accommodation
  • Options for transportation and luggage transfer

On a final note, believe us when we say that you will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it).

Check out our in-depth article on how to train for the West Highland Way. 

 

Approaching the Devil's Staircase climb on the West Highland Way

Approaching the Devil’s Staircase, the arguably the toughest climb on the trek.

 

Which Direction Should I Hike the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way is traditionally walked from south to north, but you can easily trek in either direction. Advantages of the traditional south-north direction include having the wind at your back and finishing at the dramatic Ben Nevis. Riding the southbound train through the rugged Highland scenery upon completion of the WHW is a highlight for many trekkers.

Some walkers prefer to head from north-south to meet more new people on each stage and avoid crowds on the trail. Either direction you choose to walk, you’ll have plenty of accommodation options and easy connections to and from the trail. Our stage-by-stage camping guide is written for south-north trekkers, but can easily be reversed.

 

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Weather

Where do we even begin when discussing the famous (er, infamous) Scottish weather? The temperamental and variable weather conditions are a quintessential part of any West Highland Way experience. Regardless of when you complete your trek, it is almost guaranteed to rain at some point. Even in the summer months, it’s common to encounter cold, gray, windy conditions, especially at higher elevations and further north along the trail.

Honestly, you should hope you’re lucky enough to experience some of these steely conditions; the rugged landscape looks its best when shrouded in a layer of dramatic clouds. That being said, don’t rule out the possibility of warm and sunny days. In July and August, it can get quite hot if the sun is shining.

Remember to give the elements the respect they deserve. From hypothermia to heatstroke, the conditions can be dangerous for unprepared walkers. Always check the weather forecast before you begin walking each day and air on the side of caution if you’re not sure if you should attempt to walk. There are plenty of local transport connections available if you need to detour or skip a section due to adverse conditions.

The old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear,” couldn’t be more true when it comes to the West Highland Way.  If you have good waterproofs, plenty of layers, and some common sense, you’ll be able to savor all of the different elements the Highland weather gods throw at you.

The Met Office website is a good resource for detailed and accurate forecasts.

 

The walk towards Kinlochleven on the West Highland Way

Brooding skies on the walk towards Kinlochleven.

 

Food and Drink

One of the many wonderful things about the West Highland Way is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) eight days’ worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. You’ll be able to find food shops and/or restaurants on nearly every stop of the Way. We’ve noted the availability of these in our stage-by-stage camping guide below. Even though food is abundant, make sure you plan accordingly, as there is quite a bit of variation in terms of what is available.

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater with goods from the many shops you’ll pass. This will keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the West Highland Way.

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, guesthouses, and pubs serve meals. If staying indoors, check with your accommodation provider to see what they offer.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, be sure to enjoy a pint of ale, a hearty Scottish breakfast, a good cuppa, or any of the other numerous local specialties you’ll encounter along your trek.

Dietary Restrictions

The restaurants and accommodation providers along the West Highland Way are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs (make sure to ask in advance), that will be the exception and not the norm. We’d recommend bringing plenty of your own food as insurance.

Water

All of the hotels, guesthouses, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains or cafes that will fill your bottles for you, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first. We love using hydration bladders when walking, as they distribute the weight much better and encourage frequent and consistent hydration.

 

Glasses of beer on the West Highland Way

One of our favorite parts of hiking the West Highland Way!

 

Getting To and From the West Highland Way

Glasgow is the most common entry point for West Highland Way walkers traveling from abroad. While it’s possible to travel by foot from Glasgow to the official start in Milngavie, most hikers will opt for a faster method of transit. The easiest way to get from Glasgow to Milngavie is by taking one of the frequent trains that run between the two, but you can also take a public bus or a taxi.

On its northern end, the West Highland way terminates in Fort William. There are buses that run between Fort William and Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other popular destinations, but if you’re traveling to Glasgow we recommend taking the train. The railway between Fort William and Glasgow closely follows much of the West Highland Way, allowing hikers to retrace (or preview) their scenic journey.

For tons of detailed information about getting to and from the WHW (and other practical tips), be sure to read our West Highland Way Logistics article.

 

Wayfinding

On the whole, the West Highland Way is very well marked and relatively easy to navigate. There are signposts bearing the trail icon at frequent intervals and at most junctions. That being said, you absolutely need to bring a map. Furthermore, we strongly suggest using GPS to make your life easier and less stressful.

The trail passes through farmland, tangled forests, wild moors, and villages, with each landscape presenting its own wayfinding challenges. It’s remarkably easy to wander off course when you’re captivated by the scenery or deep in a daydream! Be prepared, pay attention, and you’ll be just fine.

The first step to being prepared? Read our awesome articles about navigating on the West Highland Way! We’ll even teach you how to turn your phone into a GPS device (no data required!)

How to Navigate on the West Highland Way

How to Find All of your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way

 

A wooden West Highland Way trail sign

The trail was well marked throughout.

 

Did you know that our Premium Camping Guide includes custom GPX files for your camping itinerary?

West Highland Way camping guide

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Budgeting and Money

Cash, Credit, and Currency

Scotland uses the British pound and cash is king on the West Highland Way. There are no banks or ATMs directly along the route between Drymen and Tyndrum, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Most small shops, pubs, and campgrounds require cash, although some larger supermarkets will accept major credit cards.

It will be important to estimate your daily expenses (allowing yourself a healthy cushion for unexpected costs) and to make sure you have enough money to cover you until the next ATM. Generally speaking, the West Highland Way is quite safe, but you should still make sure you carry your money on your person at all times and use common sense.

How much will this cost me?

While it’s true that Scotland is expensive, your West Highland Way adventure doesn’t have to be. Camping is by far the most economical way to trek the WHW. Hikers may be a little shocked by the high prices of some of the campgrounds along the Way, but they are still the best value around. Plus, many include hot showers, indoor lounges, and other small luxuries (and for the purists shaking their heads at this level of “glamping,” just see how you feel after walking in freezing rain all day or being attacked by midges!).

In addition to accommodation, food is the other major expense that can make or break a budget. If you mostly self-cater, you can keep your costs quite low. On the other hand, restaurant meals are very expensive and if you rely on them for most of your sustenance, you should be prepared to pay a pretty penny. Many campers are happy to strike a happy middle ground, cooking most meals but allowing themselves the occasional (or in our case frequent) pint and a well-earned Scottish delicacy (bannocks, anyone?) from time to time.

Read more: How Much it Cost Us to Hike the West Highland Way

A stone Bothy on the West Highland Way

Low budget accommodation on the West Highland Way!

 

What to Pack for the West Highland Way

Making smart choices about what to pack (and what to leave behind) is a vital part of setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable West Highland Way experience. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort. However, with a little thoughtful planning, you can keep your pack weight manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need to be comfortable on the trail and while relaxing at the inns, campgrounds, and villages along the way.

For a complete packing list, check out this comprehensive article on packing for the West Highland Way

How much should my pack weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. If you’re new to backpacking and/or have chronic injuries, it’s especially important to keep it as light as possible. Fortunately, there are frequent re-supply points along the WHW, so you shouldn’t need to carry much food and water, even if you plan on self-catering. It is possible to use a transfer service to deliver your pack to each stopping point along the trail, although that kind of defeats the purpose of camping (check out our logistics article for more on luggage transfers).

 

A hiker on the shores of Loch Lomond, West Highland Way

Don’t forget to pack a pack cover and your trekking poles!

 

WHW MVG (most valuable gear)

Footwear

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the West Highland Way, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them before your trek in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the WHW! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly, muddy terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game-changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

The trail conditions on the West Highland Way are notorious for causing blisters. If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several practice hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the West Highland Way. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying indoors will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new pack, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Trekking Poles

These are a total game-changer on a tough walk like the West Highland Way. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Good Waterproofs

You are going to get rained on at some point while walking the West Highland Way- this is Scotland after all. We think the brooding weather adds to the magic of the hike. However, it can be pretty hard to fully appreciate that special type of magic when you’re trudging along for hours completely soaked to the bone. A good pair of rain pants and a quality, lightweight jacket can be the difference-maker between loving (or at least tolerating) and hating those damp, Scottish days.

Midge Net Hat

Midges, those tiny biting flies that come out in massive swarms that come our at dusk and in cloudy, still weather conditions, are an unfortunate reality on the West Highland Way. When they are bad, they are really, really bad. If you’re caught unprepared, they can drive you mad and threaten to ruin your day. Don’t let them! A good midge net is essential for keeping the nasty little guys out of your face. We particularly liked the wide brim hat model because it kept the net from touching our faces, giving us more breathing room and keeping the midges further away.

Whatever you do, get a good quality net that is specifically designed for midges. Our friends bought cheap insect nets and the holes in the mesh turned out to be too big. They ended up with midges getting trapped inside their nets! Learn from their mistake and make sure you invest in the right gear when it comes to this one.

Don’t forget to check out the ultimate West Highland Way packing list!

 

Our trusty packs and poles.

 

Electronics

Charging

Nearly all of the campgrounds along the West Highland Way will allow you to charge phones and other devices for free, as will many pubs and guesthouses. Outlets can be in high demand at campgrounds, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for your chance to charge. If you’re coming from outside of the United Kingdom, you’ll need to use a travel adapter. We like the kind with two USB ports built in to maximize our charging time. It’s not a bad idea to pack a battery backup if you will be relying on your phone for the GPS and camera.

Cell Service

Cell phone service is pretty widespread along the West Highland Way, but it isn’t always reliable or predictable. Expect to get service in all of the larger towns, but less so as you go further from civilization. You might be able to pick up a few bars at high points and unobstructed areas, but definitely don’t count on it.

Wifi

For better or worse, many of the campgrounds, guesthouses, and pubs along the WHW now offer Wifi. It’s typically free to use, although some places may require an additional fee. You’ll usually have to move close to the reception building in order to connect to it.

 

Wild Camping on the West Highland Way

Here’s what the walk’s official site, westhighlandway.org, says about wild camping:

“Under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, wild camping is permitted. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. Avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Leave no trace by: taking away all your litter, removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire and not causing pollution. Please also note that within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park camping byelaws operate between March and September.”

So to sum it up, wild camping is possible in many places along the Way. You don’t need a permit. However, keep a few things in mind:

  • It would be difficult to camp wild on the first stage of the walk, as there isn’t much public land in the southernmost section that would be suitable (most of the open land is working farmland). If you do decide to discreetly pitch a tent, try to get permission from the landowner first.
  • You cannot wild camp on the stretch of trail that runs along the shore of Loch Lomond between March and October. This is inside the national park and therefore has different rules.
  • The Rowchoish and Doune Bothies are simple, free options that may be appealing to campers. While not the same as the solitude of your tent, they offer many of the advantages of wild camping.
  • Always abide by Leave No Trace principles and show respect for the environment and local communities.

For more information, check out The Scottish Outdoor Access Code website, which has a ton of great guidelines for wild camping in Scotland.

 

Glengoyne Distillery along the West Highland Way

Always ask permission before pitching your tent on farm or pastureland.

 

Stage-by-Stage Camping Guide

This guide is based on a moderately-paced 8-day itinerary that begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William. There are a few sections that would be relatively easy to modify, and those have been noted in the guide. Reservations are not necessary for the campsites, unless explicitly stated. Prices listed are per person.

 

A backpacker walks along the West Highland Way

Stage Zero- Milngavie

Camping Availability: West Highland Campsite (detour required)

The West Highland Way officially starts in the town of Milngavie, which is located about 30 minutes by train from Glasgow. Given you get an early start, it’s not necessary to stay in Milngavie the night before starting your trek, as transportation is quick and frequent from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the walk to Drymen shouldn’t take more than five hours. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds in central Glasgow, nor in Milngavie, so you’ll need to stay indoors prior to starting the WHW.

While not the most convenient, there is camping about four miles along the trail at the West Highland Way Campsite (although they advertise that it’s located just “steps” away from the official start, which is a bit misleading). This could be a good option for those starting late and/or those who really want to camp at all costs.

Campsite near Milngavie, Scotland

Camping options near Milngavie.

 

Services at West Highland Way Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Potable water
  • Kitchen
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi
  • Breakfast included

Price: £25 per person

West Highland Way Campsite Website

Nearby in Milngavie

  • Supermarkets
  • Pharmacy
  • Banks/ATMs
  • Post office
  • Outdoor retailer
  • Restaurants/cafes/pubs
  • Train and bus connections
  • Taxi service

Take your planning to the next level with our ultimate camping guide!

LEARN MORE

 

 

Stage One- Milngavie to Drymen

Camping Availability: Drymen Camping

This small campground is surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque farmland. You’ll see it on the lefthand side of the road about a mile and a half before reaching the town of Drymen. The facilities are basic but functional, and the views more than make up for it. Leave your payment in the honesty box inside the sheltered cooking/bathroom area.

Drymen Camping

Drymen Camping is approximately 1.5 miles from the town of Drymen.

 

Services at Drymen Camping

  • Toilets (Bring your own TP!!!)
  • Hot showers
  • Potable water
  • Dishwashing sink
  • Electronics charging
  • Covered cooking area

Price: £8

Drymen Camping Website

Nearby in Drymen: The nearest services are in the town of Drymen, another 1.5 miles up the road. If you don’t want to make the trek into town after a long day of walking, it makes for a nice stop on the morning of your second day, as you can pick up any forgotten supplies and maybe even a freshly baked breakfast treat. Moreover, Drymen is your last opportunity to visit a full grocery store along the trail until you reach Tyndrum.

  • Grocery store
  • Library (with free wifi)
  • Restaurants/cafes/pubs
  • ATM
  • Post office
  • Health center/dentist
  • Bus connections
  • Taxi service

 

Drymen Camping is located in a peaceful, pastoral setting.

Stage Two – Drymen to Loch Lomond

Camping Availability: Milarrochy Bay Campsite, Cashel Caravan and Campsite, & Sallochy Campsite

The second stage of the West Highland Way presents many options for camping, all of which offer beautiful lochside views.  As you walk north along Loch Lomond, you’ll reach the Milarrochy Bay campsite first, then you’ll see Cashel about a mile further, and if you keep going for another mile or so, you will reach Sallochy.

We chose to stay at Sallochy and highly recommend that you do the same for a number of reasons.  First, the lochside campsites are secluded, peaceful, and totally gorgeous. While this is the most basic of the three camping options, the lack of major facilities means that you get an experience that feels more connected to the amazing natural surroundings of the Loch Lomond area.  Additionally, Stage 3 of the WHW is the longest and most strenuous day of the entire trek, so make it all the way to Sallochy on Stage 2 and you’ll have a head start for the day ahead.

**Remember, wild camping is not permitted on this section of the WHW.**

Campground near Loch Lomond

Camping options along Loch Lomond.

 

Services at Milarrochy Bay Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Cooking room
  • Small shop
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi

Price: Varies, but expect to pay about £7-10 per person

Milarrochy Bay Campsite Website

Services at Cashel Caravan and Campsite

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Electronics charging
  • Dishwashing area
  • Laundry
  • Small shop
  • Children’s play area

Price: Varies, but expect to pay about £9-15 per person

Cashel Caravan and Campsite Website

Services at Sallochy Campsite

  • Composting toilets
  • Potable water
  • Sinks
  • Firepit and firewood rentals (£5 each)

Heads up: You must make reservations in advance for this campsite (the website makes it quick and easy). Make sure to book a lochside site, as the main camping area can get noisy and crowded. As you approach the campground, you’ll see the higher numbered lochside pitches first.  The higher the number, the further away from the toilets and water tap you’ll be, but you’ll also be further from the noise of the main campground.

Price: £7

Sallochy Campsite Website or email sallochy.wardens@forestryandland.gov.scot

Nearby the Loch Lomond area: The town of Rowardennan is about three miles up the trail past Sallochy. There you’ll find a pub, a hotel, and a hostel with a basic shop.

Your lochside site at Sallochy comes with its own private beach just a few steps away!

 

Stage Three – Loch Lomond to Inverarnan

Camping Availability: Doune Bothy, Inversnaid Bunkhouse, Inversnaid Hotel & Beinglas Farm

For those completing the WHW in eight days, stage three is a loooong one. Beinglas Farm is the traditional stopping point, and will be a welcome sight for those who walk the entirety of stage 3 to reach it. If you’d like to stop a bit earlier in the day, Doune Bothy is the best option. 

Alternatively, if you have more time and want to break up this strenuous (15 miles, 8-9 hours) stretch, Inversnaid Bunkhouse and Inversnaid Hotel both offer camping and are located about halfway through stage 3. If you do choose to stop at one of these, simply stay at Beinglas Farm the following night.

Beinglas Farm Camping

Camping options near Inverarnan.

 

Services at Doune Bothy

Doune Bothy is a simple and lovely stone structure with a fireplace. You’ll need to bring/filter your own water and utilize Leave No Trace practices when it comes to your rubbish and bathroom needs. The Bothy is about three miles past Inversnaid.

Price: Free

Doune Bothy Website

Services at Beinglas Farm

We loved camping at Beinglas Farm! Perhaps it was because of the cold beers they sold us after nine hours of hiking, or the excellent and clean hot showers, or the friendly staff. This was the most midgy place we camped, however, so be prepared to get out your net and bug spray as soon as the sun starts to set. It’s about a 10-minute walk from Beinglas Farm to the village of Inverarnan.

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Indoor cooking area
  • Laundry facilities
  • Restaurant/bar
  • WiFi
  • Electronics charging

Beinglas Farm Website

Price: £8

Nearby Inverarnan*

  • Hotels
  • Pub
  • Transportation connections

*In addition to what you’ll find in Inverarnan, you can detour to Crianlarich (15 minutes from the trail each way) halfway through your walk tomorrow (Stage 4). This detour is highly recommended if you’d like to resupply at a proper supermarket.

Services at Inversnaid Bunkhouse (alternative option)

This is the first of two options that will allow you to split up stage 3 across two days by stopping in Inversnaid. You’ll need to detour about 10 minutes uphill off the trail to reach the Bunkhouse, but they do offer a free pickup service.

  • Toilets
  • Potable Water
  • Hot showers
  • Free WiFi
  • Kitchen
  • Electronics charging
  • Restaurant/bar
  • Hot tub

Price: £10 per person

Inversnaid Bunkhouse Website

Services at Inversnaid Hotel (alternative option)

Keep walking about five minutes north of the hotel (beyond the boathouse) until you reach a small clearing. The hotel allows campers to pitch a tent for free here. You can use the facilities in the hotel bar during opening hours.

  • Toilets (at hotel bar)
  • Potable water (at hotel bar)
  • WiFi (at hotel)
  • Restaurant/bar
  • Bus connections

Price: Free

Inversnaid Hotel Website

Nearby Inversnaid: Besides the bunkhouse, hotel, and accompanying restaurants there are no other services (except for bus and ferry connections from the hotel).

 

For a shorter day, stop at the spectacular Doune Bothy.

If you want more information about your many options on Stage Three, our Camping Guide is the perfect resource.

LEARN MORE

 

Stage Four – Inverarnan to Tyndrum

Camping Availability: Strathfillan Wigwams, Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping, By the Way Hostel and Campsite

There are three good options for camping on Stage 4, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Strathfillan Wigwams is two miles short of Tyndrum, meaning you won’t have easy proximity to the services in town. Some might appreciate stopping a bit earlier in the day, however, and the surroundings at Strathfillan are downright spectacular. Pine Trees Caravan Park is massive, considerably less scenic, and mostly dominated by motorhomes, but it’s conveniently located in the center of Tyndrum. Finally, By the Way Hostel and Campground is another well-located option, but be advised that they will only accept one or two-person tents and they will not accept any campers if there has been a significant amount of rain, due to the ground being too water-logged.

Tyndrum Camping

Camping options near Tyndrum.

 

Services at Strathfillan Wigwams

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Sinks
  • Hot Showers (£1 for eight minutes)
  • Indoor cooking/lounge area
  • Laundry
  • Electronics charging
  • Small shop
  • WiFi (£3 for 24 hours)

Price: £8

Strathfillan Wigwams Website

Services at Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry facilities
  • Shop
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi

Price: £10 per person (plus £5 for an additional adult)

Pine Trees Caravan Park Website

Services at By The Way Hostel & Campground

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry facilities
  • Heated drying room
  • Indoor dishwashing area
  • Kitchen
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi

Price: £10 per person

By The Way Hostel and Camping Website

Nearby Tyndrum*

  • Supermarket
  • Outdoor retailer
  • Post office
  • ATM
  • Train station

*Make sure to stock up on food and supplies while in Tyndrum, as you won’t have another chance until you reach Kinlochleven on the final night of the WHW**

**Also, be sure to check out the ruins of St. Fillian’s Priory and the adjacent graveyard for some fascinating history! You’ll see these just before approaching the Strathfillian campground.

 

Quintessential Highlands camping at Strathfillan.

Stage Five – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

Camping Availability: Free camping behind the Bridge of Orchy Hotel

When you arrive at Bridge of Orchy, continue past the hotel and across the bridge to the free camping area.  There are no facilities here, but there is a potable water tap next to the main entrance of the hotel. In terms of your bathroom options, there’s a wooded area directly behind the campsite.  Unfortunately, you won’t be the first person to use these natural facilities, and they were a bit polluted with human waste when we were there.  Bring your trowel and a positive attitude, and you’ll be fine.

Alternatively, you can use the hotel restroom if you purchase something at the bar/restaurant or if you leave a donation on the tray by the bar. If the weather is nice, make sure to soak your tired feet in the river while you take in the views of the quaint stone bridge and the green hills beyond.

Bridge of Orchy Camping

Camping at Bridge of Orchy.

 

Services at Bridge of Orchy

  • Potable water (just to the right of the hotel entrance on the outside of the building)
  • Toilets (with purchase, when the hotel bar is open)

Price: Free

Bridge of Orchy Hotel Website

Nearby Bridge of Orchy

  • Restaurant/bar
  • Train and bus connections
  • Post office

For those wanting to extend this stage, the Inverornan Hotel is three miles past the Bridge of Orchy, and it offers free camping, a water tap, and a restaurant.

 

Soak your tired feet under the Bridge of Orchy before enjoying your free campsite.

Stage Six – Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe/Kingshouse

Camping Availability: Glencoe Mountain Resort & Kingshouse Hotel

You’ve got two nice options for camping on Stage Six, depending on how much luxury you’re looking for. The first camping area you’ll come across is the Glencoe Mountain Resort, reached via a very slight detour off the main trail. For a small fee, you’ll enjoy modern amenities and flat, grassy pitches.

If more basic and free accommodation is what you’re after, keep walking a bit further to reach the Kingshouse Hotel. Wild camping is permitted just over the stone bridge from the hotel, and campers have access to public toilets behind the bunkhouse. Be advised that the area can be a bit boggy and level spots are hard to come by. However, you can enjoy the hotel’s bar and restaurant, so you needn’t rough it too much if you don’t want to!

Glencoe Camping

Camping options near Glencoe and Kingshouse.

 

Services at Glencoe Mountain Resort

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers (£1 for 5 minutes)
  • Sinks
  • Electronics charging
  • Cafe/bar
  • WiFi

Price: £6 per person

Glencoe Mountain Website

Services at Kingshouse Hotel

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers (£1 for 5 minutes)
  • Restaurant/bar

Price: Free

Kingshouse Hotel Website

Nearby Glencoe Mountain: Besides the ski resort and the Kinshouse Hotel, there are no other services close by. If needed, you can catch a bus or hitch a ride from the A82 to Glencoe Village (9 miles away). There you’ll find a grocery store, ATM, and a medical center.

Beautiful views of Buachaille Etive Mòr from the Glencoe Moutain Resort.

Stage Seven – Glencoe/Kingshouse to Kinlochleven

Camping Availability: MacDonald Hotel & Blackwater Hostel

Once again, you have two excellent choices for where to pitch your tent on this stage. You’ll pass the Blackwater Hostel first, almost immediately upon entering Kinlochleven. It is located on a lovely spot alongside the river and also conveniently located in the center of town. Reservations aren’t needed, but keep in mind that they only allow two-person tents or smaller.

The MacDonald Hotel is at the far end of town and can feel quite tedious to get to after a long day of hiking.  It’s worth the extra walking though! The staff is very friendly, the views of the loch are magical, and you’ll start right next to the trail in the morning. There are only 11 pitches, so reservations are recommended in peak season. Tents must be two-person or smaller at MacDonald.

Kinlochleven Camping

Camping options in Kinlochleven.

 

Services at MacDonald Hotel

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Indoor cooking and washing hut
  • Heated drying room
  • Restaurant/bar
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi

Price: £10 per person

MacDonald Hotel Website

Services at Blackwater Hostel

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Covered cooking area
  • Drying room
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi

Blackwater Hostel Website

Price: £10 per person

Nearby in Kinlochleven

  • Supermarket
  • Post office
  • Outdoor retailer
  • Restaurants/pubs/cafes
  • Library (with free WiFi)
  • Bus connections
  • Taxi service

 

The MacDonald Hotel campground is located on the idyllic shores of Loch Leven.

Stage Eight – Kinlochleven to Fort William/Glen Nevis

Camping Availability: Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park

Upon completing the West Highland Way, many hikers treat themselves to accommodation that features four walls and a real bed, but there is an option for the hardcore campers out there. While the hike officially ends in the town of Fort William, you can stop a couple of miles earlier in the town of Glen Nevis and pitch your tent at the Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park. This is also a convenient option for those hoping to tack on a climb up Ben Nevis, as the trail is just steps from the campground.

Fort William Camping

Camping options near Fort William.

 

Services at Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park

  • Toilets
  • Potable water
  • Hot showers
  • Laundry
  • Dishwashing area
  • Restaurant/bar
  • Small shop
  • Electronics charging
  • WiFi (£2.00 per hour/£5.00 per day)

Price: £10.50

Glen Nevis Camping Website

Nearby Glen Nevis and Fort William:  There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. Fort William is another 2.5 miles up the trail. There you’ll find supermarkets, banks, a pharmacy, a hospital, restaurants/bars, an outdoor retailer, a post office, a library, and bus and train connections. 

LEARN MORE

 

 

What’s Next?

You’re well on your way to an incredible camping experience on the West Highland Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know for your trip!

 

8 Comments on Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way

How to Navigate on the GR20 | GPS Maps

It is often said that if you walk more than 20 feet on the GR20 without seeing one of the famous red and white paint flashes that you’ve gone off…

It is often said that if you walk more than 20 feet on the GR20 without seeing one of the famous red and white paint flashes that you’ve gone off the trail. In reality, navigating on the GR20 is a bit more complicated than that, especially given the multiple variants, difficult terrain, and exposed nature of the route. The last thing you want while tackling this famously difficult trail is to have to think too hard about navigating. That’s why we recommend all trekkers think about how they’ll find their way on the trail before arriving in Corsica.

Map of the GR20 with common trail variants.

We think that with the proper tools and preparation you’ll have no difficultly navigating on this incredible trail. In this post we’ll walk you step-by-step through exactly how we navigated on the GR20 utilizing offline GPS maps on our smartphones. We’ve even got some great resources for those who would like to do the same. Let’s get started!

In this post

Do I need a paper map for the GR20?

The GR20 presents some unique challenges when it comes to bringing physical maps. The route is so long that in order to cover it in its entirety you would need to bring no less than seven IGN maps. All this for a hike that you should be packing as light as possible! We did not rely on paper maps during our GR20 hike, instead choosing to utilize the GPS maps described in this article. That being said, we always recommend that trekkers carry some form of paper maps with them. There are just too many opportunities for you to run out of battery, break your phone, or have some other technical malfunction that renders your GPS map useless.

To cover the entire GR20 at a good scale (1:25,000) we recommend bringing the following IGN maps:

If you’re like us and don’t want to carry SEVEN IGN maps we would recommend picking up the 1:100,000 scale maps that IGN publishes for Corsica:

While these maps won’t provide great detail on the trail, they will at least help you orient and understand your surroundings.

A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Read more: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the route, elevation profile, and more by checking out our GR20 Map Resource.

Offline GPS maps for the GR20

Offline GPS maps for your smartphone are one of our favorite insider tips for those trekking the GR20. These maps make navigating the route a breeze by showing you exactly where you are on the trail as well as the surrounding terrain, next stopping point, and other important data. We utilized these features frequently on our own GR20 hike to know how far we had hiked at any given time, check that we were still on the trail, and know-how close we were to the next refuge on the trail.

Setting up these apps takes little effort on your part, but will make your GR20 much less stressful! Once you’ve selected your app of choice (more on that below) you simply download the necessary GPS files onto your phone, download some background maps, and you’ll be navigating like a pro in no time!

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the GR20 and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your own trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Turn your phone into a GPS

Did you know your phone can do much more than just send email, take great photos, and video chat with someone halfway around the world? Our favorite feature that is often overlooked is the modern smartphone’s ability to act as a GPS device. This is especially useful for long-distance treks with limited cell phone service like the GR20! You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

The problem you run into while hiking is that your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you.  Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this:

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate

 

Solving the background map problem

Given the excellent cell phone and internet coverage in cities and town, this typically isn’t an issue. However, this can be very problematic when you’re nearing the top of Monte Cinto on the GR20 without cell service! So what’s the solution?

GPS Navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps. These apps allow you to select a predefined area, in our case the entirety of the GR20, and download the background map to your phone.

This allows you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work and give you accurate location information. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the GR20 below.

GR20 maps – How we can help

For those looking for GR20 GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire GR20 route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional itinerary.

These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.

Which app should I use on the GR20?

There are countless GPS app options available for you to choose from. Of those we’ve used and recommend two options for GR20 hikers: Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the GR20 displays in each of the apps. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the GR20 for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Comparison of Maps.Me and Gaia GPS for the GR20

 

As shown above, both apps do a fine job of displaying the route and location points along the way. The major difference is that Gaia GPS provides much more in-depth information such as adjacent trails, topographic data, and elevation shading. It is for this reason that we highly recommend you spend the $20 to use Gaia GPS. However, we definitely understand those who prefer to use the free option. If you decide to go that route it is even more important for you to carry paper maps as you may need more detailed information than what Maps.me provides.

Gaia GPS for the GR20

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom GR20 GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the GR20 GPS file

When you purchase our GR20 GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to open the email and download the .KML (or . GPX) file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. If you do happen to download the file to your computer you’ll need to transfer it to your phone. The easiest option for this would be to simply email it to yourself.

After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

 

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the GR20 route and waypoints for your specific itinerary displayed on the map.

Success! You’ve imported the GR20 GPS data into Gaia GPS.

 

Step Two – Choose your map source

Next, you’ll want to select your base map for the GR20. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the GR20. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

 

Step Three – Navigate to the GR20 and download your base map

Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the GR20 – which is almost the entire island of Corsica! Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to Corsica and then the area of the GR20 in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right-hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire GR20
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘GR20’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

 

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the GR20 like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the refuges along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step for navigating like a pro on the GR20 is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.  NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

Maps.me for the GR20

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom GR20 GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the GR20. The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data.

You won’t find any topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our GR20 GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the GR20 GPS file

When you purchase our GR20 GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the GPS file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. Be sure to download the .KML file as Maps.me cannot read gpx files. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

 

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the GR20 and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

 

Step Two – Download the GR20 base maps

Once you have successfully loaded the GR20 GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the GR20 as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to Corsica and then the area of the GR20 in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download the Corsica map in Maps.me to cover the entire GR20. 
  4. Verify that you’ve downloaded the required base map by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  5. Once you’ve checked that the Corsica map has been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

Zoom in on the trail until prompted to download the ‘Corsica’ map.

To verify that you’ve successfully downloaded all of the Corsica base map in Maps.me follow these steps:

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Select ‘France’
  4. Verify that the ‘Corsica’ map is downloaded

 

 

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

Want more GR20 content? Keep reading!

Be sure to check out all of our GR20 posts below:

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Guide to Camping on the Tour of Mont Blanc

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and…

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and capping it all off by cozying up in your tent  under the stars as the crisp evening chill sets in? Maybe you’ve never considered it before. We didn’t know we wanted such a thing either…and then we learned about the TMB and that all changed.

Water and steep mountains on stage 4 of the TMB

We’re not exaggerating when we say this is one of the prettiest trails in the world!

 

We first hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in July 2017. We camped most nights and stayed in a few huts. Even after experiencing several more incredible thru-hikes across Europe, the TMB still stands out as the most unique and rewarding.  We created this guide in hopes that it will inspire more people to camp along the route, which was one of our favorite parts of the entire trip. Ever since completing our own trek, we’ve spent the past few years researching the best campsites and most essential information to share with our fellow tent-dwellers. We even hiked much of the trek again in 2019 to ensure that our guide is accurate and up-to-date (and because we couldn’t help but return to one of the most beautiful trails in the world!)

Thanks for using our guide and we wish you a wonderful trip! As always, we’d love to answer your questions and hear your feedback in the comments below.

Happy Trails,

Emily & Ian

Everything you need to to plan your TMB – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, luxury, dirtbag or something in between, we’ve got you covered. From custom itineraries to maps created specifically for campers we can help you plan your perfect TMB adventure! Our downloadable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide below:

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The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Tour du Mont Blanc
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the camping on the TMB.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

BUY NOW

What’s in This Guide:

About the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland on one of the most spectacular trails in the world. Typically completed in 11 stages, the route circumnavigates  Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. The trail passes through seven unique and beautiful valleys, where charming hamlets and regional delicacies abound. Between the valleys, the route traverses rugged mountain landscapes and stunning high alpine scenery. The TMB is one of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe and is considered to be a classic walk that belongs on any passionate hiker’s bucket list.

The Mont Blanc massif covered in glaciers and seen from stage 11 on the TMB

The Mont Blanc Massif in all of its glacier-covered glory.

 

How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

Distance: 170 kilometers (105 miles)

Elevation Gain: 10,000 meters (32,800 feet)

 Check out our extensive collection of TMB Maps to get a better sense of distance, stages, elevation, and more! 

How long does it take to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?

It typically takes walkers between 8-11 days to complete the TMB. One of the great things about the hike is that there’s a lot of room for customization when it comes to creating your itinerary. Camping will allow you a lot more flexibility in terms of not needing advance reservations, but you will be a bit more restricted in other ways since camping is not permitted on every stage of the TMB. We’ve structured this camping guide for the classic 11-stage version of the trek, but we’ve noted places where you can adapt your itinerary to combine or reduce stages.

A few other considerations to keep in mind when deciding how many days you need to hike the TMB:

  • If you plan on camping, you’ll need to carry a heavier pack and therefore may hike slower than usual.
  • Do you enjoy spending 8+ hours on steep trails every day? If not, you shouldn’t double-up on stages.
  • Fastpacking the TMB is possible in 7 days or less, but you’ll need to be very fit and experienced.
  • Do you want to take a rest day? If so, don’t forget to factor that into your itinerary.
  • Are you determined to exclusively camp along the trail? If so, you’ll need to adjust your itinerary to avoid stopping in places without camping options. See our stage-by-stage guide for more details on this.
  • Are you interested in taking shortcuts or cutting out sections of the trail? This can be a good option for those who don’t have enough time to realistically complete the entire route or want to tailor it for their ability level.

Signpost with several yellow trail signs pointing in two different directions.

There are lots of variants and shortcuts that can be used to customize your trek.

 

When to hike

The general season for hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc lasts from mid-June through mid-September, although this window is subject to great variability due to snow conditions on the higher passes.

June can be lovely, but you will likely have to negotiate large sections of the trail that are covered in snow. In some cases, you may need to reroute to avoid unsafe areas. Those hiking in June should bring crampons. You can expect an explosion of wildflowers in June and July.

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July and August are typically the best times to be on the trail, but these are also the most busy months on the TMB. Be sure to check when the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc is happening. This trail-race of the entire circuit typically occurs at the end of August and brings out thousands of spectators – not the best time to be trekking!

Expect increasingly cooler weather and fewer crowds in September; this can be a wonderful time to hike. However, it’s important to note that many campgrounds and other services along the route may already be closed for the season.

Crossing a snow field on the TMB

An easy snow crossing in July.

 

How difficult is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

If you are reasonably fit and have some backpacking experience, you should be well-suited to the physical challenges of the TMB. It is a tough trek that involves long, steep ascents and descents on nearly every stage, but it isn’t too technically demanding. Make sure you have healthy knees, as the downhill sections can take their toll! Keep in mind that carrying a heavier pack will greatly increase the physical demands of a trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc. If camping, some extra weight is inevitable, but if you’re strategic you can avoid carrying too big of a backpack.

Read More: How to Train for the TMB

Everything you need to plan your perfect TMB – all in one place.

LEARN MORE
 

Which Direction?

The TMB is traditionally hiked in a counterclockwise direction beginning in the French town of Les Houches, adjacent to Chamonix. It is also possible to walk the route in a clockwise direction, and trekkers headed this way typically start in the Swiss town of Champex. Below we’ve outlined some pros and cons of hiking in each direction:

Counterclockwise

PROS:

  • Follows the classic route, good if you’re a sucker for tradition.
  • Begins in Chamonix, which is easier to get to from the Geneva Airport than Champex.
  • Rewards hikers with jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc on the final stage.

CONS:

  • More people hike in this direction, so the trail could feel more crowded throughout the day.

Clockwise

PROS:

  • Fewer hikers walking in the same direction as you.
  • The first few stages are a bit mellower, allowing you to get acclimated before tackling the tougher sections.

CONS:

  • You’ll pass a large wave of people walking in the opposite direction each day, which can get tight on narrow trails.
  • Champex (your starting point) has less amenities and is less conveniently connected by public transport than Chamonix. If you want to start in Chamonix and hike clockwise, be warned that the first day involves a doozy of a climb, which could be a major shock to the system.

Our stage-by-stage guide is organized for hikers walking the circuit in the traditional counterclockwise direction, but would be just as useful for those hiking in the clockwise direction.

Red boats on the shore of Lac Champex

Those who choose to hike clockwise will start in the pretty town on Champex.

Weather

Mountain weather is always volatile, and the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different. Conditions can change very rapidly in the Alps, meaning that you can find yourself in the middle of a whiteout blizzard or on an exposed ridge during a thunderstorm without much warning. For the most part, the weather during the hiking season is ridiculously lovely. Expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and not too much rain. However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to the campground before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.

Gray clouds partially obscure the mountains on the TMB.

Weather can change quickly on the trail!

 

Food and Drink

One of the many wonderful things about the TMB is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) eleven days’ worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. Due to the fact that the trail passes through many towns and villages, you will be able to resupply every few days. We’ve noted the availability of shops and restaurants at every stop along the route in our stage-by-stage camping guide below. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there are not shops at every stage.

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the TMB. 

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Dietary Restrictions

The restaurants and accommodation providers along the TMB are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs, that will be the exception and not the norm. We’d recommend bringing plenty of your own food as insurance.  

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of wine.

Who says self-catering can’t be delicious?

 

Ready to start planning? Let us create your custom itinerary!

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Getting to and from the TMB

The circular nature of the Tour du Mont Blanc keeps logistical puzzles to a minimum, as you’ll start and end your hike in the same place. This makes it easier to store extra baggage and book round-trip transport to and from the trail. If you are travelling from further afield to reach the TMB, you will likely fly into the Geneva Airport (GVA). Depending on where you plan on starting your hike, you’ll either take a bus from GVA to Chamonix or a train/bus combination  from GVA to Champex.

We wrote an entire article with the sole purpose of providing you with in-depth information on TMB logistics. Check it out here! 

The bus stop in Les Houches, surrounded by pink flowers.

The worlds prettiest bus stop? This one in Les Houches has got to be a top contender!

 

Wayfinding

For the most part, the TMB is an extremely well-marked trail. You’ll see a variety of trail markers along various sections of the route, ranging from the iconic yellow and black diamond to the more modern bright green TMB logo. Generally speaking, if you go more than twenty minutes without seeing a trail marker, you’ve probably wandered off the trail. Despite its helpful paint flashes and signage, it is still surprisingly easy to get lost on the TMB if you’re not careful. The scenery is so darn pretty that it will often draw your eyes away from the path and cause you to miss a turn. That’s why carrying a map and (preferably) a GPS device is of the utmost importance. This is even more true if you plan on camping, as many of the campgrounds require you to leave the trail to access them.

No fancy GPS device? No problem! In this post we’ll walk you through exactly how to turn your regular old smartphone into a bonafide GPS– and you don’t need to use your precious data to do so!

Additionally, check out this post on how to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB and this one if you want to see our range of helpful maps and/or download the GPS waypoints for the hike.

Screenshot of GPS locations on a smartphone

You can easily turn your smartphone into a handy GPS device for the trail!

 

Budgeting and Money

Cash or Credit?

While an increasing number of accommodation providers, shops, and other services are beginning to accept credit cards, cash is still the primary payment method used along the TMB. It is important to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for several days, as  ATMs are infrequent along the trail. Check out our stage-by-stage guide (later in this post) for availability of ATMs on specific stages. 

Currency

The TMB crosses the borders of three different countries, meaning that you’ll need to switch from using Euros in France to Swiss Francs in Switzerland then back to Euros upon entering Italy. While most places in Switzerland will accept Euros, you’ll be better off using Francs if you can. 

Typical Costs

Although it has the reputation for being one of the more expensive and luxurious thru-hikes, it is still very possible to hike the TMB on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

The two keys to saving money on the TMB? Lodging and food.

Since you’ve found this camping guide, you’re well on your way to having the first one covered. Camping will save you boatloads of money, and you’ll have a better experience too!

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

Hikers take in the views from the top of a pass on the TMB

Fortunately, the best parts of the TMB-like the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the top of a pass- are completely free!

What to Pack

Packing for the TMB is balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you don’t feel like you’re giving a piggyback ride to a small elephant for 100+ miles. This is especially true for campers, as you’ll have a more extensive packing list and the stakes are a bit higher if you neglect to bring something essential.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

How much should my pack weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? If not, you should really try to keep it below 25lbs (including water!) 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? If so, you need to make sure that backpack is below 20lbs!

Did you know we can help you create the perfect packing list? Learn more here!

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Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for preventing baby-elephant piggyback syndrome:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry (and we actually find it to be quite a fun camp chore). Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

If you have other travel destinations before or after the TMB, you can store your extra luggage in Chamonix. See our logistics article for more on this. 

Caution sign showing a person falling off a cliff.

This poor fellow didnt follow our packing advice….

 

TMB MVG (Most Valuable Gear)

Footwear on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the TMB, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the TMB. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Hikers making their way down to the Vallee de l'Arve.

Big shout out to our trekking poles and pack covers!

 

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and same weight) you’ll carry on the TMB. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the TMB (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Many campgrounds will allow you to charge electronics, but this isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind. In our guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

A few other MVG honorable mentions…

Puffy down jacket: Lightweight, warm, packable and all you need (it’s not necessary to bring a heavy fleece, too).

Kev Reynolds’ Ciccerone Guide to the TMB: An excellent resource.

Don’t forget to check out our complete packing list for the TMB here.  Additionally, if you’re on a tight budget, be sure to take a look at this article for backpacking gear hacks to save you money.

Electronics

Charging

Many campgrounds and other accommodation along the route will allow you to charge your devices for free, although there is some variation in terms of availability from place to place. See our guide for specific information on each stage. We recommend using a multi-port USB adapter, as outlets can be in high demand. If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll need a travel adapter. Thankfully, you’ll use the same adapter in all three countries along the route.

Cell Service

Cell phone service is pretty widespread along the Tour du Mont Blanc, but it isn’t always reliable or predictable. Expect to get service in all of the larger towns, but less so as you go further from civilization. You might be able to pick up a few bars at high points and unobstructed areas (like the top of a mountain pass), but definitely don’t count on it.

Wifi

For better or worse, many of the campgrounds along the TMB now offer Wifi. It’s typically free to use, although some places may require an additional fee. You’ll usually have to move close to the reception building in order to connect to it. The mountain refuges (and most gites) along the TMB do not offer wifi, but it is commonplace at all hotels.

Hikers sitting in chairs and enjoying the views outside Refuge de la Flegere

No wifi? No problem! The views and camaraderie provide more than enough entertainment along the TMB.

 

Wild Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Wild camping along the TMB is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through three countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, it may be permitted above 2,500 meters (from dusk until dawn) in Italy, and it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

The good news is that there are many official campsites that are easily accessible along the TMB. While not entirely cheap, we feel it is important to use these facilities whenever they are available in order to give respect to the local communities and the fragile natural environment. Furthermore, there are quite a few opportunities to pitch your tent in free sanctioned wild and semi-wild camp spots along the TMB (see the guide below for specific details). If you choose to wild camp outside of these areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Wildflowers on stage 4 of the TMB

This might look like an ideal place to camp, but it’s definitely not legal!

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GR20 Logistics

Planning a GR20 hike is a tremendous undertaking. Known as the hardest trek in Europe, the GR20 has more than its fair share of challenges. The route, weather, and trail…

Planning a GR20 hike is a tremendous undertaking. Known as the hardest trek in Europe, the GR20 has more than its fair share of challenges. The route, weather, and trail conditions all conspire to truly make this one of the most difficult hikes around. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that Corsica can be extremely tricky to get around when compared to the rest of Europe. Infrequent public transportation, limited train routes, and lack of clear schedules can make planning for the GR20 nearly as hard as the hike itself!

We wrote this guide to help you plan for all the small details and tricky logistical items that are sure to arise as you plan your own GR20 adventure.

View of Refuge d' I Paliri.

In this guide you’ll find:

Corsica can be reached easily from the rest of Europe by either air or sea. The most popular port of entry for either air travel of ferries will be Bastia on the northeast coast of the island. You will also have the option of flying into Calvi, Figari (near Porto Vecchio), or Ajaccio.

When considering which city you’ll arrive in, your main consideration should be whether you are hiking from north to south (starting in Calenzana) or hiking south to north (starting in Conca). 

For those hiking the GR20 in the traditional north to south direction, Bastia or Calvi will be your best bet. For those hiking from south to north, Porto Vecchio or Figari will be the most convenient. 

Bastia has the largest number of flights from the rest of Europe, with connections to France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and others.  For ferry connections, Nice and Marseilles in France serve all the major ports in Corsica .

Bastia is a lovely port town and will be most GR20 trekkers gateway to Corsica.

Getting to Bastia from the airport

Connecting from the Bastia Airport into central Bastia is relatively straightforward. The most cost effective means of transportation is the public bus linking the airport and Bastia. When exiting the terminal at the airport, look for a large, unmarked white bus. You can ask around at the airport information kiosk and they will point you in the right direction. 

Check bastiabus.com for schedules and more information.

A bus ticket from the Bastia Airport into Bastia costs 9 €

The bus costs 9 euros and drops travelers off near the port in the main part of Bastia, or adjacent to the train station.

Getting to the start of the GR20 (Calenzana)

For those hiking the GR20 from north to south the trail starts in the lovely town of Calenzana. Calenzana is just inland from the coastal town of Calvi. Your best bet will be to arrive in either Bastia or Cavli, both located in the north of the island. Making your way from either of those two cities to Calenzana is described below:

Getting to Calenzana from Bastia

Most trekkers will enter Corsica in Bastia and then make their way to Calenzana from there. While it is theoretically possible to arrive in Bastia and the start the GR20 the same day, we wouldn’t recommend it. It is much better to give yourself an entire day to reach Calenzana. Here are your options for getting from Calenzana to Bastia:

Getting to Calenzana by bus from Bastia:

The bus from Bastia to Calvi runs twice a day (including Sundays) in the summer season (generally July 1 – August 31st), with departures typically at 10:30 and 17:00. Outside of the summer season, the bus runs once per day at 16:30 (Monday – Thursday, and school holidays) and 17:00 (Fridays). Keep in mind there is no bus service on either Saturday or Sunday outside of the summer season! The route is operated by Les Beaux Voyages.

The bus leaves from the stop just adjacent to the train station in Bastia. Be sure to check corsicabus.org and the Les Beaux Voyages website for the latest bus schedules and to confirm exactly where the bus departs. The staff at the train station are a good source of information for this.

The bus to Calvi picks up from outside the Bastia train station.

Getting to Calenzana by train from Bastia:

Corsica has a very simple train line that connects Bastia, Ajaccio and Calvi. To get from Bastia to Calenzana via train, you’ll first need to take the line to Cavli. The schedule for this train is highly variable and changes by the season so be sure to check the “unofficial” Corsica Train website here. Trains typically run twice per day, but be aware that services can be greatly reduced or non-existent on Sundays. We paid 16 euros per person for our ticket in September 2019. 

Train ticket for the route from Bastia to Calvi.

Getting from Cavli to Calenzana:

Once you arrive in Calvi you’ll need to take the bus to Calenzana. The bus is operated by Les Beaux Voyages. You’ll want to stop by their office, which is located just up the street from the train station, to purchase a ticket before getting on the bus. The bus then picks up from across the street from the Les Beaux Voyages office. See the map below for locations of the train station, bus office, and bus stop.

Calvi to Calenzana bus
It is a short walk from the Calvi train station to the Les Beaux Voyages ticket office and bus stop to Calenzana.

The bus from Calvi to Calenzana and the start of the GR20.

Getting to the start of the GR20 (Conca)

For those hiking the GR20 from south to north, you’ll start in the town of Conca. Conca is just inland from the southern coast of Corsica and can be easily reached from either Porto Vecchio (via the Figari airport) or Bastia. As with all travel in Corsica, be sure to give yourself a full day to make it to Conca from any of the major cities in Corsica.

Getting to Conca by bus from Porto Vecchio or Figari airport:

There is no train service in the southern area of Corsica, so you’ll need to take the bus to Conca from either the Figari airport or Porto Vecchio. From the Figari airport you’ll need to catch the bus operated by Transports Rossi to Porto Vecchio. The bus operates only a few times per day, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to Conca.

From Porto Vecchio you will then take the bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Bastia. The bus departs from the Porto Vecchio bus station near the marina twice daily at 8:00 and 13:30. It operates daily from June 15th to September 16th. Outside of that time frame the bus only runs Monday – Saturday.

You’ll get off the bus at the Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio stop. From there you’ll need to call the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55) in Conca to arrange for their minibus to pick you up and take you to Conca. You can also inquire at the Bar U Colombu across the street from the stop as they can also call the Gite. It is advisable to contact the Gite before you depart to be sure they can pick you up in Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio. Alternatively, you can always take a taxi from the bus stop to Conca, though this is a pricey option.

Porto Vecchio to Conca
Your journey from Porto Vecchio to Conca will look something like this.

Getting to Conca from Bastia:

If you’ve arrived in Bastia, you’ll need to catch the Bastia-Porto Vecchio bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Porto Vecchio. You’ll take the bus to the Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio and then connect to Conca using the mini-bus operated by the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55). As stated above, be sure to contact the Gite in advance of your arrival to be sure they can pick you up! Otherwise, you’ll have to call a taxi for the ~20 minute ride to Conca. 

Where to stay before and after the GR20

Depending on whether you’re hiking the GR20 from north to south, or from south to north you’ll either start in Calenzana and finish in Conca or vice versa. Either way you’ll want to be sure you secure accommodation for before and after your trek. Here are your best options in both Calenzana and Conca:

Where to stay in Calenzana

Calenzana is a lovely, compact town with several lodging options. For those on a budget, the Gîte d’étape Communal offers dormitory accommodation as well as space for camping. It is located at the entry to the town and the bus from Calvi will almost certainly make its first stop at the Gite.

For those looking for slightly more luxurious accommodation we recommend the Hotel Au pied des Oliviers as well as the Hotel A l’ombre du Clocher. Both make for a lovely way to start or finish your GR20 adventure!

A street in Calenzana, Corsica.
Calenzana is a great place to start your trek.

Where to stay in Conca

For those starting or finishing the GR20 in Conca you’ll have a few accommodation options. On the more basic end the Gite La Tonnelle offers dormitory and private rooms along with camping. They also arrange transit to/from Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio for onward connections to either Bastia or Porto Vecchio.

On the more upscale end, the Hotel San Pasquale has lovely grounds as well as very friendly staff. We highly recommend.

Transportation on the GR20

For the most part the GR20 is an isolated trail, visiting only the occasional road or village. You’ll spend many of your days high in the mountains with no easy options for leaving the trail. However, there are a few points along the route that offer connections to the rest of Corsica should you need to leave the trail for any reason. Here are your main options:

Haut-Asco ski area

From the Haute Asco ski area there are twice daily minibuses that connect to the train station at Ponte Leccia. The service is operated by Corsica Giru (+33 6 26 65 38 00). From the train station at Ponte Leccia connections can be made to Bastia, Calvi, and Ajaccio. 

Hotel Castel de Vergio

From Hotel Castel de Vergio, a bus service offered by Autocars Cortenais connects trekkers with Corte. From Corte, onward connections to the rest of Corsica are possible. 

Vizzavona

Vizzavona is conveniently located on the main rail route, making it easy for trekkers to connect to Bastia and Ajaccio. 

Village de Bavella

From Village de Bavella it is possible to connect via bus to Ajaccio and Porto Vecchio. 

It is possible to leave the GR20 at the Haut Asco ski area.

 

Where to take a rest day on the GR20

There is no question about it, the GR20 is one of the hardest hikes in the world. If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable way to make it a bit more manageable, we recommend taking a rest day to enjoy your beautiful surroundings and recharge your body. Here are our top options for taking a rest day on the GR20:

Vizzavona

Vizzavona is the most natural place to take a rest day. It is approximately half-way through the GR20 and has a range of services available including transportation links to the rest of Corsica. You have a variety of accommodation options including luxurious hotels as well as a nice campground. In addition, you’ll have the most options for dining of any of the stops along the GR20 and the chance for some nice excursions from town if you’re feeling up to it. 

Here are your best lodging options in Vizzavona:

Hotel Casa Alta: On our GR20 trek we opted to splurge a bit and stay at the lovely Hotel Casa Alta – a beautiful and well run bed and breakfast located in a secluded stand of pine trees on the outskirts of town. We highly recommend it!

View of a room at Casa Alta Hotel in Vizzavona.

Lovely views from a room at the Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona.

 

Hotel U Castellu: Another excellent option for a break from the campgrounds and refuges of the GR20 is to stay at the Hotel U Castellu in Vizzavona. This hotel gets great reviews for its quiet setting and comfortable rooms.  

Vizzavona Campground: While certainly not luxurious, the Vizzavona campground has an excellent shop and laundry facilities. The location is also great, set just outside of the main part of town.

Castel di Vergio

Castel di Vergio and the accompanying hotel make a great rest day stop for those who are feeling the effects of the very difficult first few days of the GR20. For those heading from north to south you’ll have to endure some of the hardest days on the trek, and there is no shame in wanting to take a day off here and recover! While there aren’t many amenities to speak of, there is a nice hotel, restaurant, as well as a bus service that provides transit links to Corte and the rest of Corsica. 

There are really only a few accommodation options at Castel di Vergio:

Hotel Castel di Vergio: The hotel offers both private hotel rooms as well as a simple gite. While not the most scenic building, it does have an excellent restaurant, friendly staff, and a great bar. 

Castel di Vergio Campground: Adjacent to the gite, this is one of the nicer campgrounds you’ll encounter on the GR20. Hot showers, a covered cooking area, and an extremely well-stocked shop make this a nice place to spend an extra night, even if you’re camping. 

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

The well-stoked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

 

Luggage storage on the GR20

Given the difficulty of the GR20 it is essential to carry only what you need and nothing extra. However, many walkers may be traveling with more than just the essentials. When we hiked the GR20 we had plenty of additional luggage that we didn’t want to carry on the trek: a laptop, extra clothes, and some cold weather gear. We knew that we didn’t walk to take it with us on the GR20, but finding a way to store our luggage was difficult. 

Our solution was to strategically book a hotel in Bastia that we knew would agree to hold our luggage for the duration of the trek. This meant that we would stay at the hotel both before and after our trek, with the hotel keeping our excess luggage free of charge. You can’t beat free!

For this, we stayed at the Best Western Bastia Centre, which was happy to accommodate our luggage storage request. If you’re traveling through Bastia both ways for your own GR20 trek, we highly recommend staying at the Best Western to solve the luggage storage issue. If you’re not transiting through Bastia, staying at one hotel both before and after the GR20 is likely your best bet to find luggage storage. Just call or email the hotel you are thinking of staying at before booking to confirm they’ll store your luggage.

Luggage transfer on the GR20

For those who are interested in a luggage transfer service on the GR20 our simple advice would be to scrutinize what you are packing and plan to carry it all yourself. The reality is that luggage transfer on the GR20 is very expensive and is likely to require that you not hike the traditional GR20 route. The reason for this is that much of the GR20 is extremely remote and it is not possible for transfer companies to reach the various refuges along the route. Several companies offer guided and self-guided GR20 hikes that include luggage transfer, but be sure to look closely at their itinerary and think hard if you are okay sacrificing hiking the entire route in order to have your luggage transferred.

Hiker on the GR20

You’ll be much better off trying to lighten your pack than arrange for your luggage to be transferred .

 

Money on the GR20

The main consideration to think about regarding money on the GR20 is that it is pretty much a cash-only. There are no ATMs along the route, not even in Calenzana and Conca at the endpoints, nor in Vizzavona at the midpoint.

It is essential that you estimate your expected daily costs (food and lodging), plus some cushion for transportation and other miscellaneous or unplanned items. Keep in mind that if you made reservations for refuges or hire tents, you will have paid in full for this accommodation ahead of time and won’t need to carry quite as much money.

Hikers silhouetted at the top of a bocca on the southern half of the GR20.

They’re not going to find any ATMs around here!

 

A small number of places accept credit cards, (such as the campground shop in Vizzavona and many of the hotels) and you might be lucky enough to get cash back in a pinch. In general, things are relatively expensive in Corsica, especially along the trail. Check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article for more on what you can expect to pay. 

Ready to keep planning your GR20 adventure?

Logistics on the GR20 are definitely not easy, but we hope this article provided you with some of the essentials to make sure you have a great trek. Our best advice is to be prepared and be flexbile!

If you’re looking to keep planning the perfect GR20, be sure to check out the rest of our comprehensive resources below:

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How to Train for the Walker’s Haute Route

So you’ve decided to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started planning your itinerary, putting together a packing list,…

So you’ve decided to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started planning your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking your accommodation, but have you thought about your physical preparation? Obviously, you’ve at least taken the first steps since you’ve found your way to this post, and for that your future self will thank you. That’s because being physically prepared for a tough trek like the Haute Route is the single most impactful action you can take to ensure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible. 

 

Looking down into the Matteral Valley on the Walker's Haute Route.

Looking waaay down into the Mattertal Valley. You’ll want strong legs to tackle ascents and descents like these!

 

Training for the Haute Route will make your experience exponentially more rewarding for a number of reasons, including…

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

Keeping reading to learn what you need to do to feel strong and prepared to conquer your very own Walker’s Haute Route adventure.

What’s in this post?

Hiker climbs a ladder to reach Pas des Chevres on the Walker's Haute Route

The ladders may look intimidating, but they’re actually not the most challenging part of the Haute Route.

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Haute Route does not require advanced mountaineering experience, but its challenges certainly should not be taken lightly. For one thing, it is a very strenuous endeavor. Expect to cover around 15km and 1,000m of elevation gain each day. Much of the hike requires walking on steep, loose, and rocky terrain.

In addition to the basic physical challenges, there are also some sections that are technically difficult. Parts of the trail along the Europaweg and on the approach to Pas des Chevres are very exposed and come with a small risk of falling rocks.  There are ladders and chains to negotiate at a few points along the trail as well, with the toughest being near Pas des Chevres. Additionally, some hikers opt to take a variant that involves a short glacier crossing, but that can be easily avoided.

One final consideration involves the health of your knees and overall leg strength. There are very long, steep descents on nearly every stage of the Haute Route, and these can create problems and irritate chronic injuries for those with sensitive knees.

If you approach it with a solid fittness base and some trekking experience, you should be well suited for the Haute Route. There’s no need to be too intimidated by this trek, but it’s a very good idea to train ahead of time, be realistic about your abilities and expectations, and use good judgement in the mountains.

The Walker’s Haute Route in numbers:

Total distance: 225 kilometers (140 miles)

Total elevation gain: 14,000 meters (45,932 feet- that’s about the same as climbing to the top of Mt. Everest from base camp four times!)

Average Daily distance*: 19 kilometers (11.5 miles)

Average daily elevation gain*: 1,166 meters (3,827 feet)

*Averages are based on a traditional 12-day itinerary

 

Beautiful wildflowers along the trail near Arolla on the Haute Route.

Beautiful wildflowers along the trail near Arolla.

 

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes you CAN complete the Walker’s Haute Route, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like a great many people who aspire to trek the WHR, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here’s some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the Haute Route.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

 

Basic Training Plan for the Walker’s Haute Route

Top of a mountain pass on the Walker's Haute Route

You’ll be glad you used this training plan when you’re climbing up steep mountain passes like this one!

 

Six Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

As we alluded to earlier, you can expect to spend long days on the trail while hiking the Haute Route. Most walkers complete their trek in 12-14 days, meaning they’ll need to average around 15 kilometers (10 miles) per day. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is to-you guessed it- regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

 

Three Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Haute Route-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise.

 

Hiker with large blue backpack walks on a trail surrounded by wildflowers.

As your trek draws nearer, it’s a good idea to start hiking with a weighted pack to simulate what you’ll carry on the WHR.

 

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your Haute Route trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike at least once a week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your Haute Route hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometers (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

 

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Haute Route, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your Haute Route trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Hiker walks uphill on the Walker's Haute Route.

Ultimately, walking long distances on hilly terrain is the best way to prepare for the Haute Route.

 

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the Haute Route is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  There are sections that don’t allow for shortcuts, and some of the detours can be less than perfect.  That being said, it is still possible to complete significant portions of the hike, even if you’re not able to do the whole thing. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

    • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
    • Use a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack (note that these do not service all stops along the Haute Route)
    • Use public transportation to avoid the more challenging stages of the hike.
    • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Les Haudères and Zinal make great options.  See our Haute Route Logistics article for more information about luggage transfers, rest days, and detour options.
    • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Alpine scenery from the road.

Clouds parting to reveal stunning views on the way to Cabane du Mont Fort.

Clouds parting to reveal stunning views on the way to Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

The Bottom Line

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the Walker’s Haute Route, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.

 

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Haute Route, we can help! Learn more about our personalized coaching services. 

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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10 Essentials for the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) promises to be an unforgettable adventure for anyone willing to tackle the challenge. This spectacular hike begins at majestic Mont Blanc and ends at the…

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) promises to be an unforgettable adventure for anyone willing to tackle the challenge. This spectacular hike begins at majestic Mont Blanc and ends at the iconic Matterhorn, but what lies between the two peaks is the best part. The Walker’s Haute Route winds its way through some of the most stunning scenery, quaint villages, and rugged trails that the Alps have to offer.

Looking way down towards the valley from Jungen on the Walker's Haute Route

Looking way down towards the valley from Jungen.

 

While the rewards are undoubtedly worth it, completing a Haute Route trek is no small feat. In addition to the very real physical challenges that exist, this hike requires a good deal of planning and logistics to ensure a smooth, successful, and enjoyable experience. No need to stress through-we’ve got you covered.

In this post we’ll share our most valuable advice for those hiking the Haute Route. These are the things we wished we knew before completing our own trek, as well as the brilliant insider tips we picked up from other hikers we met along the way. This post  will help you to make sure you’ve thought of everything before setting off on your own Haute Route adventure. And if you’re looking for more in depth content, don’t forget to check out our Camping Guide, Trip Report, and more!

 

Views back towards Arolla as you make your way to La Sage on the Walker's Haute Route

Views back towards Arolla as you make your way to La Sage.

 

1. Be Flexible

The Walker’s Haute Route traverses rugged paths and high mountain passes, which are challenging enough in good weather, but can quickly become dangerous in adverse conditions. At higher elevations, storms can roll in quickly, and can be especially hazardous when you’re in highly exposed areas.

Additionally, large patches of snow can remain on the trail well into the summer hiking season. While some of these snowy sections are easy to cross, others can be very difficult, slow, and potentially unsafe to try to negotiate without the proper gear and experience. In particular, the sections between Cabane du Mont Fort and Arolla tend to present the biggest issues with late-season snow.

A hiker crosses a large snow field on stage 9 of the Walker's Haute Route

Plenty of snow in mid-July en route to Cabane du Moiry.

 

Finally, there are some sketchy sections of the trek that require extreme caution, such as the approach to Pas des Chevres (which has loose rocks and requires scrambling).

So why are we telling you all of this? Because if there’s only one rule you follow on the Haute Route it should be this: give the mountains the respect they deserve. The Haute Route is unique in the sense that there are virtually endless route options, variants, and detours available. In situations where the weather forecast is ominous, the trail conditions are sketchy, or your gut is telling you that something is out of your league, you have options. Use them!

It’s not the end of the world if you have to detour or adjust your plans to stay safe. In our opinion, it doesn’t make you an less of a badass hiker. In fact, it illustrates your experience and wisdom when it comes to trekking. Be open to whatever unique challenges the trail throws at you, after all that’s part of the journey!

Climbing a ladder to reach the Pas des Chevres on Stage 7 of the Walker's Haute Route

The ladders are actually the easiest part of the ascent to the Pas des Chevres!

 

2. Get in shape

With a route that traverses more than 180km and over 12,000m of elevation gain, it’s imperative that you are physically prepared for the Haute Route. Sure, every year there are more than a few untrained couch potatoes that manage to slog their way through this trek, but we are absolutely certain that you will have an immensely better experience if you are in good trekking shape. Nobody wants to approach each and every mountain pass with a sense of dread and exhaustion.

We recommend following a regimen of cardio and strength exercises at least twice a week in the months leading up to your trip. Additionally, do as much hiking with a weighted pack as possible ahead of time.It’s a good idea routinely do strength training exercises to build leg and core muscles in order to protect against injuries and give you more stability on steep trails. Ideally, you should be able to comfortably complete hikes of 20km with 1,000m of elevation gain on consecutive days.

Keep reading: How to Train for the Walker’s Haute Route

A rocky, high mountain view from the trail on Stage 10 of the Walker's Haute Route

Expect to climb up, up, and more up, and then go all the way back down- every day of the trek!

 

3. Think ahead when it comes to logistics

Even though we encourage you to be flexible throughout your Haute Route adventure, it’s still a good idea to do some advance planning. There are several logistical issues you’ll need to consider when preparing for your journey, including getting to and from the trail, luggage storage and transfer, detours, rest days, and money.

The point-to-point nature of the Haute Route means that you’ll finish your trek somewhere different from where you started (unless you’re crazy enough to do the whole thing again in reverse!) Most hikers will end in Zermatt, and many will need to make their way back to Geneva to catch a flight home. Although Zermatt is a car-free town, it is well connected by transit links. The easiest way to get from Zermatt to Geneva is by train. We recommend booking your onward travel in advance to ensure you get a seat and to score the best prices. Furthermore, if you have extra luggage that you don’t want to carry while hiking, you’ll need to decide if you want to store it in Chamonix or have it sent ahead to Zermatt. If you need to detour from the trail, we strongly suggest downloading the SBB and Postbus apps, which are great tools for helping you figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Be sure to check out this in-depth logistics article, where we cover everything you need to know to have a smooth and stress-free trek.

The PostBus provides easy and convenient access between many points along the Walker's Haute Route.

The PostBus provides easy and convenient access between many points along the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

4. Pack light

Carrying an unnecessarily bulky/heavy pack is a surefire way to make your Walker’s Haute Route trek abundantly less fun. The more weight you haul on your back, the greater effort you’ll need to exert on an already arduous trek. Additionally, there are some technical and exposed sections of the hike that require surefootedness and a compact center of gravity, neither of which is aided by a large backpack throwing off your balance. In all honesty, you don’t need to carry that much for this trek.

Many hikers choose to stay in huts, but even those camping will only need to bring food supplies to last a couple of days. Think about it this way: you can either wear slightly dirty shirts and cruise up those mountain passes comfortably, or you can opt for clean shirts and slow schlepping. For more about what to pack (and what to leave behind), be sure to check out our comprehensive Walker’s Haute Route Packing List.

A hiker walks through pink and yellow wildflowers on the Walker's Haute Route

Gorgeous wildflowers AND a not-too-heavy backpack? You truly can have it all on the Walker’s Haute Route!

 

5. Make new friends

One of the best parts about long-distance hiking is the people you meet along the way. Since many hikers stop at the same places each night, you’ll end up seeing familiar faces and forming meaningful connections.  The mountain huts simply ooze with camaraderie, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy some incredibly memorable meals with awesome people from all over the world who share your love of the mountains. Even if you opt to stay in a tent, the campgrounds are  wonderful places to share a drink and a chat with your fellow trekkers.  However you do it, make sure to strike up conversations with as many hikers as you can along the way. Connecting with others will significantly enrich your experience and make it so much more meaningful.

Picnic tables at the campground in Zinal along the Walker's Haute Route.

There are so many places to hang out with new friends along the Haute Route!

 

6. Have a food strategy

While it’s true that with the abundance of services along the way you’re unlikely to starve on the Haute Route, it is still paramount that you approach your fueling with a bit of foresight. Switzerland is expensive, and if you are forced to rely on purchasing all of your meals at the mountain huts and restaurants you pass along the way, you’re going to end up spending a king’s ransom. If you’re aware of that reality and factor it into your budget, that’s great, but if you’re caught unprepared you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

So how do you avoid paying 30 CHF for a plate of pasta every time you need to eat? We recommend stocking up on provisions in the towns you pass through along the route, packing your camp stove, and self-catering most meals. This will ensure you’re getting healthy fuel and plenty of snacks throughout the day, and it will save you a lot of money.  But there’s a catch. Grocery stores are nonexistent in many of the smaller hamlets, so you’ll need to do a little research to figure out your next refueling stop and carry enough food to last you until that point.

Additionally, keep in mind that many shops close for a midday lunch break and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. With a little upfront planning, you can eat well and have plenty of room in your budget for little splurges, like a homemade blueberry tart or post-hike beer (or both!)

Cooking on a camp stove outside Cabane du Moiry

Self-catering at the mountain huts gives you a chance to eat outside and enjoy the views!

 

7. Bring a map

In all honesty, we didn’t use our paper map at all during our Haute Route trek. Instead, we used our smartphone as a GPS device, which allowed us to see our exact location on the route, as well as topographic information and all of our campsites. On the whole, the Walker’s Haute Route is very well marked and pretty straightforward to follow. That being said, there are numerous variants and trail junctions that make it surprisingly easy to wander off course.

A good map can save you hours of frustration and, more importantly, save your life in an emergency. Even though we relied primarily on a digital map, we still strongly encourage everyone to carry a paper map. You never know when your battery could die,  your phone could fall into in a puddle, or any number of undesirable flukes could occur. We recommend bringing the following two Swiss Topo maps: Swiss Topo #5003 Mont Blanc-Grand Combin and Swiss Topo #5006 Matterhorn – Mischabel. Both can be purchased here.

A screenshot of using a smartphone GPS app to navigate on the Walker's Haute Route

This is what our GPS navigation looked like on our phones while hiking on the WHR.

 

8. Consider taking a rest day

If you’ve got the time, we highly recommend adding a rest day into your itinerary. Rest days are wonderful for a number of reasons. Perhaps most obviously, they give your body a chance to recover from a succession of physically demanding days on the trail. This can be a game-changer when it comes to preventing injuries and/or burnout. Additionally, rest days can be a great opportunity to spend time in one of the many charming villages along the route. When you’re hiking all day, there can be limited time to actually explore and immerse yourself in the places you pass through, but a rest day gives you the chance to slow down and absorb all of the delightful culture and history that these places have to offer. We enjoyed spending a day off in Les Haudères (which you can read more about in our trip report), but Le Châble, Arolla, and Zinal would also make great options.

Laundry drying in a window in Les Hauderes along the Walker's Haute Route

Another great rest day perk? Clean laundry!

 

9. Take care of your knees

We’ve completed a lot of tough hikes, but the Haute Route takes the cake for toughest on our knees. Expect very long, very steep descents on nearly every stage of the trek. These can be brutal on your joints, particularly knees and hips. By the end of our trip, our bodies were feeling pretty battered.  Fortunately, we took a few preventive measures that kept us feeling strong enough to finish with smiles on our faces.

One of the most important things you can do to minimize the effects of 1,000+ meters of daily descent is to make your pack as light as possible. This can be a little tricky when you’re camping, but every ounce you can shave off really does make a difference. Our trekking poles were also invaluable when it came to keeping us stable on steep, loose sections and taking some of the impact off of our joints. We can’t say enough about how helpful it is to use trekking poles!

Finally, if you’ve got knee issues, there’s no shame in using the cable car when the opportunity presents itself. There are several stages where hikers have the option to ride down and avoid a long slog.  This can be a great way to minimize the impacts of tough trekking.

Hiker with trekking poles on stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route

All smiles (and grateful for my trekking poles) on our final day of the WHR!

 

10. Leave no trace

The environment in the Alps is incredibly beautiful and even more fragile. Many thousands of people recreate in this region each year, and even small things can add up to have major impacts. It doesn’t take much time spent on the Haute Route to see the negative effects of human activity, from rapidly diminishing glaciers to braided and eroding trails, to litter left behind by careless walkers.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Your choices can make a real difference in keeping the Alps healthy and protected for future generations. Stay on marked trails, minimize wild camping, carry out all of your trash, and respect the flora and fauna. Taking these simple measures will help you enjoy and appreciate the stunning beauty of the Haute Route so much more.

Glacier views on the way up to Fenetre d'Arpette

The stunningly beautiful (and rapidly receding) Trient Glacier on the way up to Fenêtre d’Arpette.

 

Conclusion

Heed these ten little nuggets of wisdom and you are well on your way to a successful Walker’s Haute Route adventure. While there will certainly be plenty of surprises throughout your journey, even a small amount of intentional preparation will go a long way to ensure your trek is smoother and more enjoyable. Is there anything you think should be included on this list? Let us know in the comments below. Wishing you an unforgettable Haute Route experience!

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How to navigate on the Laugavegur Trail | GPS maps

Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is on many hikers bucket list. The trek brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery while also helping you escape from the tour bus crowds…

Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is on many hikers bucket list. The trek brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery while also helping you escape from the tour bus crowds that have become all too common at many of the country’s top sights. One question we frequently hear from readers who are interested in hiking the Laugavegur Trail is how we went about navigating while on the trail. Did we bring maps? Was the route hard to follow? How hard was it to find the huts and campgrounds along the Laugavegur Trail?

Finding your way on the Laugavegur Trail shouldn’t cause any headaches!

Rest assured that with the proper tools and resources, navigating on the Laugavegur Trail should be a straightforward endeavor. In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated on the trail, including how we utilized GPS on our phones to make navigating a breeze and also provide some resources for those who would like to do the same. Let’s get started!

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our downloadable Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide for under $20 below:

Laugavegur Trail Guide

LEARN MORE

The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Three unique stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers and those staying in huts
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Laugavegur
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

BUY NOW

In this post

Should I bring a paper map on the Laugavegur Trail?

The short answer is yes. You should always carry a paper map on any backcountry expedition. While we chose to rely on GPS data loaded into a navigation app on our phone, a paper map is an essential item to have as a backup. Technology has done wonders to make trail navigation easy and accessible, and we highly recommend you utilize it to help navigate on your own trip. However, if that iPhone you brought runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle, you’ll be glad you had your handy paper maps to rely on.

Laugavegur Trail Map

At a minimum, we recommend carrying the Island Serkot 04 map, as it provides a useful overview of the Laugavegur Trail and surrounding areas. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Once in Iceland, you’ll also be able to find maps with much better detail on the Laugavegur Trail, which we would also suggest picking up. You’re best bet in Reykjavik is to stop by one of the many outdoor stores. They should have several maps available.

Read more: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trail, elevation profile, and more by checking out our Laugavegur Trail | Maps, Routes, and Itineraries post.

Offline GPS maps for the Laugavegur Trail

One of our favorite tools to utilize on long treks, including the Laugavegur Trail, is an offline GPS map of the entire route and surrounding terrain. It makes on trail navigation incredible easy and the set-up is a breeze. You simply download the necessary GPS files on to your phone and open your chosen GPS app (more on that below).

You can then easily view your location, the trail, huts, campgrounds, and more along the Laugavegur. We utilized this frequently on our own hike to know how far we had hiked at any given point, check that we were still on the trail, and know how close we were to our stopping point for the day.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Laugavegur Trail and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your Laugavegur trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your phone as a GPS

Modern smartphones are incredible machines. You can send email, video chat with someone halfway around the world, and check your bank account all with a swipe of your finger. Another great feature of smartphones is their ability to act as a GPS device. You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

The problem is your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you.  Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this:

Blank TMB map

 

Not a very effective way to navigate

Solving the background map problem

While the issue of a background map not displaying isn’t typically a problem in cities or towns where ample cell phone service (and thus internet connectivity) exists, it can be a huge problem when you’re, say, crossing a snow field on the Laugavegur Trail without service. The solution? GPS Navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps. These apps allow you to select a predefined area, in our case the entirety of the Laugavegur Trail, and download the background map to your phone.

This allows you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Laugavegur Trail below.

Laugavegur Trail maps – What we provide

For those looking for Laugavegur Trail GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Laugavegur route along with all of the huts and campgrounds on the trail.

This data will give you the confidence to know exactly where your next hut or campground is and exactly how to get there.

These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.

Purchase your own Laugavegur Trail GPS files here.

Which app should I use?

There are dozens of GPS apps that will work for navigating on the Laugavegur Trail, however, we have a few favorites. We recommend utilizing either Gaia GPS or Maps.me for your offline navigating. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Laugavegur Trail displays in each of the apps.

Comparison of Gaia GPS and Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail
Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail

As you can see, Maps.me can easily display the route as well as campground markers along the way. However, the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS gives the user much more information such as adjacent trails, topographic lines, and elevation shading. For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS, although we certainly understand those who prefer to use a free option. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the Laugavegur for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Laugavegur Trail GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the Laugavegur Trail GPS file

When you purchase our Laugavegur Trail GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Laugavegur Trail GPS download

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Laugavegur Trail route and waypoints for the huts/campgrounds displayed on the map.

Laugavegur GPS map
Success! You’ve imported the Laugavegur Trail GPS data in Gaia GPS.

Step Two – Choose your map source
Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while trekking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the Laugavegur Trail. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

Laugavegur background map

Step Three – Navigate to the Laugavegur Trail and download your background map
Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the Laugavegur Trail. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Laugavegur in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire Laugavegur route
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘Laugavegur Trail’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the Laugavegur like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the huts and campgrounds along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step to navigating like a pro on the Laugavegur is to the able to successfully use Gaia GPS on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky, which should be no problem in Iceland) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.  NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Laugavegur Trail GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Laugavegur. The primary shortcoming of using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find any topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Laugavegur GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the Tour du Mont Blanc GPS file

When you purchase our Laugavegur Trail GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to Iceland and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

Laugavegur Trail Maps.me

Step Two – Download the Laugavegur Trail background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the Laugavegur GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the trail as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Laugavegur Trail in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download the ‘Iceland’ map to cover the entire Laugavegur Trail.
  4. Verify that you’ve downloaded the required base map by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  5. Once you’ve checked that the Iceland map has been successfully downloaded you’re all done!
Maps.me download for the Laugavegur Trail
Verify that the ‘Iceland’ map is downloaded.

That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the campgrounds along the route!

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

Want more Laugavegur content? Keep reading!

Be sure and check out all of our Laugavegur Trail resources below to help plan your perfect trip!

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GR20 Packing List

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d…

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d like and your knees might be cranky by the end of the day, but on the whole you’ll be alright. Maybe you’ll even be glad you brought along that collapsible camping tea kettle or extra fancy toiletries (although we seriously doubt it).

The GR20 is not one of those hikes.

Rugged mountains on the GR20 trail in Corsica.

You’ll be thankful you packed smart when you’re up here!

 

Not only is the GR20 very long and physically demanding, but it also has several sections that are quite technical. When you’re awkwardly climbing your way down a steep gully or hoisting yourself up a sheer slab of rock, you’ll be glad to have as light a pack as possible. Indeed, carrying a backpack that is too heavy is a common cause of hikers quitting their trek altogether. We’re not telling you this to scare you, but rather we want to spread the word about one of the most important keys to success on this trek-your GR20 packing list.

When packing for the GR20, you need to be ruthless. Leave behind everything except for the absolute essentials, and we promise your trek will be exponentially more enjoyable.  In this post, we’ll share our best advice for on must-have gear, as well as give you our tried-and-true GR20 packing list, organized into helpful categories and suitable for both campers and those staying in the refuges.

What’s in this post:

GR20 Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the GR20; you can carry your own tent, stay in refuges or hire tents, self-cater, eat meals at refuges, hike at a slow pace, double up on stages, and so on. Your GR20 packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is purchasing most of their meals and staying in refuges will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the GR20 that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. It is essential to dial in your footwear.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your GR20 trek.

 

Hiker with a backpack and trekking poles on the GR20

Puffy jacket? Check. Trekking poles? Check. Lightweight Pack? Check. Gorgeous scenery? Check!

How much should my pack weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers (with their own tent) should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg.  If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry. Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

Hikers on a steep trail.

You’ll be happy to have a light backpack on steep trails like this.

Footwear on the GR20

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the GR20, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on. I hiked in non-waterproof trail runners, while Ian used traditional hiking boots and we were both very happy with the results. Some people argue that trailrunners can’t withstand the wear and tear of the rough conditions of the GR20, but I didn’t have any issues in this regard, and I was grateful to have comfortable, reliable footwear.

Hiking boots

Your trusty boots are one of your most important pieces of gear.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toe socks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the GR20. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections. Make sure your poles are lightweight and collapsible, as you’ll need to stash them frequently on scrambling sections that necessitate having your hands free.

Backpacking backpack

The type of pack you’ll need for the GR20 will depend on your individual itinerary.

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the GR20. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying in refuges will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs. Bonus points if the pack has a system for quickly stashing your trekking poles!

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the GR20 (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to have something that necessitates having a full battery. Some refuges will allow you to charge electronics (sometimes for free & often for a small fee), but this certainly isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind.

Cell phones charging

Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the GR20, if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that’ll even let you.

 

Hydration Bladder

Corsica can get extremely hot in the summer months, and you are more than likely to face some sweltering temperatures while hiking the GR20. You should plan on drinking upwards of two liters of water per day- indeed some hikers will need three or even four liters on long, hot day. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for this trek, as the heat and the physical exertion can take their toll. Although there are water refill points along most stages of the hike, these are not always the most dependable or conveniently located. Instead of relying on spotty water sources, we strongly recommend that you fill up a large hydration bladder with all of the water you’ll need before setting out for the day. We love using our 3L Platypus hydration bladders because they make it easy to fill up on larger quantities of water, their handy straws promote more frequent and efficient hydration while hiking, and they allow you to carry the weight in an optimized way against your back.  We definitely feel that a good bladder is an essential item for the GR20.

 

Sunset at Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

You can choose to bring your own tent or use hire tents like these on the GR20.

 

Camping-Specific Gear List

If you plan on camping along the GR20, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!

Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.

Our most recommended piece of camping gear: Freestanding Tent

In all honesty, we did not actually bring a freestanding tent with us on the GR20. We’re still using our trusty Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, which has lasted us nearly a decade and hundreds of nights out in the backcountry. We typically recommend this tent wholeheartedly for any backpacking trek, due to its high quality design and affordable price tag. Even though we love this tent dearly, there were countless times we wished we had a freestanding tent on the GR20. This is because the ground at most camping areas consists of very hard-packed dirt, making it virtually impossible to get a stake in. Additionally, it can be very challenging to find an even surface to pitch your tent on, and sometimes you’ll realize you need to move it once you’ve already erected it. Unlike with a traditional tent which you have to completely break down to move, a freestanding tent allows you to simply pick it up and put it anywhere you please. Freestanding tents give you the ability to shake out all of the dirt, rocks, and grass that you’ll inevitably track in much more easily than with a traditional tent. And one last reason? Many freestanding tents are designed so that you can pack up the tent while the rain fly remains erected- a complete lifesaver on wet mornings. We met dozens of hikers along the GR20 who were using the MSR Hubba Hubba and absolutely loved it. This is arguably the best backpacking tent on the market right now.



ItemOur recommended gear 
TentMSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking TentThe MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding features are perfect for the GR20.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the GR20.
Sleeping pad Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadThis is a must-have for side-sleepers! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. It held up well on the hard and rocky conditions of the GR20.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowA camping pillow can be great when you're spending 14+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it! A stove isn't 100% necessary on the GR20, as the refuges provide gas cooktops, but it can be nice to have.
Backpacking potGSI HaluliteFor those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mugHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.

NOTES FOR CAMPERS:

  • If you plan on camping in hire tents, you do not need to carry a tent or sleeping pad, as those are included in your rental. You do, however, need your own sleeping bag.
  • If you plan on self-catering most of your meals, you should bring your own pot and utensils. Many refuges provide pots, pans, plates, cups, etc, but there is no guarantee what you’ll find at any given place. Nearly every refuge has a gas cooktop that you can use, so it’s not necessary to bring your own stove and fuel unless you don’t want to wait in line at the cooking area. You do, however, need to supply your own lighter/matches.

Refuge-Specific Gear List

If you’re planning on sleeping in refuges, gites, and hotels along the GR20, you can keep your pack relatively small. However, there are some specific items you’ll want to make sure you pack. While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your GR20 adventure.

Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in dorm-style accommodation.

Our most recommended piece for the refuges: Eco-Friendly Bedbug Spray

We’re not trying to scare you, but the reality is that bedbug infestations are very common in the GR20 refuges and gites. Besides being pretty gross, bedbugs can really put a damper on your trek by covering your body in uncomfortable bites and getting into all of your clothing and gear. Many hikers swear by using a bedbug spray like this Eco-Friendly one to keep the nasty little buggers at bay. This spray comes in a 3.3 ounce travel-friendly bottle and doesn’t have a strong scent. While it may not reduce your risk of bedbugs entirely, it’s definitely worth a shot!


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetIf you sleep warm, you may want this in addition to your sleeping bag for the nights when you need a lighter option.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsBoots cannot be worn inside the refuges, so you'll want something to wear indoors. While not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestles 30Sleeping bags are required in all of the refuges. This one should keep you plenty warm, without being too heavy.
Bedbug SprayEco-Friendly Bedbug SprayBedbugs are a common issues in many of the GR20 refuges, but they don't have to be a nuisance if you're prepared.

Refuge de Carozzu GR20

Every refuge is unique, but you can expect them all to be quite cramped…er, cozy.

 

Personal Gear List

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your GR20 packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).

Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR refuge-specific list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect GR20 packing list.

Our most recommended piece of personal gear: Headlamp

As we discussed in our trip report, we firmly believe that getting an early start each day is one of the most important keys to success on the GR20. The Corsican mountains and valleys can get unbearably hot in the afternoon sun, making it so that you’re exerting yourself more than necessary on terrain that is already challenging without adverse weather conditions. Additionally, in the summer months especially, the threat of afternoon thunderstorms is very real and should not be taken lightly. It’s of utmost importance that you’re off the high, exposed peaks and ridges before the storms move in. So why am I going on and on about all this in relation to a headlamp? Because there will be days on the GR20 where you need to pack up and get on the trail before daybreak, and hiking in the dark can be slow, frustrating, and dangerous without a good headlamp. Our Black Diamond Storm headlamps were absolutely invaluable on those early mornings; they are lightweight, long-lasting, have adjustable brightness settings, and they’re totally comfortable. Trust us on this one, you don’t want to leave for your trek without a good quality headlamp.


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Camel BakPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the GR20! The best pack-cover we've ever used.
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in huts and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Most of the bathrooms you'll find along the GR20 don't provide toilet paper.
Hand SanitizerMost bathrooms on the GR20 also don't provide hand soap.
Extra BatteriesIt's a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp, should you need them.

Miscellaneous Gear List

These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the GR20 packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your GR20 kit.

Our most recommended piece of miscellaneous gear: Battery Backup

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the GR20. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities are extremely limited along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe GR20 Corsica: Complete Guide to the High Level Route (Cicerone Guides)A must-have resource, and also available digitally to save weight in your pack!
EarplugsMack's EarplugsEssential for sleeping in huts, but we also love using them in the tent at crowded campsites.
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges or campgrounds.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraOptional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Gite U Fagone laundry

Pack light- you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do laundry along the GR20!

 

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for over two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed)  guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks.

Emily’s favorite piece of clothing: Altra Lone Peak Trailrunning Shoes

I recently became a believer in hiking in trailrunning shoes. For ages, I had happily hiked in my Keen Targhee boots (which I still enthusiastically recommend, especially for those with wide feet), but after a chronic injury and ensuring research to try to alleviate it, I decided to make the switch. I can confidently say that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to boots (except for on an extremely wet and  boggy trail like the Coast to Coast). I am completely in love with my Altras for a number of reasons. First, they held up to the gnarly conditions of the GR20, and that is no small feat. Additionally, I was grateful for the wide toe box that kept my feet very comfortable, while still feeling supported in the shoe. The zero-drop structure took some adjusting to, but now my feet and leg muscles are stronger and more stable as a result. These shoes are incredibly lightweight, yet I had no issues carrying a large pack while wearing them. The outsole is made of a very grippy rubber and has large lugs to keep you feeling confident on steep and loose terrain. I hiked hundreds of miles in these shoes this summer, in a variety of landscapes and weather conditions, and I never got a blister. Although they are not waterproof, I have come to prefer that, as I like quick-drying and breathable over something that traps moisture for days. If you’re looking to switch to the dark side, I highly recommend Altras as your first trail shoe!


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1-2)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsOPTIONAL: Great for those heavy downpours, but arguably not worth their weight on the GR20
Hiking boots/Trail ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Shoes
or
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
While Emily still highly recommends these Keens for those looking for traditional hiking boots, she recently switched to hiking in Altra trailrunning shoes and absolutely loves them.
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire/standard bra(1)After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesPerfect for cold evenings and scrambling on frigid rocks early in the morning.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Corsican sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Super comfortable around camp with great support.
BandanaIs everything from a small towel to extra sun protection.
BuffBuff Original Multifunctional HeadwearNice to use for sun protection or to keep your ears warm in chilly temps. Also makes a great headband.

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for nearly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Ian’s most recommended piece of clothing: Smartwool T-Shirt

After years of hiking and traveling in synthetic tech tees, switching to Merino wool was a major upgrade. Like synthetic materials, Merino is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, but unlike the synthetic materials I can hike in it for days without any funky smells. When I did need to wash it, it would be dry and ready to wear again no time at all. Plus, I find it to be more comfortable and stylish, since it looks just like a normal t-shirt. This was convenient for times when I wanted to wear it off the trail. Smart wool makes an all around great shirt that is well worth the price. Check it out here:


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light.
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Perfect for cold evenings and windy ridges.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsOPTIONAL: These can be amazing for those heavy downpours, but are arguably not worth the extra weight.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Mediterranean sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable around camp with great support.
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof! These held up well to the gnarly trail conditions on the GR20.
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaIs everything from a towel to extra sun protection.

 

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