Long Distance Walk Planning

I'm just finishing up a planning effort, both polishing up our GR 653 Arles to Toulouse info based on completing that trip, and doing the initial Toulouse to Puenta la Reina planning.

In all cases, the key document is the spreadsheet in the bottom center of the image. Normally I will use a Google Documents spreadsheet, as I share the info with others. I gather the appropriate guidebooks, and from them build the spreadsheet with names of the stops, and distances between points. To this I add the elevation for each point. Sometimes this is in the guidebooks, other times I have to pull it off of a topo map, or my topo software, or worst case, zooming google maps in terrain mode. I add cumulative distances to my spreadsheet, and with the distances and elevation can do an elevation profile chart with Google charts. Its a little easier to chart if I clone my original spreadsheet, and delete all but the elevations and cumulative distance. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009 backpack45.com

Once the spreadsheet is done I can estimate the number of days and we can schedule the trip, buy supplies, book reservations, etc.

Some examples:

A PCT Spreadsheet

A GR653 Arles to Toulouse Spreadsheet


  1. http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pPFto0EzOaDsxzFnUiiYXWw&hl=en

  2. I'm planning a 150 mile section of the AT now in Maine. I'm actually trying to plan less on this hike than I normally do, by just figuring out how much food/distance I'll cover between resupplies, how to get to town on resupply days, shuttles to and from the end points, and water sources.

    In the past, I've gone crazy with food planning. This time, I'm going to wing it a little more and do eyeball calorie calculations rather than write everything up in a spreadsheet.

  3. I agree with Philip. If you over-plan you take the sponteneaity out of the trip, which I would assume is part of the reason you want to hike. The point is to take a break from work, not bring work to the trail. Just plan enough for safety reasons and let the rest be an adventure...

  4. I've spreadsheeted food, and it was a useful exercise to do once, but after that I could do it on autopilot.

    I do think that one distinction of long distance hiking over recreational backpacking is that the long distance hiking is an exercise in planning, particularly for section hikers. If you have to go 500 miles, and be back at the job in five weeks, detailed planning is essential. There will be plenty of adventure on the trail, but you had better make your mileage and know where your resupply points are.

    If you are a thru-hiker you may be between jobs, but you still have climate constraints on reaching your destination, and again, it takes planning skills to finish. If I saw "thru-hiked the PCT" on a resume, that would be a big plus - someone who can plan a large task and get it done.

  5. I planned every day of my hike on the Via Francigena from Switerland to Rome after reading other people's accounts of getting hopelessly lost, having to double back-track and hiking 30km, 40km 50km as a result, having nowhere to sleep at the end of the day. That's great for a sole male (with a tent) but when it is 5 middle-aged women who are hiking, I say "book a room in advance". At least you know there is a bed at the end of a long, hot, rambling day!


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