Guest post by James of TrekSumo
Tent – check. Food – check. Latest gadget that will tell you exactly where you are in the world whilst uploading and tweeting/FBing/Pinning the last ten most awesome photos in your library – check. Sound amazing, but when you tot up the costs your bank account is likely to go into a cataclysmic series of spasms. Which is why we decided to put together a list of hiking trips that will cost less than your smartphone.
Some of these destinations travel through areas that are easy going. Others are tougher. Before you go, check out our hiking and hillwalking essentials post which has a list of useful skills and recommendations. All the tips you’ll find there have been developed and honed over many years of tramping around the countryside, wearing a rucksack the size and weight of a house.
I’ve put together a list of destinations that will appeal to hikers and explorers from the US, UK and mainland Europe.
Enough talk. Let’s go exploring, on the cheap.
Dartmoor North to South
Dartmoor is a National Park in the South West region of the UK. I love this place, I was born nearby and spent many a happy day roaming across the moor, camping in the wilds (before wild camping was even allowed – I had a few run-ins with angry farmers).
A few months before writing this post, I headed back down to the South West and set myself a target – to hike Dartmoor from north to south, a total of 26 miles, in one day. Short days and my own laziness conspired to ensure failure.
There are no fees for accessing the moorland and wild camping is now allowed over the vast majority of this National Park. The only costs you’ll incur will those associated with travel and accommodation, when you stopover in a B&B. Recommended starting point for this walk is Belstone, near Okehampton (spending the first night in the fantastic Tors Inn – say hi to the Landlord from me).
I recently completed a north to south crossing of Dartmoor. Covering a distance of 27 miles, the route is pretty arduous thanks to the rolling moorland and sharp peaks of the tors. It’s a journey made more difficult by the near-constant fluctuations in weather (Dartmoor has earned the nickname ‘four seasons in one day’).
In a matter of minutes, a hot summer’s day can morph into freezing hail that lashes your exposed skin. Even if you’re hiking on a warm day, be prepared and take waterproofs at a minimum.
Crossing the Hardangervidda, Norway
The Hardangervidda is symbolic of many aspects of Norwegian culture: wild, untamed and drenched in the fierce resistance that blocked the German advance during the Second World War.
Located a couple of hours train journey east of the bustling city of Bergen, this vast national park is a magnet for hikers, mountain bikers and skiers. In fact, it draws in pretty much everyone interested in whiling away a few days, hours or weeks in an historic region.
The region drew its initial fame as a training ground for polar exploration. Shackleton and Scott skied and wade through deep snow. Norwegian hero, and first man to the South Pole, Amundsen almost died whilst training here.
Both beautiful and dangerous, the Hardangervidda continues to draw outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Accessible by train only, the small town of Finse is about 4 hours from Bergen and 5 hours from Oslo. Finse serves as the perfect starting point for pretty much any adventure you can imagine.
If you live in the UK, the main cost you’ll pay is for your flights and train tickets. The only hotel in Finse, Finse 1922, is not cheap. Cut costs by using the DNT huts, or something like this…
West Highland Way
Scotland, home of the free… and some of the most remote areas in the United Kingdom. There’s a harsh beauty that draws many to the Highlands and coastal regions. And the West Highland Way is one of the more famous destinations for hardened hikers.
At 96 miles long, this is one route you’re not likely to complete in a day. Starting at Milngavie and finishing at Fort William, the WHW cuts through truly stunning scenery (including some epic peaks and valleys you’ll have to navigate).
The highest point you’ll have to scale is on the section between Kinghouse and Kinglochleven – a munro named Buachaille Etive Mor that reaches an altitude of 550m. The views and climb will take your breath away.
Like all of the other routes listed here, you can camp out along the way. If the weather turns nasty, or you feel like a few home comforts, there are plenty of pubs and B&Bs that will accommodate you for the night. The West Highlands Way site has an extensive list of accommodation you can book.
If you’re determined to keep costs down by sleeping in only your tent, walking the WHW is a cheap location to visit. Expect to pay up to £350, depending on how you plan to travel to the start point (train and bus tickets soon ramp up the prices).
Murnau am Staffelsee, Bavaria
Bavaria in southern Germany is another destination for hardened hikers. The region is famed for the towering, snow-capped peaks of the Alps, unusually located huts offering sustenance and huge German sausages (currywurst, pommes, mayo… for anyone familiar with this Teutonic delicacy).
There are numerous routes through the hills and mountains. In fact, too many to list which is why I’ve focussed on Murnau am Staffelsee, a town overlooking Lake Staffelsee and the Nature Reserve “Murnauer Moos”.
Many trails and tracks start on the edge of the town making it easy for hillwalkers to access the mountains.
My first foray into this region was during my time in the British Army. My unit was on adventure training and most days were spent marching over the mountains, carrying large rucksacks. Utter bliss.
Tip: keep an eye open for one of the memorial sites. Small, locked buildings serve as shrines to the German Alpine troops and are a fascinating window on history.
Getting to Germany is pretty cheap. You can fly into Munich and catch the train to Murnau am Staffelsee, which is only 60km from the city.
Camping isn’t permitted in many areas so check before you plan a night under the reassuring gaze of the moon.
A couple of years back I had the fortune to stop off in Iceland. My team had just completed a 600km crossing of Greenland, a journey that does cost a little more than a smartphone. We were heading back to the UK and ran into some delays.
Most of the team were ex-special forces soldiers and decided that skiing across the largest island on Earth wasn’t enough. Whilst waiting for our next flight, we decided to a walk that would keep us invigorated. Enter Kjolur!
If you want to experience some of nature’s extremities, then this is the place to visit. The route takes hikers through the centre of Iceland. Along the way you’ll see (and clamber over) extinct volcanos and ancient glaciers.
Mountain huts dot the route and are useful if you are in an emergency situation (the weather can be brutal and changes fast).
As you’ll be climbing hard and covering rough terrain on the 45km, you should plan to complete the journey in 2 – 3 days.
Historical facts galore await anyone with a passing interest in Iceland’s criminal past. Tales of outlaws and hardened criminals abound.
Tip: take some swimwear and experience the joys of a hot spa!
Where Will You Go?
Five destinations guaranteed to cost you less than a brand-new smartphone. In fact, even a refurbished iPhone can cost you an arm and a leg. Prices will change over time and we can only hope that getting to the locations above, or any others you choose, will cost less and less.
Where will you go? Let us know.
I’d like to thank Jake for letting me post on his site, really appreciate it. If you want to read more about my hikes, overseas and in the UK, feel free to visit me at https://treksumo.com/