Portugal boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe, with fantastic day-hikes for family hiking adventures and epic long-distance hiking trails for enthusiastic backpackers. Whether you want to see 25 waterfalls on the popular 25 Fontes Trail in Madeira or go backpacking along the trails of the Rota Vicentina, you’ll enjoy your hiking adventure much more if you pack lightly.
Make a list
The trick is to pack everything you really need and leave behind everything you don’t. To achieve this, I first make a list. Every hiking adventure is different. When hiking the epic Fishermen’s Trail, you’ll need camping and cooking equipment. To enjoy the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in the Algarve, you won’t need as much equipment.
When creating my list, I write down five titles to focus my thoughts about what I might need:
- Vital items
A backpack is essential for carrying everything you need on your hiking adventure. This may be a large external-frame backpack for epic hikes or a small backpack for your picnic lunch. Many hikers like to take aids, such as GPS units and hiking poles. A camera is essential for preserving your memories.
An important tip is to check and test your equipment before packing it away. You’ll be very annoyed if you arrive at the end of a 20-mile trek and attempt to raise your tent only to discover there’s a missing component and you will have nowhere to shelter during the night.
Some items are literally a matter of life and death. For example, people who suffer from a serious allergy may die if they don’t have an EpiPen close to hand. Ensure you pack any medication you or members of your family require.
Other essential items you won’t be able to survive without may include your International Driver’s Permit (IDP), driver’s license, bank cards, travel documents, and other important identification documents. Such items will be invaluable if you have to hire a vehicle or equipment in connection with your hiking adventure.
You should always wear appropriate clothing for your hiking adventures. Many people get into trouble when they attempt to climb a pretty mountain that doesn’t look very high in their flipflops. In sunny conditions, a sunhat and sunglasses may be essential.
The clothes you pack will depend upon the weather, the time of year, where you’re hiking, and what you plan to do during your hike. For leisurely coastal hikes in the Algarve, you may only need the clothes on your back. But for tackling the 163-mile Historical Way, you’ll need several changes and layers.
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen on sunny days. Baby wipes are great when you’re trekking with kids. Diapers are obviously essential for babies. On longer hikes, you’ll need a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Food & drinks
Healthy snacks are great for day-hikes, especially if you’re hiking with children. Water is always essential to stay hydrated. On long-distance hikes, dried food that is easily hydrated is light and doesn’t take up much room.
Organize your items
Assemble everything that’s on your list and ensure your backpack is empty of any clutter left over from your last hiking adventure. As you pack, cross each item off your list to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Pack heavy items first at the base of your backpack so they don’t crush other items. Bulky items may need to be attached to the exterior of your backpack using the D-rings. Distribute the weight as well as you can.
Emergency and frequently used items
Anything you’ll need in an emergency or often should be packed in an easily accessible location. For example, your First Aid Kit can be placed in a side pocket on your backpack. Some items can be carried on a strap around your neck, such as binoculars on a birdwatching hike. Items like bug spray may be carried in a holster attached to your belt.
Least important items
When your backpack is looking full, consider leaving behind anything that’s not truly essential. The lighter your backpack, the easier you’ll find it to carry.