Although this is kit, hints and tips for hiking the Jordan Trail, I think some of it would apply to any long-distance, multi-week trek or walk. The Jordan Trail is 675km long and stretches across the entire country from the northern border to the south. It is a mapped trail and the Jordan Trail website gives all the information you need to undertake it. The whole thing takes 35 days – although you can do it as fast or as slowly as you like. A good option is to just do one or two sections. I did it in winter – December and January, but the best time is Spring.
Kit and clothing
Light, hard-wearing and fit-for-purpose are probably the three most important things you need from any kit you take on a trail like this. Craghoppers supplied the main bulk of my clothing and I took:
2 hiking shirts, stretchy with pockets
3 pairs of socks – padded at the heel
2 pairs of trekking trousers – good stretch, robust fabric
1 fleece – zipped
2 rain jackets – 1 light shell and 1 heavy duty
1 pair of waterproof trousers
1 down jacket
3 season boots – well broken in and roomy
1 pair of leggings
1 long-sleeved T
1 sports bra
1 camp bra
3 pairs of knickers
Hat and buff
I also had a -9C (comfort) full down sleeping bag, a thermarest ¾ mat, a one-woman tent, Deuter backpack and a light daypack, a platypus, a penknife, small first aid kit, spork, Esbit titanium mug, (Munther had the gas stove), a power bank and cables.
The thing I didn’t pack and needed was a warmer hat/beanie for night time, and the thing I packed but didn’t use was my solar panel. I had a really good power bank and enough points to recharge it at.
My new bit of kit that I found really useful was my UV-filtering water bottle, given to me by Waatr. Meant I could refill at a wider range of water sources.
All my clothing performed really well. The day kit was easy to walk in, culturally appropriate and hardy – my trousers didn’t even rip when I was bitten by a dog and a lump taken out of my leg. At night, I was warm in leggings, a T and my jacket. Full rain gear was essential and hiking poles were invaluable.
I needed that warmth level of sleeping bag even though in some areas it was too hot. I would always rather be too warm (and be able to unzip) than freezing.
Hints and tips
The Jordan Trail is absolutely brilliant but it is also very challenging. Don’t do as I did and turn up without training adequately. It is extremely hilly and zigzags are unknown, so you will find yourself either going straight up or straight down! Also, do not be fooled by the word ‘trail’ – a huge amount of it is straight across country, without paths or tracks. There are also longish sections of tarmac in the north.
The way markings are sporadic and you will have to be able to navigate well with a GPS, and use the GPS co-ordinates provided.
There is very little water and in some areas in the south you will need water drops. Bear in mind that you may have to carry quite a bit of water with you.
I chose to do the Trail with a Jordanian guide, Munther Al Titi from Treks Jordan, because I wanted to find out as much about the country as possible. Also, I wanted company and to practice my Arabic. I would
Munther and Treks were brilliant and I’d highly recommend them to you. There is also a supported through hike organised every year where you can join a group. For me, having a guide made my experience so much richer and worthwhile. I learnt about many different aspects of the country I was walking through from how to spot a prehistoric burial spot to why swastikas are painted on Kerak’s walls. It was a privilege to be shown Jordan by such a knowledgeable and interesting person.
If you want to go it alone, you absolutely can. We met Hector from the Canary Islands on the way and he was going solo, but joined us for a short while. Women, too, can do it alone. Hana (another guide from Treks) has done the whole thing on her own. However, you have to be a really experienced hiker, with excellent navigation skills and a good back up in place in case you face any difficulties (a fall, dog attack etc).
Supported or unsupported
When I first got in contact with Treks, I asked them in my naivety if I could do the trek with animals to carry baggage – mules, donkeys, camels etc. They were kind enough not to laugh in my face but said a polite, ‘No, the terrain is impossible.’ After I got there, I realised why. It is very tricky. So, I decided to backpack it. However, after a few days on the trail and all the upset of the dog bite, I realised that it was going to prove too difficult and Treks managed to find a way to support the trip.
As well as the joy of not having to carry my big back pack, this meant that every night, a local Bedu or farmer or (in one instance) secret policeman would meet us at our camp spot, usually roaring up in an ancient pick up. We’d collect wood, get the tea on and settle in for a good gossip and it meant I met some fantastic people.
Hazards – weather and dogs
I wanted to end 2021 on a good note after such a long, Covid-ridden year which is why I chose to do the trail at a non-typical time (ie winter). Really, you are much better off dong it in spring or in autumn. Summer is too hot. Weather was a definite hazard. We had to skip one stage because of flash floods and take a couple of rest days when winds reached 100km/hr and the rain was torrential. On the whole, we were really lucky with the weather, though, as just a week after finishing, Jordan is covered in deep snow!
There are shepherd/farm dogs everywhere and they are trained to bark/threaten anyone who comes near their territory. They will also attack, as they did with me. It is a genuine hazard and pretty intimidating. If you walk the trail, keep as much distance as you can but also do use stones or your poles to ward them off as a last resort.
Make sure all your jabs are up to date including tetanus and rabies. And take out travel insurance. Battleface Plan were my insurers and they were excellent when I got bitten. Their medical team was straight on to me and checked that all the rabies’ protocols were being followed. I felt very supported.
Jordan is an Arab, and primarily Muslim, country. There are large numbers of refugees from neighbouring states. Arabic is the national language but English is spoken everywhere. Jordanians are extremely welcoming, friendly and hospitable. It was one of the great pleasures of doing the trail to meet such warm, good-humoured people. If we had stopped for every glass of tea or invitation to lunch, we would still be walking!
The cities, particularly Amman, and the countryside are very different, with the countryside being more traditional. This has some implications for female travellers. Without wishing to stereotype or say this is universal, it is likely that you will meet mostly men out and about. If you do any home stays – which are an excellent experience and chance to eat delicious home made Jordanian food – you may get the chance to meet women and girls in the house.
Jordanian women tend to dress conservatively, with head scarves and modest clothing. Foreigners are free to do as they wish but do remember that if you (women) are wearing a top that shows your shoulders and has a low neck, that is a lot of exposure. Likewise short shorts. Think bikini in a church. Men, too, should be aware – walking around without a shirt on, for example, would be considered strange.
If you have the chance to learn a few words of Arabic, you will find yourself rewarded with encouragement and even more glasses of tea.
Just do it
I would highly recommend doing the whole thing if you have time, or just doing a section if you don’t. By far, Ip preferred the south for hiking, although the north was very interesting historically. My favourite section was Dana to Wadi Araba. I totally underestimated the difficulty of the trail before I set off and got a nasty shock, but it was worth every bit of pain and suffering. It was a magnificent experience!
Bex Band has hiked the south and written an excellent account.