Fitness and experience

Fitness and experience

The Arctic Circle Trail is a remote, rigorous, multi-day wilderness trek that is not to be undertaken lightly. There are several river crossings, the trail itself is usually less than 20cm wide, and there is nowhere to resupply along the route so you must be self-sufficient and carry everything with you for the duration of your hike.

Remember – all hikers undertake the ACT at their own risk and rescue is very expensive!

Every year there are several people who call for emergency evacuation from the trail – something we have limited resources to be able to execute. Learn about Search & Rescue in Greenland, and please be honest with yourself about your experience level before deciding to hike the trail.

Required experience for summer:

  • the physical stamina to walk ~20 kilometres per day for 8-10 days carrying all your own equipment and food. Depending on your equipment and how much you eat, this could weigh anywhere from 17kg (for ultralight hikers) to 25kg
  • knowledge and experience in wilderness navigation. This is especially important for the Southern route as it is not yet fully marked
  • an understanding of how to deal with rapidly changing weather
  • basic first aid training
  • balance and ankle strength to cope with a foot-width track, boulder scrambling, and river crossings
  • mental strength to cope with bugs and being cold, hot, wet, tired, etc for more than a week
Hiker passing yellow flowers on the Arctic Circle Trail. Hikers should have sufficient fitness to carry a heavy pack for a week or more
Photo: Lisa Germany, Visit Greenland
Skiing the Arctic Circle Trail during winter
Photo: Anton Abrahamsen

Required experience for winter:

  • previous experience in exercising (layers management) and camping in -30C – 40C temperatures
  • the physical stamina to walk/ski/bike ~20 kilometres per day for 8-10 days carrying/dragging all your own equipment and food. Pulks generally have a starting weight of over 35kg.
  • knowledge and experience in wilderness navigation
  • basic first aid training
  • mental strength to cope with extreme cold and wind conditions

If you have any doubt as to whether you have the correct experience, consider joining a guided hike and/or build up to your ACT hike by:

  • undertaking shorter, unguided hikes where you carry everything yourself
  • learning how to navigate in the wilderness
  • learning basic first aid skills
  • learning winter survival skills (winter ACT users)

Even if you do have the correct experience, make sure you start training well in advance of your ACT expedition. There are several sites with recommendations for how to train for a long thru-hike (for example: from Montem, Bearfoot Theory, and Thru-hiking), but you should at least be:

  • increasing your cardio stamina
  • building up resilience with resistance training and yoga
  • preparing yourself mentally
  • so familiar with your gear that you can set it up / use it almost without looking

It is absolutely critical that you train with the shoes you intend to wear and the backpack you intend to use for several months before your hike. Don’t forget to fill your pack with bags of rice or cans of food while doing practice hikes so you can get used to the weight.