Some of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth you just can’t reach by any form of transport other than the two legs beneath you. There is no way to really earn the respect that nature commands until you’re fully immersed in it, a million miles away from civilization. Mother nature is a cruel but insanely stunning gift and travelling lets you see it in the most spectacular way. Trekking and venturing into the wild is one of the most rewarding things you’ll do on the road not to mention how cheap it is and the benefit to your health. Regardless, it’s not something you just jump at without preparing and the more you know before you step into the great outdoors, the more you’ll enjoy the experience.
Treks can be as easy or as hard as you make them so picking the one that is right for you is essential. A beginners trek can be something along the lines of making your way up Mount Fuji in a day. It’s quick and well organised. Anything goes wrong, you have stations all along to help you out. Then you have the independant treks where you sort of bring everything you need to survive on your back and hit a barely visible track. You need to factor in things like distance, rise in altitude, weather forecast and how long you’ll be trekking for. The longer you trek the more supplies you’ll need and that’s more weight to carry. I highly recommend trying a small trek first. It might not even be your thing and you may never need to try it again. I took on a 14 day trek my first time and nearly bailed after 5 days only for some great group morale to get me through.
When shopping for gear to keep you warm as you climb through the clouds, you’ll see tonnes of big bulky down feather jackets to keep you warm. They sure will but they’ll roast you alive at higher temperatures. However taking it off might leave you freezing. Wear layers that you can add on or peel away to maintain a comfortable temperature.
Decent trekking boots + socks
There’s always someone who tries to cheap out and makes a daring decision to try it in ordinary foot wear or cheap runners. It might be ok for the first day or two but to keep your feet protected and properly supported trekking boots are the only way. Especially to avoid blisters, get trekking socks. Once you get a blister, the experience changes entirely as you limp your way around a mountain for hours.
Bring a proper bag
A shabby old backpack may get you through regular travel getting from A to B as you move from town to town but when hauling heavy weight over long distances, do yourself a favour and get a proper rucksack. Good support, appropriate capacity and distribution are essential. Share heavy loads and only pack what you need.
You’re working out and moving great distances so keep your water levels topped up. If your urine is looking a slight shade more yellow than normal, you need to be drinking more. Take some sips even when not thirsty, use it as an excuse to give those feet a break from walking. Bring water purification tablets if you are refilling your waterbottle. You don’t need to get sick at high altitude to figure out that this is a good idea.
High Energy Foods
Make sure your meals are full of energy as you are burning way more calories than usual. I usually bring plenty of snickers with me as they are filled with sugar and protein (peanuts) to give me the boost I need to keep moving. They are usually a lot cheaper than energy bars and readily available from anywhere.
There’s no winner
This is not a race and there is no prize for finishing ahead of schedule or ahead of other trekkers you meet. However, you have everything to lose. You can fatigure a muscle, joint or twist your ankle. Take the time to enjoy the scenery, take it all in, relax, enjoy the experience and go at a pace that is good for you. If your buddy is pacing, ask them to slow down or catch up with them later.
Google maps is probably no use to you here so make sure you get a trekking maps. There may well be one just for the route you want to take. They’ll tell you at what altitude you are at and this is extremely useful for when you need to acclimatise to avoid altitude sickness. Trust me, you really don’t want that. It could lead you to having to go back, get evacuated and in some cases death. Bring a compass with you too. You phone may have one but go old school just in case.
Look up the forecast, check out the skies and don’t challenge it. If you get caught in heavy rains, snow or worse, you may be in serious trouble. Either way, prepare for every occasion: wet, cold, hot or humid…
First Aid + Extras
Bring the basics with you. Chapter 3 should give you all the info on a good first aid kit. Also good to keep some fire lighting materials with you too. You may not use them but you’ll be very glad you did if you do.
For the most part, you can wander where you please and with so much open space it’s hard for people to manage the trekking traffic and check. However, it is safer to have your movements monitored at checkpoints in case anything happens to you. Grab any permits or licences you need before setting off. Check with a tourist office before you go. They can be pretty expensive. In Nepal for example, for the Annapurna Circuit you can expect to pay €40 for your ACAP & TIMS, two pieces of paper necessary to get around the conservation area. It’s always worth doing some research online to make sure you have what you need.