I can never wait for my dose of adventure - be it a pleasant weekend rappelling down waterfalls or climbing Kilimanjaro. There are many things to keep in mind when venturing out to forest trails or going out for camping, a lot of which I learned the hard way. But for all first timers, here are a few tips to keep in mind, a guide to look through when you decide to get away from all the chaos and cacophony of city life to an enlivening trek in the great outdoors!
It is prudent to first look up on the web for information around places you want to go or to discover new places. Although it is 'cool' to say 'Let's just go for it', it helps to research on the place and get general info on the route (getting lost there then is fun too!) Find a place suitable to you and your group's fitness levels and experience. Choose popular trails initially so you get comfortable. Then you can be more adventurous in your escapades and chart out new trails! And being physically fit for your trek is always good. That way you can enjoy the climb and not get bogged down by sheer fatigue of walking. Easier said than done, it requires practice and getting used to carrying a backpack on ascent and descent. A good way to start off is jogging short distances and increasing the tempo steadily to build stamina. A good trekker going on major ascents needs not only strong legs but good core strength with back, ab and joint muscles trained. Maybe run errands to your local stores with a backpack on? Or hit that gym you've always been paying for but avoiding? There are no short-cuts to this and a little jogging never killed anybody. Keep in mind that different treks (like Kilimanjaro or Everest) may require different training regimes.
When you're in the mountains, every day is Friday!
Here's a rule of thumb - When starting off on your flirting affair with trekking, wear too much rather than too little. It's always better being too warm and be able to take off a layer than being too cold and not having anything to wear on top. I had a shivering experience once when climbing a hillock in my initial days. We had planned to camp atop the hill but had to turn back midway. I wasn't prepared and the cold winds which started suddenly froze my bones. So always carry a change of clothes which can help in the rain and as an extra layer on top, an extra pair of socks and a windcheater/poncho to shield in case of rains. Here is a Do's and Don'ts guide:
(Definitely not these - 8 wacky things NOT to bring on a trek!). People have different views on this and it does depend on how long and where you are going. My favorite style is to pack the less required heavy stuff like the medical kit or change of clothes at the bottom, food in the middle and quick energy bites and water at the top. Kinda makes sense to me but whatever suits your purpose.
In one of my rappelling experiences, I had no idea about how difficult the down trek could be after the thrilling 1800 ft of rappelling. The huge boulders and slippery slopes were treacherous and sliding down at steep angles with a backpack on took its toll. And then we found out that we were short on water! We had to ration half a litre of water among three people for more than 2 hours of scraping down big rocks.
Trekking is best enjoyed with a fellow adventurer. Going in groups means being able to help each other along with the companionship. Before you head out always inform friends and family about where you intend to go, the route and when can they expect you back. Carry IDs and money in case of emergencies. During the trek, keep a lookout for potential dangers - don't touch suspicious looking flora. Poisonous plants are another hiking hazard. Do not use strongly scented skin/hair products as it ignites the strong olfactory senses of animals around. Protect yourself against scrapes, plants and insects by wearing full-length garments. I iterate not to drink water from just any source. And most importantly keep alert and know your surroundings.
So there it is, trekking tips 101. One last thought - I can't believe how many of us don't pay attention to keeping our nature pristine and untouched. There are no trash pickers in the countryside, no one to clean away your waste. So take away what you take in - plastics, packets, food (and yep that toilet paper too if it is not biodegradable!) Respecting fellow trekkers by not being too loud and leaving markers alone is an unsaid rule. Remember etiquette, enjoy the adventure, click pictures and don't forget to stop and smell the flowers!
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