Let’s be honest here. Just wanting to go for a trek is not going to get you to the end of the trek and back with lots of happy memories. There are a lot of aspects to a trek – mental, physical, and material – that go into ensuring that you are ready for a trek.
Being new to trekking, but not new to extended periods ‘out on the road’, I claim no title of a trekking guru or a know-it-all. What I do claim is that the words that follow come from an experience of more than one trek. I am sure my lessons are not over and that I still have more to learn, and as I do, I promise I will share them.
Do you know what you are getting into?
Now, this is something that I came across when I went for the Chadar trek. Not only did I come across people who got tired of the cold and the walking within a day or so, but also a group of trekkers who booked the trek with a company that didn’t even provide tents or sleeping bags.
Trekking, by its very nature, means long walks and no plush beds to rest in. If that is not your thing then you should book another activity for your vacation.
Do you know what you are getting into?
Your temperament also plays a key role in deciding if your trek will be a memorable experience or a horrid memory of effort and fatigue that you’d forget sooner rather than later.
What I mean by temperament is how you deal with the experience. If you are uncomfortable with outdoors or are easily agitated when things don’t go according to plan, you might want to consider a different type of vacation.
There have been times when we have reached campsites only to find that the sleeping bags are wet and need drying out or that the campsite had one too many stones and required you to put up with some minor discomfort.
If these things irk you and you tend to go into a tizzy over them, then you might want to consider some mediation because there is no night manager on a trek whom you can complain to about the state of the rooms.
Have you planned properly, or are you going to be rushing it?
When I go for a trek, I usually plan the arrival a day or so before the trek starts and my return a day or so after the trek ends. If you are going trekking with the thought that you NEED to get back by a certain date and time, then you are trekking on deadline. Just give yourself enough time so you don’t have to worry about catching that flight or train back, you might end up enjoying the experience a bit more.
Have you done the mental prep?
Yes, just like any other endurance activity, trekking too has a mental aspect attached to it. The walks from one campsite to another can take hours, and if you are not prepared for what this means, it could end up ruining the trek.
When you run a marathon, after the first few kilometres are over, you start the mental battle to keep running. Trekking is like that, because if you start thinking about the hours you are spending walking and how much more awaits you, you’re already in trouble.
However, if you just revel in the beauty around you and don’t pay attention to how far or how long you still must travel, you will reach the campsite with enough vigour to undertake more of the trekking.
Is your fitness ready for a trek?
How important is physical fitness? Well, it’s more important than some might think. I personally believe in the rule that if you can run 5km in 30 min (no walking breaks involved), you can handle a trek where you are carrying you own backpack that could weigh up to 20 kg.
This does not mean that someone who can’t run 5 km won’t be able to finish the trek; they will be able to, but the difference will show itself in how much they enjoy the experience.
Since I am a runner too, some of the treks that I went for were undertaken when I was well into the training for a marathon. On each of these treks, the effort I put in was not as demanding on my body as the one trek.
The trek I refer to is the Goechala trek, for which I was not physically prepared, and in the climb from 9,000 ft to 13,000 ft I suffered like never before. I fell behind, I was exhausted by the time I reached the campsite, and I was in a bit of a bad mood because of my fatigue.
The point is, even if you think you have it in the back and the travel website said that the trek is an easy one, make sure you are physically fit enough to undertake the trek. After all, a tired trekker is happier than a fatigued one.
Do you have the right gear?
Now, this is a lesson I have learned the hard way about being ready for a trek. While most of the time people do manage to get the right sort of clothing for treks, there are times when, like me, you land up with something that is not adequate. In my case it was my jacket for the very first trek I went on.
I took a padded and stuffed one but failed to take into consideration that it was made of cloth and would let all the cold wind in. Luckily, the rest of my gear was up to the task, so I didn’t suffer too much. So make sure you do your research.
Speaking of gear, remember that before you go out and buy all your gear, you need to consider if you are ever going to use it again. Between backpacks and warm clothes, the costs can rise pretty fast.
So if you are going to undertake a trek, easy or difficult, just keep these points in mind. A good place to start is this article if you use it as a checklist to get you ready for a trek.