Don’t spoil your first few treks with these rookie mistakes
Trekking is an immersive, soulful experience that is physically, as well as mentally demanding. It gives you a rush of adrenaline and gets your heart racing with excitement.
It is one of the most mindful outdoor activities that enhances focus, improves concentration, and works as a natural antidepressant. But like most other wilderness activities, there are certain protocol and rules to be followed. These rules enable you to have as much fun as possible, while ensuring your safety at the same time. A set of ground rules must be the foundation of any trek in order to prevent untoward incidents from occurring. Being mindful of your surroundings and staying alert is one way to prevent the occurrence of mishaps. But there’s much more to safety than just being alert on the trail.
Here are 5 mistakes not to make as you slip on your trekking shoes to your very first trek:
Carrying excess weight
Trekking with a heavy bag not only slows you down, but jeopardizes the safety of the group as well. If your bag is overloaded with unwanted stuff, it will tire you out quickly. And no amount of training can make up for it. This point is undeniably, the first and most important point that all newbie trekkers need to be made aware of, and hence, makes it to the top of my list. You want to be extremely light and unhindered as much as possible. Especially on difficult treks, where there will be plenty of technical sections to cross.
This means: Carrying a bag with multiple straps which lets you distribute the weight evenly across your body; no protrusions jutting out from the bag such as sleeping mats, clothes, bottles, garbage bags or other trek equipment; and keeping your hands free for better maneuverability.
Not training enough
A few newbie trekkers overestimate their fitness levels and sign up for a difficult trek. Its only when they find themselves huffing and puffing, and gasping for air on the trail, that they realize the consequence of this poorly made decision. Never make the assumption that you are fit for a trek. Always ensure that you are sufficiently trained for it. The sense of regret combined with the physical exhaustion will hit you on the trail like a bus. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself; by which time, it’s already too late and not much can be done. This is one of the main reasons organizers totally detest having untrained participants on the trail. At this point, all the organizers can do is carry the participant’s bag, giving them some kind of solace, and improving their chances of keeping up with the group.
Trekking in new shoes
Just like you wouldn’t purchase a new pair of running shoes and run a marathon the very next day, so is it with trekking. You must ‘break-in’ your trekking shoes well in advance before embarking on a trek. This can be done by using them for small hikes or going for short walks. You don’t want to suffer blistered toes or end up with shoes that are too loose out on the trail. Marin, from Outside even goes a step further and asks her followers to break-in their trekking boots by using them on different slopes across different terrain and even in the rain, so that they know how they feel when wet.
The IndiaHikes blog has an excellent guide listing all the boxes you’ll need to check off while buying trekking shoes:
Carrying unnecessary clothes & toiletries
On most South Indian treks, it’s usually sunny and warm throughout the day, and only gets cold, if ever, late night and early into the morning. Which is when you’re usually inside your sleeping bag or tent. Carrying additional jackets are not required as your body is sufficiently heated by your metabolism. This will only weigh you down during the trek and make you sweat more.
Carry as many layers as specified by the organizer, and nothing more. And If you must have a towel, carry the thin light type, which can easily be snuck between the stuff in your bag. Face washes, deodorants, lotions, powders and creams, are again all optional. Maybe the only reason you would carry them is to travel fresh after the trek, but otherwise they’re pretty much useless. The more regularly you trek, the lesser you tend to do with.
Don’t forget that all these products leech into the stream water, wherever you take a dip. Remember to leave out soaps and shampoos as well.
Not carrying the mandatory items as listed by the organizer
This includes essentials like torches, batteries, bowls, spoons, emergency food, toiletries, and your personal medication, if any. Many people just take the instructions for granted and end up borrowing from others on the trek. The torch is, by far, one of the most purposefully forgotten items on a trek as many newbie trekkers just assume that a mobile phone will get the job done.
You don’t want to jeopardize the safety of the group by cutting corners like this. You’ll be needing your phone for all kinds of purposes, and should be preserving the battery as much as possible instead of draining it with the torch. Moreover, a phone torch is woefully insufficient for a trek, even in terms of brightness. A good quality trekking torch (preferably head mounted) with multiple brightness modes is essential, especially if trekking in the night is in your itinerary. So don’t make the mistake of using your phone as a torch.
Trekking is an iterative process, and it’s going to take a while before you can adeptly dot your I’s and cross your T’s for every trek you embark upon. But until then, keep learning, keep discovering, and don’t let too many rules spoil the fun.