There is something very endearing about trekking. Being surrounded by nature, walking and climbing through foreign locations, exploring wilderness – sounds magical, doesn’t it? And, there are a lot of mental and physical health benefits, too! Though extremely adventuresome and rewarding, trekking can also be quite intimidating to those who are newbies, because the truth is that things can actually take a sudden dangerous turn without the right amount of preparation beforehand. So, we have compiled the perfect beginners guide to trekking. Read away carefully!
Don’t forget to also read What To Expect When Trekking For The First Time.
While there isn’t exactly any universal ranking system for trek difficulty levels as of yet, people either go by a number ranking system of 1 to 7 (1 being borderline walking and 7 being extremely rigorous), or they use the terms easy, moderate, challenging, strenuous, and very strenuous.
Treks labeled as “easy,” “normal,” and “relaxing” are usually perfect for beginners and those who are not very athletic; such treks are usually short and require less walking within a day. Treks that are labeled as “moderate” or “medium” are usually of a longer duration and require walking on a variety of terrain – since you will be climbing uphill and across various terrain and at different altitudes, it is probably not a good idea to try this out unless you are certain you have a good deal of stamina built up.
Treks labeled as “challenging,” “strenuous,” and “very strenuous” are for people with ultra fit bodies and usually go on for multiple days and an extended period of over six hours of walking/climbing in one go; these treks can reach an altitude of over 5000 meters.
It is best to be honest with yourself when assessing which trek to start out with. Are you a bit on the fragile side and have you never really worked out or gone on rigorous walks? Then you should probably start off with an “easy” trek until you build up your stamina.
Are you someone who regularly hits the gym and goes for jogs? Well, then perhaps you can jump straight to a “moderate” difficulty level trek. Make sure you are realistic in judging how fit and healthy you are before embarking on treks of various difficulty levels; else what should be a pleasant and rewarding experience could quickly turn sour.
Make sure you pay attention to the distance the trek is covering, the type of terrain you will be walking across and what the change in elevation is throughout.
It is recommended that newbies try trekking in groups until they have built up stamina and have familiarized themselves with various do’s and don’ts. If trekking seems a bit scary at first, going in a group will feel safer and will be much more fun – you will get to meet lots of new people and learn from the experiences and skills of others.
If you have been on several treks before and are in great physical shape, then going on a solo trek has its own charm and thrill; you might even want to try camping out on an overnight expedition!
Make sure you wear layered clothing on treks. Pick outfits that are lightweight and extremely comfortable. You should be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions, ranging from extreme heat to extreme cold and rain. Keep a waterproof jacket handy, if there is a chance of rain occurring.
You can keep a hat for sunny weather, and a woolen hat for chilly temperatures. Make sure you avoid wearing cotton and denim – if it is cold outside or it happens to rain (or, you get wet), cotton retains moisture and you could end up catching hypothermia. Yep, that would be a disaster.
It is recommended you wear something synthetic or wool based, even when it comes to socks. Speaking of socks, make sure you pay extra close attention to that, as you surely wouldn’t want to get blisters on the trail, now would you? Make sure your socks are thick enough to work well with your footwear.
Make sure you invest in good quality boots if you are going to regularly trek, and certainly if you are going on a trek that is moderate in terms of difficulty level. Your boots should provide grip and support your ankles, and they should be safe to walk around in during the rain or snow.
Try the boots on in person instead of purchasing them online, especially if there isn’t much time before your trek is happening. Pay attention to the sole of your boots – they should have a properly defined heel and be of high quality material. Do not wear boots straight out of the box or you are going to be in A LOT of pain and could damage your feet.
It is important to travel light during a trek so you don’t get tired from carrying a lot of extra weight. However, you don’t want to travel so light that you end up leaving behind essential items! Invest in a waterproof backpack that is comfortable and has a good harness.
Your backpack should adjust to your body type shape and have enough compartments to store various things. Things to definitely keep in your backpack include: umbrella, plastic bags, pocket knife, lighter (or, matches), sunglasses, torch with extra batteries, sunscreen lotion, tablets to purify water, emergency contact numbers printed out, bug spray, emergency whistle, first-aid kit (with pain killers, antiseptic, and bandages), phone power bank, toilet kit, water, food that is high on energy and compact and easy to cook, and chocolate to lift morale on longer, more difficult treks.
It is a good idea to always keep more food in the event of your trek going on longer than anticipated. Get rid of unnecessary packaging on food items – any weight that can be done away with should be. If you are going on a monsoon trek or overnight journey, make sure you keep an extra set of clothes including undergarments, trousers, shorts, tops/sweaters and socks – you may even need an emergency blanket or gloves if trekking in an extremely cold climate. It helps to keep a map and compass, in the event your phone and GPS goes off.
Also read: Must Have Gear For Your Next Trek.
Try practicing walking and climbing with your backpack on to get into shape. Build your leg muscles by doing exercises such as squats or lunges. Make sure you are eating well and are keeping healthy before the trek begins. And, don’t forget to check the weather and to get proper rest before heading out for your adventure!
Make sure you arrive for your trek on time and that proper scheduling is happening. During the trek, please pace yourself based on your stamina. It is not a race.
Remember the story of the tortoise and hare. You are bound to get tired and lose steam as the trek progresses, so there is no point in exhausting yourself right at the beginning by over-doing it. Walk in a natural pace and rhythm. Keeping a playlist of songs to listen to while trekking helps pump up the energy!
If you are leading a group trek, you might need to pay attention to people you need to slow down – a group trek requires harmony! Remember to take enough breaks to rest, take backpack weight off and to eat and hydrate. Remember to check your map or GPS from time to time to make sure you are on the right course, especially if you are going on a solo trek.
If you are going on a moderate level or difficult group trek, try to pool things that can be shared between everyone in the group, such as food items. If you are going on a solo trek, make sure you inform someone as a point of contact to raise an alarm in case you go missing for an extended period of time. And, most importantly, avoid touching plants and animals that are unfamiliar, for safety reasons.
Before you set our, read up on the Common Hiking Mistakes Made By Beginners, so that you can avoid them!
We hope that this beginners guide to trekking was helpful and you have a fantastic time trekking and are excited for your adventure – don’t forget to leave a comment below to let us know how your experience has been!