Trekking 101: Beginner’s Guide
step by step
As a human being, you’ve mastered the process of putting one foot in front of the other to move around and reach needed destinations. Sometimes our daily lives make us take that ability for granted.
People have reached the highest peaks, the coldest points, the thickest jungles with simple walking. That is what trekking is essentially. Walking through some exciting sceneries to reach some wanted destinations. Although it’s defined as a journey on foot in remote areas, which sounds quite simple, actually doing it requires a lot of preparation and planning. You can’t just wake up one day and go on a 5-day long trekking trip. You have to start at the beginning and gradually progress, just like everything else in life. But how to start, right?
If you’re looking to get out of your comfort zone and find some peace and thrill in untouched nature, you’ve clicked on the right link because we have a thorough guide of how you can achieve that as a beginner.
PHYSICAL PREPARATION FOR TREKKING
STEP 1: ANALYZE YOUR CURRENT PHYSICAL CONDITION
First things first, you have to be physically prepared to take upon long journeys on foot. You can have all the greatest equipment, and the best plan/route, but if you can’t physically handle the journey it’s all in vain. If you are interested in starting with trekking some considerations need to be taken into account before setting your foot on your first trail. In order to visit the “real” mountains, your physical condition must be perfect. Some compare trekking to “mountain” marathons as a similar workload is required to successfully tackle the challenge.
It’s important to start gradually. Firstly, analyze your current physical preparation by going on a nearby hill to see how your body reacts to physical activity. If you recognize the typical signs of being in bad condition, it is better to start working out and start measuring the progress. Getting to know your body and its limits will be very important once you get to planning the real route of the trekking journey.
STEP 2: START PRACTICING
Setting realistic goals and avoiding an overestimation of your abilities, could play an important role when it comes to the safety and security of your future journeys. Also, strengthening your muscles isn’t a bad thing to do because carrying your own backpack for a couple of hours per day isn’t an easy task. Visiting fitness or working out wouldn’t go amiss once in the mountains.
However, the best way to get prepared for trekking is to actually start slow and gradually progress. You can first start with hiking. Hiking is a similar activity to trekking, it just usually lasts quite less- several hours. For a detailed difference between trekking and hiking, visit our blog “Trekking vs Hiking: what’s the difference?”
Depending on where you are physically, you can start with an introductory route for trekking that:
Doesn’t have a big elevation gain. This means the route is more or less flat so you’re not putting too much effort into going uphill.
Choose a nice weather period. When you’re starting be mindful of the weather. Later, you can prepare for extreme weather conditions too but in the beginning, don’t get into it.
Choose a route that doesn’t have extreme terrain like rocky paths or muddy portions, etc. Choose a fairly easy one.
Don’t immediately pick a multi-day route. Depending on how physically prepared you are, you can start with a one or two-day route, or even less. Don’t overestimate your abilities since this can be a dangerous thing.
Another thing you can do is to do one-day hikes for multiple days in a row. That way, you can more or less feel how it would be to trek for multiple days.
STEP 3: FIND A GROUP OR A FRIEND FOR TREKKING
We’re putting this under physical preparation because an experienced group or a friend that has been practicing trekking before can estimate better how much can you push your body, when do you need rest, how to behave in different weather conditions and situations. Although you have to be prepared for all of those things yourself and research everything before heading out on a trekking trip, some things just come with experience and practicing. Having people with you that know what they’re doing can be a huge advantage for you.
BEYOND PHYSICAL PREPAREDNESS
When your progress is showing you clear signs of good preparation, it is recommended to start planning the journey. As we mentioned before, it is recommended to select the trekking route which is relatively near your home. It is more of a practice for the bigger journey, to become familiar with the environment and yourself. Regardless of where you are planning it, some common properties for each journey have to be considered.
Alps, American Cordilleras, Himalayas, or any other mountain ranges are all representatives of mountainous regions where the conditions are extremely tricky and require a great deal of cautiousness (see dangers of thunderstorms, other mountain dangers).
In addition, especially at high altitudes (found mostly in the Himalayas and South American Cordilleras), the amount of oxygen in the air is 40% lower at a height of 4000 meters, where most of the spots for trekking are located. Therefore, it is advised to do acclimatization tests, in order to prepare yourself for such an environment.
For trekking beginners that start on flat terrain around 15-20km per day is a realistic goal. When you start choosing terrain that has more hills, 10-15 km is enough. After that, you can find your own pace.
When it comes to trekking, you have to keep the accommodation in mind. You can have different options like choosing hotels, mountain huts, etc. Another way you can go is to have a tent and a sleeping bag, and bring your own accommodation with you.
Now, the pros and cons here are obvious. If you’re staying at a hut the positive side is that you don’t have to bring a tent, a sleeping bag, and possibly too much food, which you can get at the hut. The negative part is that it’s a different experience when you open your tent and see the sunrise in the morning.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
If you’re planning to become a trekking beginner, you have to think about getting suitable shoes, clothes, and equipment for trekking. When it comes to clothing, you should choose your clothing depending on the season and weather conditions. For example, if it’s winter and the weather is cold, you should do the layering principle and have a base layer, mid-layer, insulation layer, shell layer, and additional things like gloves, socks, caps, etc. If it’s summer and it’s hot, you should choose clothing that’s highly breathable and fast-drying, so when you sweat it will dry off easily. Try to use multi-purpose clothing items, like zip-off pants that can be transformed into shorts during the day, and be long pants when it’s colder.
Do not wear new shoes! This is one of the biggest mistakes you can do, and the results can be very, very painful. Break into your shoes before going on a trip. You can wear gaiters that can protect you from snow, rain, small pebbles, plants, and snake bites. You can also take trekking poles if you think they will help you out.
There are millions of other things that you can take with you from equipment, but try to keep it to a minimum and to pack very lightly because you will be the has to carry all the weight on your shoulders.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
In order to be able to trek multiple days at a time, you have to take good care of yourself. Make sure you are well rested before starting the trip, and that you sleep well when you’re on the trip. Carry first-aid kits with all the necessary things to treat blisters, cuts, bruises, inflammations, etc.
Make sure you are hydrated properly and you eat enough to have the energy for your trip. If you know that there won’t be drinkable water on the way, you need a water purification option. Sunscreen is a must! Also, bug sprays. Carry a cooking set if you’ll be camping, and always scissors/knife. You might need it in more instances than you can think of.
When it comes to taking breaks, you should aim to take short breaks but more frequently. Especially if you’re a beginner. A good break ratio is five minutes on every hour of trekking. Don’t eat or drink too much in this time, instead, take one big break for the main meal. Don’t overdo the daily trekking distance. 5-6 hours of active trekking per day is enough.
AND FINALLY, HAVE FUN!
All of this comes to you having a great time! Enjoy nature, take deep breaths, observe the wild animals, and disconnect from your phone. It’s a thing we all do too much, and you won’t miss anything if you ignore the internet for a few days. Be respectful of other people you might encounter, and most importantly of the nature you’re visiting. Don’t leave trash around and don’t do damage to nature or the animals you may find.
There are thousands of more things that we can discuss for trekking beginners, but these are the basics that every trekking beginner should know.