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What to do on your first trek or hike – the ultimate checklist

Trekking is a fun activity which can go horribly wrong if the right precautions are not taken. Here is a guide to basic things that most first-time trekkers miss ignore. o have a Follow the trekking tips and have a fun-filled, memorable trip. Know how to prepare for your first trek.

Trekking, a word that conjures images of rugged terrains and breathtakingly beautiful viewpoints. But, that is not all – there is a lot more to trekking. Ask someone who has been on a trek about their experience and you'll, in all probability, be regaled with narratives about adrenaline rush & exhilaration, fitness & stamina and an indomitable spirit of adventure and an, of course, a whole lot more.

I view trekking as an activity that tests me at the physical and mental level. 'Outsiders' often view trekking as just another fun activity that involves walking, with a backpack on your shoulders. The fact is quite contrary to this view, for trekking involves a lot of planning, discipline and training. It is not something that you can just decide to do, one fine day.

You cannot put on a good pair of walking shoes and straddle a backpack on your shoulder and tell the world that you're heading out. Trekking involves being able to man-oeuvre through arduous trails, efficiently, besides knowing what to carry in that backpack and how to deal with emergency situations.

Embarking on your first trek, armed with the knowledge of how things should be done will boost your confidence levels and ensure that the event is safe, comfortable and enjoyable. Being prepared for your first trek will undoubtedly enhance the whole experience.

So, here you go with some tips from someone who enjoys trekking -

Rookie mistakes to avoid on your first trek

Amateur trekkers go through a mixed bag of emotions, entailing excitement and apprehension. The excitement is understandable, and the apprehensions can be assuaged if you know what to pack for your excursion. Your backpack serves as a 'lifeline' for the period that you are out trekking in the wilderness. So, it becomes imperative that you treat it as your 'safety zone' and carry only the absolute essentials in it. Knowing what to carry in your backpack, on your first trek, is a foundation, which prepares you for all the forthcoming treks and expeditions.

Pack light & pack right

Before you begin stuffing your backpack with things that you think you'll require through the trek, keep in mind that it'll be you who'll be lugging it on your shoulders. Also, remember that you'll be trudging up steep inclines and coming downhill over loose stones and gravel. Needless to say that the paths you'll be on can often get quite risky. Hence, your backpack must be packed light, carrying only the ultra-essentials.

Once you got everything you need into the backpack, walk around with it on your shoulders. This helps you get accustomed to the load and also acquaints you with what you will be handling during the trek.

Pack the right clothes

Trekking clothes are specially designed keeping in mind the inclement weather conditions, common on trekking routes. Your outer clothing must be lightweight, waterproof and wind-resistant. The thermal inner wear must also be lightweight, easily layered, and comfy and made of polyester. Cotton, wool and other natural fabrics absorb water and remain wet; you want something that dries quickly. Remember to pack one warm waterproof jacket (puffer) that can fight the wet weather and cold winds. Also, essential are body warmers, take a few of these, depending on how long you intend to be in the outdoors. Body warmers are lightweight and easy to layer and are great at keeping you warm.

Footwear needs attention

When it comes to trekking shoe comfort must take utmost priority. Trekking shoes are specially designed to provide ankle support. Remember the trekking terrain is rough and even a small stone or a misstep can twist the ankle – and I don't have to spell out how agonizing a sore ankle can be. A pair of shoes that supports the ankle is ideal for trekking. Trekking shoes are also anti skid and help steady your steps. They provide good cushioning and are good shock absorbers and prevent injuries to the knee. They should also have breathing holes and not be rock-hard, as they could cause severe shoe bites and hinder your progress. They should also repel water because you don't want your feet to be squishing water in case it begins to rain.

Pick a pair that has all the above features and is lightweight as well. Trekking with a heavy pair of shoes on your feet will zap your energy before you know it. Walk a few kilometers in the new shoes for at least a week before you embark on the trek, as this will help with breaking in the shoes – the shoes will take the form of your feet and this will help avoid blisters and soreness etc.

Don't forget the socks

Socks are another vital piece of clothing that you need to pack sensibly. You need socks that are breathable and absorb moisture. They should fit well and have extra padding on the heel and balls of the feet. Carry a few of them, in case you sweat a lot on your feet.

Carrying other essentials

Our survival instinct can sometimes make us go overboard with our preparation. Making us take pre-emptive measures that are sometimes not required. For instance packing excess paraphernalia, which would actually be available at the base camp.

Things like portable tents, sleeping bags, trekking gear, blankets, stoves and the ubiquitous lifesaver, Maggi and other cup-noodles. It is best that you check with the trek organizer ahead of time for things that are available at the base camp. You don't have to lug all that extra weight.

Stay hydrated

Trekking is a strenuous physical activity that saps up your energy. Therefore, it is important that you stay hydrated throughout the excursion. The likelihood of you feeling thirsty during the trek is remote, because of the clement weather conditions. However, know that your water levels will be depleted through breathing and mild perspiration and you will need to keep restoring the levels, by sipping on the water often.

Remaining hydrated will prevent muscle cramps. Carry enough water with you and replenish your supply at every opportune moment. You are sure to find rivulets and streams of fresh potable water – full of natural minerals on your route.

Essentials that shouldn't be forgotten

A first-aid kit is an essential item to be packed in the backpack. It must contain basic medicines for allergies, pain, cramps etc., and analgesic sprays and balms. Apart from these, you will need to carry at least one 'all-weather' torch with a long-lasting battery and a set of extra batteries and a whistle.

You'll also need power banks, binoculars and a camera. Sunscreen lotion, hand-sanitize, wet & dry tissues and toilet paper, are also essentials to take along.

Keep a few healthy nibbles handy. Energy bars, sesame seeds/dry fruit 'chikki', dry fruit and nuts or other healthy snacks will keep you energized through the trip.

Avoid solo trips

Never go on a solo trekking trip. That is a rule that you should never break. Picture this – you are alone on a trek and you fall and get injured or you just become sick and disorientated. Anything can happen in the wild; you could come face to face with a wild animal or get bitten by a serpent. In such situation you would be in need of assistance, which is why traveling in a group is always better.

Do not trek under influence

Do not down a peg or two before venturing on a trek. That is an absolute NO, no questions asked.

Choose a certified trek

The recent trekking tragedy in the Kurangani Hills in Tamil Nadu's Theni district must serve as an eye-opener. Register with an agency after thoroughly checking their credentials. They should have required licenses and permissions to conduct treks. They must have good reviews that speak of their credentials.

Don't hesitate in asking questions about the experience of the people in charge of the trek. Remember, your safety is paramount. You don't want to be led by a team of amateurs. Don't get taken in by fancy brochures and a swanky office space. Probe and get the finer details to ascertain that the people are responsible and know their job. Ask to see videos and photographs from past treks. Check the certificates and licenses, before you sign up for the trek.

When on the trek

You need to watch out for yourself, even when you are in a group. So be alert and always be aware of your surroundings. Always move in a group do not take a detour and do not lag behind others. Remember, there is safety in numbers.

In an event that you lose the others don't panic. Retrace your steps and halt at a safe point. The others will probably come looking for you when they find you missing. Use the whistle to alert the others of your location. Be vigilant and keep a close watch around.

Also, always follow the instructions of the trek guide. Don't insist on doing your own thing against the warning of the person in charge.

What do you do if you see smoke

Ascertain, the size of the fire. Is it a forest fire or is someone clearing land in a controlled manner? How far are you from the fire. Is the fire spreading rapidly? What direction is the fire moving? Check the direction of the wind to know if the fire is headed towards you or in the opposite direction. It is difficult to outrun a fire that is spreading rapidly. The best thing you can do is to soak yourself in water and cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth, to help you breathe easy. Next, look for a huge boulder that is devoid of greenery and climb it or hide behind it. The fire will cross you, without causing serious injuries.

If you are on a slope, try to slide down as fast as you can to avoid the fire. You will get a few cuts and bruises, but that is any day better than being engulfed in flames.

What to do if you come face to face with an animal

The chances of coming face to face with a wild animal are rare, but if you ever do, remember to not panic. Try to walk away without disturbing the animal. Always keep your eyes on the animal. Do not turn your back towards the animal. Walk backwards, if you must. Run, only if the animal charges at you. Also, look for a stone or something similar to ward off an attack, if it happens.

Standing on a boulder and raising your arms makes you appear than you actually are. You can do so, to intimidate an animal. Also, loud sounds frighten animals and they will run away. Same is the case with fire. Be extra careful if you come across a ferocious wild animal with a baby in tow. You will appear as a threat to the mother and she will attack you. It is best to slink away quietly.

Keep these pointers in mind when going on a trek.

Do you enjoy trekking? What are the safety measures and precautions that you take? Share your experience in the comments section.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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