Planning on trekking in the next few months? While it may be tempting to spend the lead up fantasizing about how fantastic your experience will be, there are a few things you need to take into consideration in the months beforehand to ensure that you maximise your enjoyment of the trek – regardless of whether or not you have been on a trek before. After all, they can vary greatly in distances, altitude, ascent and descent, and it’s a combination of physical preparation, training, equipment and nutrition planning that can turn a good trek into a great one!
Read on to find out our top 10 trekking tips to help you prepare for your trip.
1. Walk the walk
Let’s start with the most obvious tip; walk training. This is an essential part in preparing for a long walk, and it’s important to try to mimic the conditions you are going to experience as closely as you can. Start small and build up slowly to the actual length of your trek, while thinking about terrain, weight pack and distances you’re set to cover. For example, if you’re planning to do the South Coast Track, a 9 day trek that is moderately challenging, try some weekend bushwalking and experiment with a loaded pack. Wear the shoes you would wear on your trek, and as you improve, try and do back-to-back walks each day. It will help condition your body to walking multiple days in a row (as on some treks, there’s not the luxury of rest days). Ideally, you should be able to walk for 4-6 hours comfortably in your training before you embark on your trek.
Remember: Plan for the terrain. It’s unlikely your trek will involve days walking on level tracks or asphalt, so make sure you try and mimic the conditions of your trek. If you’re walking along the Larapinta, try to find rocky terrain, bush paths and some boulders. If you’re planning on trekking the South Coast Track find paths covered with roots, leaf mould and some steep ascents. It’s all about preparing your legs for the kind of stress they’ll experience on the trip. Trust us, your feet, ankles and knees will thank you later.
2. Get the right gear
If there’s one thing you need to take away with you, it’s this: your gear can make or break the trip. Ensure your gear is reliable, can hold up under extreme weather conditions, and handle the rugged nature of your trek. On any trek we’d recommend packing waterproof boots that are broken in, a raincoat that repels water, hiking poles and the right clothing.
- Base layer: Moisture-wicking polyester or wool that you can wear during the day, and that will dry overnight. Try to avoid cotton – it can take forever to dry, and can hold onto odour a lot more than polyester (which may get you a few glares if you’re sharing a tent at night).
- Pants or shorts: Or both! Convertible pants are a good solution, especially when your mornings start out cold. Once the heat of the day sets in, simply zip off the lower-leg portions for a bit more air and sun.
- Footwear: We would recommend every trekker brings a pair of worn-in trekking boots; they provide the support that your foot and ankles need on trails and rocky terrain. Ensure that these are water resistant with plenty of ventilation, and wear them in the months leading up to the trek; it will help avoid blisters! It’s also a good idea to bring a spare pair of sandals for when you are at camp, to give your feet a well deserved break from your boots.
- Socks: Much like your shoes, the socks you wear on the trail can also have a significant effect on your comfort. Avoid blisters by wearing wool or synthetic socks instead of cotton. Remember to test out the thickness of your socks while wearing your hiking boot to test out how much cushioning they have.
- Head cover: Remember the old saying, “no hat, no play”? It rings as true on the hiking trail as it did in the school yard. Whether you choose a brimmed hat, cap or bandana, it’s smart to shield your scalp from sun exposure. Don’t forget about other sun-safety items such as high UV protection sunscreen and sunglasses.
3. Perfect your step
Yes, there IS a key to walking that’s more than simply putting one foot in front of the other. If you’ve found that some people seem to be able to walk further than you with less effort, it may not necessarily be that they are stronger than you. Rather, they may have mastered their stride! Ensure that when you walk, your heel touches the ground first, rolling into your toe, which then propels you to your next step. Keep your head up, your shoulders level, and your eyes on the road! Managing your walk can help you avoid shin splints and tendon pulls, making for a longer, stronger and more enjoyable trek!
4. Choose your backpack
While a Herschel backpack might look great on the trail, some backpacks just aren’t made to bear a lot of weight and still feel comfortable. Depending on whether you’re doing a full-pack trek like the Larapinta End-to-End, or the Walls Of Jerusalem Experiencewhich just requires a day pack on your walks, your bag requirements will vary significantly. In any case, think about the size, durability, fit and frame of your bag, with considerations of the material, compartments, padded shoulder straps and hip belts for added comforts.
5. Hydrate yourself frequently
Regardless of whether you’re trekking on the Kakadu Walking Adventure in the heat of the day, or in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, your fluid requirements will increase significantly when trekking. While walking, your heart works much harder, resulting in loss of breath and sweating – both physical indicators that you should be rehydrating your body. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink though – by that time, you’ll already be dehydrated, so try to drink frequently throughout the day, even if it is just in small amounts!
6. Fuel your body!
While on your trek, your body will require quick sources of protein to help give you the energy you need throughout the day. Think about packing snacks to eat during the day, outside of your breakfast, lunch and dinners. Nuts, muesli bars, chocolate and dried fruit are all relatively easy to pack, are great for snacking on and can give you healthy doses of fat and protein to get you through the day.
7. Give a hoot, don’t pollute
We strongly believe that all travellers should have take only photos and leave only footprints; which means that while you’re in the wilderness, take extra care to take out everything that you bring in!