A Beginner's Guide to Trekking on your Travels
Want to summit a mountain, plan a multi-day hike or challenge yourself with a long-distance trail? Lace up your boots with confidence when you use Daisy Cropper's trekking tips for beginners:
Pace, place and space
First things first, when you’re starting out it’s important not to go overboard.
Gage your physical fitness and plan a route, length and terrain based around this. Don’t overestimate how much ground you can cover in a day: if you’re not used to prolonged exercise, a 20-mile range up steep slopes with 10kg of kit is going to make for a miserable experience.
Start out simple with an overnight hike with friends, before taking on more challenging routes. The same goes with the type of terrain: if you’re used to mild climates start off with a similar region or area, before taking on more exotic and challenging locations.
Join a group trip as part of your first overseas adventure to learn from your guide's experiences and revel in the company of fellow hiking novices. Don’t be afraid to seek advice: speak to a Flight Centre Travel Expert, national parks or tourism associations to discuss difficulty levels and recommended fitness.
Choosing the right kit
Packing right and light for your trip is crucial. Research the weather for your location in-depth and make your gear match. For cooler climates, always ensure multiple layers are available: pile them on or whip them off depending on the conditions. Merino-wool base layers keep you warm, while sweat-wicking fabrics will prevent a chill when you take a break. In more exotic locations, keep cool, light, long layers available for evenings when the mossies and other insects abound.
Take time to research local customs in relation to your clothes too. While hiking in tight or revealing clothing is okay in some locations, in others it is frowned upon or downright offensive.
Wherever you’re travelling to, ensure you have at least a basic first aid kit, for treating cuts, bites and bruises, as well as plenty of blister plasters. Rehydration powders are good additions regardless of the weather conditions: it’s very easy to get dehydrated while exercising for long periods of time.
Lastly, ensure you have hydration accessible throughout your trek. Can you buy water along the way? Will you need a water purification kit? These are all key considerations to take into account.
When to hike with a local
Striking out on your own is empowering, exciting and sometimes a little unnerving. However, it’s key to be able to recognise when a local guide should be a part of your trip.
My advice? If you don’t speak the local language and are hiking in remote regions, it’s best to hire a guide to show you the way. If you’re planning a multi-day trip, they can assist with hiring muleteers, when required. They can also help with finding the best places to kip in remote villages overnight.
When taking your first few trips above 2,400m – where AMS (acute mountain sickness) can kick in – or if there are technical parts of a mountain summit, always take a guide.
Having a guide will only add to your experience along the way: from spotting fauna and flora to explaining local customs.
The basics of navigating
Get the basics of navigating sussed before you head out into the great unknown. Take along a detailed, topographical map and compass, even if you’re taking on a sign-posted, well-marked trail. Ensure you have both for a more remote trip too: taking a GPS or phone is an advantage but these can run out of battery or signal and shouldn’t be totally relied upon. To keep your sense of direction, stay aware of your surroundings; noting rivers, landmarks or changes in terrain.
Take a practise trip or two in your local area with a detailed map to confirm you’re confident reading it.
Six things to remember
1. Stay tracked: Keep a friend, family member or colleague in the loop with your travel plans so they can raise the alarm in the unlikely event you go missing. Ensure they know at least the area you plan on hiking in, if not your exact route.
2. Take care of your feet: Make sure your boots fit comfortably. Go for one size too big: your feet swell as they warm up. Too cosy a fit and you’ll be covered in blisters in no time. And an age-old tip, walk them in and test them out before taking on your trip.
3. Heads-up: Always carry a hat to keep your head and face sheltered; wear a broad-rimmed, light hat for sunny days, and cover-up with a woolly hat, buff or headband in cooler temperatures.
4. Know before you go: Research and note down local emergency information before heading out. This could be telephone numbers for the emergency services, or the closest ranger or national park information centre for advice.
5. Double sock-em: Wear two pairs of socks or invest in double-layered running or hiking socks. Two layers ensure the material rubs against itself, rather than against your feet, reducing (if not preventing) blisters.
6. Weather warnings: Always be aware of the conditions and your surroundings. Mountain weather can change incredibly quickly and it’s crucial not to get caught out. Check forecasts before embarking and get clued up on reading the weather.
Ready to embark on your first travel trek? Why not try the Inca Trail in Peru, glacier walking in New Zealand, or navigating the valleys of the USA's iconic Yosemite National Park? Speak to one of our Travel Experts about booking your walking adventure today.