23 Tips for First Time Trekkers

By Mridula Dwivedi July 5, 2015 57 Comments , , , , , ,

I first went on a trek in 2002 and how green I was! I trekked with Seshadri (my husband) to Sar Pass in Himachal Pradesh. He had been on a few treks in college itself. The stories he used to tell were enough to put anyone off trekking for ever! Once they were lost in a jungle in Uttarakhand and walked from morning in the rains till 9.00 pm before they reached anywhere and got something to eat. I told him I was not interested in any of these mis-adventures! And yet I wanted to trek! So we went on a YHAI trek which was well organized. And the rest is history. After trekking for more than ten years here is a post dedicated to tips for first time trekkers.

1. Trekking in Group vs Trekking with Friends vs Trekking Solo

tips-trekking-india
Solo Trekking has Its Own Charm

After having done all, I would vouch for trekking with family and friends. If I can’t get anyone known to trek with me I go solo (with a guide). But then I am old.

I once a met a couple who got married on that day in a remote hill temple on the Triund trail. They did so as a mark of respect to the mountains because they first met on a trek! So, I guess group, family, friends or solo is a very individual choice.

2. Easy/Moderate/Difficult Treks

everest-base-camp-difficult-trek
Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal- A Damn Difficult One for Me!

Treks are categorized as easy, moderate or difficult. The actual terminology used may differ, but that is what it boils down to. Let me be honest with you. I get tired on all the treks! Even the easy ones tire me out. I get dead tired on the difficult ones. If you are testing waters, I would say go for an easy trek but beware, all of them are tiring.

3. It is not a Race!

enjoy-nature-trekking-tips
Don’t Run, Enjoy the Nature

I learned this with YHAI. They drilled it into us that trekking is not about who reaches the next campsite first. You do not run from campsite to campsite when you trek! It is everything in between the two camps that is beautiful. Sometimes when I walk through thickly wooded areas, I just wish to sit down and breathe in the smell of the forest. I like to touch the wild iris, or simply stand taking in the view and then click a picture.

4. Packing Lists

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Packing List!

A lot of websites give a long packing list. Carry what makes sense to you. I make sure that I have warm clothes (including a down jacket) a decent rain gear, a torch and comfortable clothes. It makes sense to wear a full track pant (anything that covers your legs) as then you are protected against thorns and bushes. I drink water out of a normal water bottle. See what you feel necessary and cut out on fluff. If you don’t have a sleeping bag, it can be hired.

5. Water Sources are Important

water-sources-trekking-tips
Water Sources are Important

However much you may like a spot, campsites are established near water sources. Once the camp is set, water is required both for drinking and cooking. If you are 5 kilometers away from the water source it will make everyone’s life miserable. So, listen to your guides because they know the water sources. I do not use purifying tablets when I am trekking in India. But once again that is an individual call and depends on what you are used to.

6. Drinking Water

drinking-water-trek
Drinking Water- We Fill the Bottle from a Flowing Stream!

It is imperative to maintain a good liquid intake while trekking or one can get dehydrated and dizzy very quickly on the mountains. Drink juice, drink tea, drink soup, drink water, just drink something. Alcohol is not counted as legitimate liquid intake. I fill the water bottle from any flowing stream. Photo credit for this shot to my nephew Dilip Dwivedi aka brat 1.

7. Call of Nature

On most of the treks, other than the tea house ones, the call of the nature has to answered in the open. Stay away from water sources and do not contaminate them.

On tea house treks there are guest houses along the way so you stay under a roof rather than a tent. Valley of Flowers if one such trek in Uttarakhand India. Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit treks in Nepal are also tea house treks.

8. Trekking Shoes

trekking-shoes
Trekking Shoes are Important

It is imperative that you break in your trekking shoes if you bought a new pair. And if you wear a sneaker on your first trek like me, you will slip and slip and slip on snow! And then you will learn your lesson like me and never wear them again particularly if there is snow! Having a good pair of shoes that has been broken-in can make all the difference to your trek! It is no fun to trek with blisters.

9. Lunch

food-trekking-tips
Food on Treks Always Tastes Delicious

Food is cooked when tents are pitched at the next campsite, which usually doesn’t happen by lunch. So, you may get a packed lunch at the best. While trekking the main meals are breakfast and dinner.

10. Loud Noises

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No Loud Noises!

I take a strong exception to loud noises on a trek. You see, I pay all that money to get away from the noises of the city. You are not cool if you are shouting at the top of your voice while walking, others are walking on the same trail to find some peace and quiet.

And may you drop the music system from the sheerest cliff if you are carrying one and playing it at full volume. Trekking and loud noises simply don’t mix. Stay away in the cities and go to the nightclubs instead. Trekking is not for you.

11. Pay Attention to the Altitude

altitude
Pay Attention to the Altitude

As we go up higher, the air gets thinner. As it gets thinner it becomes difficult to breathe. At higher altitudes our body needs to acclimatize to the lack of oxygen in the air. Otherwise we would get altitude sickness. It happens if we ascent very rapidly and gain a lot of height at a very fast pace. research about altitude sickness particularly if you are going above 10,000 feet.

12. Carry Your Medicines

medicines-treks
Carry Your Medicines

It goes without saying that you need to carry your medicines on the trek. There are no medicine shops once you leave the starting town. If you have any health concerns, you need to consult your doctor too.

13. Nights without Electricity

night-trek
You Can See a Billion More Stars!

As soon as the sun goes down, it gets dark, remember there is no electricity. It becomes pitch dark after a while. Kitchen tent becomes the communal hub. After meals either people talk to each-other, sing songs or else they take out the tripod and try night photography. There are a billion more stars in the sky on such trails.

All the night sounds get magnified. I have heard people say that they didn’t like the sound of the stream at night!Ā I myself find it a bit uncomfortable to hear the horses (on some treks they carry the load) munching just nearby our tents. If you lead the tent flap open a frog may decide to hop in. Some insects are commonly inside the tent, attracted by the small tent light!

14. Tents

tents-trek
Tents and Snow Don’t Mix Well!

That brings me to the topic of tents. If you do not have a tent you can easily hire it. The places from where you start the trek, like Joshimath, Uttarkashi or Manali are easy hubs for hiring trekking equipment.

A first time trekker once asked me, “So can anyone open my tent from outside?” It only dawned on me then that the answer is yes, I was effectively sleeping out in the open. And that is why having reliable guides is a must particularly if it is an all women group.

If it snows the tents collapse from the weight of the snow. You are then required to sit and hit against the tent roof to clear the snow deposit. A whole night of snow is no fun when you are in a tent as you would be up all night hitting at the tent roof.

15. Trekking with Children

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Trekking with my Daughter is Fun!

It is possible to trek with children but then the trek must be geared towards their comfort. We used to send our daughter, Chhavi, up on a pony when she was smaller. She now walks all the way on easy treks, but we make sure that it is an easy trek. Since we adopted her my husband and I never trekked together, because adult treks are not suited for her. We take turns to do tough treks, one of us stays with her at home while the other one is out there building character!

16. Weather

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Weather- No one can really Predict It!

No one can predict the weather. Whatever you get, you have to grin and bear it. When Chhavi and I went to Deoria Tal all we got was clouds. I still sulk looking at the amazing pictures that others have posted on the internet. But then it is part of the game. Sometimes the weather cooperates and sometimes it says, “thou shall not pass!” Respect the weather, respect the mountains.

17. Being Fit

fitness-trek
Being Fit Helps!

If you are moderately fit you will enjoy your trek more. It is no fun to do a trek on sheer will power and I am saying this from personal experience. Walking everyday for an hour or so will make a difference on easy to moderate treks. Once you have done a few treks, you will anyway not need my advice on how fit you need to be!

Picture credit to Rama Kant Sharma our trekking guide in Himachal Pradesh, in photo our second trekking guide Arun. Sohan Bisht is whom with I trek in Uttarakhand.

18. Money Matters

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Money Matters!

It is more cost effective to trek if you are in a group. If 5 friends are trekking the fixed cost gets divided by 5. The variable cost doesn’t go up by so much! Be careful as there would be no bank, no ATM on your trekking route. But then there are no shops either. If your team forgot the salt and realized it after 5 hours of walking, the salt can now be bought by going back on the trial! You may only take 3 hours to get down but that is how far away the salt it. You do meet shepherds and occasional village folks on the trail. Offer them tea and they may find salt for you from their tents!

19. Try a Day Hike

day-hike
Try a Day Hike

If you are not sure if trekking is for you, try a day hike. You go on a 5 hour walk but come back to your hotel in the evening. If you like it, next time don’t come back. Stay in a tent, go on a trek! If you don’t like it chances are you will not like trekking.

20. Nature on a Grand Scale

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Nature on a Grand Scale

For me trekking is about being with nature. It is nature on the grand scale. We from the cities are not used to valleys big as many football fields. I so like to call them home, even if for a few days.

21. Don’t Litter

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Do Not Litter!

It goes without saying, do not throw trash. Bring all wrappers and bottles back with you.

22. It Builds Character

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Treks Build Character!

Seshadri and I are very fond of saying that trekking builds the character! It is difficult to explain the sentiments behind this feeling. But you are away from civilization, most of your gadgets conk off as there is no electricity to charge them anyway. There are no shops, there is nothing, other than trees, mountains, streams and such things. There is some amount of discomfort involved in trekking, you do get tired. If it rains you walk in rain. All this, we firmly believe helps in building character!

23. Listen to Your Guides

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Listen to Your Guides!

The mountains are the backyard of your guides. They are the locals, you are the novice. It pays to listen to them. It pays to select them carefully and it pays to retreat when they tell you to get down due to bad weather or any other reason. I have given up on more treks than I would ever care to remember either due to bad weather or bad health. As long as I get back in one piece I can go back and complete that trek the next time. The key is to get back in one piece.

In this post on tips for first time trekkers, I have truly raked my brains to cover as many areas as possible. If you still have a question, do drop them in the comment box and I will try to answer them as well.

 

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57 thoughts on “23 Tips for First Time Trekkers”

  1. This was such a helpful and an informative article. I really wish to go on a trek with my friends real soon. Hope my wish comes true and thank you Mridula for such a lovely blogpost šŸ™‚

  2. Very informative post. I think some of these should be remembered always while we are travelling šŸ™‚ Loved the pictures..especially Chhavi’s poses… šŸ˜€

    1. Srikri, I never encountered leeches till now. They say rubbing salt is one way to prevent leech bites. Or else they say you grin and bear it.

  3. You’ve covered everything Mridula! I too prefer to enjoy the scenery along the way instead of racing to the end of the day camp. Love the photos too – amazing.

  4. All your points in the post are really workable and to follow by trekkers ,amazingly detailed post! Iā€™m sure these are going to be really hepfull to anyone wanting to go on a trek. But I think one must have courage and will to go to trek without any fear . and think always ” Dar ke aage jeet hai .”

    1. Thank you so much for pointing it out. These days we mostly don’t carry luggage on our own, hence I missed out on it completely!

  5. I am waiting to start trekking the minute my daughter turns old enough to stay a few days without me. Thanks for the tips. Nice to know the treks can be done with kids too. waiting to tackle the valley of flowers with my son!

  6. Hi. Your aticle is really good. I am looking forward for my first trek by end of this year. Its a 5 days trek. What is bothering me is, what if after 2 days i am too tired to continue?

    1. Thank you Jhanvi. Which trek is it? It is not necessary that you get so tired that you cannot continue. And if you feel too tired stop for a day and then walk. This flexibility is there when you have your own small group.

  7. Hi Mridula. Your post is really informative n really usefull for 1st time starters. I could connect to you wen u spoke about nature n enjoyING it. Let me knw if I can start a trek at d age of 35 wzout amy experience

  8. I loved the article. very precise and to the point with no unnecessary stuff. Yes, I am going alone for a hike, a day hike only. Will see if on someday go for a full fledged 3-4 days trek.

  9. Hey Mridula, what an inspiring website for trekking enthusiasts šŸ™‚

    All the point mentioned in your post are bang on right, 2 points stand out for me – listetning to the guide and the noise factor !!!

    Recently I did the IndraharP Pass trek, the first campsite was Triund. And I was shocked when it turned out to be a party sport for most people with loud music and people screaming and yelling.

    And I cant agree more about listening to the guide. It is only foolish to not listen to the guide šŸ™‚

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Mridula Dwivedi

I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!

If you wish to collaborate with me, please check out my media kit. You can write to me at mridulablog@gmail.com

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