Trekking: How to make sure you can get back down the mountain

Treks (multi-day hiking trips) are increasing in popularity. This less-structured type of travel can constitute an entire trip or can be a great reason to venture out of the safe confines of your resort for a few days. Walking through open countryside lets you see the country first hand and check out wildlife and unusual plants or vegetation you may not find at home. Away from the hotel complex the scenery can be stunning, and a trek can give you the opportunity to interact with nature.

Considering a trek on your next vacation? Here are a few tips to get you started:

Choosing a trip
It is a good idea to go trekking with a reputable trekking agency or tour operator, stick to established routes and always stay in a group. In some locations, such as trekking to see the gorillas in Rwanda, for security and safety reasons it is essential to go as part of an organized party no matter what your level of experience.

There are lots of different kinds of treks, and excursions can be found almost anywhere in the world. Talk with the tour operator and choose a trip which will strike the right balance between giving you a challenge and having an enjoyable holiday. Some treks will be gentle walking holidays while others will be hikes up a steep mountainside at high altitude. Choose an adventure that suits your level of fitness and experience so you won’t have to struggle to keep up. If you spend most of your working day stuck behind a computer and don’t take much exercise, you’ll want to do some fitness preparation before you go.

Also, find out what is included in your trip. Will you need to carry your own bags and provide food and lodging, or is this all taken care of? Do you know where to get money if you need it? Bear in mind the nearest source of cash could be several hundred kilometres from where you are based — plan ahead and find out what you are going to need.

Country safety
Before you head out do some research on your destination. Consider: What are some of the customs of the country? Are there modes of dress which are not acceptable? Is the country safe and politically stable? Do you need a special permit to go trekking? (And is this something which your tour operator will arrange for you?)


Keep an eye on your government’s travel advice for your destination country. It is worth bearing in mind that some travel insurance companies will not cover you if you go against government travel advice, such as a warning to avoid certain regions or countries. Medical evacuations can be particularly expensive if something goes wrong and you aren’t covered.

Clothing and gear
Take advice from your tour operator about what to wear. It’s not a good idea to go out and buy a whole lot of new kit right before you go. There is nothing worse than suffering blisters and discomfort while breaking in a new pair of hiking boots on holiday. If you don’t already own a pair, buy some well ahead of time and wear them for some weekend hikes to make sure they are comfortable for the trip. (These hikes will also be great for getting you fit for the main trip).

Before you go out and buy a new backpack find out how much you are going to have to carry. Some tour operators offer kit bags to their customers. These are carried from camp to camp by support vehicles or staff. Other treks will expect you to carry all your equipment on your back. Check with your travel provider about appropriate gear, and make sure to “break in” any new equipment.


Lasting the pace
When choosing your trek remember that you could be far away from medical assistance and you may be facing new health concerns, especially if you’re heading through the mountains. For example, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice for Nepal warns travellers to be careful of altitude sickness. In order to avoid acute mountain sickness, you should ascend slowly and acclimatise fully, and always take professional advice. The International Society for Mountain Medicine has more information on this issue in their Altitude Tutorial.

Almost all government advice recommends you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling, but it is important to check the policy for any exclusions. Make sure that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake – especially higher-risk activities like rock-climbing.

When you visit your physician for your pre-holiday health check (around six weeks before travel) and inoculations make sure that your doctor is aware that you will be going off the beaten track. Make sure to protect yourself against mosquito and tick-borne diseases by covering up and using insect repellent containing DEET. Health Canada has some tips on preparing for travel.

Keeping in touch
If you are heading off to a remote location it is a good idea to have a schedule and a means to contact family and friends back home. Leave details of when and where you expect to return from your trip along with details of who should be alerted if you do not show up. In addition, make sure you have the contact details for your local embassy and also your tour operator if you are going with a group.

If you’ve never considered a trekking holiday or excursion, there are a variety of adventure travel websites that offer more information on what you can experience around the world. There are trips for every age and fitness level, and some trips allow for more independent travel while others incorporate some luxuries.

Trekking can give you a chance to experience a range of wonderful sights, sounds and sensations. A little planning can help you to have a wonderful trip and make it safely back down the mountain.

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