Trekking is an outdoor activity that involves off-road walking or climbing, with the purpose of exploring the scenery around. Rather than focusing on the destination, the real reward lies in the journey itself.
I’ve written this post for absolute beginners interested in trekking or hiking. But, I believe it’s going to benefit both beginners and advanced trekkers alike. In this post, I’ve talked about the basics and provided lots of tips for beginners.
I also wrote about choosing the right trekking backpack for you, and planning the right trekking outfit while keeping the weather conditions in mind. I’ve also listed the essential trekking equipment/gear for your journeys. It will come in handy when shopping for your tours. Keep reading.
|1. Reasons why you should go trekking|
|2. Difference between Trekking and Hiking|
|4. Trekking Safety Tips for beginners|
|5. How to choose the right trekking backpack|
|7. Trekking Equipment and Packing List|
|8. FAQs related to Trekking|
Reasons why you should go trekking
Before getting into all the details, I thought I should talk about why people like trekking so much.
Some people do it for long-term benefits, some for the likes on social media, and some do it just for fun. Whatever may your reason be, I wouldn’t judge. While it is a completely subjective thing, here are some of the most common reasons or benefits of trekking:
- Better mental & physical health
- Break from that same repetitive life
- Feeling closer to the wild
- Skills development
- Better in-person social interaction (something that’s rapidly fading away)
- Adrenaline rush, again rare in routine life.
- Gives you a new, broader perspective on life
Tell me what’s your reason in the comments section, I’d love to know.
Difference between Trekking and Hiking
Trekking is a vague term and often synonymous with hiking. Both terms are often used interchangeably. But, there are some key differences between the two:
- Hiking usually involves well-established hiking trails.
- Trekking often includes unexplored, off-trail paths.
- Hiking takes shorter period of time, like a day-hike or an overnight-hike.
- Trekking is longer. It often takes two or more days to reach the destination.
- Hikers usually cover between 10 km (6 miles) and 50 km (30 miles) distance.
- Trekkers cover way more distance than that. Some treks may go up to thousands of miles.
- Trekking can be both physically and mentally challenging.
- Hiking is easier in comparison. Recommended for beginners.
What are the risks involved with trekking? Is it safe?
Like all other adventurous activities, there are some risks involved with trekking or hiking tours as well. Beginners and solo trekkers must know them. I’ll name some here:
- Falling down or losing grip
- Sun stroke
- Snow blindness
- Getting lost or losing your gear
Trekking Safety Tips for beginners
1. Gain trekking experience and set your limits
Before you go on long trekking journeys, I suggest you consider short (5 hours or so) hikes first. Then move on to day-hikes, then to overnight-hikes. You could go on your own or with a group, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’d learn how it feels to put strain on your body and mind, and how much of it you can handle.
Try out different trails and terrains first. Try hiking in different weather conditions. It would help you set a limit for yourself.
2. Check weather forecast
Make it a rule for yourself to check weather forecasts and probabilities before going for a trek or hike. No matter how excited you are for your journey, taking a risk with bad weather is simply not worth it.
Most adventure trekking accidents happen because of unfavorable weather conditions. Too much rain or snow or heat would turn your trip unbearable.
3. Stay on the trail
As you get better and more experienced with time, you could go for off-track trails as well. But as a beginner, I suggest you stick with the tried and tested paths only.
Once you’re comfortable with harder terrains, rest of these tips would help you more. Keep reading.
4. Learn about local wildlife
This is an important one, especially for solo trekkers.
Learn about wild animals, insects and plants. Yes, insects and plants sometimes could harm you just as much as wild animals can.
Talk to locals, they’d tell you on how to identify threats, and how to deal with them. If you’re a beginner, ask a local to go with you. Pay them if you have to. Ask them questions on the way, and learn new things. It’s worth it, trust me!
5. Stick to your schedules
Not that important, but good to follow in general. Sticking to your schedule makes your trips hassle-free. But at the same time, it’s okay to make new plans spontaneously. You never know what your trip may have in store for you.
6. Let someone know where you are
Before you go on your hiking/trekking adventure, make sure at least one person knows
where you are. This is an extra precaution in case something does go wrong.
Call/text your family or a friend every few hours. You could use apps like WhatsApp to share your live GPS location as well. In absence of internet connection, this method might provide somewhat inaccurate location though.
7. Get yourself comfortable with maps and compasses
I don’t think this point needs an explanation, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.
There was a time when people knew how to read maps, calculate route lengths, identify stops, etc. But now that we have digital maps and automated navigation, most of us don’t learn that anymore. In fact, we’ve got people who have their major in Geography, but can’t read a simple city map.
Not just trekkers, but all travelers, should not rely on technology so much. Learn to do things “the analog way”. It’s a good skill to have in your arsenal.
8. Go trekking with your dog
Solo trekking is fun. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s also true that it gets lonely sometimes, especially on long journeys. So how about letting your dog come with you.
Animals have a better sense of danger. So, dogs are perfect for wilderness treks as they could protect you if needed. Also, your furry companion would not let you feel lonely.
Take your dog with you if only they can handle being out in the open for long. Wild trails could be just as dangerous for them as for you. Think carefully before you make a decision.
9. Do your research
Get the key facts about your trail such as mileage or intensity. Looking for reviews and news online. Read about experiences of other trekkers. Collect emergency contacts of the area. This becomes more important for accident-prone mountain treks.
If you’re a beginner, I suggest you go for some courses to learn the ropes of trekking. I’m going to add a bunch of resources in this post for you to learn basics online.
10. Do your packing carefully
I can’t stress the importance of this point enough. This could prove to be the difference between your or someone else’s life or death. Not exaggerating!
I saved this point for last because I have so much to talk about it. So I’m dedicating next few sections to trekking packing tips. Keep reading.
How to choose the right trekking backpack
Check sewing and stitches when buying a backpack. You’d generally have to pack your stuff for 4 or more days in a single backpack. So the quality better be good enough to handle all that weight.
One important question to ask when buying a trekking backpack is: What is it made of?
Well most backpacks are made of either of these two: Nylon and Polyester. Let’s weigh some pros and cons:
- Pro: Good elasticity, Easy to clean, Strong, Durable.
- Cons: Traps heat, shouldn’t be washed with other fabrics, affected by UV.
- Pro: Strong, Durable, can be machine washed.
- Cons: highly flammable, hard to get rid of oil/grease stains
Nylon trekking backpacks are good for winters or low temperature. But they’re not as good for humid or high altitude places.
Polyester backpacks might not be as durable, but they’re a bit more flexible. Also, polyester bags are usually made out of recycled material, so they’re somewhat eco-friendly in comparison.
Which one is right for you? My answer is both and none. You’d have to choose for yourself based on your use and plans.
3. Correct Height
As you may know, backpacks come in various shapes and sizes to fit different body sizes.
We choose a backpack’s height based on one’s torso length. When you bend your head forward, a bone should stick out, inline with your shoulders. That’s your C7 vertebra. Measure the length between this point and your hip bone. That’s your torso length. In a backpack, find the distance between the top of shoulder straps and hip belt.
Correct fit would roughly match your torso length. If you’re not sure, look for trekking backpacks with adjustable torso length.
4. Correct Volume
Volume is the capacity of your trekking backpack in liters.
30-40L is fine for a day hike; 45-55L for a weekend trek; 60L or more for longer treks. Usual weight range is 10-15kgs.
These should meet the needs of most trekkers. However, some trekking expeditions may go on for a couple of weeks. So you might want to buy even bigger trekking backpacks like 70-90L with 15-25kgs load.
Make sure the belts and zippers are adjustable, straps have good padding, and there are pockets you can reach without taking the bag off.
Another important tip: Organize your backpack correctly.
You’re going to carry all the weight on your shoulders for hours every single day of your trek. Don’t compromise on comfort, definitely not for pricing.
Preferred choice should have these:
- Camera compartment
- Shoe compartment
- Outer pockets
- Hidden pockets
7. Waterproof backpacks for trekking
Go for waterproof trekking backpacks for obvious reasons. You’ll find a good range online to choose from.
If you’ve already purchased a simple one, buy waterproof covers for it.
My Recommendations for trekking backpacks
How to choose the right trekking Outfit/Clothing
You need fabrics that wick moisture away from skin and dry quickly. Avoid cotton and choose breathable synthetic fabrics like merino wool or polyester. And make sure they fit you.
2. Pants or shorts
I recommend convertible pants. They’re flexible and take up less space in your backpack. You could also get a pair of rain pants. They’re lightweight, breathable and waterproof. Perfect for rainy weather.
Look for comfortable fabrics & fits. Make sure your armpits aren’t cramped inside. Go for sun protection t-shirts if your skin doesn’t like the sun that much.
4. Insulating and waterproof trekking jackets
Hooded insulating jackets (with multiple layers) keep you warm under cold conditions. They’re a bit heavy though. Preferred material: down and other synthetics.
While these insulating jackets are water-repellant, they aren’t exactly waterproof. And insulation won’t be as good if they get wet. So find a lightweight waterproof trekking jacket to cover over it.
I recommend you go for 3-in-1 trekking jackets. They’re waterproof, keep you warm in the cold, and you can remove inner layers if it’s hot outside.
5. Hats or caps
Different options and designs for different weather conditions. You’d have to read product descriptions for a clear idea. Preferred material: polyester fleece or merino wool.
Look for breathable materials that also provide cushioning.
It’s important that they fit perfectly. Loose fits or friction against skin can cause blisters. You should consider skin liners if your skin is a bit sensitive.
7. Hiking/Trekking shoes
Even if you’re on a budget, do not compromise on this one. You’ll regret it for sure!
Features to look for:
- Traction: so they don’t slip
- Impact Protection & cushioning: saves you from injuries and soreness
- Good fit: quite obvious
- waterproof: obvious, but make sure inner lining is breathable
- Lightweight: important, especially if you’re carrying multiple pairs
Apart from trekking shoes, carry a pair of slippers or flip-flops. You can wear them for comfort at stops or camps.
Here are some accessories make your trekking outfit more comfortable:
- moisture-wicking gloves
- circle scarfs or neck protectors
- ankle gaiters or snow gaiters
- waist bags
Trekking outfit for winters
Wear layers on top of layers of clothing. They help you stay warm, and protect you from all kinds of bugs and bushes out there. But, avoid cotton (even in winters).
Most trekkers use three-layer method.
This layer is closest to the skin. Choose moisture-wicking undergarments, sock or hat liners, etc.
You should have them, regardless of the weather outside.
This is the thickest layer of clothing that provides the insulation you need. It varies with the temperature and weather conditions out there.
Usually includes hooded insulation jackets, gloves, socks, hats, pullovers, etc.
They don’t need to be waterproof, but it’s better if they are.
This is the protective layer against rain, wind, heat, cold, bugs, bushes and what not. Usually includes gaiters, waterproof jackets, masks, neck protectors, etc.
My Recommendations for trekking outfit or clothing
Trekking outfit for summers
Planning trekking outfit for summers is a bit tricky as you need layers of clothing, but don’t want to feel hot in them. So keep the base and outer layer as they are, and cut down on middle layer.
Wear loose clothing with breathable and quick-drying fabric like nylon. Pick lighter shades over dark ones. It’s ideal to wear full-sleeve t-shirts and trekking pants. If you don’t, make sure you put sunscreen on.
Carry waterproof or convertible trekking jackets with you, even if you don’t plan on wearing them. They could come in handy if weather goes bad.
Trekking Equipment and Packing List
- UV protection sunglasses and/or polarized sunglasses
- Lightweight trekking pole
- Trekking backpack (covered in detail above)
- Sleeping Bag with silk liner
- Trekking outfit and accessories (covered above in detail)
- Head torch with extra batteries
- Map, compass, altimeter, binoculars, GPS unit
- Pocket knife and lighters
- At least 2 Water bottles
Personal Care & Hygiene
- Paper soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.
- Extra towels and napkins
- Sunscreen, moisturizer, lip balm, mosquito-repellant, etc.
- Air-tight containers
- Disposable/biodegradable plates, spoons and cups
- Solar cooker or stove, fuel, lighters (necessary for camping)
- First Aid Kit
- Electronics like Power banks, solar chargers, sat-phones
- Camera gear like tripod, lenses, extra batteries
- Padlocks, sewing kit, duct tape, etc.
What is the cost of trekking?
Charges of trekking tours vary a lot. There’s not even a rough average that I could give you.
There’re one-time costs for trekking gear and accessories. Apart from that, a 10-days-trek could cost you several thousand INR (few hundred USD) in general.
If you plan to go with a trekking agency’s tour package; they charge you for organization, security, tour guide, cook, food, additional camping or trekking equipment, etc.
Also, if you’re going with a large group, the overall cost comes down. You could even bargain at that point.
Some online resources to learn trekking or camping?
There are hardly any online resources for this. Most courses focus on practical hands-on sessions. However, you can check out Christina Scheuermann’s Backcountry Camping For Beginners course on Udemy to get a fair idea of things.
Best trekking regions around the world?
A few famous treks to name around the world are Everest Base Camp (Nepal), Indian Himalayas (India), Overland Track (Australia), Narrows (USA), and Routeburn (New Zealand). You can find the complete list here.
Best Himalayan Trekking regions?
Himalayas have got the most challenging and most fun treks in the world. To name a few:
- Everest Base Camp (Nepal)
- Annapurna Camp and Poon Hill (Nepal)
- Gangotri Glacier Trek (India)
- Frozen Zanskar River Trek (India)
- Kailash Circuit (Tibet)
- Snowman Trek (Bhutan)
You can find a more detailed list here.
What are some good tips for trekking photography?
Jumping right into it: Carry a tripod with you, shoot on low ISO, use leading lines, and don’t forget the golden hour.
Best hiking or trekking quotes?
“I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir
Well, there you go! That’s all I had to share. Don’t forget to drop a comment down below if this post helped you in some way or if you’d like me to write about something or maybe just to say hi!