I remember the very first time I climbed a mountain. It was just a day trek and we climbed Mt. Babag in Cebu. Since it was my first time, I didn’t even have a glimpse of an idea about the preparation prior the trek. I was wearing ordinary casual rubber shoes, casual short pants, and a sleeveless shirt. No proper gears and not even a proper preparation. Nothing! Without even knowing the difficulty of the trail. The experience was hell. I wish someone could have advised us prior to our climb. Anyway, since then I’ve been climbing mountains for leisure and for exercise. From my previous experiences, here are my personally collated trekking preparation tips especially for the beginners who wanted to venture and try out mountain climbing.
Schedule your climb.
Every climber has their own reason(s) for climbing. Hypocrisy aside, we know that almost 80% of those who climb these days are being motivated by the view at the mountain’s summit or trail(s) as they’ve seen through the internet especially the social media. The climber’s effort might get paid off if the weather permits. Timing is everything. So do your research for the perfect time to hit off your spotted peak and plot your calendar on those days. It is also better to know the weather in those days. Don’t forget to also consider the volume of climbers when selecting the dates. Get away from holiday and peak season dates. These days obviously packs the most tourists and climbers alike. My tip is to time your climb on weekdays especially Wednesdays. With those days, you’ll get the least crowd on the camping areas and get to enjoy the mountain with a lesser crowd.
Plan your itinerary ahead.
It is a MUST to always plan ahead your itinerary. Do your research about the mountain. Know the prerequisites needed. There are some mountains that require permits and certain numbers of climb experiences before allowing climbers to go through. Also, contact your guides and coordinate with the local tourism offices beforehand. Research on some sample itineraries of other climbers. You can copy some or modify to shorten or add some bits of side-trips. Itineraries will serve as your time ticker to put a bit of pressure and reminder to maximize and budget your time. They also encourage individuals to follow schedules and avoid unnecessary “inserts”.
Invest in proper gears.
Trekking is a thrilling adventure and at the same time, a risky one. You’ll never know what you’ll encounter. Invest in proper trekking gears.
On top of my most important list is your foot gear. Obviously, trekking involves a lot of walking. Make sure your foot gear can withstand different kinds of trails. You can either choose shoes or sandals as long as it is built for trekking. Choose the most comfortable, durable and the one with the best grip. A simple slip because of improper footwear may cause a severe injury.
Next would be your protective gears. This includes rash guards, caps, and head wears. These gears will serve as your protection from scratches as you barge through the bushes on the mountains. They also serve as your skin’s extra protection against the harsh rays of the sun.
Get yourself the suitable backpack. Carry the most suitable backpack. If you’re up only for a day trek, then that means you don’t have to carry too much stuff which means you don’t need those huge traveling backpacks. A normal backpack enough to carry your needed stuff is more than enough. Unless when you need to camp and needs an extra space for your tent and camping gears like sleeping bags, cook sets, and burners, then you’ll really need to bring those towering traveling backpacks. In selecting the proper traveling backpack, research more and do some comparison among different brands.
Lastly, tents. Tents can be optional. You’ll only need it if you need to camp overnight, or you can just share with your co-climbers, that is if they are willing. Selecting a tent is another thing. There are multiple types of tents suited for specific conditions and capacity. Do your research first before getting your first tent.
You must also invest in proper clothing. Trekking is a rigorous activity. Sweating is sure to be expected. You might want to wear light, comfortable and dry-fitting clothes. On the other hand, it might also get extremely cold at the peak. Better prepare layers of clothing or jackets to warm you when you camp.
Learn the basic mountaineering skills and principles.
“Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time.”
You may have already heard those lines. Yes! Those lines cover the most basic mountaineering rule, LNT (Leave No Trace). When climbing, instill in your minds not only the leisure you can get but also the preservation of the mountain. Mountaineering is not only about conquering heights, but also appreciating and protecting the beauty of the mountain and mother nature as a whole.
When camping overnight, of course, you’ll be bringing your tent and other necessities like your food, water, and clothing. Learn how to properly pack your stuff so as to maximize your bag’s space and properly distribute the weight. Bag weight distribution is quite important for this affects the load balancing and the longevity of your backpack. For more details on how to pack properly, check out this blog entry.
As for me, I didn’t learn these skills and principles prior my first trek experience. I gradually learned it as I immersed myself in trekking and gained experiences from my previous climb. Up to this date, I am still continually learning. Do not be weary for you’ll also gradually learn as you keep on climbing especially together with the veteran climbers.
Prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Unless you are already a veteran climber, you must always prepare yourself physically and mentally prior to your climb. Exercise and train your muscles. We know very much that trekking is such an exhausting activity regardless of the mountain’s height. It requires high leg power and endurance especially on major climbs and multiple-day treks. “Do not judge the mountain by its elevation.” The difficulty level of the mountain is not measured by its elevation alone. Several factors can also contribute like the trail class and the atmosphere. Barging on to trekking without proper preparation is like playing a sport without warming up. Injuries will surely come with high probability. You might survive, but the aftermath would be great.
Not only physical but also mental. “Mind over matter.” I can personally attest on this saying. I’ve been to several treks and yes I have complained several times. We all do complain especially during high ascents, but everything can be overcome by your mind. When your physical ability cannot longer carry-out, that’s when your mental power kicks in. You just have to keep on convincing yourself that you can do it. You’ll be surprised at the end that you were able to do so. At the end, you did not only conquer the mountain but also yourself.
Complete and more detailed guides and tips are also available out there and over the internet. These are just from my perspective and out from my personal experiences. Hopefully, you get to learn even just a bit from the items that I laid out. As always, let’s keep on learning and continue exploring the beauty and wonders the world can offer.