If you’re not an experienced trekker and you’re setting out on your first serious trekking holiday then there are some things you must know. This post outlines 5 common mistakes, (otherwise know as lessons you usually learn when it's too late) that will give you the power to ensure that this trip is remembered as a life changing adventure, not a holiday disaster.
5 common mistakes that will ruin your trekking holiday:
In my experience as a trekker and climber, dehydration is a more common cause of illness in altitudes above 4500m/13000ft than oxygen deficiency. Everyone is aware that altitude can kill, everyone is aware than altitude can stop you from succeeding, but few people pay attention to how much water they consume, and how much their body is affected by dehydration.
Higher altitudes means lower air pressure, that leads to high rates of evaporation from your skin and greater evaporation from the lungs, meaning you are dehydrating faster, in some cases 2-4 times faster than you would at sea level.
Most people don’t feel as thirsty at high altitudes as they really are, so it’s important to form the habit of drinking a lot of water primarily, but also hot tea, and hydration powders.
Dehydration means you’re more fatigued, anxious stressed. It can affect your memory, clear thinking and reactions speed. Don’t make this mistake, drink up, 3-4 litres per day at altitude, more if you’re a larger body shape.
Understanding how altitude will affect your body (over 3000m/9000 ft) is nobody’s responsibility other than your own. There is no magic drug that will prevent it, there is no special training plan or device that will eliminate the risks, the only thing that you can do is to become knowledgeable about what the risks are, what changes will happen in your body and what to do about it when/if you feel the symptoms of altitude sickness.
As a side note, altitude comes down to oxygen levels in the body, so it’s important that you learn to be conscious of the breathe and breathe deeply and purposefully both when you’re active and at rest at altitude. If you aren’t aware how altitude affects the body then you need to download our FREE Ebook - Avoiding Altitude Sickness.
The ego is responsible for almost all cases of severe Altitude Sickness. There is one simple cure for altitude sickness and that is TO DESCEND. The Ego is what prevents people from making the decision to go down.
It is also commonly observed that trekkers who are in a rush to be at their destination first, to be seen as fit and strong, often end up suffering from the effects of altitude sickness. I tell my clients religiously to “be the last into camp” during the acclimatization period. This means you are not over exerting yourself during those crucial first days, you are not ascending quicker than absolutely necessary.
Let go of the ego. Enjoy the journey slowly and purposefully. Listen to the body.
Beginner trekkers are often caught out by two things in relation to foot care:
The Solution? Get out on the trail before your trip as often as you can, to TEST YOUR GEAR and see how your hiking boots and socks treat your feet over varying distances and terrain. Are they too tight? Too small? Does the hiking boot rub when you go downhill or uphill? Do your toes hit the ends of the boot? Make sure you start early and have time to make any changes. Get our Free Hiking Boot Fitting Guide here.
The Solution? By TESTING YOUR GEAR you will know how the hiking boots/socks react with your feet. If you get blisters you can try variations of socks and fitting techniques to lessen the impact. You can also trial medical solutions like strapping or Compede. If irritation and humidity is an issue build habits around cleaning and drying your feet every night, using a solution like talcum powder or skin strong to create a clean and dry environment for the feet.
Many of the best trekking destinations are in the developing world, and almost all of them won’t provide the ideal sanitary conditions. If you’re not used to being in the wilderness, this may be challenging for you. How you eat, how you go to the bathroom, how you sleep, what is involved in your average day, this might all be new to you.
So it’s important to establish some good habits from day one, and arm yourself with these tools to prevent illnesses like gastroenteritis.
How to avoid getting sick on your trek:
Boost Your Immune System - It’s important that you are as healthy as you can possibly be before you go trekking. This means being fit and eating well of course, but it also means boosting your immunity by increasing your fruit and vegetable intake before the trip and taking multivitamins and Horseradish & Garlic, Ginger and Echinacea supplements.