Exploring the great almighty Himalayas is a dream for all the trekkers. And we all have our own reasons, probably some do it for the thrill, some like to discover new places and cultures, some try to find peace and some want to get closer to nature.Whenever you are trekking in the mountains, it is best to come with proper preparation and the right spirit. But with wrong preparation and bad attitude you will have an adverse experience. And in extreme conditions, it can even lead to casualties. It is in your hand to take your own responsibility and to trek responsibly without harming nature. The reasons for listing the do’s and don’ts of trekking is to make all the trekkers aware that we are not the owner of nature, rather we are just care-takers. We need to learn about these to reduce the number of casualties.
LET’S START WITH THE DO’S
Check For Route and Weather
Well there is nothing more to say to this, planning a trip to Goa or a short vacation to Manali is completely different from a trekking trip to the Himalayas. Always check for your trek terrain and weather conditions. Everything changes with these factors, dry and rough terrain during summer conditions will have a different packing list and snow and winter conditions will have a difference. Plan your way ahead and do not just rely on others for the same. Read about the place, culture, weather, etc beforehand so in case of any emergency you can handle the situation calmly. Never think as a beginner but as a pro whenever planning your trekking trip.
Learning about the terrain and weather will help you pack accordingly. You surely don’t want to get wet in the rain or get caught in snowfall without having a raincoat or down jacket in your backpack. Make an itinerary and follow the weather forecast of your trail, gain as much information as you can. Remember, weather can be your best ally or biggest enemy on the trek.
Follow Trek Leader
Always make sure you follow and listen to your trek leaders instructions, it is necessary and helpful. They are very well aware about the path and the trail. So they know where it is risky and where it is not. I would advise you to follow their footsteps literally when it comes to snow treks. They are the one who know everything about the place and situation of your trekking destination. Moreover, learn to trust your fellow trek mates as well. You will be spending your next few days or a week with them. You will share your food and tent with them. Remember in the worst situations, they will be the one to help you. Ensure you consult with your trek leader in case you feel uneasy or uncomfortable at any point during your trek. Ignoring this might lead to a worse condition. Being cooperative will bring respect, happiness and carefulness in you during your trek. Always help each other in need.
Never go for any trek alone unless you are 200% sure about your safety. Although it is not necessary that you would lose the path, chances are there you might fall and twist your ankle or some other muscle pull. If you are a beginner and doing any short treks like Triund trek which is said to be the easiest but even on this trek many casualties have happened and even deaths. Always take a guide or least go with some friend who has done trekking before.
Moreover another thing to maintain is a positive attitude. Nothing can happen to me or I don’t care attitude could cause a disastrous moment. Always think positive and listen to your leader.
Carry Your Own Backpack
Carrying your own backpack is the basic in trekking. Plus it tests your physical strength. So make it a habit of packing light. Carry only the required clothes for your trek. A fleece jacket and down jackets will be the perfect combo for all the treks. You will be carrying your bag and the heavier it will be, the more exhausted you will feel. Carry the essentials which will be used during the trek. Packing 4 jackets, 3 pairs of shoes and unnecessary utensils and food will be useless. Whenever making a purchase for your clothes, go for polyester or dry-fit fabrics, buy clothes which can be packed easily and are lightweight.
Pack basics like change of clothes, first aid box, some ready to eat food and energy bars and a water bottle. However the list would differ depending upon your trek conditions and whether you are going on your own or with some private trekking companies. We have a backpacking checklist which you can follow but make sure you double check the list with your trek leader.
Carry Proper Trekking Gears
Trekking gears are the essential part of trekking. A good quality trekking shoes, jacket, trekking poles and sleeping bags comes in handy and plays an important role to make your experience enjoyable and comfortable. You need proper water-resistant with comfortable ankle support shoes to keep your feet warm. Likewise you need snow grip spikes or crampons during your winter trek. As a tip make sure you buy one size bigger whenever you are going for long treks, it will accommodate your swollen feet and reduce the chances of blisters.
Many of us underestimate trekking poles and think they are too fancy to carry. Actually it’s not. Trekking poles are there for a reason, they become a third leg and provide support while ascending and descending by sharing your body weight and pressure.
Similarly a good quality trekking tent and sleeping bag are very important. It will make sure you get a sound sleep and your body gets properly ready so it can be ready for the task on the following day. Same goes for your trekking jackets, a comfortable lightweight down jacket will keep you warm. Pack proper woolen socks, caps and gloves to keep you warm and dry.
Always Keep Yourself Hydrated
It is difficult to realize that you are dehydrated. High altitude and cold weather conditions can make you feel less thirsty, which means you will end up taking less fluid than required. You need a minimum of 4-5 litres a day and if possible drink only warm water. Keep a water bottle in your backpack and refill the bottle whenever you get a chance. Make it a habit to sip some water after every 15-20 mins of walk. If you are going on a winter trek, you can carry a thermos which will keep your water warm for a long time. Water can freeze up during such conditions. You can also go for some alternatives in between like hot soups, tea or sports drinks to give some taste to your taste buds. Ensure you are taking enough fluids at regular intervals.
Although water in the mountains is clear and pure. But it is always a good option to keep water purifying tablets so in case if the streams are dirty or contaminated, then it can purify the water. Drinking pure water will also save you from infections and other diseases.
Pack First Aid On Priority
Don’t you ever dare to leave your first aid because it is as important as your mobile phone. First aid is a necessity on trek. The first aid box should contain basic medications to treat acute mountains sickness, cold, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. Do include bandages, cotton and band-aids. Trekking can result in major and minor injuries and keeping the first aid will prevent getting infected. Consult your trek leader before taking any medicine. He will have better knowledge about what and when to take.
Bring Reusable & Eco-Friendly Products
Well this is pretty self explanatory, but still many trekkers ignore this. Whenever trekking always carry your own utensils like a plate, a bowl, a fork and a spoon and that is all you need. Many trekkers find it very inconvenient to carry them and wash them after every meal and prefer disposable plates but that actually harms the environment. Similarly a lot of people don’t like to refill water and rather buy new water bottles and follow use and throw technique. It is advisable to refill the water bottle. The plastic actually takes hundreds of years to decompose and are a threat to nature. It will be a good practice to bring reusable utensils like plates, cups and water bottles to save our mother nature.
Also one thing to make sure which is added to your to do list is to bring eco-friendly products to your bag. Carry biodegradable soap and detergent. Use biodegradable toilet paper. Using common toiletries like lip balm, toothpaste, face wash etc carry chemicals and harm our environment. Likewise for female hygiene, carry menstrual cup, tampons, reusable cloth etc. Sanitary pads take years to decompose. Be smart and pack your products accordingly.
Take Your Waste Back
Don’t be ashamed to take your waste back with you. Carry a bag with you where you can keep all your waste from plastic bottles to packaged food wrappers. For female travelers, they should put used sanitary pads in a zip lock bag. We all know there are no municipal departments in mountains and the waste which you dispose there cannot find its exit. Dispose all the waste in the proper place so it can be either recycled by segregating the waste. Because of the excessive pollution by trekkers, Uttarakhand High Court banned trekking and camping in some parts and this was because of us. We will have to preserve these treks for our future generation as well. However you can minimize the waste by using reusable and eco-friendly products in the first place. Don’t wait for others, you will have to make the start. If you really want to experience the adventure and want your future generations to experience the same, then we would have to start the contribution right away.
LET’S START WITH DON’TS NOW
Do Not Litter
We have seen that mountains have turned into a dustbin and this is heartbreaking. People go to the mountains to get detox physically and mentally but in return they pollute them. Buying packaged food and throwing the wrappers anyone thinking no one will see them. The main reason why we have turned out mountains into garbage bins is because we think what this one wrapper of chips can do. Please do not throw these wrappers/packets anyone, find a proper dustbin or take them back with you. Unless and until we ourselves don’t take actions, no one will. Because of the increase in waste a lot of treks were being banned for camping and trekking, and if we continue to litter then all the treks will be closed soon. You can use water instead of tissue papers and towel instead of wet wipes, because we tend to throw them away after use, resulting in polluting the environment plus they take years to decompose . Several times these are eaten by wildlife and as a result it leads to their death.
As a responsible citizen and trekker, it is our duty to keep our mountains clean. Remember we owe nature. Next time on trek, bring the waste with you and if you happen to see anyone littering around stop that person and educate him/her about the consequences of the same. We have seen so many changes in our climate and this pollution is the only reason for it, it won’t be long enough before our environment gets destroyed completely.
Don’t pollute the water and environment
The rivers are the main source of water for the villages in mountains and even in cities too. And this water is used for drinking purposes by thousands of people. This is pretty common sense that we should not pollute the water. We all know that the water found in these streams is pure and clean however if you pee or wash or bathe in these streams then the water becomes contaminated. This further can lead to numerous types of diseases. We all know the human body consists of 70% water, and likewise on earth 71% is water but the fresh water is only 2-3% which means we have a scarcity of water. And if we happen to contaminate it and pollute it then it won’t be long before we won’t have water to drink. Look at the population and the amount of fresh water sources we have, this drastic climate change is already diminishing water quantity, so next time make sure you are not polluting the water or the environment.
Make your business atleast 200-300 meters away from the water source and campsite, likewise if you need to wash your clothes or take a bath, fill the water in a bucket or some vessel and take it 200-300 meters so you don’t end up polluting. Because it is consumed by thousands of people living below without even filtering it so conserve our water source while on a trek.
Don’t underlook physical fitness
Trekking is all about walking and for which you need both mental and physical strength. Trekking isn’t completed on the basis of psychological strength, you will need physical fitness. Even the small treks like Kheerganga or Triund trek require some amount of stamina. You cannot take a whole day to complete a 2-3 hours trek. And this happens when you underlook your fitness. I have seen a lot of people making the trip for trekking without doing any fitness and later they regret it, some even won’t return. Your friends were going trekking and just because you said yes in excitement doesn’t mean it will be easy. They may have been regular workout people or probably following the fitness plan from last month or so, and moreover every individual strength and stamina is different. Never say you don’t need fitness just because your BMI is perfect and you don’t have much fat. Still you will need to strengthen your legs, shoulders, arms and entire body to finish your trek in enjoyment.
On high altitudes the quantity of oxygen decreases which means your body will pump more blood and this situation leads to AMS, pretty common isn’t it. But how you can sustain or fight, only if you are physically fit and mentally stable. Many professional trekkers have collapsed and resulted in death so never underestimate the importance of physical fitness. You can follow the fitness guide to achieve your goals.
Don’t take too many breaks
Yes, breaks are important while your are trekking no matter which trek it is. Our human body tends to get exhausted with the walking, and taking breaks releases that tiredness and make the body normal to walk again. However talking breaks on every turn or after every 5 minutes of walking completely overrides the purpose of breaks. Ofcourse you are not a superhero who can finish the trek in one go but taking breaks in a planned manner will help you to be one. Taking too much breaks only makes you more tired and lazy. Also whenever you are resting or taking breaks place your legs on a rock or on your backpack to make the blood circulation running. Else if you are making small breaks then don’t put your backpack down and keep standing to slow down your breathing. I have experienced that small break turns into long ones if we tend to sit down and remove our bag. Taking too many breaks will result in incomplete target and many times you might have to keep trekking at night to reach campsite. Avoid breaks and avoid trekking after sunset, it becomes dangerous to trek in the dark.
Another basic etiquette of trekking is to walk in groups. Do not walk too fast or too slow. It is said that the faster you walk, the more tired you will be and if you are a slow walker then you will be left behind. Remember it is not a competition so walk in a natural rhythm and concentrate on your breathing. Avoid doing anything silly or jumping on the trek, it can lead to twist of your feet and end of your trek in between. Do not take trekking as a competition, there are no rewards for the one who is reaching first at the camp. Leave this competition to your professional life, it will only harm you if done while trekking. Walking easily on your trek and enjoying the beauty of nature.
Avoid packaged food
We all know packaged food is the main cause of pollution, be it in the mountains or in the cities. But the only difference is, in the mountains this waste cannot find it’s exit and remains there, taking years to decompose. In the city we have dustbins where we can dispose of them and it will be recycled. And this is the reason I recommend you to carry the waste with you but how about if we can minimize that in the first place. How can we do that? By using less packaged foods. No it doesn’t mean that you should not eat your favourite chocolates or chips, rather buy them and store them in a reusable box, which can be used for multiple purposes after you finished them. Another way is to eat the local food like dal, rice, roti, sabzi for your meals because this will encourage local cuisines and the packaged food will be minimized. Plus this food is healthier than packaged one.
What else can you avoid? To consume these foods in an adequate proportion. Do not bloat your stomach with a heavy lunch that makes you lazy and vulnerable to trekking. Yes adequate proportion and nutritious food is the key to maintain a good balance in your diet. Yes we all love maggi on the trek but that shouldn’t be your main course meal. Rather eat it in between and during the day time and don’t make it a habit to eat it daily.
Don’t create noise
We humans are used to living in a noisy city life but the wildlife living in the forest is not used to it. And whenever we visit the mountains, we are just visitors. Animals and birds stay away from these noises and sometimes these loud noises results in changing their natural behaviour. And this change can really cause some risk to the trekkers passing by. Loud noises are also a part of noise pollution and creating such noises is totally unacceptable. So let’s make a point to not disturb them and let them enjoy their homes. Don’t carry bluetooth speakers. Loud noises disturb the other trekkers as well.
Don’t forget to pack essentials
Always make a backpacking checklist before you head out for your trekking trip. However to make sure you pack with is required and don’t just overload your backpack. One good way to create a checklist is to check the weather forecast for your trek beforehand. Essentials should be kept and places in order with sleeping gears, jackets, trousers, t-shirts, shoes, socks, hat, personal hygiene products, first aid etc. These things should never be missed because you don’t get stuck in the rain without a raincoat or waterproof jacket. One big NO will be for cotton, whatsoever the situation is, during your trek cotton will be strictly avoided. It takes forever for cotton to dry and plus they are not breathable and moisture wicking. Rather go for merino wool or synthetic fabrics since they are more breathable and wicks moisture plus dry quickly.
Also whenever you trek, the body gets warmed up very fast resulting in sweating. So my suggestion during your trek is to avoid excessive clothes. Use polyester clothes as they are lightweight and easy to dry, even if you sweat while walking they will get dried up fast. Do not bind your body with a warmer, t-shirt, fleece jacket and a down jacket during the day time. It will result in too much sweating and will make you uncomfortable, you will feel cold in case it becomes windy or you rest under shade. Moreover you can get sick if you suddenly drop your body temperature by taking a bath after being completely covered in sweat. Avoid warmer during the day time, use it at night to keep your body warm.
Avoid smoking and drinking
Smoking and drinking are not the best things to do when you are on high altitude treks. Yes you are used to your cigarettes and drinking rum will make your warm at night but understand at high altitudes the air is thinner which means you will need more air to breathe. Drinking also makes you dehydrated and you might think it will help you sleep but actually it’s quite the opposite. You might be able to sleep well initially but later you will wake up searching for water or for using the washroom. Cigarettes are no good again, smokes fill in your lungs when you smoke and later when you try to breathe heavy, it clusters around your lungs and fails to generate enough oxygen. You are going on a trek to detox so why not to do that, these things can definitely wait. Atleast you can avoid it on high altitude treks and just enjoy the peace.
Here are the points in brief in case you are lazy to read(just kidding)
Do’s Of Trekking
- Plan ahead & prepare for your trek
- Check for weather conditions
- Carry your backpack & pack light
- Fitness is important – Read the fitness guide
- Sleep well at night before and during the trek
- Bring reusable and eco-friendly products
- Follow your trek leader strictly
- Pack your first aid with basic medicines
- Help your other trek mates or who are in need
- Ensure you are hydrate during your trek
- Bring a good quality shoes and jackets
- Take proper planned breaks during the trek
- Take your waste back
- Carry water purifying tablets/electrolytes/glucose
Don’ts Of Trekking
- Do Not litter
- Don’t pollute the water and environment
- Do Not compete with any individual
- Don’t take too many breaks
- Avoid packaged food
- Don’t create noise
- Don’t forget to pack essentials
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes
- Do Not consume any medicine without consultation
- Don’t buy, when you can rent
- Don’t walk to fast
- Don’t underestimate the importance of fitness
- Don’t travel solo
It is our duty to protect mother nature. We have got so much from nature and now it is our turn to protect it. Have a conservative approach towards trekking and understand your body and your limits along with nature. A logical approach and proper preparation will always come in handy and will make your trek doable and enjoyable. Whenever you are on your next trek make sure you follow these do’s and don’ts. Lets pledge to protect our nature and save it for future generations as well.
HAPPY TREKKING TO ALL