Planning to go mountain trekking for the first time? It may be exciting, as you’re looking forward to the stunning view you’ll be seeing and the amazing trip you’ll be having, but at the same time, it can be intimidating because of your lack of experience. So, don’t leave home without any preparation. Start now by reading these mountain climbing safety tips for first timers:
The first thing you have to prepare before going on a hike is not the gears – it’s your body. Climbing a mountain is a vigorous physical activity, so you must start getting fit before going on a hiking trip to ensure you can endure it and to avoid injuries.
First of all, if you have health issues, consult first with your doctor if it will be OK for you to take a hike. If you have not been physically active lately, it is recommended that you begin a regular exercise regimen for a month or a couple of weeks before the trail. If you’re already an active person, keep up the good work and don’t skip your workouts especially before your trip.
Whether you are active or inactive (physically), you need to prepare your body in two aspects:
- Strength – Perform exercises that will strengthen your leg muscles so that you can endure prolonged walking. You can also do push-ups to improve your arm strength, as you might need to get a tight grip on stones, branches or ropes as you go along.
- Endurance – Extensive cardio workouts will be a big help in training your body to increase your stamina. It’s good if you’d practice wearing a heavy backpack too as you exercise, because that’s what you’ll feel as you climb.
You also have to consume carbohydrate-rich foods days before, so that your body would be fuelled up and energized.
For beginners, of course it is recommended that you start with a not-so-difficult trail. Don’t be tempted to go to major hikes immediately just because that’s what your friends are going for. For a first timer, know your limits and be OK with it – there’s no need for you to rush. You don’t want your first hike to be the death of you, right?
Once you’ve picked which mountain to climb, here are the other important things you need to consider before the big day:
- Duration – How long will be the whole trip? Knowing the duration will determine what and how much stuff you are going to pack. Because you’re a first timer, then probably you won’t need a tent to bring in with you. Pick a good hike that won’t affect your intended schedule, or the schedule of others you will bring with you.
- Companions – As we’ve mentioned the “others,” it is good to have someone to accompany you on the trail because it’s your first time. If you are going to a mountain that is a hiking destination, then most probably there are trekking guides you can hire to assist you. It is important that you would have a guide, plus a friend who is an experienced hiker. You need them to guide you in the right path (literally) and to be there when need arises. It’s safer for everyone that way, and it’s more fun too.
- Budget – Stick to how much you are willing to spend. Although mountains are public property, there are still fees you need to pay for. It varies from one place to another, so go and ask first how much money you will need before going there. Of course, prepare for transportation expenses. You might also need to pay for guide fees, tourism fees, environmental fees and other stuff.
- Weather – Be informed of the weather news in your planned hiking site prior to your climb. That way, you would know which types of clothes to wear, what additional stuff you must bring – in short, you can be prepared for what’s going to happen. If the weather forecast is bad, it’s best to cancel the trip so you can be safe, and just move it for another date.
- Terrain – Know if you are going to deal with inclined steps, in-between rivers, thick forests, and so on. Have an idea if the mountain trail would be sandy, snowy, rocky, grassy or muddy. Prepare your mind, body, gear and backpack for what you are going to face.
As stated in the items above, your gear will depend on the expected duration of your hike, the weather and terrain, as well as the budget. If you don’t see mountaineering as something you would want to do again and again, don’t buy expensive stuff yet like special trekking shoes or professional hiking outfit. Just choose outfits that are comfortable, versatile and lightweight (but not too thin), and make sure it will cover your skin enough to protect yourself from scratches or the weather. The safest bet would be long sleeved shirts you can take off or roll the sleeves up if it gets hot, tact pants or long socks to shield your legs, and gloves that cover half of your fingers to protect yourself if you need to hold on to rocks or branches for support.
When it comes to footwear, wear shoes that are comfortable enough for hours of walking; tough enough to endure the hike; and safe enough to protect your feet. You can choose from boots, gaiters, sneakers, rubber shoes or any of your ball sports shoes.
Again, the proper hiking wear will be very much dependent on the weather during the day of your hike and the terrain of the mountain.
First of all, you don’t want to burden yourself on the trip with a very big backpack. As you are just beginning, your trail might last for a day or for a couple of hours, so don’t be afraid to leave some of your beloved stuff at home.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Water – Hiking is dehydrating, and most likely, there will be no available clean, potable water source there as you climb. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you, maybe a liter or two.
- Food – Of course, there’s a great chance that your tummy would go hungry during the trail so you need to pack fuel for your body.
- Extra clothes/fabrics/sundries – If you get all sweaty with vigorous physical activities and if your hike is on a hot summer day, pack a spare shirt and small towel. You can also bring sunglasses and sunscreen to protect your eyes and skin. If you’re on a cold weather, then you might consider bringing a jacket, scarf, or hat.
- Waterproof bags – If your mountain hike involves crossing a lake or a river, it’s best to bring waterproof bags to protect your gadgets and important belongings.
- Smartphone – It will serve as your map or tracker or GPS. There’s a small possibility that it might still catch signals, so you may use it to call for help in case of emergency. Keep it fully charged.
- First-aid kit – Because you are going to the wilderness, prepare for the unknown and unexpected. You won’t know when insects would plague you or some wild animals would attack. But the most common setbacks experienced during hiking would be: sprains, cramps, blisters, wounds or scratches; or maybe fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, dehydration or fainting – so you need to be prepared for yourself and for your companions. Bring a couple of hydration salts, bandages, alcohol and painkillers.
The most vague, but most important safety tip is to stay safe. Be careful and attentive every step of your way, because one slip might mean you’re a goner. When with a group, let someone assign a meeting place for everyone should one of you gets lost.
Let somebody else know that you’ll be hiking and when you are expected to come back. Be accountable and register with your name contact details at the start-off point of the trail.
When experiencing fatigue or loss of breath, take a pause. Remember, you’re a beginner. Start low and eventually, you will gradually move up.