Check out some of our useful articles or frequently asked questions and get ready to start our trekking adventure!
The importance of drinking enough fluids while out trekking cannot be underestimated. Trekkers and Bushwalkers need to be very mindful of how much water they are drinking throughout the day.
The weather plays a big part in how our body is coping and how much water we need. Don’t be fooled if the weather is cooler, you still need to keep up your intake of fluid. Of course if it is very hot, then our water consumption needs to increase.
Here are a few tips and reminders on hydration while trekking.
1 Know Where You Are Going
Take the time to read up and research where it is you are going. Get to know whether your destination has a regular supply of clean water. Some tracks that are managed by Parks Victoria, or similar State Government agencies, are well maintained and have water supplies.
If you are headed out for a long day walk, ensure that you take more than sufficient amount of water with you from home.
Major trekking companies are well organized and will have their water sources identified and know when and where to fill up. Read their literature thoroughly and ensure you have the appropriate water bottles or bladder. Some companies will recommend either a water bladder that sits within your back pack, or a couple of 750ml water bottles.
2 Weather Conditions
The weather has a huge impact on the amount of fluids we need to consume. When we are in warmer weather we tend to automatically drink plenty of water. It is when we are out in cooler temperatures that we can be inclined to think we are find. This is where we can begin to have problems. Don’t be fooled by cooler weather conditions, maintain your water intake all the time you are out.
This is a dangerous condition where a person has actually had too much water and has flushed all of the salts and electrolytes out of their body. This condition can be life threatening and needs to be monitored very carefully. Symptoms of this condition include, nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy and fatigue and unconsciousness. Medical attention is essential if a person is suffering from this condition.
4Don’t Wait Until You Are Thirsty
If you are feeling like you are thirsty, then it is possible that you are already suffering from dehydration.
Short and regular sips of water while you are trekking is a better way to avoid dehydration. This allows your body to slowly absorb the fluids.
Drinking about half a litre of water in the morning before you either break camp or head out for the day, is a good way to ensure your body has a good supply of fluid to get started. Regular sipping once you are out trekking will maintain this.
Having adequate sun protection also helps your body maintain fluids. Wearing items such as a broad brimmed hat, long sleeve shirts and long pants, help protect your skin from extreme sun exposure. This in turn assists your body to maintain fluids and of course protects you from harmful sun burn.
Symptoms of dehydration are dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea and cramps. These symptoms must not be ignored. If you do experience signs of dehydration it is necessary to slowly begin sipping your water. Don’t try and drink a huge amount of water, just slowly sip away over the next hour or so.
Ensuring you are drinking clean water is essential, especially if you are out in the wilderness. Trekking companies will recommend that trekkers bring along sterilization tablets or sterilization pens. These work to kill bacteria in the water and ensure it is safe to drink.
When I am out on a day hike and I haven’t bought my water from home, I will always use sterilization tablets in my water. It ensures my water is clean and safe.
8Carrying Our Water
Some people prefer to drink their water from a water bladder. These bladders sit comfortably in our back pack and we can sip slowly from the hose that rests over our shoulder. I prefer a water bladder because I feel I can sip my water as I walk along. Especially when I am climbing a big hill, I like easy access to my water. I also know I can carry up to 3 litres of water at any time.
Having bottles is just as good and they would normally sit on the side of your pack. Ensuring you have sufficient water is the challenge with bottles, as you need a number of them if you are walking for a long time without a fill up point.
I often get asked, 'What are the most important things to take with you when you go trekking?'
Sometimes, this will depend on where you are going. If, for example you are headed to Everest Base Camp, I would rate one of the most important pieces of equipment would be a very warm and water proof jacket. However, if I was going to Kokoda, then a warm jacket would not be on my list at all.
So, of course gear is always location specific, but I think there is probably a base list of 10 things that you would need wherever you go. I haven’t included a day pack or main pack in my top 10, as I know you are going to take that anyway.
Here are my top 10!
I am putting these as Number 1 for the reason that it is essential that you are well hydrated wherever you are trekking. My advice is to always carry plenty of water, even if you are only going out for a couple of hours. You can never have too much water. The best thing about carrying water is it also doubles as extra weight in your bag – great training tool. Getting sufficient hydration when you are trekking is the key to feeling great and completing your trek or day walk.
Personally, I prefer to use a hydration bladder that sits inside a section of my day pack or my big pack if I’m carrying that. Most of them range from 1, 2 or 3 litre bladders and have a hose that can be connected to the front of your pack for easy access. The reason I prefer bladders to individual water bottles, is that your hose is right there on your shoulder and you can grab a quick sip without having to take your pack off and pull out your bottle.
Water bottles are just as good, but you would probably need at least 2 if not 3 of them if you were heading out for over 2 hours. Most water bottles hold at least 750ml or 1 litre. There are treks where you can regularly top up your bottles, so that would make it easier, but some treks there may not be any clean water for many hours, so you would need to have a good supply in your pack. It is definitely a personal preference, but please don’t leave home without sufficient water.
I absolutely love my trekking boots! I think this is because I have taken them to so many incredible places, so they have shared some great moments with me!
You can never underestimate the importance of a good quality, well-worn in pair of boots when you are trekking. Your boots need to fit you properly both for the size of your foot, but also the shape of your foot. They need to be made of good quality materials and if possible be waterproof.
It is a personal preference if you have high ankle boots or lower cut ones, but either way, they must provide your foot with excellent support and comfort.
My recommendation would be that you try on lots of pairs and see what brand suits your foot the best. Remember, the sales person in the store will be trying to get you to buy their boots – that is their job! But make sure you shop around and really get to know the many brands on the market.
3Sunscreen & Hat
I know this is two items, but I’ve put them together because you need to have both!
We all know the dangers of sunburn and how we need to always slip, slop, slap when we are out in the sun.
When we are out trekking, we could possibly be out in the sun for many hours. Sometimes we are lucky to have some shade cover, but the sun’s rays can still get through. It is important that we remember to apply sunscreen regularly to all exposed skin. I will always apply sunscreen to my face even though I have a hat on. It’s just a double precaution.
There are so many different types of hats on the market and again it comes down to personal preference. My hat has a wide brim, but not a huge massive one like we sometimes see school children wearing. Friends of mine have these really cool hats that are waterproof, and I’m always jealous when we are out walking in the rain and I’m getting soaked and they are as dry as ever. I keep meaning to get myself one of those!
I have this really good and small sweat towel that folds up into a small pouch and hangs off one of my shoulder straps on my pack. It is so good, because when I get a sweat up, I can quickly pull it out because it is right there, use it and fold it back into the pouch without even stopping. It is brilliant when I’m on Kokoda Track, because the sweat is usually pouring off me going up some of those hills.
One important thing to remember is when you get home from your walk, or at the end of each day on your trek, take your sweat towel off your pack and wash it! It can be a little bit yucky if you go to use it a few weeks down the track and it hasn’t been washed!
5First Aid Kit
This is a priority and you should always carry some type of first aid kit with you when you are out trekking. Even if it is just a basic kit, please remember to take it with you.
Mt Buffalo in North East Victoria is one of my favourite day walks. The first section of this walk is very steep and it takes roughly an hour to complete this first section. One day I was heading up there when I met up with a man and his son. We were having a bit of a chat when the man mentioned that his son had blisters. These guys were 1 hour in on a 5 or 6 hour walk at this time. They had no first aid kit, not even a couple of bandaids, so it wouldn’t be long before they were in a world of pain. Some Band-Aids and tape later from me and they were on their way.
You can buy good quality and well stocked first aid kits from Pharmacies, hardware stores or even online. They will vary in price depending on their contents, so shop around and research what is included in each kit. If it doesn’t include blister protection, buy these at a pharmacy and put them in your kit.
6Rain Cover for Your Pack.
Most packs will come with a rain cover, but some do not. When you are buying your pack, check that it has a rain cover.
If you don’t have one, I would suggest that you get yourself one. They are not expensive and come in varying sizes. They fold up really small into a little pouch and weigh next to nothing. I always leave mine in my pack, so I know it is always going to be there.
You can never predict the weather and for those of us who live in Victoria, our weather can change in an instant. A rain cover will ensure that your pack and everything inside it remains dry.
7Water Purification Tablets or Sterilizer
It is always important when we are out trekking that we are drinking clean water. We usually will bring our water from home if we are going out on a day walk, but there may be times when you have to top your water up at some stage during the day. As a precaution, I always carry water purification tablets and if I fill up from an unknown water source, then I will put a couple of tablets in just to make sure.
Some people do not like the taste of the water purification tablets. Some brands do taste a lot like chlorine, but I have found a couple of brands that are not too bad. People who don’t like the taste, will often use a water sterilizer. These can be purchased from reliable hiking or camping stores. They are put into your water bottle and emit an ultra-violent light that acts to kill any bacteria in the water. If you prefer to use one of these, check the battery life of the device, as you don’t want to be out in the jungle and your batteries die. Spare batteries are also a must.
Hygiene is paramount when you are out trekking and that even means a shorter day walk. Bacteria can end up on our hands very easily, especially if we are grabbing on to rocks, or trees as we are walking. If you stop for a snack or lunch break during your walk, remember to use your sanitizer before you eat to avoid any potential problems.
9Hydrolyte or Electrolyte
You can get these at Pharmacies or hiking shops just about anywhere. They help to stop dehydration and replace lost fluids and electrolytes from sweating. I put a tablet in my water bottle and carry that with me. When I stop for a break, I will have a sip of the electrolytes from my water bottle, which gives me a break from plain water, but also just gives me a regular top up of any salts lost along the way.
10Phone and/or Camera
The only reason I take my phone with me when I’m trekking is in case of emergency and to double as my camera. I did have a fantastic little Lumix camera that I took everywhere, but that has recently died. As it was about 4 years old, I was told it would cost more to repair than to buy a new one!
A lot of places I go trekking seem to have no mobile reception, which is a good thing. I like to use my trekking time as a time to switch off from the world even if it is only for a few hours.
A camera is an essential because there are times when you are out in the wilderness that you see some incredibly beautiful sights. It could be a wild animal crawling along the path, or a beautiful mountain range – the list could go on. It is these sights that we love to capture in a photo and share with everyone when we get home.
I could probably list many more items of gear that you should or could have with you when you are hiking, but it would go on forever. I have a spare room that I dedicate to my trekking gear. It doesn’t take up the whole room, but it does fill a wardrobe and a tallboy!! I find it easier to have it all in the same place and so when I’m heading off to do a trek, I can lay everything out on the spare bed and see at a glance what I have.
I have however, banned myself from entering a hiking gear shop for the time being, as there are only so many jackets or jumpers one person can wear – right?
I would love to hear what your top 10 trekking items would be. I’m more than happy to add to my list.
I have asked myself this question many times – probably every time I am half way up this mountain I question, why am I back here!
Trekking is my favourite time to literally switch off from the world. It is a perfect time for me to get lost and be absorbed in my own thoughts and definitely a time that totally clears my mind. I don’t think there is a time when I am more 'in the present moment' than when I am off trekking.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro could very easily be one of the toughest things I have done.
Now, I’ve done some tough things in my day, but what makes Mt Kilimanjaro so tough?
The first 6 or 7 days of the climb is great. There are some hills and rocky terrain, but nothing too strenuous. It’s all about getting your body used to being at altitude and trekking all day, then getting up the next day and doing it all again.
During the first few days your body is adjusting to the change in altitude and the effects this has on your body. Breathing is probably the most noticeable thing as you start to experience shortness of breath doing the simplest things.
I remember the very first time I climbed the mountain, just rolling over in my sleeping bag during the night made me huff and puff. Having been up to the summit four times now, my body knows what to expect and I am much better at coping with the higher altitudes.
The high altitudes, combined with the temperature dropping, having to sleep in a small tent, physical tiredness from trekking all day, starts to put stresses on your body, and your resilience.
Sometimes, we think that trekking is all about how far we are walking and whether our legs, feet and gear will keep up. But when you are somewhere like Mt Kilimanjaro or even Mt Everest Base Camp, your resilience and your mental strength can make a huge difference. In fact, it can make or break your trek (or you) if you are not able to cope with everything else that is going on.
Summit Night on Mt Kilimanjaro is a night that will test every person’s resilience and ability to persist.
It is a night of 6 or 7 hours of walking in the dark, it is cold, you are tired and all you have is your head torch to guide your way. Your fellow trekkers are all in the same situation and there is very little chatter to take your mind off things.
So, what on earth could I learn from doing this trek, not once but four times?
Probably the most important thing I have learned is how capable and strong I am.
This is not a bragging statement by any means. I have learned that no matter how hard something is at the time, I can make it through to the end, and when I get there it is an unreal feeling. At times, it could mean tears, but they are tears of elation and personal achievement. I’ve been to the summit four times – and each time I have shed tears.
I had one of my trekkers on a Mt Kilimanjaro Trek say to me when we reached the point known as Stella Point, amongst the tears she said, “Ruth, now that I’ve got this far, I now know I can do anything”. What an incredible statement is that! Talk about a life changing moment!
That is the statement that makes it all worthwhile. It is also a statement that encapsulates what resilience and persistence is all about. It is about not giving up, when it would be very easy to do so and then enjoying the rewards and celebrations that you would have missed had you given up.
There are so many motivational quotes out there that would sum this up in 3 or 4 words, but I think it is very easy to read something on a webpage and then click along to the next thing.
I believe it is when you actually experience a situation where you have to dig as deep as you can within yourself - that is when you know you have learned a real important life lesson.
Another important thing that I have learned from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is to celebrate and truly enjoy the achievements of others. This is something we have to remember in our fast paced society that we now live in.
Since becoming an Expedition Guide I have really learned that there are times when some experiences are “just not about me”. Even though I am there and still having to climb those hills, my role is to guide and support the success of those I am looking after.
When I am absolutely exhausted and one of my trekkers needs their bag carried, or some gentle words of encouragement, I have to put 'me' aside and do what needs doing.
It’s about having compassion and empathy for others in any situation in life.
I know for sure that trekking Mt Kilimanjaro has definitely changed who I am as a person. It has taught me so many positive life skills. I may have walked away from Tanzania not realizing the lessons I have learned, but from time to time I can see the positive changes to my life – and all for the better!
My advice to you would be to never underestimate your potential. We can sometimes sell ourselves short and not allow ourselves to really have a go at something. The only person who loses in this situation is you. Give anything and everything a go.
Who knows, one day you might find yourself at the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro!
The Kokoda Track is famous among Australian’s, with as many as 3000 trekkers walking the Track each year.
I speak to many people about Kokoda and just about everyone says that they want to walk the track one day. Some want to experience first-hand the history of World War 11 and what the Australian Diggers went through in such a tough environment. Others have heard about the physical challenge that the Track gives you, and want to tackle it head on to test their fitness and mental ability. Whatever reason, walking the Kokoda Track is a unique and life changing experience.
The Kokoda Track has been winding its way through the Papua New Guinea jungle for over 100 years. Originally it was the track that allowed local villagers get to their farms and visit neighboring villages. In the early 1900’s it was used as a mail route to get mail from Port Moresby through to the Northern parts of country. One delivery person would walk from Port Moresby to about half way along the Track, and another would come from the Northern direction. Meeting at the middle, they would exchange postal sacks and then return to their original destination.
During World War 11, Kokoda Track became the location of some of the fiercest hand to hand combats that Australian’s had ever experienced. Our Militia Forces were put to the test as they held the Japanese back from their advance towards Port Moresby. When the Australian Imperial Forces finally arrived back from Europe and were sent to the front line, the strength of the Australian troops increased dramatically. It was still many months of fighting, dysentery, lack of supplies, and many deaths before the Japanese withdrew back towards the northern beaches of PNG.
I have walked the Kokoda Track 13 times now and each time it is a unique experience. This is mainly due to the different trekkers I take each time.
Whether it be a small group or a larger group, I love getting to know everyone and seeing them interact with each other. They start the trek as strangers and end the track as life-long friends. Some may never see each other again, but I have had many examples of life time friendships being formed.
What I notice the most and it is the most special aspect of Guiding Kokoda for me, is watching how much people grow in such a short space of time.
By growth, I mean in a mindset way. Some people can start the trek doubting their ability or fitness, having to stop for a break every few minutes, or wondering how on earth they are going to be able to keep walking for 8 days. As the days pass I see their mindset change and they start believing that they can actually do this. Their confidence grows and I see a strength start to emerge that I know they didn’t have when they started.
As we move along the Track, we visit the historical battle sites and learn about what happened there back in 1942. It is not uncommon for trekkers to shed a tear or two at some of these sites as they are truly moving. As trekkers start to learn more and gain a perspective on what our Diggers actually went through, they begin to become humble about the whole experience. They start to put themselves in the shoes of our Diggers.
I keep a look out for subtle signs that a trekker is “getting this” experience. Things as simple as the way the person is talking. Their words are positive, there is no negative speak, and they start encouraging others. Body language is a great indicator of how someone is travelling. Heads held high, smiling faces, and although they are tired, there is a little spring in their step. When I start to see these things in people, I know they are travelling well.
Emotions are always high when we are out on Kokoda. A lot of people are away from their loved ones and in the middle of the jungle with people they don’t know – and having to walk up some pretty steep hills. So it is understandable that people are vulnerable and their emotions are high.
This emotion is all part of our growth as a person and that is why Kokoda is often described as a life-changing experience. It changes who you are as a person, because you achieve something incredible.
At the end of the Kokoda Track, we walk through the last archway and of course it is celebration time for sure. The most amazing thing about these arches, is if you turn around and look back you can see the across the ranges and back to where we have come from. You can see the size of those hills and the dense jungle behind us.
One thing I do with my trekkers at this point, is I ask them to form a group and look back to where we have been and reflect on this incredible achievement. We also read a very moving poem that often brings many of us to tears. It is this short moment of reflection that allows a trekker to absorb the significance of what they have just achieved.
Why do I think you should walk the Kokoda Track?
Firstly, I think you should because it is such an awesome experience. It is unique in its own right. Not only do you get an incredible trek that pushes you both physically and mentally, but it is combined with an incredible and humbling recount of the history of the Kokoda Campaign back in 1942.
If you are ready to get to know yourself and what you are capable of, then this is the trek for you. I am not going to sugar coat this trek in any way. It is tough! It will push you and you will achieve something you never thought you could. But importantly it will change you and you will know that sometimes things are hard – that’s life really, but that you can now push past that point where you want to give up and get to the other side feeling pretty pleased with yourself.
I know the word “life-changing” is thrown around a lot these days, but I honestly know that walking the Kokoda Track is definitely life-changing. Personally, it has sent my life on a totally different direction – a direction I never even saw coming. To go from 20+ years in a secure, well paid Government job, to now running my own business travelling the world and trekking is a massive change. This change I put down to having a crazy idea back in 2009 that I would walk the Kokoda Track. Let me tell you, going back to that Government job is not even on my radar anymore and I’ve never been happier or stress free.
Now, I’m not telling you to walk Kokoda and then quit your job! What I am saying is be prepared for how this trek will change who you are as a person and your perspective on the World around you.
If you are ready for that, then Kokoda is waiting for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
One of the questions we get asked many times is “How do I know if I’m ready for my trek?”
It is a great question and shows that you are thinking seriously about your fitness and your trek.
Our advice is always to set yourself a realistic timeframe to get yourself fit. Give yourself time, especially if you are going to tackle a difficult trek. A minimum of 6 to 12 months preparation is recommended if you are starting from a low fitness base. If you are already reasonably fit, then 6 months might be enough preparation time for you.
Once you have established your preparation timeline, begin to plan out your training program. Your program should include lots of cardiovascular, strength and conditioning, stability and strength, core and trek specific training. It is important to remember that you need to slowly build your base fitness, ensuring you avoid injury and maintain progress.
Aerobic Training (Cardiovascular)
No matter which trek you are on, your lungs will be working hard, especially if you are at altitude. We need to ensure that our cardiovascular fitness is at its best, ensuring we can trek for long periods of time each day.
We always begin slowly, especially if you haven’t done a lot of aerobic exercise in the past, and we increase our duration and intensity as we get fitter and stronger. Interval training is excellent when preparing for a trek, as it trains your lungs to function at peak capacity.
Strength & Conditioning
Sometimes people have the misconception that if they do lots of hiking as preparation for their trek, then they will be prepared. You do need to get lots of “miles in your legs”, but you also need strength in your upper and lower body.
Remember you will be carrying a reasonable size pack which will weigh at least 6 or 7kg or heavier if you are carrying a full pack. Strength training is essential and it may involve body weight exercises as well as using traditional weights and weight machines.
Core & Stability
Core strength is what helps us maintain our posture and supports our back to remain strong. Remember those heavy packs we are going to have on our backs – a strong core will make this so much easier.
We all know that the terrain we will encounter along our trek is not going to be nice and flat. We will experience all types of terrain and will have to maneuver this with our pack on our back. Stability and balance exercises are necessary to ensure our body is able to adapt to any terrain. It takes time to develop our stability and balance, so ensure you are including this in your training plan.
Trek Specific Training
Whilst you are on your amazing trek, you will be walking for up to 6 or 7 hours per day. Our bodies will need to be prepared for this type of endurance. At least once a week, take yourself out to the many beautiful bushwalking destinations and do a longer walk. Start with a 1 to 1.5 hour walk and then as you progress, increase this until you are walking for 4 to 5 hours. This will ensure you have “walked in” your boots and your hiking gear. Training with your gear is vital. It gives you a chance to get used to using your equipment and know how it works. You definitely don’t want to be taking something out of the packet the first morning of your trek.
Consistency is the key with all aspects of your trek training. If you have made the commitment to go on a trek, and paid your hard earned money, then it’s time to develop a good training regime and commit to consistently doing the work. I can guarantee that the fitter you are the more you are going to enjoy your trek.