Am I fit enough?
Assessing your personal fitness is quite subjective, but we've made it as easy as possible to choose your level by giving each trip a ‘trek grade'. Grades range from Easy to Moderate to Strenuous and Tough. We've assessed each trek on the number of hours walking each day and the amount of ascent and descent, also taking into account factors like the terrain, altitude and likely weather conditions. What if I'm too slow for the group?
It really isn't a problem. On lots of trips (like Kilimanjaro, Nepal or the Inca Trail) you can walk at your own pace nearly all the time, as we have enough guides to escort walkers of all speeds. On other treks where there aren't extra local guides our leaders are trained to manage the pace of the group carefully, to suit all walking speeds. Occasionally for safety reasons the leader might pull the group together (eg. in bad weather or on a tricky section of the trail) but in general the group can string out and everyone finds their own comfortable walking pace.
What's the best way to get fit for a trek?
The best way to train for a trek is to spend plenty of time beforehand simply walking. Ideally try to walk similar distances and ascents to those you'll experience on the trek itself. Aerobic training at the gym helps too, but there's no substitute for simply walking for several hours at a stretch. It's also a good opportunity to check out all your trekking equipment, clothing and footwear – to make sure it's all comfortable and works OK.
What do I need to carry?
On nearly all our treks your luggage is transported for you from one overnight stop to the next (by vehicle, porter, mule, even camel) so all you need to carry is what you need during the day, for example water bottle, camera, extra clothing, sun-cream and a small personal first aid kit. We recommend a 15 to 25 litre day pack for most of our trips and a slightly larger pack for the handful of treks where you need to carry gear for an overnight stay.
How can I prepare for trekking at altitude?
There's no other way to prepare for altitude than to acclimatise slowly. Our trek itineraries have been carefully planned to allow for gradual acclimatisation once we climb above 3,000 metres. Altitude sickness can affect the fittest trekkers just as easily as the less fit. Once on trek the main recommendation is to keep your fluid intake up and stay hydrated. As a precaution on our highest treks we carry emergency oxygen cylinders and a Portable Altitude Chamber (PAC).
What equipment do I need?
You'll need to check the trip notes for each trip individually to see what specific equipment we recommend. The equipment list will vary according to the likely weather conditions, the trekking terrain and whether you're camping or not.
What about sleeping bags, mattresses and pillows?
On some treks they are provided and on others they're not: please see individual trip notes for details. If using your own sleeping bag we suggest you play safe and bring a warmer bag than you think you need: better to be too warm than too cold. A sleeping bag liner adds warmth too. The most effective mattresses are self-inflating air mattresses (Thermarest or similar) and a lightweight self-inflating pillow can also help you sleep more comfortably.
Do I need trekking poles?
This is very much a personal preference. Some people swear by them, especially on treks with long ascents and descents, others find they get in the way and prefer to manage without. If you have weak hips, knees or ankles they are an effective way to reduce the strain.
What kind of boots do I need?
Again, this depends very much on the trip. In warm weather and on easy terrain you can get away with walking shoes but more often you'll need good quality leather or Goretex walking boots with decent grip and secure ankle support. Your boots must be fully waterproof and at higher altitudes we recommend leather boots with trekking gaiters for crossing snowfields. Please see individual trip notes for details.
What clothing do you recommend?
The rule of thumb is to use several thin layers rather than just one or two thick layers. This allows you to peel layers off or put them on depending on the weather and the time of day. For your base-layer choose a fabric that ‘wicks' moisture away from your skin and dries quickly. Your outer layer should be fully wind and rain proof, even if you're trekking in a normally dry climate. Again, you'll find more detailed information about what clothing to wear on individual trip notes.
What's the best clothing and equipment for hot weather?
A hat with wide brim and neck protection; lightweight shirt made with an effective ‘wicking' and quick-drying fabric; shorts; high UV sunglasses; high factor sun-cream and – most importantly of all - plenty of water. Check individual trip notes for more specific information.
What's the best clothing and equipment for cold weather?
Several thin layers are more effective than just one or two thick layers. A windproof outer layer is essential to combat wind-chill. Choose a thermal base-layer, and fabrics that wick sweat away from your skin to avoid getting wet and cold. You need to protect your hands and feet with high quality thermal gloves and socks, also a hat to protect your head and a balaclava to protect your face.
Will I need to purify my drinking water?
The answer to this question depends where you are and which trek you're doing. On most walks and treks you can replenish your bottle from clean water supplies along the way. On some remote treks the trek crew boil up water to purify it, on others we recommend using purification tablets or filter units. See the individual trip notes.
What about a first aid kit?
Your tour leader will carry a comprehensive first aid kit. This is intended for emergencies only, so you'll need a small personal kit of your own to deal with any cuts, scrapes or blisters you may pick up along the way. The more remote your trek the more comprehensive your personal first aid kit should be - our partner Nomad Travel stock a few different options, all available with 15% discount for Explore customers www.nomadtravel.co.uk/explore
How should I avoid blisters?
You should aim to deal with blisters pre-emptively, ie. before they become a problem. Use Compeed or zinc oxide tape to prevent any rubbing or sore areas of your foot developing a blister. A well worn in pair of boots shouldn't cause blisters, but this cannot always be guaranteed, especially in hot weather. We recommend changing your walking socks often, and wearing a thin inner sock to wick moisture away from your foot.
Will I be able to re-charge camera batteries?
On a hotel based trip this is no problem, but what if you're in a remote or mountainous area? Every trek is different so please check the relevant trip notes for details. In remote parts of the Himalayas for example you can still re-charge batteries from village electricity supplies, for a small charge. Remember that your camera batteries run down more quickly in the extreme cold. It's a good idea to carry one or two spare batteries just in case.
On camping based treks will I need to put up my own tent?
On most camping based treks we have a camp crew who set up the tents for us and also take care of the cooking and clearing up. However on some trips this isn't practical and you should be prepared to put up and take down your own tent. We'll let you know in the relevant trip notes if there's any participation required.
Where and how can I wash on a camping base trek?
It really depends which trek you're doing. On some there are campsites with showers but more often you will be in the wild and water may be limited. Sometimes you'll have a bowl of water for washing each morning and evening, other times not even that – see individual trip notes for details. A lightweight travel towel is useful, also a good supply of wet wipes and hand sanitiser.
Where can I buy equipment and clothing?
We suggest Nomad Travel for their comprehensive range of clothing and equipment for walkers and trekkers. For advice you can email Nomad or call them on 0845 260 0044. If you live close to any of Nomad's eight stores you may prefer to visit them in person and try out the equipment or clothing beforehand. As an Explore customer you can get 15% off equipment and clothing with Nomad.