If you scour the internet, you will get many helpful tips for serious treks…especially in India, a lot of Himalayan or sub-Himalayan treks get mentioned and detailed route planning, gear requirements and essential packing tips abound. This is essential information for serious trekkers.
Heritage trips, sightseeing and family vacations
A lot of us are however, not so serious when it comes to trekking. Usually, we have a fun trek included in a vacation, while the focus often is on seeing places and travelling. Many travel with family or in groups with varying age range, and therefore, the treks are often not too difficult. Oftentimes though, there is a lot of walking that happens without our realizing. Take for example a heritage trip. We visit a fort or a palace, a temple or a museum, or maybe a monastery perched on a hilltop, or even a heritage walk in an old city, and find ourselves facing a walk or a climb with lots of levels and steep inclines or declines.
Simple trekking planning and essentials
These are the times when we might realize that some planning should have gone into the day and the walking it requires. I have often seen ladies with big handbags, guys with multiple cameras and side bags, improperly attired tourists et al, huffing and puffing through such visits, smiling only for the camera! It certainly takes the fun out of the day, especially so if the climate is not too conducive to outdoor activities.
Moreover, you will often find locals going about these routes with the least difficulty. Once, during a particularly steep climb that I was struggling to tackle, a young guy almost skipped past me while whistling to himself. I felt seriously depressed and started sincerely considering becoming a sage and learning the art of levitation. The fact that I was unused to the terrain and not suitably attired to tackle it, added significantly to my mournful mood!
Which sets the context for this small article. This is not for serious treks; this is for those so-called simple treks and walks that we often do not plan for during vacations. So what do we need to think about? Here are some tips that you could find handy…they are not exhaustive and I would love to know what you think could be added.
Do your homework
Firstly, before embarking on the vacation, do some research on the places that you will be visiting. Read about the architecture you might see, the history of the monument or the temple that you plan to visit, the difficulty of the terrain or the trail that you want to take, the dress code that may be required (especially in temples, mausoleums, or monasteries) etc. This will give you a reasonable idea of the kind of walking and trekking you will be doing as well as what your attire should be.
Tips for your attire
Some simple things to keep in mind about attire are:
- Wear as per the weather. Broadly airy cotton and comfortable clothes in most tropical climates are great, while thicker clothes could be required at higher altitudes.
- If travelling during rains or travelling into terrain that has vegetation and waterbodies, it would be a good idea to have waterproof trousers/trek pants as well as waterproof or water-resistant shoes.
- Wear sneakers or sturdier trekking shoes (must be broken in and comfortable with good heel support and great ankle support). If it is a day with many temples etc., you might want to have slip-on sneakers rather than lace shoes (I find it a particular pain to keep opening and then lacing up when visiting multiple temples or monasteries).
- Definitely have socks…they are great for comfort and help avoid blisters.
- Ideally have trousers/shirts with pockets. Trek pants often are the best idea as they are quite often waterproof as well and have many pockets. Innumerable things can be carried easily and without bother. Gums, a water bottle, sunglasses or power glasses, sunblock, power banks, ticket stubs etc. all can be put away, leaving your hands free!
- Have a belt strapped trouser…very easy to sling in your cap when you get into shaded areas or are resting.
- Any outdoor walking cannot happen without a comfortable hat/cap to keep out the sun from your face and for general protection.
- If you have joint discomfort, it is a very good idea to carry a knee cap for extra protection.
Make the journey light!
Secondly, keep your bags limited and light. Ideally, you should travel with a backpack which has all your essentials. This allows the shoulders to carry the burden and leave your arms and hands free. This is especially critical in forts, trails etc. where the terrain can change or you have stairs to climb. Any books or artefacts that you buy also fit in without trouble! Have some basic medicines available (like aspirin or paracetamol, hand sanitizers etc.) just in case.
Some essentials that you should carry (in the backpack!)
- A good water bottle (avoid the ubiquitous plastic bottled water; instead have a leak-proof metal bottle. This comes especially handy in trails etc. where the only water could be from a running stream! )
- A flashlight, if camping is on the cards!
- Some high-protein and high-carb snacks (bars) are helpful to carry…easy to pack, vegetarian mostly and give required nutrition and energy in a jiffy.
- A good camera and binoculars (if you plan to be close to wildlife).
- A small umbrella/waterproof headgear can come in handy in case the weather takes some unpredictable turns!
- In case you need, a good walking pole and, any regular medication.
- A small garbage bag to avoid littering
Finally, every vacation is a treasure trove of memories, but sometimes memories can be slippery! In the evening or late at night, do label your pictures and videos to remember the day gone by.
Happy travels and do let us know if you have your own list of things! Travel safe, travel green!