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Hiking for dummies: how to prepare yourself

Whether you go to photograph nature, reconnect with Mother Earth, challenge yourself or just out of obligation, trekking over the course of a few days isn’t for the light hearted. It takes several cold nights, blisters and litters of sweat to really get to the bottom of it and every minute might not be enjoyable. But if as autumn creeps upon us, you do intend to enjoy the leaves falling and shivering wind, here’s what you’ll need to bring:

Suitable food & water. That does sound obvious but you actually need to focus on healthy calories to take along with you that weigh about nothing yet will give you all the energy your body will crave. Our favourites snacks? Nuts, granola and chocolate. If you can’t live off them forever, there are the basics you need to survive as they’ll provide all vital nutriments helping you to keep walking days after days. Of course, substantial food will be needed at some point and that is when powder soup and pot noodles come in handy. They are not the tastiest and you definitely won’t be looking forward to diner but if you have to walk 10 miles a day you’ll thank us not to have a shoulder-killing backpack filled with rice, pasta and hundreds of cookie packs (although you’re allowed one cheat treat because there would be absolutely no fun in being sporty otherwise). When it comes to water, chances are you’ll be exploring deep deep nature with rivers here and there so a thermos-like bottle is all you need, as long as you remember to refill it.

Water-resistant shoes and comfy bottoms needed, even for refill the water bottle @victorinefasquel

Water-resistant shoes and comfy bottoms are always definitely needed, even to refill the water bottle (although being gracious in such situation is in no way possible) @victorinefasquel

Fantastic shoes and socks. Yes they can be expensive but that’s the one thing you cannot have second thoughts on as there is nothing worst than feeling the ache of a blister or the discomfort of humidity-soaked socks early in the morning knowing you have a 7 hours walk ahead of you. Head to a quality sports shop (it doesn’t have to be fancy and impressive, the expansive knowledge of the vendors is usually enough to indicate the quality of the products sold), try on a dozen of water-resistant pairs and run around with it, set your mind on one, buy it one size bigger than you meant to and you’re sorted. The ‘one size bigger’ rule might seem odd but is highly recommended by professionals in order to leave adequate room for all the layers that will surround your foot. Socks wise, you will want actual trekking/hiking ones because you won’t be bringing as many as you’ll need so opt for slightly more expensive ones made with suitable breathable fabrics rather than just cotton-made in which you are guaranteed to sweat and stink.

The lighter you feel, the higher you're able to hike to @victorinefasquel

The lighter you feel, the higher you’re able to hike to @victorinefasquel

Barely any clothesCrazy tip that will be the hardest to follow yet the most essential. If you’re going on an adventure for less than a week, you will need two outfits: one for walking, one for resting, no more. You will feel disgusting and stinky but stick to that rule and you’ll thank us later. The day/walking outfit should include windproof trousers that will be comfortable yet keep you warm, a simple tee-shirt (maybe two if you are really fussy), a fleece and a windbreaker. Avoid those fancy work-out/running fabrics meant to keep you warm and dry in any kind, they take forever to dry and you’ll be guaranteed to have a humid top to put back on in the morning. A simple tee-shirt is what you need in most cases, layered up with a windbreaker (the fleece in extreme conditions only). You do not want your body to acclimate to comfortable warmth during the day as it’ll struggle so much more to deal with the temperature drop on evenings. At night however, layer up ! You most likely will be camping out and exhaustion is no sleeping pill in case of low temperatures. Stock up on merino wool in any case, starting with socks and undershirts which you can combine with a pair of leggings and a wool jumper or fleece on top.

Chances are you will end up in one of those camping sites, here in the Torres del Paine national Park in the Chilean Patagonia @victorinefasquel

Chances are you will end up in one of those ‘into the wild’ camping sites here in the Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean Patagonia @victorinefasquel

Camping gear. Other than the tent (the more windbreaker the better) and the obvious sleeping bag, there are a couple of survival basics you will be happy to know about. First of all, sleeping mattress; not those heavy inflatable ones but those light yoga-style ones that aren’t meant to be comfortable but to protect you from the soil’s freezing cold at night. No need to bother with a thermo design, get a normal one around which you’ll wrap a survival blanket that takes no room and weighs nothing. Other than those couple of items and enough flashlights, toilet paper and bin bags to last a year, you’re all sorted. Bin bags? Yes, they will quickly become your most value items if used to separate your two sets of clothing, stock up toiletries, food or miscellaneous for an organised and especially rainproofed backpack (do not forget to wrap one around your sleeping bag and pad as well).

You’re now officially set. Autumn will be perfect for Eastern European sporty getaways such as Switzerland, Austria or even Ireland while from November/December on (if you’ve become addicted by then), splurge and head to Patagonia, the southernmost region of Chile and Argentina where the view from the plane alone is worth every penny (The Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile is the author’s recommended site and many trekkers’ all time favourite)

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About Victorine Fasquel

Journalism graduate, travel freak, compulsive pizza eater, expert wine taster, outdoor sports experiencer and enthusiastic features writer & photographer.

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