“The mountains are calling and I must go”
Since the beginning of our history, we have been explorers, navigators… trekkers par excellence. We have always devoted ourselves to the simple (and ancient) practice of ‘hiking trails’…
Today, we have integrated this activity into our modern lives; call it trekking or hiking… these are activities that can be carried out by all members of a family, including our pets. If you have already heeded the call and want to get started right away, it is important to keep in mind the difference between trekking and hiking.
Hiking is based on pre-established trails and is generally an easier activity to engage in. Trails can, of course, be difficult, especially if they are not marked or maintained, but they are usually well-known routes with a certain level of infrastructure, including bridges, steps, sometimes railings… These are usually relatively short ventures into nature that can take from a couple of hours to a day.
Trekking is a little different: the paths you take are usually not signposted and may not be (or don’t visibly seem to be) paths at all, in regions where there are few or no roads. They pose a relative degree of difficulty, as they are practiced in all types of terrain, usually demanding greater physical effort and experience.
1) Where to begin
The most important thing to know is yourself… who you are? What is the right rhythm for you? Will you feel your body and mind aligning with the world around you? Or will you crack without your creature comforts? If you go too slow, you could get bored and your adventures in the great outdoors will lose their charm… If you are late to your next camping site… you could get into trouble… As your trekking skills evolve, you will discover many things about yourself. That is part of the wonder of this activity. And that, knowing yourself, knowing your limits and when and how you can extend them, will make you feel safer during each outing… more secure and thus enjoy it all the more.
The premise of hiking and trekking should really always be enjoyment. And for that, you must take advantage of your capabilities and understand your limitations.
2) Estado físico y experiencia al aire libre
Si no estás acostumbrado a realizar mucha actividad física, debes escoger rutas de menor dificultad al inicio, las cuales deben adaptarse a tus necesidades.
Si realizas actividad física moderada, pero no tienes experiencia en actividades al aire libre, no te expongas a riesgos innecesarios.
Si utilizas bastón, muletas, prótesis o silla de ruedas, infórmate sobre los lugares que presenten más facilidades para tus recorridos.
Si con el paso del tiempo has ganado experiencia en actividades al aire libre y te conoces muy bien, no dejes de aprender e impulsarte hacia nuevos retos y rutas.
3) Appropriate clothing and equipment
In cold climates, the secret is to stay dry and warm. In humid, muggy climates, it is important, among other things, to use quick-drying materials. We recommend dressing in layers in the Andes: this will make it easier for you to adapt to changing climatic conditions (so common in a country like Ecuador), as internal and external temperatures fluctuate while you exert yourself… or as your body rests. This way you can stay comfortable for longer periods of time.
What if I forget something? Imagine dressing from head to toe. This simple exercise makes it easy to remember to bring what you need. It helps a lot to know what weather conditions you will be experiencing during your trek. In Ecuador, weather is not as predictable as in other places, but we know when dry or rainy seasons are affecting particular areas of the country and that will help you better choose your clothing and equipment. Here is a list of things we consider important for you to bring along:
- Waterproof poncho
- Comfortable backpack, preferably with a rain cover
- Comfortable hiking shoes, preferably high-tops
- Rubber boots (if you will be in muddy terrain)
- Headlamp and spare batteries
- Cap and warm hat
- Sunglasses and gloves
- Chompa de fleece y chompa impermeable
- Light pants (preferably quick-drying)
- Trekking poles
- Comfortable socks and many spare socks
- Emergency whistle
- Small notebook for notes and pen or pencil
- Utility (Swiss) knife
- Water bottle
- Sunblock and lip balm
- First Aid Kit
If your idea is to camp during your journey, don’t forget:
- Sleeping bag
- Stove, pots, lighters (which must be well protected from water and humidity) and kitchen utensils
- Plate, cup, cutlery (there are light, eco options in the market)
- Bags to store the waste you generate.
Don´t forget identification and cash for any emergency.
4) Choose your route wisely
Our country offers a wide range of possibilities. We have routes for all levels, from very easy self-guided trails to multi-day treks. Start small, choose routes that offer the right degree of difficulty for your physical condition and experience. Be very cautious if you are venturing into the wild with children. They will undoubtedly learn a lot while living the experience and above all will emulate how you act. If your outing is with older adults, don’t demand more of them than they can handle. Remember, trekking is a way of connecting with nature and enjoying the landscape. But safety always comes first.
With this information you can better organize your outdoor adventure:
Type of place
It is essential to be very careful with and respectful of the environment, impacting it as little as possible (read more about Leave No Trace on pages 54-56), which involves plants, animals, natural formations and state infrastructure. We cannot break into crops or invade private property.
Choose the time of year that is the most favorable, especially in the Andes; do not leave home late, fog can cause problems. Take into account that the weather is not very predictable in our country, so always be prepared for it to rain in the afternoon.
State of trail
When you decide where you want to go, look for any information regarding the maintenance of the trails; if trails are steep or not. If rivers or streams cross them, etc. All possible information will be useful.
If you decide to go out alone…
Inform someone close to you about your trip details, such as the name of the place you will be heading out to, the possible time of return and what resources you will take with you. Remember that the only emergency number is 911.
5) Hydration and nutrition
Staying hydrated and well fed is an essential part of your trip. ‘Trail food’ makes your trip possible, whether it be short or long, and encourages you to continue. It will give you that extra push when you feel that you can no longer continue and it can be your ‘partner in crime’ as you reserve certain treats in a secret pocket of your backpack for when you reach your trekking objectives.
Always eat breakfast. If you are leaving very early in the morning, always have sandwiches and a good juice in hand. Get a good grocery list going before the trip. Buy what you like to eat the most and is easy to prepare. Plan each meal taking into account the distance you plan to travel travel and the weather that you may encounter. When packing your food, protect it well.
Eat fat every 45 to 90 minutes. For this, energy bars are quite handy, as well as salami and chocolate; remember that we produce the best cacao in the world.
Always have water. You can tell if you are well hydrated by looking at the color of your urine. If the color is clear and odorless, you are doing fine. If, on the other hand, it is scarce, yellow and with an intense smell, you should hydrate yourself more. Remember not to experiment with any new foods on large expeditions. Every organism reacts differently.
When night comes, do not forget to eat protein before going to bed, so you will recover much better for the day to come. Celebrate with a delicious picnic at the end of every day. You should be enjoying every minute!
6) Training and orientation
Hiking and trekking are activities that can be characterized by different levels of difficulty, from self-guided trails to routes that require maps and compasses or GPS… The most important thing is not to expose yourself to unnecessary risks.
For long trips through rough terrain and distances that require a high degree of preparation, and for which expert guides are not hired, you must have training or take courses on map reading and first aid so that you can be autonomous during your journey. Smart phones offer a wide range of applications that can help, but they tend to falter if weather is bad, which is why it is always good to know more traditional methods of orientation.
As for getting ready for your trek, it’s important to create at least a three-day-a-week moderate exercise routine. This will help build your stamina. We recommend to begin this training at least four weeks prior to your departure date.
We never recommend to venture on a trek alone.
Trekking is a team sport. Thus, the team takes care of its collective self, finds solutions together and shares deeply the unique conditions in which it finds itself. A very important life lesson you learn on treks is working as a team and facing problems that you may confront along the way together. Therefore, be tolerant, be helpful, be supportive… and good company. Yes, good principles for any walk in life!
Trekking is considered, in addition to an outdoor sport, a way of engaging in community and ecotourism. We must be respectful of the natural areas we visit, especially if we enjoy them in the company of our pets. Clean up after yourself and make sure you have an eye on your pets at all times
First aid kits
It is important to know what you carry in a medicine kit and how to use what the kit contains. It is not always easy. Many times, we focus on comfort items and forget all about the cornerstone of outdoor activities.
There is no ideal first aid kit and the items may vary for every excursion. However, our recommendations include:
- Updated first aid manual
- List of emergency telephone numbers
- Paper and pencil
- Sterile gauze and adhesive bandages of different sizes
- Sticking plaster
- Elastic bandages and triangular bandages with safety pins
- Disinfectant or alcohol wipes
- Antibiotic ointment
- Disinfectant solution
- Paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen
- Common prescription drugs (if you go on vacation with your family)
- Blunt scissors
- Instant cold packs or heating packs (disposable)
- Calamine lotion
- Several pairs of gloves
- If you are trained in CPR, include a CPR Mask.
By taking a first aid course. and better yet, if the course specializes on outdoor activities, you will be ready to tackle complex situations in nature. You will undoubtedly need these skills to provide first aid to other trekkers that suffer injuries or become ill (including yourself) in conditions where resources are limited. Being careful and staying safe is a must, but knowing what to do can be crucial, especially since help can take longer to reach you up in the mountains.
These are just some recommendations in order for you to have a good, safe, and peaceful outing with the people you chose to hike with, always respecting nature and enjoying such a wonderful, life-enhancing activity.