Camping & trekking tips (part 2)

I am planning to revisit Kumar Parvat, the highest peak of south India after 8 years and here is the list I am planning to carry:

  1. Backpack: I have seen people carrying laptop bags, school bags to proper backpacks with aluminum strips for lumber support. Pick whatever you believe will do the trick. A couple of tips:
    • Firstly, it should be strong and study enough. A torn backpack is a hassle that you do not want to witness.
    • Secondly it should have provision to hang things (bottles, shoes, tents, mats, poles etc.)
    • thirdly it should have enough pockets that you can retrieve things easy without having to empty the whole bag just to locate a sun screen
    • Have a separate bag for camera and other sensitive equipment. This will give you freedom to roughly use your main pack
    • Always carry some duct tape, rope or strong plastic string along. There is no limit to the possible uses of this.
    • Have some plastic bags handy for wet-soiled clothes. If you are planning monsoon or riverside trek prepare a dry-sack.
  2. Water: a sipper integrated in your backpack is ideal. Allows you to keep hydrated without having to stop for breaks.
    • Few things to remember is that you would need at least 5 liters of water for a dawn to dusk travel. Also even boiling eggs and rice and consume good 2 liters of water if your account for slow wood fire & open air cooking. If you are going beyond 24 hours, you need to plan for sourcing the water locally. Same if you plan to cook.
    • Typically boiling is ideal but often not practical. Chlorine tablets leave a bad after taste. Therefore, choice is yours, but don’t venture untreated water on your first time.
    • ORS/Gatorade: Walking under the sun can cause fatigue and electrolyte imbalance. So some sugar, salt might be good. However avoid sodas or fruit juices which can become sticky/messy if spilled.
  3. Comfort, warmth & shade
    • A Chunni (summer) & shawl (winters) is ideal. As a bandana it protects against the sun. as a makeshift bag, it can be used for foraging. It doubles up as a bed-sheet & creating a seating space in the group. Ladies can use it as a makeshift-curtain to secure privacy
    • Rather than buying a single extra warm jacket dress in layers. Also it allows you to change the layers that have become damp because of rain or sweat without having to bother for the spares.
    • Tent: Even in the areas without snow, one should be careful about Morning dew, winds & rain. A tree shade can be a poor man’s tent. Otherwise you could use 1-2 space blanket (silver colored lightweight sheets)
    • Only in movies you will see people sleeping on a pile of hay or bushes. I have found them filled with enough bed-bugs to make my skin crawl. Most sleeping bag have a temperature rating to tell you the amount of insulation. On a hot summer evening a simple bed sheet might be ok, but I prefer a sleeping bag as the zip gives safety against bugs & reptiles creeping & crawling during your sleep.
    • Do not forget a quick-dry towel, some extra pair of undergarments & socks.
    • Do carry a simple cap, hat or a bandana.
  4. Food & consumables:
    • Energy foods: Granola, dry fruits, Candies, dates (khajoor) and anything that can allow you to have a quick bite without taking a break is always welcome. When in doubt, go for ones that are heaviest in calories. Treks are great time where you can have indulge without feeling guilty.
    • Apart from Snacking, try to eat food which is similar to ones that you normally eat. Don’t overload your digestive tracks with only meats, fats & sugars (esp. on trips with a lot of hunting & fishing).
    • Even if you detest canned food, have a few pouches of ready to eat food handy for the rainy days
  5. Carry some extra candy bars to give as gift to locals or fellow trekkers. There is no better way to make a few friends along the way.
    • Also keep some cash handy for various permits & payments. However divide it into various pouches to prevent extortion by someone greedy.
    • Also carry a glass jar to bring back souvenirs (could be a wild mushroom, a unique insect or even a flower that you encountered during the way)
  6. Foraging & Cooking: if you plan to spend a month in the wilderness then you do not have a choice. As a rule, don’t eat any fruit/berries unless you are absolutely sure about the local flora & fauna. Also foraging is a bonus but not very reliable. Hence, try to be self-sufficient as far as possible and plan for foraging & cooking only if the conditions are conducive.
    • Even if you don’t plan to cook, do carry some aluminum/silver foil. Just wrap around a few tubers or eggs and bury them below your campfire to get a fresh warm breakfast in the morning.
    • Remember cooking involves gathering firewood, which can be hard after dark or during rains.
    • Pots & pans, which can add to your weight. but you need it if you plan to boil water.
    • While everybody welcomes foraging, people’s opinion differ when it comes to hunting & fishing. So discuss it with your group before you pack your gear. Also keep all the permits & approvals handy before you unpack them.
  7. Shoes: for most purposes a simple running shoe with good grip will suffice. However if you do plan to buy trekking shoes, wear them for a couple of days prior to get used to it.
    • Always carry extra shoe laces. You might need them to prevent against leeches crawling up your pant.
    • Also pack for flip-flops for gathering water from the pool, a walk in the bushes or other evening activities for which you won’t like to burden with the task of wearing a regular heavy shoes.
    • Carry some medicines for foot blisters & corns. Foot injury is the primary reason why your partner might have a great experience but you will be begging to return earlier than planned.
  8. Pole, staff or a walking stick: It is a tool that allows you to carry heavy loads for longer distance on foot. If you buy a telescopic pole, it can also help you cross streams, give your fellow trekkers a hand when they need and knock down a few juicy fruits on the way.
  9. Small stuffs (but don’t ignore its weight when measured collectively)
    • Torch Matches & lighter (I prefer lighter because it is waterproof, buying flint might be overkill). A few bits of paper from an old newspaper are a perfect tinder. Don’t carry lighter fluid unless heavy rains are expected.
    • Duct tape, Rope or strong plastic string, needle and thread (esp. the thick ones) will always make you win friends in the trekking groups.
    • Knife (a simple folding knife is good but a swiss knife is often an overkill). If you have to clear the bushes with make the trail for others, then do carry some gloves & a heavier hunting knife.
    • First aid kit with lots of bandages for scrapes and bruises. Remember to carry all your prescription medication. In addition, it might not be a bad idea to store an extra pouch in your friend’s bag.
    • Extra pair of spectacles might be good if your power is high. Avoid using contact lens. If you are unable to disinfect them properly or get exposed to too much sand, it can damage your cornea.
    • Tissue paper, toiletries, sunscreen, mosquito repellents, moisturizer, your daily necessities. But don’t use too much of perfume or after shave, or things that might attract wild animals.
    • So many people forget hand-sanitizers, soaps and disinfectants that I am writing it as a separate point. Remember you will be in dirt all day and in contact with vegetation that are rotting for weeks.
    • Carry some extra batteries & memory cards. Cellphone reception is almost ubiquitous these days and might be good if you are reachable. But do carry your phone in a simple zip pouch. don’t buy a solar charger esp for the trip. chances are that you will be moving during the day and hence no time to charge.
    • Always have a trail map handy in your front pocket. A printed terrain map is often more useful than electronic maps. Also knowing the expected sunrise & sunset times & weather forecast is always useful for planning for rest spots.
    • A watch & sunlight is often all the compass that I need, but you can carry a compass esp. if trekking in desert without many landmarks. However a pair of binoculars is often handy esp. if there are a lot of birds around.
  10. Music, pack of cards or even a ball makes great recreational tools for the evening. From dawn to dusk you will be busy, but there is nothing to do after sun-set. A pen and a dairy is also quiet useful for the evenings. So plan for something even if it is action under the covers. However try to limit alcohol, cigarettes or weeds as recreational distractions. why would you like to numb your senses during dark, unprotected and in the wild? thats just a disaster waiting to happen irrespective of how large your group is.
  11. Lastly, please bring back all your garbage and take care of mother nature esp. when it comes to unattended fires. Even if it is from a cigarette butt.

You don’t have to  carry everything, talk to your fellow mates if you can save some weight by sharing the stuff. However remember to distribute the important stuff among travelers. You don’t want all your water in one back, food in another and clothes in the third and discover that you are separated from the group.
There is no universal list and the list changes with your physical condition, climate, duration of the trek & the terrain. Hence, please use your judgement.

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