Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 2

As we made our way past all the muddiness, we eventually made our way down into the Shira Plateau.  I had read and heard from others that every so often, wildlife might be spotted in this area but alas, no such luck for us(unless you count a pigeon)!  It was still a magnificent experience to arrive with such impeccable timing — the clouds moved past us and unveiled the beautiful plateau landscape.

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Waking up on Kilimanjaro on December 27, 2015 felt weird — I mean, aside from the fact that I was consistently waking up earlier than everyone else because of the time differences from home.  I felt somewhat out of place perhaps because I felt my friends should have been here with me or I should have been with family during this time of year.  Instead, I was on my own in another country trekking up the largest mountain in Africa.  I guess if you’ve been planning this trip for over a year and preparing for it, things might become a bit surreal for you too once it is actually happening.

Regardless, we all found the morning to be pretty chilly but that was quickly cured with some hot tea and porridge!  The mountain guides were always keen to make sure we ate a lot for energy, and pushed us to drink 3 to 4 litres of water to help with the altitude which we would eventually begin to feel the effects of as we progressed up the mountain.  The porters and the guides are pretty efficient — once we finished breakfast, they packed everything up and proceeded up the trail.  We, hikers on the other hand, were little sluggish to continue into the rain forest but it didn’t make any difference because we would be going at a slow pace through out the day.

Stopping briefly in the rain forest on a sunny day.  I love the many shades of green. Stopping briefly in the rain forest on a sunny day.  I love the many shades of green. Many groups were taking breaks in the same place so it got a little crowded.  Looking up, you can see the huge amounts of lichen hanging from the trees. Many groups were taking breaks in the same place so it got a little crowded.  Looking up, you can see the huge amounts of lichen hanging from the trees.

Today I broke out my trekking poles as I anticipated a pretty long day of hiking.  We spent a fair amount of time trekking up the rain forest and would take breaks every so often.  The temperature had also warmed up as we made our way out of the forest tree canopy.  Eventually, we were able to get some good views beyond the rain forest into the lowlands.

This was also the first time where I had to make use of the water treatment droplets.  In the past, I’ve been accustomed to using filters or boiled water but this time since we were running a bit behind, a number of us just asked the porters for untreated water and then applied treatments ourselves.  A lot of folks had tablets but since I had read that tablets have problems dissolving properly in cold water, I figured it’d be better to get the droplets instead.  The only tricky thing for me is that I had to wait half an hour before I could start drinking the water from my backpack’s water bladder.

We may have made our way above the canopy, but there was still a long way to go. We may have made our way above the canopy, but there was still a long way to go. The trail up ahead involves some steep ascents. The trail up ahead involves some steep ascents.

Overall the trail on the second day was relatively straight forward although there were a lot of ascents and descents in somewhat muddy or potentially slippery conditions.  It wasn’t raining (yet) but the previous day’s rain had still caused the trail to be relatively damp.  We did begin to notice that the clouds would start creeping on us by early afternoon.

It was pretty amazing to be hiking along and then suddenly find ourselves completely surrounded and immersed within the clouds.  It was sort of neat to think of it as touching the clouds to some extent.  Unfortunately it also meant that there weren’t a whole lot of good photo opportunities once the cloud cover arrived.

The clouds move out of the way just as we arrive in the Shira Plateau. The clouds move out of the way just as we arrive in the Shira Plateau.

As we made our way past all the muddiness, we eventually made our way down into the Shira Plateau.  I had read and heard from others that every so often, wildlife might be spotted in this area but alas, no such luck for us(unless you count a pigeon)!  It was still a magnificent experience to arrive with such impeccable timing — the clouds moved past us and unveiled the beautiful plateau landscape.

The plateau is beautiful as is the cloud cover.  What we cannot see at this time is the rest of Kilimanjaro. The plateau is beautiful as is the cloud cover.  What we cannot see at this time is the rest of Kilimanjaro. Arriving at Shira 1 campsite for registration Arriving at Shira 1 campsite for registration Latrines in the distance. Latrines in the distance.

It was a pretty long day for us despite the relatively short distance (9km).  I was grateful for the slow pace that the mountain guides set for us because it allowed us to really enjoy and take in the natural landscape.  As we arrived at the Shira 1 campsite, the porters cheerfully greeted us and kindly took our packs off our hands while we waited in line to register with the rangers.

We had arrived by about 3pm in the afternoon and the rain had also stopped.  Some of the group chatted in the mess tent while others played hacky sack with the porters.  I decided to take some time to catch up on writing out my journal while waiting for dinner.  The group was also happy that there were many more latrines than the previous night (when there was only one…).  Of course, some were latrines were in better shape than others.  One of our group even decided to spruce up a latrine nearby by spraying it down with eucalyptus-lemon scent oil.  I’m sure that became a popular choice for folks who needed to take care of business.

My failed attempt to take photograph of the stars above us on the mountain. My failed attempt to take photograph of the stars above us on the mountain. Second failed attempt.  This would be the last time I tried to photograph the night on the mountain. Second failed attempt.  This would be the last time I tried to photograph the night on the mountain.

Dinner was well-received as we had the fortune to dine on stew, butternut soup, and chapati.  Most of us felt quite content, although I think everyone was struggling with drinking enough water to meet the 3 to 4 litre daily requirement.  I have no idea how people can drink so much when I felt like I was force feeding myself.  We also began to take our oxygen and heart rate daily tests more seriously now that we would be approaching higher elevation.  The mountain guides would be monitoring us daily.

After being briefed on the next day, we all filed out of the mess tent and were happily surprised by the beautiful and clear dark sky — filled with stars.  While I simply stood there in awe, everyone scrambled to get their cameras.  I think we all spent half an hour trying to capture the night sky and I tried a few times but it didn’t really work out.  Eventually despite my persistence, it got cold enough that I gave up and ducked back into my tent and went to sleep.  The stars reminded me of the night skies that I experienced in northern Chile but it was awe-inspiring to experience this almost every night that we were on Kilimanjaro.  In the middle of the night when I had to make use of the latrine (thanks to all the water we had to drink), the entire plateau was lit up by the moon.  It was a pretty majestic sight — one that I was too tired to photograph — but I’m happy that I got to see it just on day 2 of this journey.

Check out Day 3 of the trek!

Thoughts on where to start when you know nothing

So I know I want to tackle the Greenbelt Route in about a year.  One of the first things I did was inform my friends and family — nearly all of whom pretty much just rolled their eyes and said something along the lines of yea yea, we expect you to do this so go and do it.  Now, I don’t know if I should be flattered that everyone has such great expectations for me — or concerned that so many of them perceive what I am setting out to do as an assumed success.

The current map of the Greenbelt Trail as of March 2016
The current map of the Greenbelt Trail as of March 2016

I’ve never done this before.  This ain’t hiking where I’ve failed (and fallen) before and continued where I left off.  The longest I’ve ever rode my mountain bike is 50km for the Ride for Heart in downtown Toronto.

Some of the things that top my concerns are:

  1. Can I still use my mountain bike?  I’m in the process of saving money for a home so I don’t really want to spend more money where I don’t need to.
  2. What upgrades do I need?  Or, what bike components do I need to replace to ensure success on this bike tour?
  3. I don’t even know how to fix a flat or replace chains (other than by force) — I’ll probably need to learn this stuff.
  4. What are the logistics going to be like once I’m on the road/trail?
  5. Can I do this without a car or car support?

Will start to assess my current situation once things slow down a bit with work and life.

Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 1

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Fortunately, I was surprised by the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

It was a long time coming but my trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro began on December 26th, 2015.  In advance of this, I had been training at home and on the Bruce Trail for over a year.  On a physical level, I was prepared but there were still surprises along the way.  It is required to join a guided trek and being the Canadian I am, opted to go with G Adventures.  This isn’t me endorsing them but I’ve had good experiences with them in the past as well.

The day started off with breakfast at our lodge and then proceeded with a long three or four hour drive out to the Londorosi Gate (after a stop or two at a grocery store for snacks) in order to register with the National Park rangers.  It is quite amazing the change in temperature between the town of Moshi all the way to Londorosi Gate.  We may have started off wearing a shirt and shorts but by the time we got to Londorosi, we all had jackets on.

While waiting for registration to take place, we ate lunch and watched as the rain started pouring.  Fortunately, there was a relatively large covered gazebo area for hikers.  Once we had all registered, we then drove to Lemosho Gate where everything was unloaded from the buses and we began our trek up into the rain forest.

Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek. Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek.

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Despite that, I decided to forego using trekking poles until the next day and I was also pleasantly surprised (and fortunate) with the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

I noticed a small group of Germans who passed us extremely quickly but we eventually caught up with them — I’m not sure if they got tired or if their guide requested that they slow down.  Either way, the best thing about slowing down is the opportunity to look up, down and around our surroundings.  Enjoying the lush green environment of the rain forest was the saving grace given the rain and the somewhat damp humid climate.

Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green! The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green!

We knew that today would be a relatively short hike (6km) but because we paced ourselves up into the rain forest slopes of Kilimanjaro, it took us probably 3 hours at least to reach Mti Mkubwa Camp which is where we would spend our first night on Kilimanjaro.

It was pretty muddy once we got to camp and mosquitoes were biting me like crazy.  Funny enough, I couldn’t see them.  I just felt some of them even bite through my rain jacket which was really bizarre.  Shouldn’t be possible right?  A porter laughed when he noticed my reactions to all the bites I was receiving, and I chuckled with him.  What else could I do!

Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich. I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich.

The first day felt long when in reality it was quite short.  Our arrival to our campsite coincided with the rain subsiding.  After registering with the ranger station, we proceeded to find our tents that were already set up by our amazing porters.  Unfortunately, I discovered that my tent had a giant hole in the insect netting but the good news was that by the time we had finished dinner (which was so good and hit the spot), it was pretty frigid that night.  Dinner was probably the most elaborate this evening with the most fresh food.  We had fried tilapia, chicken stew, potatoes, and avocado salad.  Delicious!

Before hitting the hay, most of us decided to make use of the local latrine only to find that amongst so many tents, there was only one latrine.  That wasn’t very fun.  It explains why many groups hired their own chemical toilets.  Nonetheless, tomorrow would be an exciting day as we made our way out of the forest canopy towards the Shira plateau on the mountain.

Check out Day 2 of the Trek on Kilimanjaro!

’tis the Beginning of a Journey

Since I returned from my trip in Tanzania, I’ve been itching to do something new.  I wasn’t really sure why I was so restless.  Perhaps it was a result of being away for a month and getting back into the groove of things was a challenge, but I didn’t think so.

One day, I happened to be chatting with a bunch of folks at work about the Ride for Heart (disclaimer: I used to work (up to May 2016) for the Heart and Stroke Foundation) and one colleague happened to mention she had completed the 75km bike ride last year.  We were all commiserating amongst ourselves about how cold and wet the ride was last year, although I thought it was worse before in the past.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Ride for Heart, it is a fundraising event hosted in Toronto where two main highways (the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and the Gardiner Expressway) are closed down for half the day so that cyclists get to ride on these highways while fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Route Map for the Ride for Heart in Toronto
Route Map for the Ride for Heart in Toronto

I’ve cycled the 50km route for the Ride for Heart over the past 6 years and although I always wanted to tackle the 75km, things just never worked out.  When I heard that one of my colleagues had done it and toughed it out through the rain and cold — I suddenly felt as if I needed to take on the 75km as well, but it still wasn’t enough for me.

So I began browsing some training routes for cycling in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and I came across the Greenbelt Route.  About 475km long, it follows environmentally-protected land that surrounds Toronto and the municipalities (GTA).

Now the thing is … I don’t know the first thing about bicycle touring or even bicycles themselves.  The only thing I know is how to ride one.

Looks like I have a lot to learn first… this blog is to detail my journey…

Bruce Trail Part 34 – Woodford to Irish Block Road

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

After a long hiatus, we finally resumed our journey on Bruce Trail! It had been a while since I had left for Tanzania and the previous hike on the Bruce Trail.  It was another long drive up to the town of Woodford, Ontario but the rather nice day and warmer weather we had been experiencing made for a smooth trip up north of Toronto.

Having the opportunity to hike again after playing catch-up on all fronts at home and work, was nice and I was looking forward to it.  I packed up my snowshoes and a small daypack with some food and water for the trek — unfortunately this time without a water bladder / CamelBak because mine was pretty much torn apart during my month-long trip in Tanzania.  This meant I had to lug around water bottles which I wasn’t a big fan of but I hadn’t had time to run to the local MEC store to pick up a replacement water bladder.

After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods. After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods.

Initially, we were a little lost and disoriented having not been on the trail for so long and ended up walking in the wrong direction.  Eventually we found our way and followed the right markers into the woods.

The snow was surprisingly high despite the warm weather (it was +6 degrees Celsius on a early-mid February day) — and we are talking within the vicinity of Owen Sound. Just the previous week, the temperature was -23 degrees — not including wind chill!  Glad we weren’t hiking that day.

The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather. The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather.

The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods -- particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view. The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods — particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view.

The trail took us up on to the escarpment which was nice although hiking in snow again took a little getting used to after such a long time.  It wasn’t too deep — about ankle height — and though I could have used my snowshoes — the trail didn’t really allow for it.  With all the rocks bulging out and narrow sections along the path it didn’t work out with the relatively low levels of snow.

One element of the trek I enjoyed at different parts of this hike were the little valleys that the trail took us through.

The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow

It was warm enough that everything was melting, wet, or muddy so I was happy that I decided to retire my old hiking boots.  They were leaking and every time it rained or each time I stepped into a deep puddle of water — I’d feel a level of dampness in my feet.  It was rather sad in a sentimental way because those boots had been to Chile, Bolivia, and Peru with me. They now just serve sufficiently as winter boots to the office while I took out the boots that I had taken with me to Japan and Tanzania.

As much as I realize it wasn’t necessarily realistic, I was really hoping to use the same pair of boots across the whole Bruce Trail.

Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area. Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area.

The dampness of everything along the hike was getting on my nerves despite me staying dry. I guess I just didn’t like trudging along muddy and snowy conditions together. Not a good mix together and I did slip and slide a couple of times.

Just as I was going give a big sigh, the path led us into a crevice area with a full cautionary sign and warning notice.  My friends had gone off ahead while I was staying behind taking photos so I was initially uncertain whether they went through the crevice but I nonetheless stepped right in.

The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice. The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice.

Entering the crevice was like stepping into a different world temporarily.  Everything was still vibrant green despite some snow that had fallen into the crevice.  It is a tight fit so as the sign points out, if anyone were to carry a large pack — they would need to take a route around the crevice.  I figure you might be able to squeeze a medium-sized pack or a large pack that was not packed to its limit — or perhaps simply take it off your shoulders and carry it through with your hands.

It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green! It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green!

Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. We'd often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. We’d often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike.

Eventually, we found ourselves on the road.  We initially thought that this would be a short trek on the road — until we realized that a section of the trail had been closed — more on that later.

The road is always fun and this time was no different.  There were some interesting signage that provided some amusement amidst the rather dreary and cold setting we were trekking through. It unfortunately started raining and snowing on us (some sort of mix) so everything got a bit damp but had little effect on us since we had the rain and snow gear on.

Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Passing by beautiful acres of farms. Passing by beautiful acres of farms.

As I mentioned earlier, we had to take a detour because the owner of the land withdrew hiking privileges as a result of people not abiding by the owner’s wish to not have dogs on that part of the trail due to livestock in the vicinity.  Alas, some folks have obviously broken the rule numerous times and so we were left without a straight forward route.

In order for us to stay on the white blazed trail — we had to hike from the entrance of the River Kwai Side Trail [link goes to Bruce Trail documentation on the change that took place in June 2014] — which meant that we had to hike 2.1km further on the road from the trail closure in order to find a way to continue on the Bruce Trail.  Alas, we couldn’t do that either because the distance we would have to make up would end up having us hiking in the dark.  I had my headlamp with me but I don’t think my friends did, so we ended up bypassing a chunk of the trail.  So at this point — although we hiked to Irish Block Road, I’ve technically missed a chunk of the trail which I’ll have to go back and hike one day.  Bleh.

This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. Passing along more agricultural landscape. Passing along more agricultural landscape.

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

While passing by fields and farms, I’d notice certain parts of the land freezing up and it created a very beautiful effect across the field.

The road kept going and going ... The road kept going and going … Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A beautiful view from a country side road. A beautiful view from a country side road.

Sometimes, it amazes me to look out into all the rolling hills and fields into the distance.  I’m very much into hiking mountains so I have to admit that hiking in Ontario can be a bit bland at times but when I slow down to just enjoy the view — I also have to accept that Ontario isn’t really as flat as many of us think it is.  Just something to better appreciate over time in my home province.

Other times, random things would trigger peculiar memories.  We passed by some cabin or lodge and it’d suddenly got me thinking about the television show Longmire which is based out in Wyoming.  It’d be pretty funny if it were filmed here.

This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. Looking for a good spot to cross the deep “river” ditch. Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across . Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across .

We didn’t think that this hike would be so eventful with so much trekking on the road but we soon found ourselves trying to wade across or leap across the ditch on the side of the road in order to continue on the Bruce Trail.  The warm weather had melted so much snow that practically everything in the ditch was slush or water.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but it was nearly knee-high!  Trust me, at certain points to test the water level, I even stuck my trekking poles into the water and the pole practically went into the ditch three-quarters of its length.  Pretty deep…

Eventually my friend found a point at which to leap across and so I made my attempt and nearly slipped in for a dunk but fortunately I held on and pulled myself to dry land.  Dry land being a pretty muddy trail.

Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork. Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork.

I wasn’t sure at certain points what was more dangerous. The fact that there was a combination of mud, ice, and snow on the ground making it slippery — or the fact that it was very difficult to see what we were stepping into or on to as the snow and ice at times would cover up what might be a hole or a log or rock.  For fun, Mother Nature decided to create mini obstacle courses.  At certain sections, fallen trees and broken branches were all over the place forcing us to either squeeze by or clamber over this stuff near the edge of the escarpment.  Fortunately, we eventually made it through.  The adventure wasn’t over though!

Passing by someone's property. Passing by someone’s property. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn't cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn’t cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high.

Just when we thought things were getting better, I slipped on mud and snow but my snowshoes that I had brought along and not used actually saved me from getting covered in mud (huzzah!). Unfortunately as soon as I got back up, my friends pointed out that we had to trek across the powerful stream.

Now, I am pretty reasonable but this was just getting out of hand.  How many times do we have to cross large bodies of water in the middle of winter?

After some grumbling on my part, I followed my friends across the stream via a number of large stones that weren’t completely immersed in the stream and some fallen branches.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  Thank goodness I had trekking poles because I would not trust my sense of balance in this scenario after wiping out on mud and snow.

We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon.

Fortunately, none of us got soaked in this crazy winter climate. We surprisingly finished relatively early in the afternoon so the initial thought was to drive south back towards Toronto but stop off at the Mono Mills Inn.  Unfortunately by the time we got there — we realized they were closed until mid-March. Sadly, some of the best places to eat outside of the city are closed for the off season.

Despite the rather challenging and partially disappointing experience on this hike, I was happy to have the opportunity to get back on to the Bruce Trail.  I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity again because the distance is getting further and my schedule is becoming busier. I’m also beginning to plan out how I’m going to train for a 75km bike ride.  More on that coming soon!

What to Bring on a Day Hike

Okay so you’re new to hiking and you want to make sure you’re equipped, let’s first do a reality check.  We’ll also start off by assuming that this is only a day hike.  I’ll cover multi-day hikes or backpacking in another post.  I’ve learned a lot the hard way so hopefully I can impart some easy advice to you.

Ehren’s note:  In response to quite a few requests, this is part of a new series of posts that I’m writing to help those who want to hike but are overwhelmed by the information out there on the Internet and are a little reluctant or hesitant due to a level of discomfort and fear.  Let me know how I may be of better help.

Okay so you’re new to hiking and you want to make sure you’re equipped, let’s first do a reality check.  We’ll also start off by assuming that this is only a day hike.  I’ll cover multi-day hikes or backpacking in another post.  I’ve learned a lot the hard way so hopefully I can impart some easy advice to you.

Before we even decide on what to bring, there are 3 things that must be taken into consideration:

  • Terrain
  • Weather
  • Duration/Time

The Terrain: Perception vs. Reality

Groomed trails or nature paths Groomed trails or nature paths A pretty typical hiking trail A pretty typical hiking trail

Take a look at the difference between what most people I speak with think of as hiking vs. what is really hiking.  Maybe this is just a Torontonian thing because we don’t really have mountains – any so-called mountain is really just a large hill.  I often have people telling me they are hiking but then I realize they are just taking a stroll through a place like High Park in the city.

Another problem is that hiking in general is a pretty broad term and I won’t argue that the common and popular thought is incorrect – but there is definitely room for improvement with regards to how we inform one another of what we’re actually doing.

Types of trails:

  1. Groomed nature trail or path — often very accessible to almost all ages and can be used by anyone with disabilities.  Lots of signs and often well marked.
  2. Typical wilderness hiking trail — with the exception of some trail maintenance (i.e. clearing overgrowth, fixing bridges, etc.), these type of trails are often not managed or groomed.  The terrain may be very rugged and diverse and often contain tree roots or jagged rocks that partially stick out from the ground.  There is also little to no signage but most of the time, these trails are well marked.  Sometimes but one has to be aware that markers can fade off of trees.

Think of this as the where are you going?  part of the plan.

>> What to bring:  You can probably get away with running shoes or sandals if you are on a groomed nature trail or path, but if you are on a typical hiking trail — you need to be wearing a pair of hiking boots with ankle protection and better traction for rugged and slippery surfaces.  This is especially true if you are new to hiking.

Weather:  Expect everything and anything

Wet wet wet weather Wet wet wet weather Some ominous-looking clouds on the trail Some ominous-looking clouds on the trail

I realize a day hike isn’t considered too much of a big deal but it can be depending on how the weather turns out — and it can change unexpectedly.  Check the weather forecast days ahead as well as when you are about to leave for the day hike.

>> What to bring:   Sunscreen, a hat, and rain gear.  At least a rain jacket.  I’ll get deeper into what to wear in another post but anyone going on a wilderness hiking trail should not wear cotton and jeans.  This type of clothing can’t handle getting wet and will not be able to keep you warm.  Yes, this is accounting for summer days too and it can get cool in the summer depending on where you are.

Duration and Time:  How long will you be out there?

Think about the distance you’ll be tackling and the speed at which you will and can hike at.  Whether it is easy or not, this is important because it will help inform you of how much time you will need to account for.

Maybe you’re hiking to a lookout point for a sunset?  Or perhaps on a 10km loop?

Daylight is important to keep track of when on the trail Daylight is important to keep track of when on the trail

>> What to bring:  If you are starting the hike later in the day or anticipate that it will be a longer than anticipated trek — bring a headlamp or at least a flashlight.

Wait, there’s more…

So we’ve covered the three key considerations when going on a day hike but now here is the full list of real essentials that those considerations will influence including what I mentioned earlier in italics:

The Full List

  • Footwear (hiking boots recommended)
  • Rain gear (a lightweight rain jacket at a minimum)
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Handheld GPS, not a cell phone (in addition to the map if you have one)
  • Water (a minimum of 3 litres)
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Firestarter
  • Matches (waterproof ones if possible)
  • Knife
  • Snacks and extra food just in case

Obviously not all of these will be necessary on a groomed nature path but you’d be surprised how often I encounter people who are hiking wilderness trails with practically none of these items.  Not even water.

Even when hiking wilderness trails that are a loop, it is crucial to ensure the safety and survival of yourself and those around you in situations that are unanticipated.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know.

Some additional helpful resources:

The Ten Essentials (via Wikipedia)

Top 10 Beginner Hiker Blunders (via Backpacker Magazine)

Tips and Hints – Beginner’s Guide to Hiking (via Mountain Designs)