My alarm went off and I rolled over in my sleeping bag and groaned, it was 3:45am. In the darkness of the hut, one of my travel companions groaned, “Mountaineering is stupid” and I laughed as I clicked on my headlamp. It was day four of our weeklong trek into the Sierra Nevada de Marta mountains in Colombia, we had ten hours of hiking ahead of us. As a new hiker, I felt a sigh of relief that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t find myself to be ecstatic every step of the way. While any activity can get monotonous when done for hours on end, overall our multi-day trek into the mountains was incredible and completely worth every step.
Here are a few tips and tricks I learned to help me stay stoked and prepared while on my longest trekking trip to date.
1. Bring a Book
It’s important to pack light, but camping often means long days and early bedtimes. It’s nice to have a book with you to help with those tired hours between dinner and sleep.
2. Headlamp and Extra Batteries
A headlamp is key! I now have two and if a day doesn’t go as planned you might find yourself trying to light a fire or set up a tent in the dark. You don’t want to be pawing through your pack in the dark to try to find some light to help. I also sleep with mine wrapped around my wrist in case I have to leave my tent in the middle of the night!
3. Don’t Skimp on the Snacks
I know it’s important to travel light, but sometimes the smallest thing can make your day during a long trek. Before the trip, I bought a bag of caramel and ginger candies. After six hours of hiking, remembering you have a caramel in your pocket is a major morale booster and your travel companions certainly won’t be upset. It’s pretty awesome to see tired eyes light up over something simple like an unexpected piece of candy or an unexpected bag of homemade trail mix.
4. Invest in a Good Water Filter
On previous trips, I always used purification tablets, but other members of our group had water filters and I found myself using them more often. Depending on where you are, the water can be pretty gnarly. I’ve had water-borne parasites before and it’s no fun at all, so I’m now a big fan of a good water filter. Also, if you have a chance to chat with your doctor before your trip, ask for Cipro and Diamox, for any unexpected bacterial infections or altitude sickness.
Write to your friends! Snail mail is the best and there’s something fun about writing out short messages by firelight. I popped into a local craft store and bought a few cheap old postcards before I left for the trek.
Get a good pocketknife! This is a necessity. A good pocketknife can help with opening that can of beans you didn’t think to get with an easy open top, or cleaning those dirty nails that are driving you crazy, or grabbing a few bananas you see hanging over your trail, or cutting up the fresh homemade jerky you bought from a farm along the way. They all make for perfect memories rather than regrettable almosts. We nicknamed our knife-wielding companion Rambo on this trip and we were super glad he had a couple knives with him that we all borrowed at least once.
7. Clothing Musts
I tried to pack as little as possible and I wore the same pair of pants every day of this trek, the Columbia Titan Peak pants. I loved that they dried fast, wiped clean and provided stain, sun and water resistance.
I’m learning more and more about the joys of technical clothing and my love affair with the base layer continues. Every night when it was time to crawl into my sleeping bag I’d pull on my favorite pair of base layer tights and it felt good to have a tangible separation between day and night wear. With the right clothes you can pack very little and not worry about coming back looking, and smelling, like Pig-Pen from Peanuts.