How To Prepare Your Gears for High Altitude Trekking - Part 1

How To Prepare Your Gears for High Altitude Trekking – Part 1

In preparation for trekking at high altitude, there are three key elements to be aware of: altitude, weather and temperature at each elevation.

Altitude —  As the altitude increases, the amount of UV radiation will increment exponentially, the temperature will drop 5.4 degree Fahrenheit for every 1,000 ft increase, and Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) will become one of the big obstacles to many trekkers. To overcome these challenges, prepare gears that can protect your skin and eyes from UV rays.  Moreover, obtain prescribed AMS pills from travel clinic or buy over-the-counter supplement such as Gingko Biloba to reduce the AMS symptoms.

Weather — Rain/sleet, wind and cold weather can be a challenge especially when all three are combined.  The worst case scenario that could possibly happen up in the mountain is sleet, windy, and cold weather condition, when the temperature is in between -5C to 10C (~27F – 50F).  One common mistake I have often seen is the lack of preparation for peripheral gears, such as waterproof gloves, shoes, gaiters, and hat for this type of weather. Most people only prepare rain jackets and “water resistant” pants, but leave their head, hands, leg and feet unprotected from the elements. You will be freezing cold and wet when you encounter the worst type of situation, which could lead to hypothermia. On top of that, a windy situation will only make it worse.  Make sure you bring the right gear for the worst weather condition you may encounter and be mentally prepared for it.  If you can plan for this situation, you are well-prepared.

Temperature — Hot, cold and bitter cold temperature.  When dealing with temperature, you should think about layering.  Use the “layering technique” so you can add on more layers when the temperature is getting colder and peel it off like onion when it is getting warmer.  The common mistake I have seen is preparing multipurpose or one purpose fit all jacket.  Bringing an extremely warm jacket without preparing any middle layering during trekking is a mistake because you’ll have no choice but to get really warm inside when the temperature outside is considerably cold without a jacket.  This usually happen during trekking at lower elevation.

Hanging clothes inside the tent

Line dry hiking garments – Trekking @ Mt. Kilimanjaro

It also occurs frequently during hiking. How? Your body temperature warms up as you hike. But, at certain elevation, the weather outside is too cold for you to take off your jacket.  You will most likely keep the heavy jacket on and let it sweat inside. Once you sweat, your clothing will be wet and your jacket will be dampened. As soon as you take off your jacket, the cold air will creep into your sweaty skin and respiratory system; you can get sick that way.  Besides, you don’t want to end up drying your wet clothes in your tent all the time.  When the temperature is relatively cold at night, the garments might not get dry on time, leaving you with damp clothes to wear the next day. In addition, more sweats means dehydration, which can lead to AMS.  Thus, mid layer and layering techniques are very essential.  They are your best friends to get comfortable during trekking.

The major gears you need to pack for trekking can be divided into five parts:
1. Head-to-Toes gears
2. Sleeping gears
3. Hiking gears
4. Toiletries
5. Other Essentials

Now, when packing your gears, the frequently asked question is “Do I really need these gears? Can I live without it?”  To answer that question, consider these:

1. How eager are you to make this trip a successful adventure?
2. How much comfort you want to have up in the mountain?

The rule of thumb is: If the gears are survival essentials to boost your success possibility, then you need to pack it.  If it is comfort related, then ask yourself, do you have enough room and weight restriction?  Survival and success come first, the comfort can be added later on for your luxury.

Click here to read Part 2,  gear lists!