Like all of us, when ?lockdown? happened, we expected it to last for a month. Then, like all of us, we were surprised when it seemed to go on and on. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, or maybe some of you are feeling stir crazy as well. We live in Colorado, a little over an hour from the Rocky Mountain range ? a year-round playground right in our backyard! When the state closed access to trails due to Covid-19, it was reassuring to know that we could access wilderness as soon as lockdown was over.

The walks, runs, and bike rides on trails around the city have been great, but the longer it lasted, the more we longed for the crisp, clean air and mountain solitude. Once restrictions started to ease, we planned our first hike and soon after, headed out to the mountains.

We started out early on Saturday morning to beat most other people to the trailhead…or so we planned. It was a beautiful drive through the winding canyon towards Indian Peaks wilderness, and we were excited for the morning ahead of us. Until we saw the policeman in the middle of the road, alerting drivers that the trailhead was full?!

Not to be deterred, I checked the map and found another small trail to a lake in an open space protected area ? a little off the beaten path so not very popular. The easy trail was more of a long walk in the woods than a hike, but it was still great to be outside with very few people!

The starting point at mountain lake 8000ft (2439m) above sea level was a short walk away. From there, we set off on a 5-mile (8km) loop gaining less than 1000ft (305m) of elevation – a great way for our legs to ease back to sloping terrain after over 3 months of flat city life. Our previous day out at altitude (over 11000ft!) had been for snowboarding in March ? an entirely different season and what feels like a lifetime ago!

Being out in the spring air was refreshing, with the smells and sounds of the forest all around.

The hike was shorter than planned, but exactly what we needed! The forest of green aspen and pine trees with mountain peaks rising tall above open meadows and an added bonus of the small mountain lake nestled within its midst, was a great start to the weekend. What a way to get back into nature!

The pandemic is still prevalent, but this should not stop us from planning and preparing our next adventure when travel resumes. We still have hopes of getting to Taiwan at the end of the year, so check out our Xue Mountain trek and our Holy Trail trek.

We also have lots of how-to videos, sharing of tips on topics such as photography, backpacking, climbing, diving and trekking on our Youtube Channel and website, to prepare you for your next adventure while staying at home. Subscribe to your Youtube channel now to receive updates whenever we upload great content!

Trekking Nepal always inspires wonderful images and thoughts of the vast expanse of the Himalayas.? But when it’s time to start packing, that’s when reality sets in.? Questions that every trekker asks themselves start going thru the mind…

I wondered how difficult the trek would be.?What if my pack is too heavy? Will I be fit enough? What if I get altitude sickness??These were all questions I asked myself, and maybe? you are thinking the same thing if you?re planning on trekking to Everest Base Camp.

There isn?t an easy answer to these questions. The difficulty of the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek depends on many factors. In this post, I?ll go over the factors that can make the trek difficult, and how I got around them and successfully made it to EBC, and how you can too.

What makes the Everest Base Camp trek potentially difficult?

Altitude

The altitude is by far the most challenging part of the EBC trek, especially for people who haven?t been at high altitudes before.

To put the altitude in perspective, EBC is about 500 meters higher than the top of Mont Blanc (the highest point in the Alps)!

Altitude sickness doesn?t discriminate. No matter how fit, young, or experienced you are, it can affect anyone.

Avoiding altitude sickness

Fortunately, it?s possible to get around the difficult altitude by acclimatizing.?Ascend slowly?is the best advice I can give for the altitude.

By slowly, I mean that after you?re above an altitude of 3,000 meters, you shouldn?t gain more than 300 to 400 meters in sleeping elevation per night, and for every 1,000 meters you should schedule a rest day. If you follow this rule, you?ll reduce your risk of developing altitude sickness.

Another great way to acclimatize is to stay hydrated (honestly, a great tip for life in general). I recommend drinking four or five litres of water each day during your EBC trek.

On top of drinking a lot of water, be sure to get 8+ hours of sleep per night and eat properly. It?s all about staying healthy so that your body has the energy to acclimatize!

Diamox?is a commonly used drug that your doctor might prescribe to you before you go to Nepal or other high altitude destinations. It doesn?t completely remove the need to acclimatize (especially above 5,000 meters), but it does help a lot of people.

Regarding Diamox, you should consult with your doctor if you?re interested in using it. I prefer to acclimatize naturally, so I haven?t looked into Diamox too much (I did meet people using it on their EBC trek).

Length

When I trekked to Everest Base Camp, it was by far the longest trek I?d ever done. In total, you?ll trek about 130 kilometres and gain about 400 to 800 meters in elevation each day.

Walking every day for 12+ days is tiring for most people. You need to put in a lot of work to be rewarded with the views at base camp, and they?re totally worth it!

Along with the numerous walking days, the closer you get to EBC, the colder the temperatures are. Depending on the time of year you trek, it can get pretty cold at night.

Backpack Weight

During my journey to Everest Base Camp, I trekked without the use of porters ? meaning I had to carry all of my gear on my back.

Before your trek, try to lighten your load as much as possible. You don?t need to carry your city clothes up to EBC, just bring one or two sets of trekking clothes. You also don?t need multiple pairs of shoes; a good pair of hiking boots or trail runners will do just fine (add a pair of sandals if you wish).

Trust me, when you?re at 5,000 meters in altitude every ounce counts.

The alternative is to hire porters, which is a good idea if you feel you won?t be able to carry all your gear even after eliminating useless items.

Food Poisoning

Unfortunately, it?s fairly common to have to deal with stomach issues while on the Everest Base Camp trek.

If you?ve just flown from a western country, your stomach is likely not used to the bacteria you may encounter in Nepal. There are a few things you can do to decrease your risk of stomach issues.

First, take probiotics before your trip. These can help improve your gut flora.

When you?re in Nepal, make sure to never drink unfiltered water. Yes ? even that clear glacial stream you see likely has Yak dung in it. In Kathmandu, you can buy chlorine tablets to filter your water. Alternatives to chlorine tablets are Sawyer filters and boiling any water you drink.

On your trek,?avoid eating any dishes containing meat. In the Khumbu, locals do not kill animals. This means that any meat being served in a tea house was carried in from the lowlands, a multi-day unrefrigerated journey. It?s cheaper to order vegetarian dishes anyway.??

Even with the above strategies, you might still have stomach issues (I did). If you do, just take a rest day to recover. Drink lots of tea and be sure to get some electrolytes. Resting and recovering is very important so that you can get back on your trek as soon as possible!

Making the Everest Base Camp trek less difficult

While the things I?ve outlined above describe the difficulties of the Everest Base Camp trek, there are a few things that you can do to decrease the difficulty.

Fitness Training

Proper training can make your trek?much?easier.

You don?t need to do any crazy strength training, but having good core strength will help your balance when wearing a heavy backpack.

Cardio training is more important. The EBC trek is basically just a long hike at high altitude, so great ways to train for it are by going on hikes, running, and cycling. Climbing up and down stairs is a good way to train if you have access to a tall building.

When you?re getting comfortable with the hikes near your home, try doing them with a loaded backpack. It?s crazy how much tougher it can make them!

If you do cardio training in the months leading up to your trek, you?ll be in much better shape than the average person attempting to reach EBC.

Altitude Training

This is only an option for some people, but if you live in a place with access to reasonably high altitudes (3,000+ meters), you can get partially acclimatized before your trip.

If you live in Colorado, you have a bunch of 4,000-meter peaks that are great for acclimatization.

[If you are here in Asia, a great place to prepare is the mountains of Taiwan.]

Understand that acclimatization only really lasts for about a week, so you can only do this type of training just before you leave on your trip.

Avoid Bad Weather

Avoiding bad weather in the Khumbu Valley is normally fairly easy.

Plan to do your Everest Base Camp trek between the months of October and May. The summer is monsoon season and there will be a lot of precipitation. Avoid the winter months (December, January, February) if you don?t like cold weather.

When trekking, start early each morning. During my trek in May, every day began with clear blue skies and then turned to clouds (and sometimes a bit of rain/snow) at around 2 pm.

By starting early, you?ll be able to avoid the bad weather (for the most part). You?ll get better views too!??

Good Gear

You don?t need to go spend $500 on a jacket, but be prepared for cold temperatures, rain, light snow, and wind.

Any gear needed for the trek can be bought in Thamel (tourist district in Kathmandu) very cheaply. The one exception to this rule is footwear. While hiking boots can be bought in Thamel, it?s a better idea to buy them at home so that you have time to break them in properly. It?s wouldn?t be fun to be on day 2 of your trek and have your feet covered in blisters.

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is something almost everyone is capable of. While it can be difficult, proper preparation can help manage the difficulty.

If you?re still a bit worried about this trek being too challenging, remember that there are a bunch of other?great treks in Nepal?that might be more suitable for you!

I hope this post helps you successfully complete your trek! Let me know if you do! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

If you?d like to read more, check out my journal-style post about?my trek to Everest Base Camp!

During this unfortunate lockdown period,? I have had time to sort thru a lot of photos and I came across pics of a canoeing trip. And I was reminded of while doing the? canoe trek down the Whanganui river in New Zealand, I had the fortune?(or misfortune) to experience the canoe tipping over and take an unexpected swim. I thought I would share some lessons learnt from that cold splash.

 

Canoe weight distribution matters intently

Balance is everything in a canoe and a slight shift in weight can make the balance of the canoe one-sided.? If you are carrying lots of items, make sure the weight is distributed equally side to side.? That is, when you are in the canoe, make sure the canoe sides are balanced so that one side is not leaning more in the water. If it leans in the water, while just sitting in the canoe, once you are moving and steering, you will have an increased chance of water coming in on the side that is dipping down.? Once water comes in on that side, it will become even heavier, dipping down even more. Until eventually you will end up overturned.? Not the best way to be in a canoe.?? Evenly distribute the weight, left to right, front to back.? You may want to place heavier objects more toward the back. This will help to keep the canoe more streamlined in the front.? The main thing, keep the sides balanced, or you will end up swimming.

canoeing NZ
canoeing NZ

Water tight barrel / bags are essential.

Watertight bags or plastic barrels as we used, are essential for the trip to store your gear in.? Not only do they keep your gear dry, but it will also keep the canoe buoyant and floating more on top of the water rather than in the water if you overturn the canoe. An upside-down canoe that is partially submerged is a back breaker to get it back upright.? The watertight barrels will also keep the canoe from completely filling up with water while upside down.

 

Strapping everything in you want to take home with you

This may seem obvious, but I saw many water bottles and jackets floating separately from the owners? canoe.? If you want to take it home with you, tie it or strap it to the canoe.? An easy method is to tie a string to the canoe, thread the string through all of your small objects like cups with handles, waterproof cameras with long straps and such, and tie a two-litre empty plastic milk bottle to the other end.? This way the string will float with the object, if it is being dragged behind by canoe upright or upside.

If you follow these three tips, I can’t guarantee you will stay dry, but I can assure you that all of your belongings will reach the destination safely. If you enjoy canoeing and the outdoors, and want to experience nature on your terms, we can help.? Our trip consultants can build the perfect challenge for you.? Be different. Trek the lesser explored, and live Life with Passion.

Respect nature and those around you. Take out more trash than you packed in and Leave No Trace.

 

Even now as Im preparing for our New Zealand trek, Im getting asked, “How to choose a backpack perfect for trekking”. Preparing for a trek can be daunting, especially if it is your first time. What I would say, from over 14 years of tramping around the mountains, is that while there is not a backpack for all occasions, (I personally have four different types) here are some pointers to help find one that is most suitable for you on your next adventure.

 

Tour and Travel Company

Let’s start with three main considerations:

Backpack capacity:?The size of your pack is directly related to the length of your trip, the temperature range you expect and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.

Backpack features:? Features like gear loops (ie. to stow hiking poles, ice axe, carabiners), accessibility (ie. side access, front pockets, side pockets etc.), top load versus side load, compartments etc. affect how the pack works for you. Think about what you need your pack to do for you.

Backpack fit:?How the backpack fits you has a direct impact on how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you feel throughout the trek. What is most important is the length of your torso, not your height.

  • Backpack capacity

As a rule of thumb, I go by the following benchmark based on duration of the trek:

  • A small to medium pack of 30-50l for a weekend trip (1-3nights).
  • A medium pack of 50-70l for a multiday trip (3-5nights)
  • A large pack above 70l for trips longer than 5 nights

Another key factor that affects backpack capacity is the season. During warm weather treks, I may get by with a 60l pack for a 4nights trek. On a winter trek requiring crampons, ice axe, downjacket and base layers, bulk builds up. A larger pack can more comfortably accommodate extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag and a 4-season tent (which typically includes extra poles).

  • Backpack features

The backpack frame type makes a big difference to the fit of the pack.

Internal-frame backpacks:?These are body-hugging internal frame packs that are designed to keep a hiker stable on uneven, off-trail terrain. They incorporate a variety of load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to the hips.

External-frame backpacks:?An external-frame pack may be an appropriate choice if you’re carrying a heavy, irregular load, like carrying actual boxes or a cooler. External frame packs also offer good ventilation and lots of gear organization options.

Frameless backpacks:?Ultralight devotees who hike fast and light might choose a frameless pack or a climbing pack where the frame is removable for weight savings.

Some packs have a ventilation feature, essentially a mesh back panel stretching taut to create space (?ie. a ventilation vent) between your back and the pack to prevent the pack from sticking to a wet, sweaty back. The ventilation vent reduces discomfort and has the added advantage of ?airing? your sweaty back to help it dry off.

Pack access is perhaps the most straightforward. Most packs come with top-loading openings?are pretty standard. Items not needed until the end of the day go deepest inside. Items that are regularly needed are located nearest to the exit point. Some packs also offer a zippered front panel which folds open exposing the full interior of the pack, or a side zipper, which also makes it easier to reach items deeper in your pack.

My personal favourite is the pockets. Side pockets that are elasticized, expanding when filled and flat when empty are like magic containers wherein all sorts of loose objects (ie. water bottle, tent poles, map etc.) may be stowed. And then there are the hipbelt pockets which would contain snacks, mobile phone, perhaps a headlight, energy gel ? items that are small are you need to access quickly. .

Front pocket(s):?Sometimes added to the exterior of a shovel pocket, these can hold smaller, less-bulky items.

A fancy feature in some packs is the Removable Daypack / Top Lid. Some packs are designed with a removal daypack that is perfect for day trips, or the summit push. Some packs have top lids that detach from the main pack and convert into a hipbelt pack for day trips.

Finally, we also need to think about where the sleeping bag would go. The Sleeping Bag Compartment is a zippered stash spot near the bottom of a packbag. It’s a useful feature if you don’t want to use a stuff sack for your sleeping bag. Alternately, this space can hold other gear that you’d like to reach easily.

Backpack fit

It is the torso length that matters. Height is not correlated to length of torso. Your torso is essentially your trunk. Use a tape measure. Take your measurements like you would when tailoring a new suit. To find the perfect fit, you need perfect measurements.

trekking climbing backpacks
Finding the perfect trekking backpack fit.? Our friends at Hypelite Mountain gear, has this guide as a rule of thumb.

 

DO NOT forget padding. If you’re using a lightweight pack with a hipbelt and lumbar pad that is not adequately padded, your hips and lower back will be sore. With the right padding, you would not even feel it.

Final note, do your research. To find the perfect match, you need to put in time and effort.

There are many styles and types of backpacks on the market. There is no perfect backpack that meets all needs.? Our advice is to find the one that?s a good fit, that fits correctly on your torso, and has good padding on the hip belt. This will keep you feeling fresh at the end of the day.

Happy Trekking!