Tips from our Past Participants
Preparing for a multi-day trek can seem daunting, especially if you haven’t done one before. So we headed to our very own gang of challenge experts to find out how they trained, what they packed and their challenge do’s and don’ts - who better to give you tips than the people who have tackled them head on; our wonderful past participants!
Lauryn Gardner (Southampton University, Kilimanjaro 2017) recommends ensuring your walking boots are properly broken in. 'Wearing your walking boots, either on a walk or just around the house is important, because they’re so different to trainers and it might sound silly but trusting your feet in your boots makes it so much easier when you’re trekking.'
Emma Underwood (Nottingham University, Kilimanjaro 2015) suggests doing something small everyday, 'even if it's just taking the stairs instead of jumping in the lift.' She also recommends taking some long practice walks with your small day bag to make sure it doesn't rub. She says 'a lot of the struggle is the length of the walking each day, rather than the difficulty, going on several long (8+ miles) walks is good to make sure you're prepared for the real thing!'
Lauren Brown (Exeter University, Machu Picchu 2017) recommends changing up your training routine so you don't get bored, whilst also helping you improve your general fitness. She says 'I tried to mix up doing swimming and running in the weeks up to the challenge, to improve my overall fitness and also my lung capacity with the swimming!'
Matt Morgan (UWE, Machu Picchu 2018) believes that good training needs to include a little incline trekking, ‘I would say try and walk up mountains. As I live in Wales, it's a little bit easier for me as I'm next door to mountains in every corner, but this will help you get used to walking up steep inclines, which I found definitely helps on a trek! It doesn't have to be super frequent, just give it a go, so your body doesn't go into shock when you see a hill in a few months time!
Lauren Feast (Exeter University, Machu Picchu 2017, Morocco 2016 and Machu Picchu 2015) recommends getting your strength up before you head out on your challenge, 'I would suggest going on a few walks or runs with a heavy rucksack to get used to carrying lots of water.' She echoes Lauryn's comments regarding walking boots, saying 'definitely make sure that your walking boots are well worn in!'
Laura de Haan (Hertfordshire University, Kilimanjaro 2016, Everest Base Camp 2017) thinks that you should do the exercise you normally do, or that you enjoy, to help keep you feeling motivated, 'whether you prefer walking, running, cycling or swimming, all these exercises will help you build up that cardiac stamina that will help you thrive when you’re out on your challenge. Choose something you really enjoy doing, that way you will stick to it and have fun at the same time.' She also highlights the importance of training with other team members, it'll help you bond with the rest of the team, whilst also getting you both physically prepared for the challenge: It also really helps to have a friend or fellow participant to train with. That way your body is still doing all the work, but you won’t notice it as much because you are busy talking to each other! Training doesn’t have to be boring!'
Callum Bradley (Southampton University, Kilimanjaro 2018) says ‘I would do some hiking in England beforehand - why not try and do the Three Peaks! I’d also suggest using your hiking boots before you go and if possible try and go on a camping trip to get used to sleeping in a tent! As a bonus trek training tip learn a few word games/riddles to fill the time when hiking as they can really can distract people when they are struggling!’
Sarah Kulkarni (LSE, Everest Base Camp, 2018) also suggests practising with a heavy rucksack, saying ‘I didn’t try using mine before the trek and really struggled when I got out to Nepal.’
Michelle Fallon (Stirling University, Kilimanjaro 2015) notes the importance of staying warm, ‘“I’d stress the importance of thermals, I had mine and I was cosy in only them at night (some nights also a hoodie, socks and a headband for my ears) but that’s all. Some people in my team didn’t have thermals but thought layering normal clothes would be ok - they were wrong! They complained of being cold and not getting enough sleep. So wear your thermals!"‘
Jack Peters (University of Warwick, Kilimanjaro 2016) has a top kit hack to keep your costs down, “Go on websites and see what is recommended, then head to amazon and get it for the cheapest possible price. Either sell it on afterward if you bought it new, or buy some parts of your kit second hand."
Laura Carling (University of Kent, Kilimanjaro 2016) says, “I would definitely say don’t go cheap with waterproof and windproof trousers for the summit night.”
Beth Brooks (University of Exeter, Morocco 2016) has a slightly less conventional kit tip, “I would definitely recommend a pack of playing cards for sure, they were so useful for filling gaps in time and just generally getting chatting to new people on the team and raising morale!”
Calum Coker (University of Birmingham, Machu Picchu 2016 and Kilimanjaro 2015) "Make sure you bring enough clothes to relax in before and after the trek, I made the mistake of basically only having trekking stuff for Kili and hanging around the hotel in that wasn’t very comfortable."
Charlie Trumper (University of Nottingham, Kilimanjaro 2016) has one serious packing regret,“I didn’t bring a camera because I was worried about weight and space but I wish I had because the views are incredible.”
Calum Coker (University of Birmingham, Machu Picchu 2016 and Kilimanjaro 2015) says “Don’t underestimate Peru, although it is South America, it can be extremely cold in the mornings and at night.”
Liam Baldock (University of Bournemouth, Kilimanjaro 2016) recommends getting to know your porters: “One of the best things you can do is immerse yourself with the porters and get chatting to as many of them as soon as you can. Whilst you only climb Kilimanjaro once, they climb it sometimes weekly, so they have so many stories, songs, and tips that will get you to the top with more ease than you’d think! Also, it’s a great way to say that you’ve embraced some Tanzanian culture as they have some extensive knowledge of the food, religion, and history. They’re some of the most interesting, and fun, people you’ll ever meet”
Liam Welch (UCL, Kilimanjaro 2016) stresses the importance of valuing the journey, saying: "Another thing I would say as a top tip is enjoy the journey, it’s easy to take yourself away and be alone as you just want to focus on getting to the top but on returning I’ve realised that the best part of the trip wasn’t getting to the top was the laughs and conversations on route up. The journey up with everyone was by far the most meaningful and memorable part for me, so a tip here is let your guards down and open up and talk to your peers as conversations on mountain mean so much more than down here, I often find when I say how are you to someone in day to day life I’m often following up with the next sentence before they even answer but on the mountain you actually care and you actually can feel the care from others so yeah that would be another tip.”
Jack Peters (University of Warwick, Kilimanjaro 2016) has some final words of encouragement! He says “It is a very tough mental challenge, but the way I looked at it is one foot in front of the other and you’ll eventually reach the top. It’s key to remember that it is very hard for everyone and as a team, you’ll be able to get through it and reach the top”
Josh Marks (UCL, Kilimanjaro 2018) says “download music onto your phone, you might need it to get through some of the longer hiking sections and service isn't great at 5000m!”
Thanks to all our wonderful participants for sending in their top tips! If you think we’re missing anything, pop it in the comments below!