CHOOSING THE RIGHT TREKKING GEAR
With all of you gearing up for the upcoming winter treks, we have received a lot of queries from our participants and friends on how to purchase the right gear to help them brace against the harsh weather. So here is us presenting a series of posts to help you choose the right stuff.
Let’s start with the most basic yet the most vital of all gears, your SHOES. There is a reason why running shoes are called well, running shoes. They are not meant for hiking or trekking, neither are they robust enough to survive the tough conditions. Within no time, the sole will come off and though it brings out of you ingenious methods of holding it all together, at the end of the day you will regret wasting your branded Nike shoes to a trek.
So what should you buy?
> To start with, look out for shoes that come under the category of trekking or mountaineering. These shoes have a stiffer construction and their uppers are usually leather, suede or synthetic.
> Ensure that they have a proper ankle support to avoid twisting your ankle on rough and rocky terrains.
> A waterproof shoe or a water resistant shoe is a must no matter what season you choose to trek in. The summers bring in the rain and the winters, the snow. You do not want your feet wet.
> Buy a size larger. Ensure there is a half inch gap between your big toe and the end of the shoe.
> Break into the shoe. Wear it to work, wear it to a party, wear it on a date. Ensure that you have broken well into your shoe before you come for the trek
And sometimes, even an expert makes a mistake :P :P
Recommended Brands: Forclaz 100, Forclaz 500 (These are easily available at any Decathlon store)
check for hundreds of models. Only cons: you have to wait for your shoe (imported) and sizes are listed in EU.
What should you not buy: Woodland shoes. Running shoes. Shoes with plastic soles.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR JACKETS: LAYER BY LAYER
Whenever we send out a list of Things to Bring for a Himalayan trek, the major confusion that most of our participants face is wrt the jackets and how many warm wear to carry. This confusion multiplies tenfold during a winter trek. So let us understand the different kind of jackets and what purpose each of them serve and how to layer them up during winter Himalayan treks
Thermals: Your thermals are your inner most layer. Your thermal top should be full sleeves and high necked and both your top and bottom should fit well. Though the thermal is the innermost layer, it is the last layer that you put on. Thermals are to be worn in the night and you should only put them on while trekking if all the other layers are not enough to keep you warm during the trek.
Thermal Bottom: https://www.decathlon.in/p/8343537_men-s-skiing-base-layer-bottoms-simple-warm-black.html?fbclid=IwAR2kWbFY9bUiARdW1ACyPOz3QGVgY0HrUoyJo722tDjzBq089iezqtshE5I#/27-200-xs
Fleece Jacket: A fleece jacket or simply a fleece is a lightweight casual jacket made of a polyester synthetic wool such as polar fleece. A fleece jacket can be worn as an outer layer during a warm day and a mid layer during a cold one.
You can substitute a fleece layer with one or two warm sweaters ( from your winter stash).
Down Jacket: A down jacket is a jacket which has been insulated with the soft and warm under feathers from duck or geese. Down is a fantastic insulator as the loft (or fluffiness) of down creates thousands of tiny air pockets which trap warm air and retain heat, thus helping to keep the wearer very warm in cold winter weather.
To know the quality of the down jacket, check the fill power. The fill power ranges from 400 - 900. The higher the fill power, the better the down jacket.
While choosing your down jacket, ensure that neither should it fit very tight or be very loose. You should be able to wear layers under it. It is better if you jacket is hooded.
Until and unless you are signing up for expeditions, a fill power of 500 - 600 is good enough for our winter Himalayan treks.
Windcheater/Waterproof Layer: Your down jacket is not waterproof, though it is mildly water resistant. Hence it is important to carry a waterproof layer to wear over the down jacket if it snows or rains. The quality of your windproof layer depends on the trek that you are signing up for.
Wincheater/Windproof jacket: https://www.decathlon.in/
Reetu wearing a Columbia down jacket during her Stok Kangri Summit (6153 m)
For summer treks, a fleece jacket/sweater and either a down jacket or a good windcheater (regulated to keep you warm in minus degrees). If you are carrying a down jacket, get a basic raincoat to wear over the down if it snows or rains.
For most of the winter treks like Kedarkantha, Har Ki Dun, Dayara Bugyal, Chopta or Chadar or treks where temperature dip below 15 degrees, a down jacket is a must.
You can carry 2 thermals, 1 fleece jacket and 1 down jacket along with a basic windproof jacket. If you are prone to more cold, you can carry 2 fleece jackets instead of 1 or carry a good regulated windcheater along with the above layers
Let’s come to another equally important gear and the one which has broken a lot of backs when not right. Your BACKPACK. If I could only earn a dollar for all the times I have seen someone carry a laptop bag on a trek, I’d be rich. A laptop bag is not designed to be worn for long duration neither does it distribute the load evenly. Pretty soon, you will find it heavy with the entire weight of your backpack resting on your shoulder. A good backpack is a major differentiator between you managing those extra kilometers on a trek vs you struggling during the entire trek.
So what to look for in a backpack?
Size: For Himalayan treks, depending on the type of trek that you have signed up for as well as the equipment expected to be carried by you, you can choose a backpack ranging between 40 - 60 lts.
Hip Belt: The majority of the pack’s weight should be supported by the hip belt. Ensure that your hip belt is heavily padded. The hip belt should be centered over the hip bone and not the waist and needs to be very snug.
Shoulder Straps: The best shoulder straps curve to anatomically conform to your body shape. The padding doesn’t have to be very thick, because most of the weight should be transferred to the hip belt, but it should be comfortable to wear, with no chafing or pinching. You should not feel the weight of the backpack on your shoulder
Chest/Sternum strap: This strap connect both your shoulder straps together and it helps in keeping the backpack steady
Load Lifter straps: Attached to the top of the shoulder straps, these straps help in leaning the pack towards or away from your body. Usually these straps should be kept at an angle of 45 degrees to the top of the pack.
Back panels: Ensure that the back panel is padded to prevent the contents of the backpack from poking you.
Frame Components: An internal fra provides rigidity and helps transfer the load of the pack onto your hips. Though not necessary for lighter load, a good frame is essential if you intended to carry 12+ Kilos in your pack. Typically, frames consist of two aluminum or composite stays, also known as flat bars, running parallel to each other underneath the back panel. Some of the backpacks may have a framesheet insead of the aluminium frames. A framesheet is usually made of plastic and is located behind the padded back panel so it’s not visible. It’s often used to give the pack vertical and torsional rigidity.
Raincover: A lot of backpacks come with a preattached raincover. Incase there isn't one attached, buy a rain cover separately. It is a must to keep one handy to protect the backpack from rain, snow and dust.