While for most of us, international travel is still on ice, plans for an adventurous 2021 are taking form. But when you do find yourself back in the mountains, the desert or the jungle, don’t get caught out because you’re out of shape, out of practice or simply mentally unprepared for heading back out into the wilderness.
Making sure you are physical and mental fit for expedition as well as dialling in your kit and any medical needs is essential ahed of heading back into remote and wild places. Not only will you ensure you’ve got the best chance of success but you’ll mitigate risk of injury and illness and enjoy it far more. So while you lay the groundwork for your next expedition, be sure to use this time to prepare beyond the admin of your travel, insurance and documentation.
Sure the gyms are closed right now, but training for this stuff doesn’t need specialist spaces or equipment. While each expedition will have its own physical requirements, generally expedition fitness comes down to a strong core and a resilient body. If you’ll be trekking for long days back-to-back, carrying weight, then leg and core strength is key. You’ll mitigate injury under the extra stress and minimise your recovery time while being more efficient and comfortable on the trail.
Use your own body weight for core exercises like squats and push-ups and get out for runs and hikes using some of your expedition kit. If getting out into wild spaces right now is a challenge explore the local paths and bridleways in your immediate surroundings.
Sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, language barriers, difficult terrain and things not going at all to plan are all part and parcel of life on expedition. How you deal with those stresses and challenges is what counts.
Understanding the triggers of those stresses and learning how to prevent them in the first place like maintaining proper nutrition and a good sleeping pattern for example is a great place to start. Coping mechanisms when you find yourself in that dark place and knowing how to dig yourself out of it and move forwards will be the difference between a successful expedition and watching the whole thing unravel.
Dialling in your kit is far more complex than an internet splurge courtesy of the credit card. What works for someone may not work for you making the set up of your own kit systems personal and constantly dynamic.
Make sure your equipment is suited to the environments you’ll be entering and that includes any possible surprises which may arise from adverse weather conditions. Understanding how your kit works and how to repair it if need be is also vital. Time can be precious when you’re grabbing another layer or setting up camp so give all your kit it’s own place in your system and familiarise yourself with its position so that when you need it no time is wasted and your setup remains neat.
In most cases, fit is as if not more important than the technical qualities of your equipment so if you are buying new kit, be sure you try kit on before buying it. And test your set-up. Take the bag, the shoes, the clothing you intend to use on expedition on your training walks or your commute. If you’re not totally comfortable using it at home, you certainly won’t be in more challenging conditions.
The obvious one here is to make sure you’ve got all the necessary medication, jabs and vaccines necessary for the location you’re heading but it’s often the day-to-day care which creeps up on people during expedition.
In a remote environment a minor dental issue or physical niggle can quickly escalate into a major issue as can not keeping on top of basic personal hygiene. Be aware of specific foods your body is sensitive to. Do the research and ask advice as to how specific medicine might react with extreme temperatures and for women it might be worth exploring options for managing your menstrual cycle whilst on expedition.
Each expedition is going to have it’s own requirements but get the fundamentals covered. Slick camping skills, knot proficiency, poor visibility navigation, repair and first-aid and knowledge will always prove useful. Again, this is about preparing for beyond what is expected and being able to execute skills under pressure.
If your expedition has clear technical requirements, you don’t need us to explain the importance of having this stuff nailed before you leave.