You’ve booked the trip. Adventure is on the horizon. But before you head to the mountains, the desert or the jungle, it’s vital that you prepare – don’t get caught out because you’re out of shape, out of practice or mentally unready for your expedition.
Before heading to any remote or wild place, you’ll need to start laying the groundwork to make sure your trip is a success. Consider physical and mental fitness as essential as kit and medical gear.
On this page, we’ll outline everything you need to prepare for your next expedition. Following our guidelines will not only ensure you’ve got the best chance of success, but you’ll mitigate risk of injury and illness, meaning you can get on with doing epic things.
While you lay the groundwork, be sure to set aside some time to prepare beyond the admin of your travel, insurance, and documentation.
Secret Compass expeditions are designed to be challenging but achievable for any fit and active person. You’ll require endurance, determination, and the fortitude to succeed for at times you’ll be cold, hot, wet, tired, sore and uncomfortable – and for this we make no apologies!
Don’t worry if you’re not hitting the gym 5-times-a-week, training for adventure doesn’t always 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’re going to be trekking for long days back-to-back whilst 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. Venture into wild spaces, experience different terrains, even if it’s just your local park, and explore the local paths and bridleways in your immediate surroundings.
For some of our expeditions, there are fitness and skill prerequisites – these exist for your own safety, but we are always happy to offer advice and support on your personal journey to expedition. Find out more about our philosophy and expedition grading system here. You’ll also be able to find information about our 12-week expedition training guide.
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 tricky times 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. Establishing coping mechanisms for when you find yourself in a dark place and knowing how to dig yourself out of it will be the difference between a successful expedition and watching the whole thing unravel.
Adventure often pushes the mind and body to its limits, but there are wonderful things that can happen when we step out of our comfort zones, too. Unlocking your potential, fighting your fears and finding strength in the struggle create the most rewarding sense of achievement and personal growth.
For more on the mental challenges of expedition (and why it’s worth it), check out Ode to the Struggle here.
Kit is a huge consideration when thinking about how to prepare for your next expedition. Dialling in your kit is far more complex than an internet splurge courtesy of the credit card. What works for one may not work for all, making the set-up of your own kit systems personal and constantly dynamic.
Firstly, make sure your equipment is suited to the environments you’ll be entering – think about any possible surprises which may arise from adverse weather conditions, and include suitable kit for that, too.
Time can be precious when you’re grabbing another layer or setting up camp, so give all your kit its own place in your backpack or system. Familiarise yourself with its position so that when you need it no time is wasted, and your setup remains neat. Understanding how your kit works and how to repair it if need be is also vital.
In most cases, properly fitting kit is as, if not more, important than the technical qualities of your equipment. If you are buying new kit, make sure you have tried it on and are familiar with its functions. Test your set-up. Take the bag, shoes, and 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.
We’ve got loads of really useful information about kit on our Journal. Get started here: A Guide to Mountain Footwear.
Well in advance of your departure, make sure you’ve got all the necessary medication, jabs and vaccines needed for the location you’re heading to. Those bigger jobs might feel more pressing, but you need to think about your day-to-day care, too.
In a remote environment, a minor dental issue or physical niggle can quickly escalate into a major problem. If you’re aware of something niggling, prepare to deal with it while you’re on the move in case it gets worse. It sounds simple, but it’s vital to keep on top of basic personal hygiene and make sure you have the gear to do so, when running water might not be readily available. Be aware of specific foods your body is sensitive to and consider how you fuel yourself in remote locations. If you take regular medication, research how this might react with extreme temperatures or food and drink. For those that have periods, make sure you have the correct supplies and period products for your trip.
Each expedition is going to have its own requirements, so spend some time getting proficient in the basics before you set off. Camping skills, basic knot knowledge, poor visibility navigation, kit repair and first-aid will always prove useful. Prepare for beyond what is expected, and you’ll be able to lean on those skills in moments of pressure.
If your adventure has specific technical requirements, you’ll need to get those skills nailed before you leave. We’re always on hand to advise how to get you up to speed for any of our expeditions. Check out our Journal, Winter Navigation: Everything You Need To Know, to give you some ideas of where to start.
For more information or advice on prepare for your next expedition, reach out to the Secret Compass team.