On the Wild Side – Part II

It’s one outdoor sport that’s fast catching on – especially among executives, who find it a stimulating way of taking a break. But while roughing it out on a trek is fine, misplaced bravado can literally take on over the edge.
To get the best out of any trekking expedition, you should be prepared to battle the elements. Thus, go in for the best equipment available. It may be expensive, but it will be worth the extra bucks as it lasts for years.
Start with a good wind- and water-proof jacket. The ones made from the expensive Goretex fabric are perhaps the best. Not only are they water-proof,but they are also ‘breathable’, helping you to avoid the wet and clammy feeling of normal water-proofs. But don’t worry, if these jackets don’t suit your pocket, a good water-proof jacket would adequately serve the purpose.
A rucksack is the most ubiquitous of all trekking equipment. Look for a good-sized, water-proof, nylon rucksack with a capacity of about 60-70 litres. But make sure you get one with an internal frame system. This prevents drag on the shoulders by taking the shape of the body. External frames are uncomfortable and tend to get caught on rocky outcrops and branches.
These frames are doubly dangerous as they fracture at the least impact – leading to grievous injury, in case of a fall. Make sure that all the buckles are of the ‘quick-release’ type. At the same time they should hold fast during the simple check of pulling them apart. But remember no rucksack is perfectly water-proof. So line it with a large polythene bad. You could even go for a rucksack in psychedelic colours. Colourful gear is in these days. So why not paint the mountains red?
A sleeping bag is another item to be chosen with care if you want to avoid a nightmarish experience. Since a high-altitude trek entails camping on snow, warm sleeping bags become absolutely essential for survival. Use bags with synthetic fibre filling of a material like Holofil, a DuPont product. Holofil bags retain the trapped an convecte body heat in the loft, even when wet.
Avoid zippered bags. Remember how Captain Haddock, Tin-tin’s friend, had his beard caught in a zipper. Well, tough everybody is not as clumsy, a stuck zipper can try anybody’s patience. Also they form the cold vein of the sleeping bag from where the heat escapes. It can be particularly distressing if you are given to tossing and turning. Instead, try a slide-bag – 1.5 to 1.75 kg. It would be warm enough even in temperatures of 0 to 5 degrees celssius.
Don’t forget to spread a proper mat under your bag.While a close-cell foam mat is ideal, you could try others, too. Check the quality of the mat by dipping a part of it in water. A good one will not soak in the water.
Now for the big one. The best of plans can be wrecked if the tent is not strong enough to protect you from the biting winds and the chilling snow. The one available nowadays come in two basic shapes – the ‘A’ shaped, with aluminium alloy poles, and the dome shaped with aluminium fibre glass rods. The ‘A’ shaped tent with an inner layer of ‘breathable cotton’ and an outer layer (fly sheet) of water-proof nylon fabric, is the best for low altitude treks. The geodesic dome shaped tents have poles that can bend and should be checked for both strength and resilience. Though easy to pitch, it’s more expensive. Take care never to pack wet or damp tents in their bags as they tend to mildew and rot.

Having organized the essentials, other items can be begged or borrowed. Starting from the top, here’s what you will need – a woollen balaclava (monkey cap), peak cap, sun goggles (preferably ones that block ultra-violet rays), anti sunburn cream, T-shirts and shorts for the day. If it’s cold, get baggy trousers and ‘plus fours’. Socks, stockings and gloves should be 20 percent acrylic and the rest wool. Hundred percent wool often shrinks, if wet. Also, wear a pair of cotton socks under woollen ones. This allows the perspiration to be soaked up by the first layer and thus avoid ‘matting up’ of the socks.

Many layers of clothing are good in any case. Because the more layers you have, the more air you trap. Air, as you know, is the bad conductor of heat and retains body warmth.

Other knick-knacks that make life easier up on the mountains are the useful Swiss Army knives, pen-lights, a whistle and cord. With all this equipment, you can then rough it out – in comfort.