So far in both Chile and Argentina, we’ve hiked a fair few national parks on day hikes, and also completed the mammoth hike of the 5 day ‘W Trek’ in Chile’s Torres Del Paine. We learnt a few key things en route that really helped us, and we’d recommend for any budding hikers and trekkers out there.
1. Chat to your fellow hikers!
Sounds obvious, but chatting to fellow hikers can really help you get the most out of your trek. From chatting to other hikers over dinner, we remembered that certain campsites on our trail were reservation-only, which saved us hours of extra pointless walking, and ensured we got to the right campsite. They can also give you tips on what food to bring, clothes to wear, and help out with little things like sharing salt and sugar, sharing experiences so far, or tips for the trail ahead.
2. Get trekking poles
As a European, I know that trekking poles don’t sound cool. They make you look like a bit of a granny, and conjure up images of German retirees hiking across countryside. However, they REALLY help. They save your knees, give you extra energy to haul yourself up hills (especially important when carrying a heavy pack), they act as an extra pair of legs when balancing across rocks and rivers, and you can put your ‘extra legs’ out in front of you when making small jumps to steady your landing. By day 5 of the hike, I was so reliant on these, I couldn’t imagine trekking without them!
3. Perseverance is key
On our hike, we were faced with some pretty tough challenges. Waking up at 4am on the last day to climb a mountain at sunrise; climbing almost vertical hills in brilliant sunshine; exhaustion; dodgy knees and ankles; stomach upsets; the lot. But we set regular goals, like ‘miradors’ (lookouts) that made it worth it; regular food and rest breaks (every 2-3 hours) and support from each other (even when exasperated!) to keep us going. And it was definitely worth it. And if you do find yourself throwing your hiking sticks down in a tantrum most days, remember this is just par for the course.
4. Take as little stuff as possible
We were advised to just pack 2 outfits – one ‘wet’ (for when you’re hiking/sweating in the day) and one ‘dry’ (for the evening at camp). Essentials include a heat-tech / thin layer for your top half to shield from the sun; leg cover (leggings if you’re a girl!) and shorts; something warm for the evening including a hat to sleep in; comfy shoes for when you take your boots off; and save the rest of your space for a lightweight tent, warm sleeping bag, food and a stove. The bag weighs more each day, so keep it light!
5. Have fun with it!
We made sure we always made time to take photos, stop for hugs, and give each other boosts to keep us going. We talked about plans for the future, we sang, we rapped, we talked about food we missed, our friends, our families, nature… By day 3 the hours were flying by and we were bouncing through the trails. It’ll be tough at the start, but don’t get down-hearted. The scenery is beautiful, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy it!