Whether you’re planning to scale a mountain, venture through the jungles of Vietnam or amble across the vineyards of southern France, hiking abroad is an activity that demands preparation. There are plenty of rewards to hiking on holiday – it means you conquer an exciting new challenge, take in otherworldly scenery and snap that #goals Instagram post.
However, there might also be challenges along the way, not least because of the combination of doing something outdoorsy in a different country. Still, with a bit of research and planning - from working out your route to making sensible packing decisions - you can ensure your hike abroad is the idyllic adventure you’ve been dreaming of.
Here are the Flexicover team’s top tips when it comes to hiking overseas, from what to wear to avoiding altitude sickness.
Pack layers and cover up - but don’t wear cotton
There’s a trick to ensuring you’re never too warm or cold on your hike: pack layers. A base layer made of a synthetic fabric like polyester will move moisture away from your skin, helping any sweat evaporate. In cooler climes, the second layer is for insulation; a fleece will work wonders here. The outer layer needs to protect you from the elements: think a waterproof, or an insulated jacket. In warmer or tropical environments, you’ll want to mix this system up. For example, wear a base layer, but bring a waterproof in case the heavens open. Cotton is best avoided, as it is known to cling onto moisture, potentially lowering your body temperature.
Take a first aid kit and water
When you’re venturing out into the countryside, there’s plenty of ways to inadvertently cut or sting yourself, and sometimes, many bugs around to bite you too. Your first aid kit should contain plasters, bandages, tape, scissors and tweezers, as well as blister plasters, antiseptic cream or spray, and insect bite spray. If you’re on a long trek, it’s also a good idea to pack some rehydration sachets in case you fall ill. It sounds obvious, but water is your best friend on a hike. No matter how short or gentle you expect your walk to be, make sure you take plenty of water: staying hydrated is vital for an enjoyable hike.
Acclimatise to the altitude
Our highest peak of Ben Nevis is just 1,345 metres, but in countries like Peru and Bolivia, you’re at risk of altitude sickness before you’ve even left your hotel! Altitude sickness is caused by travelling to heights without leaving time to acclimatise. Symptoms include headache, nausea, shortness of breath, tiredness, loss of appetite and dizziness. If left untreated, it can become a serious medical emergency. The best way to avoid getting ill is ascending slowly, and giving your body a few days to get used to high altitudes. It’s a good idea to take some time to do some research and maybe speak to a healthcare professional to get some advice before you go.
Think about using a guide
As much as you may want to go it alone, some hikes need expert guides who know the route inside out. For example, it’s forbidden to tackle Peru’s Inca Trail without a guide. Not only will they keep you on the right path, but they’ll make sure you’re eating and drinking correctly for the conditions and know what to do in the event of emergencies. They’ll also have plenty of fascinating knowledge about your surroundings, point out beautiful flora and fauna along the way and answer questions about the cultures of your host country. So unless you have a solid route firmly planned out, it may well be worth hiring a guide.
Work your way up to the biggest peak
If you’re planning a major hike abroad work your way up to the challenge in more familiar surroundings. Your journey to seasoned hiker may be a struggle without some training. Tackle smaller peaks back in the UK, or plan easier hikes in your destination before hitting a big mountain. Not only will you improve your fitness and stamina levels, but you’ll pick up knowledge along the way, from how much water you’ll need to how often you should take breaks, which will prove invaluable on the big trek.
Flexicover policies cover over 120 sports and activities automatically but please be aware that cover for hikes, treks and endurance activities is limited to 3,000 metres above sea level. If you’re planning on going beyond this height you’ll need to discuss this with our team by calling 0800 093 9495.
Wherever you plan on travelling to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.