First shopping trip for a trek…

Last June, my husband Amit and went for our first trek to RoopKund in the Indian Himalayas. It was a 5 day trek and we signed up for the trek through IndiaHikes. There are too many experiences and memories from this trek and I have made a promise to myself that I will document everything I can. I hope this will help other novice trekkers like me (even at a cost of everyone discovering my complete ignorance about trekking gear)!!! 

I would like to limit this blog to my first ever trek gear shopping trip. I will be coming up with the gear reviews and my learning as a novice trekker on how to select gear in my upcoming blogs. 

We started preparing for our trek in June 2011 from February 2011.  I had to leave for a trip to Amsterdam in early March 2011 for 2 weeks. Amit promised to do his research on trekking gear and give me a report when I am back. I was happy with that but I did tell him that I would be happy to go through his choices but the final decision on what to buy for myself would rest with me. February flew by and so did March. I was back from Amsterdam and found myself looking at Amit’s list. I was not sure about the list. To be frank, I did not think we need to go to stores that sell hardcore trekking equipment because in my mind we were not doing anything major and it was just our first trek and I was not sure if I would ever want to trek again.

Anyway, to cut the long story short, I made my own list of requirements for my trekking backpack after researching extensively on the internet –

  • It should be comfortable
  • It should be light
  • It should be 65L (As mentioned in the IndiaHikes list of things to bring)
  • It should look good (yes – this was a requirement when I started)
  • It should be a backpack custom made for women 

I could not believe my luck when I saw the department store in my neighborhood stocking trekking backpacks (Yes! They were stocking Trekking Backpacks for a limited period). They satisfied all my criteria and the colors were so cool that I could not decide what to pick. I wanted to help to make a choice. This is when I saw a big smirk on Amit’s face. He told me, “All of them look great. But before you pick one of these, why don’t we check my list out? Let’s just go to each of the specialty store mentioned in my list and if you don’t find anything better you know where to get your backpack from!” We also zeroed in on a deep violet backpack at the department store.

The next day we set out to go to all the stores that Amit had shortlisted. I am not going to name names here but the first 2 stores we went to was a major disappointment and it was also very heartbreaking for me. I am overweight and quite insecure about it. At every moment in those stores, I was worried that one of them was going to tell us, “fat people don’t trek or something to that extent”. Thankfully, it never came to that. Most of the cases, we did not get much help, and I was 100% sure that I am going to be a proud owner of a deep violet backpack from the department store (at least the staff was friendly)!

Amit told me, there is one last place in his list that he would like me to have a look at. By this time, I was quite depressed, but I wanted to get over with it. When we reached Camper’s Corner (yes, that was the last store in the list, and I guess Amit wanted to save his best for the last), we were greeted by extremely friendly staff.

Chris was the first one to approach us and asked us if there is something he can do to help us. I started explaining to him that we are planning to go for a trek and we are planning to buy a backpack. He showed us the choices they had and also explained to us how to go about checking if the bag was comfortable, he also helped us by adding some weight inside the bags so that we have idea how will the bags behave when weight is added to it. During this extensive demo of the bags, at some point Calvin and Sam joined the discussion too and gave some tips and pointers. We found our bags – Mine a Gregory Z65 and Amit chose a Gregory Baltoro 65.  After choosing the bags, we moved on to apparel, trekking poles and trekking boots. I still clearly remember our first conversation where Sam explained to me with a lot of patience that you don’t need 5 sets of pants for 5 days in the mountains. Just one will do 🙂 We ended up completing most of our shopping for the trek that evening.

Some lessons learnt on our maiden trek gear shopping trip –

  • If you have decided to go on a trek and have started preparing for it, stop judging yourselves because no one else is judging you.
  • Even if it is your first trek and you are not sure if you will ever go for a trek again, it still helps to invest in good, at least decent equipment such as backpacks and trekking boots etc.
  • Research, research and more research – try and find out more about your trek, find out if there is an option for some help in carrying your main stuff so that you can just carry a day pack, find out more about the weather during your trekking period – for example, it is going to be raining through your trek, it makes more sense to buy a waterproof backpack rather than buying a water resistant one with a rain cover.
  • Ask for advice – sometimes people assume that you know what you are looking for and do not want to be pushy (maybe that’s what happened in the first two stores we visited). Most people working in stores selling trekking equipment love the outdoors are more than willing to help you. Be vocal if you need help.
  • Do not be too rigid about your requirements, your comfort is more important that the color and the looks of the product that you will be carrying. For example – I was looking for a bag made specifically for females, when I started trying the bags, I realized that bags for women were typically for the ones who are petite and I felt a bag for men was better suited for my shoulders which are quite broad. The choice is quite personal and let comfort be the first thing on your list.
  • Budget – you might be surprised that trekking gear and apparel are quite expensive (if you compare them to their counterparts that will not be used in a rugged environment). Remember that all these products have been built to last. The quality of these products is very good and the quality justifies the cost. Look at it as an investment especially if you plan to go on more treks in the future.

I will soon be back with reviews for all the gear we have been using so far on our trek.

Until then, keep trekking all!

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