How Ready Are You For High Altitude Backpacking?

As you grow as a hiker, you might start to feel more adventurous and eager to hike up in higher terrains. Literally! Whether it is mountaineering or peaks a thousand feet high, you only feel greater exhilaration! But is that all you feel?

Not quite…your sense of adventure is sure to be tinged with a bit of apprehension…

Let’s discuss the various setbacks you might have to face while backpacking in high altitudes…and more importantly, how you can avoid them with a bit of prep work!

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 Physical Problems in High Altitude Backpacking

As you start trekking higher, the air pressure becomes less as does the oxygen concentration in the air. Temperature too drops considerably; it is a drop of 3.5 degrees for every 100 feet of elevation gain.

With all these situations, health risks and problems increase as you climb higher. Some of the problems are:

AMS-Acute Mountain Sickness: 75% hikers suffer from this problem. Symptoms include disorientation, loss of co-ordination, headache, nausea, etc.

HAPE-High Altitude Pulmonary Edema: The higher you climb, there are chances that your lungs will be filled with extra fluid. This will cause obstruction of oxygen concentration in your body and results in shortness of breath, weakness, suffocation, etc.

HACE-High Altitude Cerebral Edema: It is a condition resulting in accumulation of excess fluid in the brain thus pressurizing it. Developing over a few days, this may cause disorientation, unconsciousness and even death.

So, how can you avoid these situations?

Check out the following tips and advices…

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Prepare for High Elevation Backpacking

  • Train yourself for several months. Run, ride a bicycle or climb stairs with a heavy backpack to prepare your body for the trip.
  • Gently climb up the elevation. The greater pace you will employ, the earlier you will get exhausted.
  • For backpacking in higher elevation, your backpack should consist of adequate electrolyte replenishment (could be sports drink) to reduce risk of dehydration, water treatment ‘resources’ like
Water filters. The most convenient method of water treatment is a lightweight filtration system consisting of a pump and filter material capable of trapping Giardia. Though somewhat expensive, the filtration system is an increasingly popular alternative. Read the label to see if the filter is effective against Giardia.Iodine. Iodine tablets (Potable Aqua) or solution of iodine (Polar Pure) is far cheaper, easy to use, lightweight, and take up hardly any space in a pack. Iodine treatment can take 20 minutes or longer, and the effectiveness is lessened in cold or murky water. Read the label to see if the manufacturer guarantees the effectiveness against Giardia, and follow directions for use. Chemical treatment can give a mild unpleasant taste to the water. If desired, add powdered, flavored drink mix to the water to improve the taste. (Note that iodine can have unwanted health consequences, especially in people with thyroid disease, pregnant women, and individuals with shellfish allergies.) Chlorine based treatment. An alternative to iodine is chlorine based products commercially sold for water treatment (Aquamira). Just as easy to use as iodine with out the potential downsides of iodine. Household chlorine bleach should not be used as there are no accepted dosage instructions fro treating water int eh backcountry.Boiling water. Keep water at a boil for at least one minute (up to five minutes at high altitudes). Boiling water is a reliable method of destroying Giardia”

as suggested by Appalachian Mountain Club, sunscreen, extra clothing, some kitchen and sleeping equipments, insect repellant, etc.

  • Dress accordingly; keep the weather in mind and choose your apparel accordingly. Don’t forget a comfy yet sturdy boot with a good, reliable grip and a hat or sunglasses.
  • If your hike begins at a high altitude, then rest for 2 to 3 days at that altitude before the hike. In this way, your body will get accustomed to the rarified O2 levels of that atmosphere.
  • On the contrary, if you start hiking from a low altitude, hike slowly. Your body will get time to gradually accustom itself to higher altitude situations.
  • Know your strengths. If you cannot carry heavy backpacks; there is no point making it heavy and unnecessarily straining yourself.

Know from an experienced hiker how to hike on high elevations. Hope you find this video helpful.

The higher the elevation, the greater is the challenge and adrenaline rush! And you don’t want any impediment there. You better be well prepared, so that you don’t falter in your steps!

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