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Nikita Rudra Jul 10 2014

Travel Hacks and Tips for High Altitude Travel

Debangana Sen Jul 10 2014
4 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

With there being no signs of imminent respite from the scorching summers in the plains, many travellers are looking up to the hills for a nice cool vacation. Keeping that in mind, we have compiled a list of some travel hacks and high altitude tips that might come handy during your trip.

Photo of a trek in the Himalayas (by udeyismail)

What to Pack

If you are not used to the cold weather, a common instinct is to pack heavy woolens, which end up taking a huge chunk of space. But do keep in mind that in places like the hill station of Manali or Shimla, the afternoons tend to get quite warm and it become very uncomfortable travelling in thick sweaters. The trick is to pack light woolens that can be easily layered on or off depending on the weather. And rolled up, they take less than a third of the space as your bulky coats and sweaters. Wear your heaviest woolens to save space in your luggage. Apart from clothes here are a few things that should also make it to your packing list:

1. For sun protection: Yes, at high altitudes it is vital to protect your skin. Good sunscreen (SPF 30 or more), sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.

2. For dryness: Pack extra strength moisturisers and nasal sprays

3. Make sure your woolens are made from natural breathable fibres that absorb sweat and odour.

Photo of crampons (by Dbaisley)

4. If you are planning a trip to sub-zero climes, breathable and quick-dry thermals/ fleeces must be the only type of clothing you should carry as they keep you warm and dry. Any excess moisture will freeze instantly and can lead to hypothermia. Keeping that in mind, packing a dry suit is a good idea. You don’t want to fall in open water or through thin ice without any protection.

5. Crampons: Pack these if you plan to go hiking on snow.

6. Invest in a Gamow Bag if you plan to go above 1000 m above sea level and suffer from altitude sickness. These are inflatable pressure bags big enough to fit a person inside. They can reduce the effective altitude by upto 3000 m

Tips to Combat Motion Sickness

Twisting curving roads and deep valleys can make anyone feel dizzy and nauseous. Here’s what you can do to prevent feeling like hell.

1. Ginger is said to be a miraculous cure for motion sickness. Carry a few ginger snaps with you and enjoy them on the way. Sucking lemons and munching on dry crackers is also said to work.

2. Avoid eating greasy or a heavy meal just before your ride. Frequent and light eating is the key

3. Do not read a book, play videogames or any such activity that needs you to focus on something visually. Instead of looking at things that are closeby, try focussing at the distant horizon, so your eyes register similar acceleration changes as reported by your inner ear.

Photo of a car on the Leh-Kargil Highway (by babasteve)

4. If travelling with kids, you should plan your trip with enough time in hand so as to accommodate frequent stops and let your children out of the car.

5. Always sit facing the direction you are travelling.

Tips to Combat Altitude Sickness

1. Both tea and ginger snaps help with altitude sickness. Another inexpensive herbal supplement is Ginkgo biloba that helps in improving circulation.

2. If you are anaemic, you are at a greater risk of suffering from altitude sickness. Ask your doctor for iron supplements.

3. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol. Alcohol binds to both water and oxygen, making both these components unavailable for your body.

4. One of the most repeated high altitude tip is to drink plenty of water and for good reason. Keeping yourself hydrated takes care of most of the symptoms associated with altitude sickness.

Photo of camping tents on a mountain (by Andrew E. Larsen)

5. If you have made it past 3000 m, follow the golden rule of “Climb High. Sleep Low”. Do not ascend more than 300 m each day to sleep. If you have climbed further than that, make sure you descend down to sleep at an altitude no more than 300 m than the previous night’s sleeping elevation.

6. If you start feeling breathless, dizzy or the beginning of a headache, immediately descend to a lower level.

7. If travelling above 1500 m, it is a good idea to take it slow for the first day and let your body acclimatize to the altitude. This will prevent any future headaches or dizziness.

What to Eat

At higher altitudes, you need to drink and eat more because it takes an extra effort to do everyday tasks and hence you end up burning more calories. But instead of heavy meals, adding butter or cheese to your meals will take care of your daily calorie needs. Also opt for complex carbohydrates like fruits, whole grains, vegetables, as they burn slowly and are a more sustained source of energy. Chocolates, butter toffees and nuts help keeping you warm and are good snacking options.

Photo of chocolate truffles (by David Leggett)

Regulating Body Temperature

Hot water bottles and heating packs might feel nice and warm up your feet and hands for a while, but the warmth results in pushing the blood away from your hands and feet making you even more colder. Rubbing menthol is probably the last thing you’d want to do, but it actually helps in increasing the circulation in your hands and feet making them warmer.

Walking on Ice

The colour of the ice is a good indicator of when it’s safe enough to walk on. White ice about 15-30 cm is the safest. Gray ice around 10-14 cm is good to support a person weighing 70 kg on skis, but avoid if possible. Black ice should have you beating a quick retreat. This is newly-formed ice and is likely to break at the slightest pressure. Moreover, listening to the ice as you walk on it is also a good way to estimate its strength. Solid ice makes a crunch when you walk on it. Weaker ice makes a more squeaky sound.

Photo of the Chadar Trek in Zanskar (from Official Website)

Extra Tips

1. Avoid climbs after heavy snowfall.

2. A quick way to make your shoes waterproof is to rub wax on them and warm it a little so that the wax melts and seeps into the pores. This is a lifesaver if you have to walk on snow and don’t have snow boots.

3. It’s a good idea to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles before your trip.

Travelling to mountains can be an exhilarating experience provided you practice a little safety and exercise your common sense. We hope these high altitude tips proves useful for you.
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