Trek America: 5 Things I Would Do Differently

As we start the new year on a fresh, I’ve considered what I’d have done differently on my Trek America trip. You might know that I will be travelling again with Trek America later this year, in the autumn of 2015. Although I had a fantastic trip of a life time on my last trip, on reflection there are a few things I would do differently to make my trip even better. With that in mind here are 5 things I would do differently.

1 – Wear quality walking shoes

Those of you who followed along with my trip reports from the Best Of The East will have read all about the painful blisters I had during the start of my trip. I had spent a lot of time on my feet and after a couple of days exploring New York, they were already a little sore.  On the second full day of the Trek we had a free day exploring Washington DC, where I walked several miles exploring the cities amazing monuments and museums. I made what I consider to be a massive error on my part here. I wore cotton trainer socks on that day – the worst kind for preventing blisters! Cotton socks absorb moisture and are more abrasive than other socks. I also wore regular trainers instead of the hiking shoes I brought on the trip for the sole purpose of walking!

I ended up having to visit a hospital in Virginia. Luckily they weren’t infected. Next time, I’ll be sure to wear proper walking socks (not cotton) and hiking shoes. On longer hikes, I’ll prepare my feet by wearing moleskin over areas I usually get blisters to prevent friction. Ok, that’s the disgusting part out-of-the-way!

2 – Take a single, 18-200mm lens with my DSLR

One of the things I love to do when travelling is to capture the beauty of the places I visit on film in awesome pictures. As they say, a picture says a 1000 words! When I returned from my trip, I created an amazing photo book with my images as a keepsake and a place to look back in years to come at all the amazing times I had. We rarely print images these days, and there’s nothing better than seeing your images professionally printed instead of on a computer where they can easily become lost over time.

My biggest photography regret when travelling was that I foolishly didn’t take a wide angled lens. I opted to take a 35mm prime lens, for its fast aperture and great night ability, teamed with my 55-300mm telephoto lens. The widest angle I had available was 35mm,  which made landscapes and group shots difficult in some situations. Having to regularly change lenses is a chore and often means missing shots where the moment can be gone in an instant.

My solution? On my next Trek America trip I will take a single 18-200mm superzoom lens. This lens (which I have yet to buy), will offer great all round shooting ability and mean never missing a shot again!

3 – Take a wheeled backpack (or holdall)

Whilst researching for my last trip, I decided that a duffel bag, specifically the awesome North Face Base Camp duffel bag was the best choice. I chose this bit of kit for its acclaimed strength, fantastic waterproofing, and all-round general indestructibility!  The bag did not disappoint! I remember one morning, as we were having breakfast and preparing to leave our lovely Nashville campsite, we experienced a torrential downpour in which everyone’s bags got drenched in the epic storm. This bag held up fantastically as it was exposed to the elements and none of my belongings inside were wet, something which can’t be said for many of the other bags on the trip.

The main problem I had with this bag, even though it could be carried as either a hold all or rucksack, was that it was simply too heavy when fully packed. Admittedly I didn’t have to carry it often, mainly around the airport and hotel, but it was just too much to wear on my back. The bag doesn’t have the proper support or straps that regular rucksack do, making the weight awkward and difficult to carry when used as a rucksack. At times I felt the weight of the bag and its content pulling me over, which isn’t ideal. For comfort more than anything, on my next trip I will be looking for some wheeled luggage.

4 – Pack less clothes

One thing I learnt whilst travelling was how to use the hostel and campsite laundry! Normally while on holiday I would never bother doing laundry, but on a trip like this it really has its benefits. I packed enough clothes for 2 weeks, something which was probably unnecessary.  We had the opportunity to do laundry at least twice on the trip. The facilities were fine and easy to use. Trek even provided washing tablets for the machines (I think this might have come from the food kitty?). Moral of the story – pack minimal and do laundry on the trip! Use the extra space to carry your sleeping bag (did I mention I managed to carry this in my bag!), a sleeping mat – these make a huge difference on a camping trip, and a few souvenirs.

5 – Take a journal and complete it daily

I’m going to be honest here, when I started this blog I intended to daily blog my entire Trek America trip, in practice, this was never going to happen. On Trek you are too busy having the time of your life on amazing adventures and activities. Every day is packed and you’ll often find yourself having a new ‘favourite moment’. I initially thought I would blog during van time and the famous van appreciation days, but van time was mostly spent sleeping, listening to music, chatting, playing games or taking in the sights. Sometimes the small things you see on the road can make your day: i.e. one day I was surprised to see an Aldi store of the highway we were going along. I never thought I’d see an Aldi in America!

I simply never had the time to commit to blogging and wasn’t in the right frame of mind – I wanted to enjoy every moment without being stuck looking at a screen! I do wish now that I had taken a diary or travel journal to note down what we did on a day, where we ate, what we seen, where we stayed etc. The majority of my trip reports were written from memory, using photographs and our trusty trip planner we received at the start of our trek which detailed things like where we were staying, journey time and activities. Using a journal would have really helped the blogging process without needing to be a hinderance to the enjoyment of the trip. Even if you don’t blog, having a diary of your travels is a fantastic memento.

I hope you found this post enjoyable and perhaps leave you with some ideas and tips when preparing for your next trip. Even if your not travelling with Trek America, I hope you enjoyed the post and found the tips useful.

Have you travelled with Trek America before? What are your top tips and would you do anything differently? Did you find this post useful? Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comments below!

7 Comments on “Trek America: 5 Things I Would Do Differently

  1. Hi Ross

    Great blog, glad I found it. I am doing a trek america in a few months time, I was wondering if you bothered taking a camping mat or if you found what they provided sufficient? Do they provide a mat or a camp bed?
    Many thanks!

    • Hi Naomi, thanks for the comment! I’m sure you’ll have fun on your Trek America tour. Which one are you doing? I decided to take a camping mat, and it was definitely worth it. I went with a self inflating mat, which rolled up flat and small enough to fit in my bag. You don’t necessarily need a Thermarest one, I went with a Vango and it was great. They make such a difference to you sleep at night. Depending on various things, like your tour, tour length and tour leader, you may be provided with a self inflating mat from Trek. All tours however cary basic roll up mats! If you like a good nights sleep, i’d take one with you!

  2. Thanks Ross – I am doing the Southener tour. I think I’ll take an inflatable mat – I am not the best camper!! Just need to work out how to fit everything into my luggage now!
    Naomi

    • No problem Naomi! Glad you’ve found my blog posts useful! I would definitely recommend an inflatable mat, mine made all the difference! You can still use one of Trek’s mats too, for double the comfort! – You’ll be the envy of the group. Yeah the luggage struggle! I took a duffel bag the last time but I’m thinking I might get one with wheels for the next trip!

  3. Hi, Ross

    I’m planning on booking the Westerner 2 tour for late 2015/early 2016. I read that you had to go to the hospital and I was just wondering if you went with Trek America’s insurance, or if you took out a policy from another company? I haven’t booked yet, but I’m already worrying about which insurance company to go with!

    Thanks,
    Julia

    • Hi Julia

      Thanks for reading the blog! Yeah, I used Trek America’s insurance. I know it may seem expensive, but considering the activities you get up to I feel its worth it for your peace of mind. You know you’ll be covered for any eventuality while on Trek. On your first day the Tour Leader will check that everyone has insurance and record all the policy numbers. If you buy through Trek America, the leader already has all your insurance details and you are all set ready to go!

      I never had any problems using my Trek America insurance while on tour. If you do need to see a doctor on trek, medical practicies/ surgeries don’t normally accept travel insurance so your tour leader will probably take you to the local hospital where travel insurance will be accepted.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Ross

  4. Hi there! I am enjoying reading your blog as I am doing the best of the east trek in a few weeks time! I’m just curious how much money you spent while on the trek? I’m unsure about how much to take.

    Thank you,

    Kerry 🙂

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