Expedition Preparation – Optimising Yourself For Your Expedition

Whilst you’re dreaming of your next expedition, why not use this time to prepare for when we’re allowed into the high mountains again? 

Preparation plays a vital role in reducing the risk of illness and injury on expedition, as well as maximizing your chance of enjoyment and success! I find it useful to think about the following categories and make a plan to optimize each one to improve overall preparedness. Lots of it can be done from home during lock down…so what are you waiting for?

Physical Fitness

You’re not allowed in the gym right now but that’s OK because your expedition isn’t in the gym either. Get expedition fit by walking or running outside if you can. Why not add some weight to a well-fitted rucksack and wear that too? All training is better than no training and increased fitness improves physical performance on expedition, especially at high altitude!

Mental Preparation

  • Learn how you respond to physical and mental stress by challenging yourself to smaller things before your expedition.
  • Think about your stress triggers and how you can reduce them during the expedition (e.g. lack of sleep – aim to maximize sleep on expedition by napping when there is time, not staying up too late etc.).
  • Think about how it may feel if the expedition doesn’t go the way you’d planned for some reason, and how you would deal with that.
  • Find and practice coping strategies that you can use on expedition during the tough times that we all experience.

Medical Optimisation

Medical optimization means making sure your health is as good as possible prior to expedition, fitness is just the beginning.

  • Dental check up (dental issues can ruin expeditions – don’t let it crop up on yours)
  • Get up to date with immunisations and find out what extra vaccines to consider.
  • See your specialist for a review of your chronic health condition (if applicable).
  • Don’t change or start new medication close to your expedition start date, do things earlier to see if it works for you.
  • See your doctor/dentist about that niggling symptom you’ve been ignoring.
  • Women: get advice on options for managing your menstrual cycle whilst on expedition (blog post coming soon on this).

Technical Skill (if required)

Being slick with skills will reduce your stress levels when you have to do it in the dark at 4am at high altitude and will mean you don’t get cold taking extra time. Here are a few ideas to start with that can be done from home:

  • Practice rope skills e.g. tying knots quickly.
  • Practice putting your harness on whilst wearing gloves.
  • Practice putting crampons on efficiently whilst wearing gloves.
  • Get used to using your walking poles if you’re new to them.


Testing your kit to see what works for you, and what doesn’t, is vital to keep you comfortable and stress free on expedition. Here are a few ideas but the list is endless:

  • Practice packing your rucksack so you know how you like to organise it.
  • Get a layering system that works in all weather conditions.
  • Find comfortable boots you can trust.
  • Find a water/hydration system you like.
  • Why not sleep out in the garden in your sleeping bag – if it’s not warm enough here, it’s not warm enough for Kilimanjaro?

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