Important Questions You Should Be Asking Your Trek Lead As A Participant

Caffeinated Thoughts
8 min readMar 8, 2023


The jungle doesn’t recognize hierarchies. Arm yourself with as much information as possible.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash


Trekking is one of the best ways to completely immerse yourself in the natural world and take in its amazing splendor. You are made privy to the most sacred and best kept secrets of the forest only when you start exploring by foot. Trekking opens you up to the hidden parts of the forest and reveals its innermost secrets in a way that trail running, overlanding, or mountain biking never will.

However, as much as it is wholesome and enjoyable, trekking comes with inherent risks and dangers. Whether you go with an adventure club or with a couple of buddies, you’ve got to be aware of the inherent risks involved and not leave everything up to the responsibility of a single organizer. Remember, the forest doesn’t recognize hierarchies.

As a trek participant, you need to be armed with as much information as the organizer, or preferrably even more. This information would be invaluable to you in case of an exigency, and you’re forced to navigate your way out of the forest, single-handedly, or with a group of other participants.

As an organizer and trek lead, I’ve come across dozens of participants who aspire to be nothing more than a bunch of sheep being passively shepherded in and out of the forest. They possess no situational awareness, have no idea about first aid, wildlife, or people management. This callous attitude and lazy disposition towards trekking will be your downfall in case things go south. This is no way to be conducting yourself in the forest, even if it's for just a one-off trek that you happen to be doing for the second time in the year.

Fitness isn’t the only prerequisite to being a trekker. You need to possess agility, people skills, street smarts, presence of mind, and be capable of thinking on your feet.

Besides these, you must also possess a solid understanding of the terrain, the entry and exit points of your trek, the contingency plan, and so much more. Yet, trekking clubs in India, volunteer based as well as service providers, take participants out to the jungles every single weekend without providing them with crucial information on what should be done if a certain situation develops. Just because you’re following a pre-determined trail, it doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong. People have gone missing even on the most mundane treks where the trail was clearly marked due to a sudden change in weather.

As a participant, here are some important questions you should be asking your organizer or trek lead:

The trail map

First and foremost before embarking upon any trek, a participant's main concern should be the route that the organizers are planning to follow, and loading those relevant map files onto their own devices. Many trek leads are hesitant to share topographic maps of the trek with trek participants, afraid they might go there on their own without possessing the necessary knowledge and trail expertise. However, this is a silly concern as participants’ lives take precedence above such mundane concerns. The next time you register for a trek, make sure to obtain a full topographic map of the area you’ll be trekking in from the organizers a few days before the trek. This is so that you can study it in detail, and jot down all the important landmarks and waypoints that you might not be able to remember off the top of your head on the day of the trek.

Knowing exactly where you are at every point on the trek is crucial in case someone goes missing or has a medical emergency that has to be dealt with immediately. You are no longer reliant solely on the organizers in order to get yourselves out, and they can direct all their energy to getting rescue and medical teams to the site of the incident.

“Knowing exactly where you are at every point on the trek is crucial in case someone goes missing or has a medical emergency that has to be dealt with immediately.”

It would be very wise to remember that the forest doesn’t care who’s who in a particular group. As far as the jungle is concerned, you’re all trek leads and that’s why you’re even there. Why else would you be there if you don’t know the lay of the land, how to get yourself out in case of an emergency, or how to administer basic first-aid ?

The flora and fauna

You can read up on this online before going for a trek, but it would be better to ask your organizer, since they would possess a micro level understanding of the type of flora and fauna found around that specific trail. You must know what kind of animals reside in and around the trail you’ll be following. This is crucial as you’ll know what to expect and can act accordingly. There are certain trails where we know for a fact that the presence of animals is very less, and that you can sleep outside your tent with just a campfire for company. There are certain trails where lighting a campfire is prohibited. And then there are jungles where the presence of animals is so high that participants are expected to stay inside their tents for the entire night.

“But isn’t that the organizer's job? Why do I have to possess such micro-level information as a participant?”, you might ask.

For starters, being knowledgeable about the medicinal plants present in the forest can help you, should you run into a medical emergency and require immediate first aid.

Secondly, possessing the knowledge about the flora and fauna provides you with crucial information on the edible fruits and plants that grow in that region, should you find yourself stranded inside the forest with nothing to eat.

Thirdly, knowing the kind of animals, rodents, insects and reptiles enables you to prepare yourself for any kind of exigency accordingly. You can carry the relevant bug sprays, bear sprays, mace, or other kinds of animal repellant as per the information provided to you. Knowing what kind of reptiles or insects to expect on the trail lets you pack anti-venom, painkillers, an EpiPen, and other lifesaving medication accordingly.

Important phone numbers and essential information

Before starting the trek, it is crucial for every participant to have the phone numbers of all other participants including the organizer’s stored on their phones and on a sheet of paper. In an emergency, you might not have access to your cellphone, and this makes it all the more important to save the phone numbers of the Emergency Response Team members, the organizers, as well as the phone numbers of other participants going to that particular trek with you that day.

I’ve been on so many treks where participants just took this for granted and avoided keeping a physical copy of the numbers. This callous attitude towards safety will come back to bite you in case of an emergency and everyone’s phones are dead. Time and again I’ve forced myself to remind my participants about the importance of keeping essential information handy on your person in a physical form.

Secondly, one must not only keep such information stored physically but must also make sure that the medium of information storage is protected from the elements. There’s no point of noting down all the contact details and critical information on a book or piece of paper if you haven’t covered it in a piece of plastic to protect it from the elements. Your bag could fall in the water, it may start raining heavily, and so many other things could go wrong.

This is why it is imperative that you keep all electronics along with essential information securely stored inside a plastic or ziplock bag, where it is safe from the elements.

A piece of paper with all the crucial information noted on it isn’t going to be of any use to you if it's all sogged up from the rain now, is it?

The weather report

You want to not just ask your organizer for this information, but also personally check all weather reports of the area before leaving for the trek. This is to check for existing weather conditions, as well as if you can expect any rough weather during the trek, where your team might be in the middle of the jungle with no chance of escape. This allows you to plan your campsites accordingly. For example, if there are reports that you can expect a few thunderstorms during the trek even if it isn’t raining while you’re entering the forest, you can take the decision to camp on higher grounds instead of next to a water body to avoid the risk of flash floods.

Similarly, if extreme heat is predicted, you know to stick to the stream beds and lower lying regions of the jungle, and avoid the plains and plateaus as there’s a high risk of forest fires taking place.

Thirdly, it would pay to know the weather forecast in advance so that you know what to pack clothing and gear wise. You know to pack all your belongings into waterproof bags in case of monsoon treks. Similarly, you might carry very few layers and loose fitting clothes in case excess heat or humidity is expected.


An organizers sole purpose isn’t to ferry participants in and out of the jungle.

His should also make sure to educate participants about the dangers and risks of trekking, and arm themselves with as much information and practical skills as possible so that they can take care of themselves when things go South. Remember that when an mishap takes place, an organizers hands are already tied, and that they will be focussing all of their energies on that particular situation or scenario.

It is during these moments that all your training and preparation will come to your rescue so as to facilitate your exit from the jungle with the rest of the participants, keeping the organizers head free from other concerns so that they can focus on the incident at hand.

There are a hundred different variables to watch out for while planning and preparing for a trek. Due to the vast scope of trekking, you might not be able to factor in each and every single one of them every time. What you can do is greatly reduce the risk of danger and bodily harm by following the basic principles of trekking, and taking the least amount of precautions possible in that regard.

You might not be able to direct your attention to every individual trekker in case of an emergency. But if you did your due diligence by arming each and every participant with information and training on what needs to be done in case of an emergency, then half the job is already done. A tense situation becomes a hundred times less frightening for you when you know your participants are capable of handling themselves. Your mind is now free to focus on the most pressing issue at the moment, greatly improving the chance of human lives being saved and reducing the chance of further injuries as much as possible.



Caffeinated Thoughts

No niche in particular. I am a keen observer of society and gain my inspiration for new articles from observation.