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JMT versus EBC - how do they compare?

Frequently I get the question what trek was harder: the Everest Base Camp trek or the John Muir Trail? Honestly, these two aren't up for comparison at all. The length, miles and facilities (or lack thereof) couldn't be more different. 

When I finished the Everest Base Camp trek I felt amazing. I felt proud, strong and had a ton of inspiration. It felt like I did something that wasn't for everyone, something that makes you hardcore. After the John Muir Trail I felt exhausted, done with hiking and proud. Proud that I finished something that was super hard. Comparing the EBC to JMT was comparing a walk in the park with a walk in a beautiful... hell? 

The people make the trek
I was in luck with the group I had during my EBC trek. We were crying from laughter even when things got hard, dirty and uncomfortable. At one point we were almost literally coughing our lungs out. No sleep and a fever? Haha! Massive headaches and feeling sick? Haha! It was such a great group and I've never experiences something like it. The JMT crew was nothing like it. The overall group dynamics weren't great. It made for a lot of boring tent staring nights, and trust me there are plenty of evenings to kill. 

Facilities
Walking up the route to Everest you come across tea houses, villages and many many people. Only the last two camps were without a "real" toilet. There's warmth through yak poo heaters, there are bottles of coke and pringles and every now and then you'll find a shower! I can be short about the facilities on the JMT. There are non. Only the stuff you bring. No surprise showers, no western pick me ups in the shape of a can, no guitar solo's at the stop of the night. 

Length
The Everest Base Camp trek takes about 9-12 days depending on your schedule. I took 10 and it was the perfect length. Just when I got sick of walking we stopped. During the JMT at day 10 I felt I had enough and I wasn't even half way! This luckily changed later on, but I've learned the hard way that I'm not a 3,5 week hike kinda girl.  

Food
Who doesn't crave a warm, nice meal after a hard day's work? In Nepal I had omelets, pancakes, curry, coffee and pizza. The food was surprisingly good, it's amazing what they can carry up that mountain. Of course, after 10 days I couldn't see another carb and the first thing I ordered when we arrived in the capital was a Greek salad. California served me a wide variety of 'just add water'-dishes. I must say, they were pretty awesome! I only struggled with the breakfast. I just couldn't do it anymore in the end. 

Physical challenge
The trek (EBC) itself wasn't hard at all. The mileage, the going up and going down - if you do a good training before, you good. After the first day of the JMT, a very mild slow day, I thought by myself "HOLY MOLY, HOW IS THIS A CHILLED OUT DAY?" Well, you get used to it. Trust me. Just give it a week. In the end, when the bag got lighter and the body got stronger things got easier. But not easy. The JMT is just a very hard physical trek. At least it was for me. What both treks have in common is the altitude. The Everest Base Camp trek brings you over 5364 meter, which is a lot for the body. The John Muir Trail, if you do the Mt. Whitney summit, brings you up to almost 4.500 meter. The rest of the trek is somewhere between 3-3.500 meters. For me enough to get headaches and feel sick. (I'm from below sea level, don't judge)

So bottomline, the two treks can't be compared at all. Yes, they are both gorgeous treks and both routes are must do's for the hike fanatics. If you are not sure what to do, start with the EBC. This will give you a good idea of how you react to the altitude and gives you a little teaser of roughing it. 

What's your opinion on EBC versus JMT? 

Buying hiking shoes: pro tips!

One of your most important pieces of gear during a trek, through hike or just a wander on a mountain is your footwear. There are so many choices, options, prices and technical descriptions. Here's how I chose my shoes - Salomon gore text lightweight hiking boots, that carried me during the Everest Base Camp Trek, the John Muir Trail and the Overland Track. 

What kind of activity
Some people swear by trail runners, others want the toughest shoe out there. Important is the sort of activities this pair of shoes have to endure. For me it was simple: hiking in bushy areas with a lot of up and a lot of down. I wanted a shoe that was made for walking, with a lot of grip on different textures. 

What kind of shoe
Do you want boots, or more sneaker like shoes? Keep in mind different weather situations (snow, rain, mud) and the use of gaitors. Do you want the shoes to be super light weight, somewhere in between or heavy? I wanted to be able to protect some part of my ankles (hello knife sharp twigs!) and like the sense of security that a boot gives me. 

Technical features
What's important for you? I wanted a shoe that's water resistent. I've had to hike in a lot of wet (mud, snow, rivers) situations. My shoes are made out of gore tex material and keep dry for a long, long, long time. Yes, they failed after hours and hours ploughing through the snow, but hey... what do you expect? A simpel misstep in a river crossing or balancing on a muddy stick that doesn't go so well is all forgiven. 

The fit
It's better to buy your shoes too large than too small. You want to lose your toenails and walk on bloody blisters? If that's the case, ignore my advice. If you want to be able to rock your shoes without having to walk them in for months? Bring your hiking socks when you go shoe shopping. I'm normally a size euro 38, but my hiking boots are a size euro 40. Do they feel big? Nope. They feel comfy wearing one pair of normal hiking socks (Merino wool baby!), but still fit as a glove when I wear liners, normal hiking socks and my super fluffy winter socks. In my opinion it's not the length of the shoe that matters, but the fitting around the rest of your foot. Hence why I like my boots being higher than a sneaker -> more grip.   

The looks
Your shoes won't look fashionable. Just go with it. 

What's important for you when you go hiking shoe shopping? Are you looking around for boots, but still in doubt? Let me know!

Food on the trail

Well hi there foodie! As a diehard hiker and dito food lover, you'll have to make some decisions and concessions. You don't want to get sick, get a stomach ache, have low energy or feel unsatisfied. 

Being vegetarian
I've been a vegetarian for 13 years. I've had periods of being a pescotarian, but during my travels I usually stick to the plant based diet. Not without reason. You don't know who's cooking the food, where the animals come from, how fresh your dish is. Don't get me wrong; I'm not a scaredy type that evades street dishes. But.. when your main focus is hiking a trail you were dreaming about for years, you're better safe than sorry. Right?

Snack attack
When your breakfast/lunch/dinner wasn't all you expected, there's always this thing called snacks. Pack them! And do yourself a favour, don't stick to snickers, cliff bars and M&M's. They will bore you. And they will make you sick in the end. I'm all about snack diversity. Oven grilled chickpeas, dried fruits, trail mix, hard candy, gummy bears, mentos, peanut butter (packs), dates and Kendal mint cake. My ultimate favourite were the chickpeas. Mix it up and make one normal batch, one spiced and one salty.

Everest Base Camp 2016

EBC 

Walking on carbs..

Emergency foods
There are foods that make you feel better and foods that do the direct opposite. At the hut where we stayed after Everest Base Camp I only managed to hold down Pringles and Coca Cola. Bless them. It gives you enough energy and kills germs and stomach aches that are bothering you. But the healthier options are ginger (tea), green veggies and lots and lots of water. Keep away from sour drinks, orange juice and alcohol.

Keep on drinking/eating
The key is to keep eating and drinking even if you don't feel like it. You need the energy. You need the sugars, carbs and warmth. You'll lose enough kilo's anyway, keep the body fuelled. 

How do you prepare your trek food-wise? Let me know!   

My top 5 pieces of gear

If you're an outdoor lover chances are high you have a closet full of technical clothing, rain defying covers and interesting pieces of hardwear. You can shop yourself poor. Gear is expensive. And not all of the gear I've bought brings me a lot of joy during my treks. This is my top 5 gear list:

Osprey pack
During a through hike your pack is your life. Don't underestimate the power of a terrible backpack. It aches, creaks, hurts and nothing ever really fits. As a woman the options aren't plentiful. For the 3 weeks JMT hike my eye fell for the Osprey Xena 85L backpack (red). I already owned a green 28L Osprey Manta that I wore during the EBC trek and it was everything I wished for. Both packs have handy pockets, strings you can hook your carabiners on, a place for your camel bag and a waterproof body. Try before you buy. I changed my pack for a smaller one when I noticed the back piece wasn't fitting perfectly. 

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"The pack"

My 47 lbs bundle of joy

Salomon hiking boots
Hiking boots are very personal. Some like it heavy, others like them light. My Salomon hiking boots are very durable, light and keep my feet dry during river crossings. I would recommend them to everyone who's looking for the same specs. 

WakaWaka solar charger
There are plenty of solar charger options on the market. There are several reasons why I chose the WakaWaka. 1) With every WakaWaka you buy, you give another WakaWaka to someone in need. 2) It's compact and light. 3) It has a build-in flashlight with SOS-function. 4) The WakaWaka stores the solar energy for a later moment, that means you can charge at night. 

Therm-a-rest
With long physical days come long nights of rest. That is, when you've created a good sleeping situation for yourself. I bought the Therm-a-Rest Evolite regular sleeping mat and I've slept wonderful. Okay, truth to be fair: there's no place like home. But this feels comfy enough for your home away from home. 

Hiking underwear
I never thought I would buy it (but I did) and I never thought I would write about it (but I am). But here we are. Take my advice and invest in specially designed hiking underwear. Especially you ladies! I opted for Craft Active Comfort Boxers and chose them over my regular underwear. They are fast drying, breathable and comfortable. Plus they didn't annoy me underneath my hiking leggings. Really, this makes life a lot easier on the trail. 

What's your favourite piece of gear? Was it something that was well discussed on hiking platforms and such or were you surprised? Let me know in the comments below!

How to train for the John Muir Trail

It doesn't matter if you take 1 or 3 weeks to hike the John Muir Trail. What does matter is the level of fitness. Why? The fitter you are, the more fun you'll have! I have a few tips for you on how to train for the John Muir Trail, so you can make the most of it. 

Begin sooner than later
Yes I know. Going to the gym sucks. But believe me when I say that you get used to everything. Or even better: you'll miss it when you skip a training. The trick? Start 6-9 months training in advance and increase the amount of training days as you go. You don't sport at all? Start with 2 days a week. Already very sportive? Pick it up at 3-4 days. The last month you want to be active 5-6 days a week. With a week of rest just before your trip.   

Mix it up
Spending 10 hours a week on a treadmill is one way to give yourself a burnout. It's repetitive, boring and doesn't do much. Therefore: mix it up! In the weeks before I was getting fit for my EBC and JMT trek I was doing a combination of kickboxing, crossfit and running (EBC) and weight training, swimming, cardio (JMT). I'll do a complete workout guide in another blog soon!

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JMT

SOBO or NOBO?
#TeamNOBO

There's no such thing as being too fit
"My training is going so well I can skip tonight." Nope. There's no such thing as being too fit. You won't, I REPEAT, you won't get bored because the JMT is too easy. If the JMT is not a physical challenge, in case you are a super human, there are many side trek options to make the most of it. Mountains everywhere! 

Don't focus on how you look, but how you feel
You can't always tell how strong someone is by looking at their physique. You can be a badass MF under a thin layer of winter fat. You might be a petit fighter with professional wrestling muscle strength. You really can't tell. I've seen people doing 20 pull ups without breaking a sweat who couldn't finish a day of walking. Don't focus too much on how you look or what Instagram labels as "fit". Do you feel good? Like you can walk for days with a big pack? Feeling confident? Then you're ready! 

Make it fun!
You have taken on the JMT adventure because you love to hike. The best way to train for your hike is... to hike. Well, living in the Netherlands well under sea level didn't really give me many options for hike training. So I combined the necessary with the pleasant: slaying on the stairmaster for 30-60 minutes with a 75% pack watching the latest episode of my favourite series. Before you know it you're done! 

Want to know my exact workout regime before my John Muir Trail and/or Everest Base Camp trek? Stay tuned!