What's the best way to train/prepare?
Train in a range of weather conditions to test your gear. It can be helpful to keep notes on the temperature that day, what clothing you were wearing, how you felt, and how far you travelled. That way, once trek day arrives, you know which gear works best for you for the temperature and weather conditions on the day of the trek.
ALWAYS TRAIN WITH YOUR PACK ON. Your pack will be on your body for the duration of the trek. You'll want to train wearing your pack, loaded with approximately the same amount of weight you will be carrying on trek day. This will help your body get accustomed to the weight of the pack on your body, and will help you identify any "hot spots" where your pack presses or rubs. I find that my pack presses on my collar bones and sometimes rubs my low back. Training with my pack on helps my body get used to these pressure points and rub spots, and with some training, those spots usually resolve on their own as my body gets used to the weight and the pressure.
ALWAYS TRAIN WITH YOUR BOOTS ON. For the same reason as the pack, you want your feet to get used to walking in the boots you will be wearing on the trek.
Training time is also a good opportunity to test which foods will work for your body on trek day. I have a suggested food list further down the FAQ page, but different foods work for different people, so test out a range of things to figure out what works best for you.
How is the registration fee v.s. fundraising money used?
1. The trek registration fee covers event expenses. These costs include event coordination expenses, logistical expenses, marketing, insurance, support/medical components, supplies, etc.
2. Every dollar trekkers fundraise via peer-to-peer fundraising goes to The Working Centre, an amazing social services pillar that provides an array of services and programs for our community's most vulnerable citizens. In 2019 we raised over $45,000!
Why do I need gaiters and icers?
All of the items on the mandatory gear list are there to ensure that you have the most comfortable and safe trekking experience possible. Gaiters strap under your boot sole, and wrap snugly around your ankle and lower leg to create a seal that prevents snow from going up your snow pants leg and into your boot. In 2018 we trekked through sections of trail where the snow was two feet deep. Without our gaiters, we would have definitely gotten snow in our boots. I cannot overemphasize the importance of keeping your feet dry during a winter trek of this duration. If your feet are wet, you will not only be cold, but you are also putting yourself at risk of getting blisters. If there is very little or no snow on the ground on trek day, the gaiters will not be mandatory. BUT, if there is snow, you MUST have gaiters. In 2019 we had freezing rain for a week before the trek, and every surface was covered in sheet ice. Icers strap to the sole of the boot and provide extra traction in icey conditions. These are necessary to reduce slipping and falling injuries. So, buy your gaiters and icers, and keep your receipts. They are relatively inexpensive items, but will make a world of difference to your comfort and safety on trek day. You don't have to use them at all times, but you do have to carry them at all times throughout the trek.
Why do I need a first aid kit? - Note: Pioneer Trekkers do not require a first aid kit
The first aid kit contains the minimum amount of medical gear you should have with you on a winter trek. The reason to have this gear is so that everyone has what they need should they encounter a circumstance where they require medical attention. We need to obtain permits and insurance for this event, and we have a very high safety standard in order to ensure everyone has a pleasant and safe experience. To break it down, here's what you need:
Closure bandages (x6): "closure bandages" is just a fancy word for bandaids. You need 6 bandaids.
Anti-inflammatory capsules (x6): "anti-inflammatory capsules" is ibuprofen. bring a minimum of 6 ibuprofen to reduce swelling or inflammation on the trek. These are also helpful to control swelling if you were to roll an ankle or injure yourself in some way.
Blister pads (x6) or medical tape (1m length, rolled): blister pads or tape (hypafix brand recommended) are helpful if you want to treat blisters on your feet or hands (you may get blisters on your palms from trekking poles, if you're using them).
Tensor bandage (x1): a small tensor bandage roll is helpful in the case of a rolled ankle, sore knee, or whatnot. it helps to support the injury and control swelling.
Antibacterial towelettes (x8): these are basically just alcohol swabs. If you have an open blister, you'll want to wipe it with an alcohol swab to keep it clean.
Antibiotic ointment (1 tube): If you do have an open blister and wish to treat it, you'll first wipe it with an alcohol swab, followed by a dab of antibiotic ointment, prior to putting on a bandaid or tape.
Emergency blanket (x1): An emergency blanket is a tinfoil-looking sheet that wraps around you if you're cold and reflects heat back toward your body. They are cheap, and available at KW Surplus on Victoria Street, or at Adventure Guide or MEC.
Zip Ties (x6): Zip ties are great emergency fix-it items. If your pack zipper breaks, or something similar, you can always rely on a zip tie to save the day.
Duct tape (1 m): Duct tape is a great general life-saver if your clothing or pack tears.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes can be a miracle-worker if you are crashing due to exhaustion and exertion. These can be in any form. Honeystingers, shock blocks, gels, capsules, gatorade powder, etc. equivalent to about six "doses".
"hot hands" hand warmers (or something similar) are not listed in the medical kit, but are a great treat when it gets cold through the night section of the trek.
What should I pack for food?
For the trek, you must carry the following minimum calories:
Pioneers: No minimum
Optimists: minimum 1200 calories of food
Full Trekkers: minimum 2300 calories of food
This ensures that you can be self sufficient in terms of nourishment for the duration of the trek. Different foods work for different people, but consider that you must carry it with you, so be mindful of weight and the ease at which you can eat the food while walking. i.e. A granola bar is easier to eat than cereal. Get peel-top tuna v.s one that requires a can-opener. Does your food require a spoon? make sure you have that packed too. It's going to be cold, so a sandwich will probably be just fine sitting in your pack for several hours. If it's exceptionally cold the food in your pack may freeze. Tuck a granola bar or whatnot into an interior pocket of your coat about an hour before you plan to eat it, so it thaws.
My general rule of thumb for food is to pack calorie-dense nutritious foods that are as light in weight as possible, and take up as little space as possible in my bag. I find that sugary foods make my mouth raw over time, and things that are too salty give me heartburn. I usually just pop an electrolyte capsule into my mouth once in a while to make sure I'm topped up.
Here are some of my favourite items:
Snyder's of Hanover pretzel bits
Tuna (get the kind where the top peels off)
Love Child baby food smoothies (Yes, it's baby food, but it's a great way to consume fruit and veggies on the trail)
Simply Protein bars
Epic meat bars (these are like a combo of a jerky and a granola bar. sounds weird but they're pretty decent)
Dried chickpea snacks
Anything made with coconut
Honey Stingers electrolyte chews
Energy gels (I dislike these, but plenty of endurance athletes swear by them)
Foods that work for me might not work for you. For example, I know a kayak ultra-marathon champion who carries six cold McDonalds cheeseburgers in his pack when he's racing, so trust your gut (literally) and bring foods that work for your body.
It is a supported trek, so if you want to call a friend or family member and ask them to bring you food or deliver hot pizza to you at one of the check points, you can definitely do that, but YOU STILL MUST PACK YOUR MINIMUM REQUIRED CALORIES. Any additional food items delivered to you on the trek are not part of your mandatory calorie count. There will be water available at multiple locations along the trek, and we will also have water on the support vehicle. In addition to drinking water, there will be boiled water available at some of the check points as well, provided by our wonderful support crew. We'll have a box filled with packets of dehydrated soup broth and hot chocolate on the support vehicle, so if you need something warm, you can have it at the CPs.
NOTE: Water in a hydration bladder may freeze in the tube, even if you have a tube insulator. If it is below freezing on trek day, it is recommended that you carry water in a bottle rather than a hydration bladder.
If you have additional questions, ask by emailing