Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear
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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that last year I took part in a trek across the Great Wall of China to raise some much needed money for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund. Since then, I have been asked on several occasions about what to take and wear whilst trekking the Great Wall, so I thought I’d put a bit of a post together based on my own experiences.
Trekking the Great Wall of China: What to wear
What to wear when trekking the Great Wall of China will depend on what time of year you go, I did my trek in October, and the weather was pretty good. However, the weather can be changeable and so layers are a must. The following advice is based on my own experiences trekking the Great Wall in Autumn, for other times of year you would need to adjust accordingly (i.e. shorts for summer, thermals for winter). For my trek in October, I took the following items:
You will need a couple of decent pairs of trekking / hiking trousers ideally with pockets. I found pockets important for easy access to my phone (for taking pics!) I bought some where the legs zipped off, so that if I got too warm they doubled as three quarter length trousers. The main thing is that after hours of walking, you need to be comfortable. So either trekking trousers or sports leggings that you’d wear for running or going to the gym are ideal. You should also take some waterproof trousers just in case. Luckily, I didn’t need mine but they are useful to carry in your day pack in case of heavy rain, which can and does happen in October.
Thermal base layers
I took a few thermal base layers to wear under my T-shirts. I usually wore a thermal base layer, a t-shirt and a light fleece to start with and then de-layered pretty quickly as we started walking up hill. Most days I just wore a t-shirt and then put a fleece on when we stopped for lunch and it got a bit chilly. Layers are a must because you really don’t know what the weather will be doing. When we were there it was in the high teens and sunny most of the time but we were really lucky as the week before they had torrential rain. I bought my thermal base layers from the Mountain Warehouse off Amazon but you can get them in lots of sports shops. They come in handy for running too and I still use mine when running or hiking in the winter.
As above, you’ll need several wicking t-shirts to wear over your base layer. I had some running t-shirts which I took but make sure they are the wicking material which helps you stay dry when you start sweating.
Day sack (30L)
You need a decent ruck sack for carrying your layers, lunch/snacks any first aid equipment and your water. You’ll probably need around 1-2 litres of water but more if you’re trekking in the summer. I bought a Karrimor back pack from Sports Direct which had a section for a water bladder.
I would recommend taking a water bladder as it’s so much easier but you don’t need more than 2 litres if you are going in October. Although mine leaked a few times so I’d recommend putting it in a plastic bag just in case. I would also recommend a back pack that has loops for tying your walking poles and also straps for fastening around your waist and chest for support.
If possible, try to get some advice about your backpack and how to wear/pack it to avoid injuries and strains, I didn’t do this and ended up straining my shoulder muscles, so it’s important trust me! It’s also worth taking a waterproof cover for your ruck sack just in case.
Walking boots with ankle support and a decent grip are ESSENTIAL. Some parts of the Great Wall are very uneven and the steep parts can be very slippy, especially if it’s wet. I’d recommend going to an outdoors shop such as Mountain Warehouse, Go Outdoors, or Sports Direct and trying them on before purchasing. You should also wear them in before your trek to avoid blisters.
As above, you’ll need at least 4/5 pairs of decent walking socks. You can’t wear normal socks as they will rub and give you blisters. I bought my walking socks from Sports Direct and they were fab. I was surprised actually as I had no blisters at all the whole time!
Walking poles are essential if you are trekking the Great Wall of China, they really help to take the strain off your knees and I really think they saved my life on some of the really steep bits!! I would recommend lightweight foldable ones that you can attach to your back pack when you are not using them. Again, I bought mine from Sports Direct (Karrimor ones) and they were a good price but you can get them from Amazon or most outdoor shops if you don’t have any already.
I took a few lightweight fleeces as well as one really thick one that I travelled in/wore in the evenings. When trekking, thinner layers are better so lightweight fleeces are preferable – they are easier to whip off and carry in your back pack too. I didn’t wear my fleeces much when trekking, it was mostly when we stopped for lunch as it usually felt cooler when we stopped. Also, some parts of the wall are high up in the mountains and so it naturally gets cooler the higher you go.
I took a lightweight waterproof jacket – you don’t need anything too big / heavy. just something which will keep you dry and that you can easily roll up and stuff in your back pack. Mine is a Karrimor one from Sports Direct and is quite thin but you can layer up with fleeces underneath. If you were going in the winter you may need something warmer but for spring/Autumn a thin waterproof with layers should suffice.
I didn’t actually take one of these but it’s something I wish I had taken and I’ve since bought one for my running / walking. Other members of the group had them and they are just useful for putting your phone/camera etc in so you don’t have to keep stopping to get them out of your bag. If you have trousers with pockets it’s less of an issue but having things in your pockets when you’re walking for miles can be uncomfortable. I’ve found some examples of what I mean on Amazon here – running / walking belts but I recently bought one from Sports Direct similar to the one below and I think it is brilliant.
Hat/Scarf or neckwarmer/Gloves
It can get cold higher up on the wall so it’s worth taking some warm gloves, a warm hat/bandana to cover your ears and a neckwarmer or scarf. To be honest, in October I didn’t need these items much but they are worth taking in your back pack as the weather can change quickly and it can get cold if the fog rolls in. Depending on the time of year, you may also want to take a sunhat and sunglasses as the sun can be quite strong. It was sunny/bright most of the time we were there and so I wore my sunglasses most days.
Other useful items
So I think the above are the main things, some other things you may need are as follows:
- First aid kit including plasters and blister pads, just in case
- Your usual toiletries/medications
- Insect Repellent with DEET
- Deepheat – I used this ALOT it was a lifesaver
- Antiseptic hand gel
- Water bottles if you are not using a water bladder
- Camera, or you can just use your phone
- If you are using your phone a lot, consider taking a powerbank to keep your phone nicely charged so you don’t miss out on any photos!
Well that’s the majority of it and you obviously need all your travel documents and a Chinese Visa. If you have any questions about my trip drop me an email or put a comment below and I’ll get back to you 🙂
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I had scoliosis surgery in 2010 and blog about my experiences living with scoliosis. My aim is to raise awareness of scoliosis and help and inspire others with the condition.