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Trail Movements

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The Philippine wilderness may not be that hospitable to the foreign backpacker as well as to the locals, considering the state of the trail, location and number of participants. Knowing how to organize and behave with your group will make or break your trip. Basic know-how and common sense plays an important role in your survival in the wilderness.

Before setting out be sure that you are in good condition. Eat a heavy breakfast to ensure energy during most of the day and stop walking when there is plenty of daylight to set-up your first campsite. Following are warm-up and stretching techniques. This is particularly important since this will loosen your muscles and therefore greatly reduce the chances of injury.


The general warm-up should begin with ‘joint-manipulation,’ starting either from your toes and working your way up, or from your fingers and working your way down. Make slow circular movements (both clockwise and counter-clockwise) until the joint moves smoothly. You should rotate the following (in the order given, or in the reverse order): 1. Fingers and knuckles 2. Wrists 3. Elbows 4. Shoulders 5. Neck 6. Trunk/waist 7. Hip 8. Leg 9. Knees 10. Ankles 11. Toes

After your general warm-up, you should engage in some slow, relaxed stretching. Once again you should start from the top and work down (or from the bottom and work up) to stretch the following: 1. Forearms and wrists 2. Triceps 3. Neck 4. Chest 5. Sides (external oblique) 6. Back 7. Buttocks 8. Groin (adductors) 9. Thighs (quadriceps and abductors) 10. Hamstrings 11. Calves 12. Shin 13. Instep. Hold the stretched position for 5 seconds, at least.


Keep an eye on the mountain during the approach hike, studying it for climbing routes. The distant view reveals gross patterns of ridges, cliffs, as well as the average angle of inclination. As you get closer, you can get the general idea of the terrain, i.e. fault lines, brand of cliffs and crevasses. Throughout the approach follow the old mountaineering dictum to "climb with your eyes." Keep on the lookout for alternative routes, possible water sources, emergency campsites, firewood and or anything that can be used in case an emergency arises. In short, be wary of your surroundings. The ideal distance between climbers is two (2) meters or seeing distance.


Before setting out be sure that your group set rules for signaling. The following are the signals used by the MMS when climbing. The signal for stopping is two (2) short whistle blasts; while signal to proceed is one (1) long whistle blast and these are the sole responsibility of the lead and tail men. The international mountaineering distress signal is 6 blast to a minute. To signal that aid is on the way, give 3 blast to a minute.


The basic skill that is required for a mountaineer is walking. The oldest form of transportation ever used by man and it is the most indispensable technique the mountaineer will ever use. When walking into the wilderness the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line. The shortest distance for a mountaineer is the most easy and safe one. Also, before setting out, make sure that you are properly and thoroughly warmed-up, either by a 5minute jog-in-place or stretching techniques.


Following is an insight on how to lace your shoes properly for maximum comfort. This was taken from University of Texas Lifetime Health Letter dated January 1995. For mountaineers or backpackers, all we know is that we have to lace our shoes the way we do it when we are in grade school. The way you lace your shoe can increase your foot comfort or relieve foot pain while walking. Proper lacing can also increases the lifespan of your shoes, according do the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society.

Tips for lacing:

  • Loosen laces as you slip shoes on to reduce stress on eyelets and backs of shoes.
  • Beginning at the toe end, tighten laces one pair of eyelets at a time to reduce eyelet stress and ensure uniform pressure.
  • When buying new shoes, keep in mind that shoes with more eyelets make for easier adjustment (many better athletic shoes have two sets).
  • Conventional crisscross lacing works best for most people. Alternative lacing patterns may be appropriate for specific types of feet or to ease some foot problems.

Carol Fray, M.D. associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California, offers these suggestions (letter in parenthesis indicates illustration):

  • Narrow feet: Consider using wide-set eyelets that bring the sides of the shoe more snugly across the top of the foot (a).
  • Wide feet: Eyelets set closer to the tongue and set closer together add width to the lacing area (b).
  • Narrow heel, wide forefoot: Consider using two laces for a custom fit (c). The wide-set eyelets help snug up the heel, and the closer-set eyelets help adjust shoe width to the forefoot.
  • Feet pain: For pain in specific areas of the foot, try skipping eyelets in the vicinity of the pain and tightening laces above and below the skipped eyelets (d).
  • High arches: Lacing straight across between eyelets (instead of crisscrossing) can reduce or eliminate pressure points (e).
  • Toe problems: For toe problems, including hammertoes, corns and painful toenails, insert laces so that one lace traverses diagonally across the length of the tongue, from toe to top (f). Pulling on the lace will raise the toe box to reduce pressure.
  • Heel fit: The lacing pattern shown in illustration (g) can help prevent your heel from moving in the shoe and rubbing blisters. Laces are looped through each other before being tied.


Beginners often makes two mistakes in walking; they walk faster than they should or they walk slower than they could. Walking too fast is the most common mistake. This may be due to concerns of the long miles ahead or from a desire to perform well in front of the group and or companions. But why wear yourself out of the first mile of a 10-mile hike if the whole day happens to be available for that walk? Enjoy the walk, take your time and smell the flowers. Pacing varies from person to person. It also depends on the cardiovascular capacity of the person. A simple test may reveal that your pace is too fast if you cannot sustain it hour after hour. You’re going too fast. The other mistake is walking too slowly. Your body might ache but they still have 10 miles in them; your lungs may be gasp but be able to go on gasping for 3 hours. A degree of suffering is inevitable on the way to becoming a good walker. Pacing also depends on the time of day and also the humidity. Walk slowly at the start, letting your body adjust to the demands to come. Then start striding out, using willpower to get through this period of increasing work until the body experiences it's second wind. Physiologically, this means that the heart has stepped up is beat, the blood is circulating more rapidly and the muscles have loosened. Psychologically, the hiker feels happy and strong. Vary your pace depending on the trail. Plod slowly and methodically up steep hills; as the grade lessens, pick up the tempo. Your pace will slow late in the day as fatigue sets in. Adrenaline may fuel short bursts of exertion, but there is no "third wind." When in a group, the pace should follow the slowest member or person with the heaviest load. Do not lag anyone behind.


  • When walking with a group, with any number of participants, walk in a single file to protect the side vegetation. Avoid overtaking. Stay on the trail even if it is muddy or rutted. Help save vegetation and prevent erosion by not cutting switchbacks. Make your rest breaks in resilient areas and guard against damaging stream banks. If you see something interesting, just look or take photographs of it instead of picking or collecting. Do light trail maintenance and remove litter as you pass by it. Leave the trail as you passed it. Remove cairns and flaggings unless they are already there; let others experience the adventure of route finding. If you need to mark you're route, remove the markers on your way down. Choose talus instead of fragile meadows for cross-country travel. Always take the ridgelines for path finding and avoid water lines and gullies. Water always takes the steepest route down the mountain. Do not step on obstacles; it might upset your balance. Avoid dislodging rocks.
  • When walking uphill lean forward and place you foot flat on the ground before pushing the other foot forward and take small steps to conserve your strength. Do not walk on your toes since this will cramp your legs readily. 
  • When you walk downhill, take small steps and move steadily. Lean backwards to take the strain off your knees and never lock them straight when placing you foot on the ground. Learn to dig with the heels or side of the foot first. Use a walking stick if necessary to relieve help relieve the strain off your knees.
  • When walking on steep slopes, place your foot sideways and place the walking stick downhill for added support. Always look for support, hold on to roots or vines and make sure that these are sturdy and free of thorns.


Depending on the terrain, weather and the capacity of the individual in a group, rest stops are determined. Some have rest stops of 5 minutes per 1-hour walk for flat terrain. A 5minute rest per 30-minute walk is advisable for ascending terrain while a 5-minute rest per 15-minute walk is recommended for steep terrain. Rest stops on descent will depend on the terrain but usually its 5 minutes per 1-hour descent. Do not sit or lie down at once during rest stops. Keep standing for 30 seconds before sitting to stabilize blood circulation. Take only sips of water. Drinking too much will induce an abrupt lowering of body temperature making it hard for you to maintain your pace again.

When trail-blazing, avoid indiscriminate cutting of vegetation. Keep trailblazing to a minimum to preserve the natural state of the wilderness. Make sure to inform the immediate person behind you of the obstacles and/or dangers encountered along the path. A leadman should be assigned if the group is unsure of the trail. Side trails not used should be closed to prevent others from taking it. Do this by blocking the path with sticks or branches. To make the path safer, cut sharp thorns and poisonous plants along the trail. Avoid littering. Pocket all candies and biscuit wrappers. Smoking on the trail and /or during short rest stops is strictly prohibited. It may cause forest fires. Flop belts and knots and shoelaces might become loose. It is the duty of the man behind to check if the man ahead of him has dropped anything on the trail. If lost, do not panic. Try to assess your position and then take necessary steps to find the correct route. When walking in cold weather, minimize the rest stops to prevent the body from cooling-off too fast.


One of the characteristics that backpacking offers is the challenge of overcoming differing obstacles due to bad weather or difficult terrain.

When walking up the mountain the temperature changes rapidly. It can be from a high temperature and humidity to cold temperatures and dry air. A cold wind easily dissipates body heat. When resting be sure to cover the head and neck to slow down the heat loss. The ground may also be cold, therefore sit on your backpack if possible.

The Philippine weather changes rapidly. One moment it’s sunny and in 30 minutes, a torrential rain is pouring in. Rains here are occasionally accompanied by lightning. Therefore when climbing, especially at around 1,000 meters take these precautionary measures in avoiding lightning strikes. Some signs are apparent like the smell of ozone and the crack of thunder. Lightning usually looks for the shortest route it can make between the cloud and the ground. Therefore get off peaks and ridges as much as possible. Medium sized trees provide some protection if they are not hit first. When you are above treelines, look for rocks that are taller than you do and stand several yards away from it. When lightning hits the ground it travels to a point of least resistance, therefore stay away from paths like:

  1. Steep inclines; where the current travels more freely
  2. Wet areas; since water is a good conductor

If you find yourself above the treelines, look for big rocks that you can crouch on to (not the highest one) that is elevated and not connected to other rocks underneath. Do not go into a cave or a rock depression or even an overhang, since these places attract ground currents.

When crouching, the best position is to put your feet close together as possible. Stand on something that can insulate you from the ground, like a sleeping bag, mattress or a coil of climbing rope, or even your backpack (without the metal frame). You need to stay away from any metal objects like your external pack frame or mess kit. Being hit by lightning requires emergency first-aid procedures like shock, burns and if necessary, CPR.


Trails signs are used to keep the next group to follow the persons lead. They are usually set-up by the first sweeper for the next group. They are placed in the middle of the trail for everyone to see. Rocks, pebbles and small branches are used for this.


The Philippines, as a tropical country has numerous streams and rivers. Many are wide and deep and some are just streams. Considering the geography and weather conditions of the Philippines we do not have a lack of this natural feature.

Crossing them will depend on the physical feature of the river. It can also depend on the weather, since most of the shallow rivers here turn into raging rapids when rainfall hits. You may have the choice of using bridges. It may be a short distance and a waste of time, but at least you are dry. If there are no immediate bridges available, scout the river upstream and downstream to find a suitable shallow area to cross. You may find rocks to hop on to. This is just an option if the river or creek has small rocks or boulders to hop on to. But if it is knee deep, chances are there might not be enough rock to hop on to. Especially here, the rivers may be shallow but the rocks are covered with moss that the chance of slipping is inevitable. Accept the fact that your feet will get wet and also your boots.

If you are to cross a river, never go barefoot. There is a great possibility that you may step on sharp stones or bones and shell fragments. Wearing sport sandals is the best alternative. Aside from giving adequate protection to your feet, they also dry out relatively easy. Another alternative is the local rubber sandals or "tsinelas." They are much lighter than the sport sandals, dries out more readily, cheap and comes in various colors. One disadvantage is its unsturdiness. Sneakers are another alternative. Aside from giving better protection to your feet, it dries out longer. Many still wear their boots (fabric boots), since it provides much more protection to the feet and ankles if the water is too deep and the bottom cannot be seen. Before wearing your boots in the water, be sure to take off you socks. At least there is something dry to wear on the other side.


When crossing a river be sure to pick the widest area, since a narrow channel is generally deeper. Look for a part of the river that is still and you can see the bottom. Do not go straight or perpendicular to the direction of flow. This will leave you more vulnerable to the current. Before wading into the water be sure that you take measures to protect your clothes dry in your backpack. Loosen all straps, sternal and waist belt of your backpack. This is done to easily discard your pack if you fall into the water. When wading alone, use a pole to probe the bottom of the river. This will serve as your third leg and to maintain your balance during the crossing. Some use two poles to provide better stability. Always head downstream and in an angular direction. Place your foot sideways across the current and squarely on the riverbed.


There are many types of maps. There are political maps, world maps, street maps, topographical maps, National park maps, Profile maps and others, each with a different purpose and use. For the outdoorsman a geographic or topographical, "topos", is the ideal type to use. It shows the supposed terrain of a particular locality as seen from above. It displays the hills, valleys, and mountains, rivers and also man-made structures that are represented by grids and contour lines. There are 2 types of topos; the 15-minute map and the 7.5-minute map. A minute refers to a fraction of a degree and one minute is equal to 1/60 of a degree. Therefore, one inch on a 15-minute map is equal to one mile or 1.6 km on the ground. For the 7.5-minute map, a one-inch will equal 2/5 of a mile on the ground. The advantage of a 7.5-minute map is its more detailed picture of the land. Another type of map is the National Park map. These maps provides the traveler with general info about major hiking trails, as well as where to find campsites, foods, restrooms, good swimming and other activities but it does not provide enough detail for serious hiking. A profile map provides info such as the ups and downs of a trail, the mileage between important landmarks, and the steepness and length of climbs and descents. But profile maps are not topos. Instead of using contour lines these maps convey information on a graph that measures the elevation gained or lost per mile.


The worst time and place to learn how to read a map is when you realized that you’re lost in the middle of a remote wilderness. The best way to learn is to take a map with you when you’re on a well-marked trail. Start by identifying the map’s landmarks in the field such as mountain peaks or a river’s mouth. As with everything, the more you practice the better you’ll get to read the map.

There are also times you are deep in the woods and you cannot see any of your established landmarks. Right before entering the forest you should have established your route. You can then rely on where you were last, your general direction, and the speed of your walk. This is your "educated guess" in which time provides an approximate location on where you are based on the last location verified. When you’re out of the woods, in an open field or peak, re-establish your location by using identifiable landmarks. Be careful in choosing landmarks since they are a lot to choose from in an open field or summit.


The grids determine the approximate distance as described by their scale. For walkers a 1:50,000-scale map will do. Vertical lines are called eastings while the horizontal lines are called northings.

Contour lines

These lines are the basic building blocks of a topographic map. It describes the actual look of the terrain, if it is a hill, mountain, valley, or river as seen from above. Following are some map features in relation to the actual terrain. Successive circles form hills and mountains, getting smaller and smaller as the altitude goes higher and as they get closer to each other the steeper it gets. Valleys are drawn as lines with varying lines. Saddles are drawn when two hills or mountains are close together. A ridge is drawn with an elongation and a circle at the end. (with pictures and illustrations)

Gradient lines

These are used to describe the slope of a particular terrain. They are usually drawn as successive lines that are either close together or far apart. There are two kinds of slope, one is the convex slope, wherein the contour lines are close to the slope and spread out towards the top. The concave slope has its contour lines bunch up at the top.


These are usually found at the side corner of your map. They describe man-made features such as churches, houses, roads, bridges, farmlands, and others. Some maps have color legends to describe forestlines, rivers, lakes and other natural features. One important feature of a map that is to be without is the declination factor. This will be discussed on the topic of compass reading.


After knowing where you are, you have to know how far you have gone. You can estimate the distance traveled by using a piece of paper. Since the route you are taking is rarely a straight line, your estimating technique must be accurate.

  1. Start at the corner of the paper, align the edge with the route. Put a pencil at the point on the route where it turns. Mark the paper.
  2. Rotate the paper and align it to the route again. When you encounter the next turn mark it with the pencil. Place any landmarks you have encountered along the way.
  3. When you reach the other corner of the paper, rotate it and continue along the edge of the paper.
  4. After you have completed the route on the paper, place it against the key at the foot of the map. Mark each kilometer or mile on the sheet.
  5. Total the number of kilometers or miles. This is your route distance. By marking the steep gradients, it will help you determine the length of time it will take to walk the route.


You already know the distance but how long it will take you to walk the route is another problem. You must bear in mind that the paper procedure for determining distance is on a flat surface and does take into account the topography of the route. Therefore when estimating travel time you must include allowances for time lost when climbing steep hills. But this can be gained when going down a steep terrain or hill as well as it can slow you down.


There are several other names for this travel time estimation technique, but the basics of the technique are:

  • For every 5km of easy going, allow 1 hour
  • For every 3km of easy scrambling, allow 1 hour
  • For every 1km of rough land, deep sand, or thick bush, allow 1 hour
  • Add an extra hour for every 500m up (cumulative)
  • Add an extra hour for every 1000m down (cumulative)
  • Add an extra hour for every five hours, to allow for fatigue.

For example, take our hike up Mt. Banahaw (Tayabas trail). We will be travelling about four kilometers over clear terrain. So allow one hour for that. We will be climbing about 200m, then coming back down 200m, so allow an extra half-hour for that. We won't be travelling for a long time, so there is no allowance for fatigue.

The total travelling time is therefore 2 hours. This is a very pessimistic approximation, as I have done the complete trip in less than half an hour - but that is with no pack. Once you do the walk with a pack on, in rough country, on fire trails rather than on open road, your speed will start to drop a little.

Nota Bene

Note that not everyone can maintain a cracking pace of 5km/h with an 18kg pack on their backs! You will need to adjust this rule to suit yourself and your hiking partner or group.

The best way to do this is to find a day hike close to you, get the topographic map relative to that area, and do the hike. While you are doing that hike, time how long it takes you to get up hills, down hills and along straights. Once you have done that, calculate your straight and level travelling speed. Use the time it took you to climb the hill to calculate the "up climb" adjustment. Use the time it took you to climb down the hill to calculate the "down climb" adjustment. When you have finished, apply Naismith's rule to your hike and see if you get within 5% of your actual travelling time and checkpoint times. Keep adjusting the figures in the rule to suit you.


[Did you know: The compass is less than 4500 years old. It is a fairly simple piece of equipment that was invented by the Chinese around 2500 BC. It consists of a magnetized piece of steel balanced on a pivot so that it is free to swing in any direction.]

One of the important gadgets you need when in the wilderness is a compass. Without one is like asking yourself to get lost. You can use the compass to do the following;

  1. To know where you are by identifying landmarks surrounding you like peaks, ridges, passes, lakes.
  2. To know what is your position. By using a map you can know where you are through bearing readings.
  3. To give directions to others. Basically, if you have a map and a compass you can give bearing directions to other people. This is also important on emergency situations wherein your location is uncharted.
  4. To follow a bearing to a location which you cannot see.


Air filled compasses work just fine, the drawback is that you must wait quite some time for the needle to come to rest so that you can take a bearing. It also requires the compass to be held stationary, so they do not work well when hand held.
Liquid filled compasses are the most effective in breaking the swing of the needle quickly. The majority of compasses on the market are liquid filled which is a mixture of water and alcohol.


Silva compass (protractor, orienteering)
Prismatic compass


Direction-of-travel arrow on baseplate
Magnifying lens
"N" north indicator (needle)
Orienteering arrow on bottom of housing
Map scale – expressed in mm or cm
Luminescent spots
North-seeking end of the rotating arrow
Rotating compass dial, with cardinal points and degrees


When you see your map there is that reading at the side, bottom corner, stating the declination factor. This number indicates the corrective reading for the map based on the three norths and three arrows mark them. The map will show you only the relative direction you are taking, mainly from one point to another point. But when you relate the direction of your compass to the map you might find that it is off to a few degrees. This is declination. It is the difference, expressed in degrees, between where your compass says north is and where the grid north and magnetic north really is. There are three north poles, one is the magnetic North Pole, wherein your compass points to, the grid north, it is the north marked on maps and the "true" geographic north pole. The true North Pole is taken from measurements of the astral and geography of the earth, it’s the axis where the earth rotates.

Maps are typically drawn using the true north reading typically because it is based on mathematical calculations and it does not vary from one location to the other while your compass points to the magnetic north, it changes from time to time therefore it is not that accurate.


Orienting your map

Before beginning your trip, make sure to set your map with your compass. This will ensure that you know your destination on the map. In addition to knowing the bearing of your destination, you must also know its distance. You can do this by using either the scale along the edge of the compass, or the scale provided at the bottom of your map. Be sure to check your bearing on the map while walking against the terrain you are crossing.

Here are some steps you can make to orient your map using your compass:

  1. Place your map on a flat surface. To find the bearing from point A to point B, lay the compass between points A and B. make sure that the direction arrow is pointing to your destination. Read the distance between the two points using the scale at the edge of the compass. Compare the reading to that of the map scale.
  2. Without moving the compass, turn the central dial until the parallel north-south lines are aligned with the grid lines on the map. If you don’t have a topographical map with the gridlines use the margins or side of the map. The number on your compass housing that line up with the direction of travel is your bearing. If you have a hassle free compass with the built-in declination feature, then the number is your true bearing, otherwise calculate the declination.
  3. Take the compass off the map and hold the compass firmly against your chest with the direction-of-travel arrow pointing toward the landmark. When you adjust your position turn your body with the compass. Check and recheck the alignment of the direction-of-travel arrow. Face the landmark squarely.
  4. Look down at the compass and turn the dial until the north end of the needle is closest to N. Do this without changing your position and the direction of the compass. Read the bearing on the dial against the direction-of-travel line (arrow).


Reciprocal bearings and headings, sometimes marked on the azimuth dial, are simply the reverse of your original bearing, or 180 degrees different. For example: For an original bearing of 20 degrees NE, the reciprocal bearing is 200 degrees SW (20 + 180).
If math isn't for you, simply line the red arrow up with south instead of north and use the same heading you took to get there.


In the wilderness accurate prediction of where you are is vital. This is true if you don’t have a compass to start with or something happened and you have just lost it along the way. Knowing where you are in relation to the four cardinal directions – North, East, West and South is a basic skill that every mountaineer or backpacker for that matter must know. Other ways of finding your way is by the sun and a staff; the sun and a watch and at night, the North Star is your guide.

Finding directions by using the sun

This method is often used since we are given the fact that the sun rises at the east and sets in the west.

Staff Method.

This method uses the staff and the sun to find directions. Get a staff or a similar implement. Post it in the ground in direct sunlight in the morning, mark the tip of the staff’s shadow. In the Northern Hemisphere this is West. Get a string of the same length as the cast shadow of the staff. Tie one end to the staff and the other end to a small stick. Draw a semi-circle with the staff as the center. Be sure to tie the string loosely on the staff. In the afternoon mark the tip of the shadow where it touches the arc, this is east.

Draw a line from the afternoon stick to the point where you placed the morning stick. The halfway point between the two sticks is the true North.

Watch Method

Northern Hemisphere: using a watch, point the hour hand at the sun. Then draw an imaginary line between the hour hand and 12 o’clock mark. Halfway between the line is south.

Southern Hemisphere: point the 12 o’clock mark at the sun. Halfway between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock mark is North.

*Since the Philippines is in the Northern Hemisphere the first procedure is applicable. Nevertheless knowing how to use this in the Southern Hemisphere is an added bonus.


Stars can be used at night to find direction. They move through the sky as the Earth rotates. But there is only one star that never moves and this is called the "North star" or "Pole star." The North star is particularly important if you are in the Northern hemisphere, while in the Southern hemisphere you must find the Southern Cross to establish South.

Northern Hemisphere: the Big Dipper or Ursa Major is the constellation to use to find North. It is those group of seven stars that form which looks like a ladle (Plough). When you have established its location look for its front end. The two stars of the bowl farthest from the handle will point you to the North Star. Do this by drawing an imaginary line about four times the distance of the two stars. The bright star is the North Star and directly below it lies North.-

Southern Hemisphere: use the Southern Cross to find the approximate South. After you have found the Southern Cross draw an imaginary line 4 ½ times its length. Locate two stars just below the Southern Cross. Draw an imaginary line in between these two stars. The point where the imaginary lines cross is south.

As with finding the directions using the sun, you can also use any star to roughly establish your direction. When the stars move up, you are facing east. When the stars move down you are facing West. If the stars move in an arc towards your left, you are facing north. When the stars move in an arc towards your right your are facing a Southerly direction.


Going out to the wilderness does not mean that you are always dry and warm. In the Philippines, since our location is on the equatorial region, most of the Philippine wilderness is rainforests. Expect rain, most of the time. You can apply the expression "when it rains, it pours" and it really does. Weather here, typically is unpredictable. It might rain on one side while at the other side its dry. Combined with high humidity and temperature walking along most Philippine trails is very taxing to the body.

Because of the location of the Philippines, the mountains here are usually wet rainforests. Temperature may range from 36 degrees Celsius at sea level to 10 degrees Celsius at 800 meters above sea level. Therefore, it is best to check weather forecast before making your trip. Although it is not accurate, at least you have a general idea on what to expect.



Clouds may indicate what weather to come. Cumulus clouds (billows) indicates good weather though they can sometimes turn-quite quickly into darker clouds, which means that thunder and lightning will become the order of the day. Stratus clouds (layered looking) is usually prevalent on hazy days. They become thicker and get dense enough to block the sun. it this happens, a light rain may ensue. Should they turn dark and get lower in the sky heavier rain may be on the way. Cirrus clouds (wispy) have turned up ends that give them the nickname "mare’s tails." If they get dark and seem to descend from the sky, rain can result. These are the most elusive of clouds, and can keep you guessing as to what they will do.


Hot air rises and cold air falls. Wind is created when this happens; combining this knowledge with your observations of clouds, you can guess the coming weather fairly well. When clouds are moving quickly across the sky, condition can change quite rapidly. If the temperature gets cooler as clouds are getting darker, there’s a pretty good chance that foul weather will follow. If cumulus clouds appears at a distance, and temperatures are on the rise, count on fair weather.

Humidity and Fog

Humidity results from a lot of water in the air and can indicate coming of showers. Hikers who notice greater humidity in combination with a darkening sky should prepare for rain. Fog is an extreme form of humidity – saturated air; in fact, it’s a cloud that has formed down near the land because conditions happen to be right for it. Fog may become so dense that vision is limited; identifying the landmarks on your map may become impossible.


Many birds flying around a cloudy sky can indicate rainfall.

Other indications

  • Red sunsets usually indicates good weather the next day. A gray or yellowish glow indicates wet weather is on the way. A red sky in the morning shows the sun lighting up high cirrus clouds, which may lower later on – a warning that wet weather may follow.
  • If voices seem louder, or the clink of pats and pans against the side of the rock or at each other are more shrill than usual, this may foretell an approaching storm. As clouds lower in the sky, sound waves hit them and bounce back faster than usual. You might think that your hearing has become more acute. Once the clouds have lifted, sounds will return to normal.
  • At night a halo around the moon tells of approaching rain. The halo is the refraction of light off ice crystals in cirrus or light clouds.

- Observe camp fires, when the smoke is sideways, rainfall is coming.


Planning your route

Before climbing be sure that you know where you are going, exactly. Right now, the best way to plan your route is by going there yourself. It is quite impractical and time consuming but if you are to be with an expedition group it may be a time saver. Clearing obstacles and solving problem trails during this time. In the Philippines, you can plan your route by asking the locals. They can point you to an established trail, since most trails here are already being used by the locals for their agricultural as well as hunting needs. If however you got lost, look for an open spot, or a high point to survey the land. Usually, ridgelines are easier to follow, as well as rivers, since they have footpaths that have been used by locals.

Walking at night

When walking at night, have a torch strapped on your head. Walk slowly if the trail is not familiar, muddy and raining. If in doubt, test the ground with your foot before putting any weight on it. This is true in situations when it is raining and the ground is saturated with water, mud can easily accumulate and slippage is imminent. Walk in hearing distance with each other. This will ensure your safety along the way.


Knowing your own personal measurements is a big plus when walking in the wilderness. You can determine the distance you have taken during your walks, know the height of certain trees and cliffs and widths of campsites and rivers. There are standard measurements such as a foot (12 inches) or 1 meter (2 strides). But these are relative measurements, meaning that they differ from person to person. Therefore it is important to know your own measurements. For instance, your foot can measures 8.5 inches and your stride can be 1.5 stride per meter.

Shadow Method - (this method can be used only if the sun is in the position to cast a shadow over an object)

  1. Measure the length of the shadow cast by a person or staff of known height (CD in the illustration).
  2. Measure the length of the shadow of the tree (AB).
  3. Divide the distance in (2) by the distance in (1).
  4. Multiply the result by the known height.

This is the height of the tree


Here are some simple ways to find out the width of a river.

Napoleon Method (usually used if the river is narrow)

  1. Stand erect on one shore or bank of the river.
  2. Bend your head so that your chin rests on your chest.
  3. Push your hat forward until the front edge of the brim seems to touch the opposite shore. (If you have no hat, place your hand on your forehead, palm down, so that the front edge of your palm seems to touch the opposite shore).
  4. Standing on the same spot, turn 90 degrees to the right. (make a right face)
  5. Transfer the point on which the brim of your hat or the edge of your hand which seemed to touch the opposite bank to a spot or the ground on your side of the river.
  6. Stride it off and find the distance.

Stride or Step-measuring method (usually used if the river is wide)

  1. Select any point (A) on the opposite side of the river which can serve as a landmark – a tree, a rock, etc.
  2. Place a stake (B) on your side of the river exactly opposite the point (A) you have selected.
  3. Walk a straight line along the shore for a distance of 100 steps. (More may be necessary if river is very wide. Your path should make a right angle with the imaginary line AB.)
  4. Place another stake at this point, (C).
  5. Continue walking along the shore on the same line (BC) half as many steps as you have made before (in this case, 50).
  6. Place another stick on the spot indicating the 50th step (D).
  7. From point D, turn left 90 degrees (make a left face).
  8. Walk a straight line (your path should make a right angle with the line DB) until you can sight point C and landmark A forming a straight line.
  9. Stop and mark this point E. the distance between points I and E is half the distance across the river.
  10. Walk from D to E, counting your steps.
  11. Multiply the result by two.


There are times when you are tasked to judge distances. Practice will play an important role in doing this. You may have to start at short distance, lets say 20 meters and gradually increase it by 100 then to 150 and then to 200. By practicing this you can gain accurate measurements by just looking at a subject at a distance. The following are some hints to measure distance accurately:

The range of objects is usually overestimated:

When kneeling or lying;

When the background and the object are of familiar colors;

On broken ground;

In avenues, long street, or ravines;

When the object is under the shade;

In the mist or falling rain, or when heat is rising from the ground;

When the object is partly seen.

The range of objects is usually underestimated:

When the sun is behind the observer;

When the atmosphere is clear;

When the background and the object are of different colors;

When the ground is level;

When looking over water or a deep chasm;

When looking upward or downward.

It is worthwhile to know and remember the following facts:

At 50 yards the mouth and eyes of a man can be clearly seen;

At 100 yards the eyes appear as points;

At 200 yards buttons and any bright ornament can be seen;

At 300 yards the face can be seen;

At 400 yards the movement of the legs can be seen;

At 500 yards the color of the clothes can be seen.


Copyright 2007. This site is build and maintained by J. Tanega. If you have further question email at

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