Woman with rucksack and walking poles in Iran's Lut Desert

FITNESS

Our philosophy and Expedition Grading System

Secret Compass expeditions are designed to be inclusive and accessible to any fit and active person. You’ll require endurance, determination and the fortitude to succeed for at times you’ll be cold, hot, wet, tired, sore and uncomfortable – and for this we make no apologies! We run adventurous, exploratory expeditions not guided tours which is why we trust you are here: to achieve the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. The Secret Compass Expedition Grading system is below.

Training advice

Secret Compass’s suggested 12-week Expedition Training Advice (PDF) focuses on building up stamina and carrying weight when preparing for trekking expeditions. This is generic advice that will need to be adapted depending on your current fitness levels and a given expedition’s specific requirements.

Expedition grading

In grading an expedition according to the degree of effort it requires, many factors come into play. These include weight carried, hours of daily activity, distances and terrain covered and the climate. A given team might only walk 8km per day but this might take 10 hours through virgin jungles; teammates might only carry lightweight daypacks but at extreme altitude; or a team might cover short distances but carrying very heavy packs and with serious altitude fluctuation. Instead of generalising on distances covered or weight carried, Secret Compass has therefore developed its own Expedition Grading System. While still challenging, 180° expeditions are the easier of the three with 360° being the toughest. Factors taken into account are:

  • Distance travelled (km).
  • Weight carried (kg).
  • Daily activity (hours).
  • Terrain and daily altitude gain (type/ metres).
  • Climate and altitude (type/degrees/metres as relevant).

180° Expeditions

Though still challenging, 180° expeditions are Secret Compass’s least physically demanding. Distances will generally be shorter than the tougher two expedition categories, the weight carried will be less and the terrain won’t be as challenging as on other Secret Compass teams. These expeditions still require mental and physical preparation (and are sometimes the hardest thing that some people have done when compared to more comfortable ‘tours’ in the past). Prospective teammates should study an expedition’s requirements on its Fitness tab online, or check its Handbook’s Prepare section. A 180° example is North Korea.

270° Expeditions

Moving up a notch, 270° expeditions are more challenging than 180° expeditions. The distances covered and weights carried are likely to be longer and factors like climate, terrain and daily altitude gain make these expeditions more challenging when taken together. Each expedition’s requirements differ (as Secret Compass runs paddling, biking, horseriding and trekking expeditions) so study an expedition’s specific requirements on its Fitness tab. Anyone willing to train to meet or exceed the fitness requirements for a 270° expedition team in readiness for departure is welcome to apply. These teams often contain a great mix of experienced travellers and those totally new to expeditionary travel and examples include Armenia, Panama and Sinai.

360° Expeditions

Secret Compass’s 360° expeditions are its toughest. The distances covered and weights carried are considerable, the terrain and climate very challenging, the duration often longer. Those without a current good base level of fitness are welcome to apply but should ensure they know what the expedition entails, committing to a training programme well in advance of departure if needed. Anyone willing to train to meet or exceed the fitness requirements for a 360° expedition in readiness for departure – including those totally new to this type of travel – is welcome to apply. Prospective teammates should study an expedition’s exact requirements on its Fitness tab. All teammates should arrive fit and prepared for the significant physical demands of their 360° expedition, examples of which include Afghanistan, Kamchatka and Burma.

Preparation

Every expedition will require preparation focusing on cardiovascular fitness and endurance. At a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for eight hours per day in the British hills (or international equivalents) carrying 20kg for at least three consecutive days.

How fit do I need to be?

Questions about your expedition’s fitness requirements? Check the expedition’s Fitness tab online, or read the Handbook’s Prepare section which will provide fuller information, and consider Secret Compass’s 12-week Expedition Training Advice. Contact us if your questions remain unanswered.

What if I’m not fit enough?

Secret Compass expeditions are just that: expeditions. They are goal-focussed team efforts that require the very active input and participation of each valued teammate. It cannot be stressed enough that fitness levels are each individual’s responsibility. All teammates should address their training needs well in advance of departure and should ready to tackle the task at hand, whether that be a 270° adventure classic or an epic 360° world-first of an expedition to one of the world’s wildest places. Teammates who do not meet the required fitness levels could put themselves and the expedition’s goal at risk so it is imperative that all booked teammates train for their expedition and arrive fit and ready to go.

Submit a no-obligation Application Form for your expedition of choice and outline your fitness levels and previous experience of adventure travel (if you have any yet) to get the ball rolling if you’re not sure about your suitability for a team. Happy training!

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See you on a team soon…