1. Know your child.
Can he withstand walking/trekking for 3 hours straight with just 2 breaks in between? Kids are very strong and they have all the energy. So don’t underestimate them:-) More importantly, do they like the great outdoors? My son enjoyed the experience but my daughter would have asked me to carry her half way through. Luckily I didn’t bring her.
2. Choose month of travel.
It is like a valley with no tree cover so imagine the direct heat during summer! February gave us 20°C and the skies were a bit overcast so the entire experience was pleasant.
Rainy season is not safe for trekking. Pinatubo gets flooded with rain water and the lahar formations are prone to land slides. So if it’s raining, most likely the tour operator will cancel the tour (ours got cancelled twice due to rains).
3. Cover up. Apply sun block.
Since there is no tree cover bring a cap and cover your nape. Also bring a hanky to cover your nose and shades to cover your eyes from the dust during the 4×4 ride.
The water of the crater is safe for swimming, but stay on the sides. The guides warn of currents that can pull you under. The level of water also suddenly drops so if you are not a swimmer just stay where your feet can touch the sand. There is no life guard at the crater so swim at your own risk. Kayaks can be rented at the crater. We chose to swim. Also, if you are sensitive to sulfur better skip the swim.
There are no changing facilities at the crater. My boy wore his board shorts. I didn’t wear my swimsuit and that made it a bit difficult. I had to change inside a sarong.
Bushes, which serve as bathrooms, along the trail are far and few so if have to, pee when you see one:-)
Some of the rocks on the river beds can be unstable or slippery so be careful when crossing the beds.
There are a lot of tourists so it looks pretty safe against two footed elements. Still it pays to be cautious. I got a bit paranoid because my excited boy went way ahead of me! I was running through rocks and boulders and couldn’t catch up with him for a good 15 minutes. He brought me quite a scare so he got some muttered breathless (i was panting!) scolding!
6. How much water should you bring?
I brought 1.5 liters each for my son and I. Better to bring Gatorade and trail food.
7. 4×4 Ride
Needless to say, but still has to be said, your child should stay at the inner part of the jeep. They will insist on sitting at the outer part, say no. The ride is very bumpy. For adults, don’t be a super hero – hold when ride gets rough:-)
Breakfast is available at a reasonable price (P100) at the jump off point. There is a big nipa style hut where everybody eats at jump off.
For lunch, you can bring your own packed lunch and eat at the crater. Our tour operator arranged a delicious chicken barbecue lunch for us and the porter carried the lunch and drinks for the group. There is a big shaded nipa structure near the crater where you can rest.
For pre-dinner meal, (you arrive back at jump off around 5-6pm), the nipa style hut has another hearty merienda prepared for sale.
This is still Pampanga country, so the food is yummy!
9. Cellular Signal
There is no signal for Globe at Capas where the trek starts from. I think Smart has signal though until Capas. But once you go through lahar formations, there is no more signal. Globe signal is back once you reach main highway.
Prepare a tip for your 4×4 jeep driver and your tour guide/porter. The guide/porter will carry your lunch for you and help you through tough portions of the trek like hold your hand in crossing river beds.
11. Bring your own first aid kit. They said tour operator has a kit but of course if someone scraped a knee it would be hard to go looking for them in the crowd. Btw, someone hurt her knee and the guides were able to bring her down using a makeshift bed.
Expect a crowd. When we went up, maybe because of rains in previous weeks and tour has been pushed down there were maybe 300 of us. But don’t worry Pinatubo is huge so it’s tolerable. Watch out though for this thing called Lollapalooza trek where they bring hundreds of couples overnight so crater grounds can get overcrowded.
12. Stay safe. Have fun!