So you’ve made the decision to go on an amazing Himalayan trek. Congratulations! You will definitely have a great time. But what should you pack? Packing too much or too little is one of those details that can spoil a trip, but how much is too much (or too little)?
The number of items of clothing you should pack will depend on how long you’re trekking for. The full Everest Base Camp Trek, for example, will require a few more changes of clothes than, say, the Poon Hill Trek, because it’s much longer. But on the longer treks, you will also be needing to take rest days to acclimatize, on which you can wash a few items.
It’s unnecessary to bring all of this gear with you from home, as high-quality trekking and mountaineering gear can be bought in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and even en route on some treks, such as in Namche Bazaar. International brands such as Red Fox, North Face, Black Yak and Mountain Hardwear have attractive and well-equipped shops in Nepal. Furthermore, purchasing high-quality gear from local brands such as Sherpa and Sonam can help the local economy, as well as make a good souvenir to take back home.
These are the things you shouldn’t go trekking without:
- A sturdy bag: If you’re trekking with a porter, your main bag will go ahead of you and you won’t need to worry about it. But it still needs to be sturdy and waterproof, as on some treks your bag will be strapped to the back of a donkey or yak, and may be exposed to the elements.
- A day pack: A 30-liter bag is an ideal size to use as a day bag, as this will fit your camera, a sweatshirt, a waterproof jacket, a bottle of water and any other miscellaneous items that you need to take with you in the day.
- Hiking boots: Boots are advisable over shoes because the terrain can be quite uneven and rocky, and you need something that will protect your ankle from rolling. My ankle has been saved from a sprain on many occasions from having sturdy boots with ankle support.
- Cargo trousers: Trousers made from a quick-dry material and with lots of pockets are best for trekking.
- Lightweight down jacket: The benefit of down over other warm materials such as wool is that it’s extremely light. Down jackets can be packed up small and you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying them.
- Quick-dry shirts: Cotton is comfortable to sweat into until the outside temperature drops, the wind picks up or you stop walking and cool down. Then, having damp clothes close to your skin can actually be dangerous. Synthetic fabrics are much safer.
- A waterproof jacket: Whatever the season, you cannot take the risk of rain lightly when you’re trekking. My worst trekking experience ever was attempting the Poon Hill trek during October with inadequate waterproofs with me. I trusted my Nepali friends who told me that it never rains in October. In 2013, it did! Waterproof trousers, on the other hand, are only really worth packing if you know you’re trekking in a risky season. Otherwise, regular trousers in a quick-dry fabric are fine.
- A merino base layer: Merino wool is extremely warm and, unlike other wool, is soft next to the skin.
- Thick socks: Hiking boots can get a little uncomfortable after a couple of days, and thick socks will help pad against chafing.
- Comfortable hut clothes: Always keep a separate change of clothes to wear in the hut and overnight. This way, even if you get rained, you’ll always have something clean and dry to change into.
- Trekking pole: Using one or two poles can minimize strain on the knees, and help with balance too.
- Cap/sun hat: It will be sunny in the mountains, even if it’s cold.
- Sunscreen: If you have fair skin, this is one thing that’s worth purchasing before arriving in Nepal. Some sunscreen is available in the cities, but much of it includes ‘whitening’ products, desired by the Asian market but not usually by tourists from other countries.
- Woolen hat, gloves, and scarf: Unless trekking at very high altitude or in the winter, you may not need these in the day as you get pretty hot walking all day. But as soon as the sun drops and you settle into your hut, temperatures can plummet.
- A bandana or light cotton scarf: Especially important to cover the nose and mouth if a dusty wind picks up.
- Wet wipes: Unless you’re really hardy and love cold showers, wet wipe baths are likely to be the extent of your bathing for most of the trek!
- Tissues/toilet paper: These are rarely provided in trekking lodges.
- Water purifier: Refilling bottles is much more environmentally friendly than buying new bottles every time you’re thirsty, and cheaper too. Most water available in trekking lodges is filtered and safe to drink, but sometimes you’ll need to refill your bottles from outside taps. Having a high-tech steri-pen or even just simple, cheap chlorine or iodine drops will make practically any water safe to drink.
- Head torch: For reading in the evenings, midnight trips to the bathroom, or pre-dawn treks to catch the sunrise.
- Quick-dry towel and sample-size toiletries: You may not be bathing very much on your trek so you won’t need heavy, bulky or full-sizes toiletries or towels.