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Nepal trek gear discussion
The crux of knowing what take is knowing what to expect.
Cultural sensitivity is the hallmark of considerate travellers. Dress standards vary considerably around Nepal - button-popping halter tops and loincloth-clad saddhus to the Victorian ankle standard, but foreigners are judged differently. Tidy with covered shoulders and long pants earns the most respect, while skimpy tops and tight leggings can invite unwarranted attention, both trekking and in Kathmandu. Skirts are not required for women (most Khumbu Sherpa women wear either their local 'ungi', sweat pants or jeans).
From April to the end of October, it is warm, even hot during the day. Cool, light clothes are best, and longer shorts are acceptable.
November thru to the end of March, it is still usually warm during the day and a single layer will often do, but in the evenings you will want a fleece jacket, and during late December thru to February, a light down jacket is better for eating/drinking outside.
The hotel stores free of cost whatever you don't take trekking, and of course they have a laundry service. You might want to plan with a clean set of clothes for your return from the trek.
Who carries what
You carry a day pack with your camera, jacket, water and snacks. The porters (or sometimes yaks) carry everything else, so pack this in a duffel/kitbag rather than backpack.
Assorted clothing styles of ~5000m high country wear on a chilly day - Jamie
Celesta in pink: running cap, Goretex jacket with Buff neck
gaiter, thin thermal and thick thermal top underneath, softshell pants, all
leather hiking boots
Matt with beanie, Windstopper jacket, t-shirt, thick wool thermal, thicker trekking pants perhaps with thin thermal (longjohns) underneath
Lee Ann with cotton scarf, ultra-light anorak over a thermal top and fleece, softshell pants, tough but light hiking boots and attitude!
Virtually all trekking gear is available in Kathmandu (and we are happy to show you the better shops), but the quality is sometimes OK, sometimes not so good, so if you like the best gear then bring most from home. Good all-leather boots are not widely available in Kathmandu, only lightweight hiking boots. If price/time is a concern, you can by the majority of you gear in Kathmandu.
Kitbag (duffel bag / duffle bag)
For all the treks your gear that is carried by the porters or yaks is best packed in a strong kitbag. A simple design without wheels and without foldable handles is best. You can buy in Kathmandu, although they are not as tough as say the North Face Base Camp Duffel. Mountain Hardwear duffels look tough but are not.
Down-filled bags are better. Beg, borrow or steal a good one (ie 4-5 season) because high altitude nights will be cool. Good down is fluffy, light and thick. A muff (an extra section around the neck) makes a big difference to the overall warmth of a bag. Reasonable sleeping bags are cheaply available for rent in Kathmandu. Alternatively add a fleece sleeping bag liner to add warmth to a 3-4 season bag.
Sleeping bag liner
Cotton, silk or fleece. Saves washing your sleeping bag and adds warmth. Available in Kathmandu.
This should be comfortable and a good waist band that transfers some of the weight to the hips is most important. It needs to be big enough to take a jacket, fleece, water, camera and odds and ends. Kathmandu now offers a range of cheap fall-part packs to fanstastic Mammut and Black Diamond day packs, my personal favourite are my Osprey packs though (unavailable in Kathmandu).
For a happy trek you need comfortable feet. Good boots have: good ankle support, plenty of toe room for long descents, a stiff sole to lessen twisting torsion, and are light because with every step you lift your boot up. Look at the inner lining, Cambrelle is good, a material that eats smelly feet bacteria. Goretex boots have an inner liner that help with warmth but your feet tend to sweat more in the warmer low country. You don't necessarily need goretex boots. Good lightweight trekking boots or light all leather boots are perfect. Boots must be lightly worn in before trekking and this should include some steep hills to show up trouble spots.
The rougher the trek, the longer the trek, the tougher and newer your boots should be. If you are trekking in heavier boots then it may also be worth taking along some light running shoe-style trainers (eg Salomon XA's), and wear these for the first few days, switching to real boots in the higher country or when it rains.
In the low country your feet will be warm or even hot while walking so quality cotton mix sports socks can work well, or light hiking socks. Three to four pairs are enough. Thick trekking socks are better for higher up and cool evenings, three-four pairs. Mostly modern trekking boots fit snugly so wearing two pairs of socks at the same time is impractical.
Luxury for your feet at the end of the day. Sandals or running shoes (tougher cross-trainers also work, see above). Flip-flops or crocs, available for cheap in Kathmandu, are a necessity for showering during the Khumbu and Annapurna treks.
Most trekkers consider this essential, but alternatives are a thick thermal top or a light down jacket.
Almost essential for the cool evenings. If you don't already have a jacket, they are readily available or easily rented in Kathmandu for around $1 a day. A down jacket is the best option, although a vest can also be brought along (ie bring a jacket as well).
Waterproof and breathable. Gore-tex (or similar) jackets are recommended for treks over passes or climbing trips. Plastic ponchos or non-breathable raincoats are not suitable.
Good thermals, both tops and bottoms, are one of the secrets to cold weather trekking comfort. A mid-weight top (zip-T style) is great for high country day wear. Lighter thermal tops are still useful in the low country and an expedition-weight thermal top is a good warm but light system for the real cold.
Silk-weight is light yet still warm, but for cooler treks mid-weight is perfect. A toasty (but not hot) sleep is essential for a full recovery.
Great for the chilly evenings, thicker is better (except for when the stoves
in the teahouses really heat up!). Readily available in Kathmandu.
T-shirts are popular but a travel shirt is more versatile. The collar protects the back of your neck and the sleeves can be rolled up or down. Take two so you can swap damp for dry.
You will live in these. Light material, loose and medium-coloured is best. You can survive with only one pair, although two is better, and if heading high, a soft shell pair is really useful.
If you have softshell trekking pants then special wind pants are not needed. If you do bring a pair, it is not necessary to have Gore-tex. Similar, non-waterproof is quite OK.
4 to 7 pairs.
Nice for the evenings, and useful for cold trekking days. Beanies work, so do buffs.
For winter trekking a fleece neck gaiter is really the best for staying warm! A buff is versatile on less cold treks.
Definitely useful, especially on steep, rough terrain, but if you are not used to using them you can survive without. One can be useful for easing long descents.
Bring good wraparound glasses suitable for snow, its bright up there, but specialized glacier glasses with side pieces are not needed. Contact lens wearers report very few problems except cleaning them in the conditions. Ski goggles are unnecessary.
A good pair of wind-proof gloves is essential. Available in Kathmandu for cheap if you don't have a pair.
Should be one liter or more in capacity, take boiling water and be leak-proof. Nalgene or a similar brand, or European Aluminum bottles, are best, all available in Kathmandu. You need a minimum of 2 water bottles, or at least 1 water bottle IN ADDITION to a Camelback or hydration system.
Very useful on cold high country nights! Can buy a cheap one in Kathmandu.
Torch / Flashlight
LED head torches rule, the Black Diamond ones seem to be better than Petzls now. Available in Kathmandu.
Toiletries and odds & ends
Essentials for the month only. The smallest tube of toothpaste available in Kathmandu is perfect for a month. Teahouse trekking, there are a surprising number of showers or buckets of hot water available. We provide toilet paper for expeditions, you bring or buy along the way for tea-house treks. Deodorant can spare you grief with your room mate/tent partner...
Bring only a small one trekking, or a camp towel. In Kathmandu the hotel supplies towels.
Sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen
The sun is strong at altitude, especially after snow. Bring at least sunscreen and lip balm WITH SPF 15, and better still SPF 30+. The best brand is Banana Boat, which is usually available in Kathmandu.
A small tube for sensitive or well cared for skins. The air is dry and the sun harsh.
A technical running cap is ideal. A wide-brim sun hat is also good.
First aid kit
We carry one with aspirin, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, decongestants, lozenges, various antibiotics for Nepalese varieties of diarrhoea and chests infections, Diamox (an acclimatizing aid drug), antiseptic, antihistamine cream, oral rehydration, bandages and band-aids.
You should bring any personal medicines that you need, and if you have had blisters in the past, a good kit.
You can get away without water purification but, especially for a hot trek, it is nice to be independent from the lodges or expedition crew. A bottle of iodine tablets such as Potable Aqua, PolarPure or Couglans can be useful however the most convenient system is the Steripen, which uses UV light to neutralize bugs in the water. We mostly use to water from the lodges but occasionally take water from the streams. The use of mineral water is discouraged from an environmental point of view, but is available everywhere.
Camera and video camera
See the separate discussion.
One or two with high swapability. Kathmandu has some great second-hand book shops.
Most people find wearing one while trekking is a hassle and keep it buried in their kitbag or daypack. The Kathmandu hotel has safety deposit boxes.
Not needed but if you have them, consider bringing them if going above 4000m.
Crampons and ice axe
Not needed for trekking - trekking is walking, not climbing.
Additional gear for camping treks
Inflatable sleeping pad
Thermarest or similar - for expedition/climbing treks ONLY, not tea-house treks. We provide a sponge foam mattress and if necessary, a closed cell pad, but if you have your own Thermarest, bring it. We also have a few available for rent.
A good luxury for chilly evenings, available in Kathmandu.
Around camp you can wear camp shoes, sandals (for non-winter treks) or leather boots. No matter what altitude and what season, it is cool to bloody freezing in the evenings. By far the best clothing is:
+ a down jacket, light or thick, available in Kathmandu. Fleece and layers isn't really enough.
+ Primaloft pants (hard to find) or thick fleece pants
+ fleece hat and neck gaiter
+ thick sox
+ Nalgene or Aluminum water bottle filled with boiling water
Snacks and nutrition
You will feel your best with plenty of good food and keeping hydrated. We provide the food and the water. However you will also want wholesome snacks and vitamin tablets. Chocolate, chocolate bars, dried fruit bars and dried fruit are readily available in Kathmandu, but Clif bars, Power bars, energy gels and the like are not usually available.
What is available in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is developing! There is now several good shops that sell a variety of imported gear, such as North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Black Diamond, so a variety but not the whole ranges. There are also hundreds of small gear shops in Kathmandu mostly sell locally made fake gear and a strange variety of new gear.
Always available are socks, thermal underwear, quality fleece, beanies, a variety of gloves and Gore-tex clothing, LED head torches and batteries, fleece jackets and pants, sunglasses, water bottles and kit bags.
Boots are increasingly available but are probably still better brought from home.
Easy to rent items in Kathmandu are down jackets and sleeping bags.
What we provide
For camping trips, we provide all the tents, a foam mattress each, all the cutlery and utensils, cooking pots, stoves; candles/kerosene lantern, tables and stools, kitchen tent, dining tent and toilet tent; all the main meals while trekking but not snacks; and the best service we can manage.