When you plan a trek to Nepal, the time of year you trek will impact your Nepal trekking packing list. Why is it important to pack only the essential items? You may be tempted to pack for all eventualities, but our advice is to pack light. Carting a heavy luggage along steep mountain trails would ruin your holiday, even though your porter may be carrying most of the weight.
What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal: Packing list for Trekking
Packing to go trekking in Nepal can be a daunting task and even more so if this will be your first trek in Nepal, and so you really don’t have much idea what to expect. When packing to go trekking in Nepal the tendency can be to pack for all eventualities. In an ideal world this would be the right approach. However, there’s one key aspect that means that packing everything you might need and the kitchen sink is probably not a wise idea.
You or a porter will have to carry all that dead weight up and down steep mountain trails for days on end. And nothing will ruin a Nepalese trek like carting an overloaded, heavy pack around. So, the number one rule to keep in mind when making a packing list for a Nepalese trek is: pack light!
When you make your Nepalese trek packing list there are a few things you should consider:
Are you on an organised or fully independent trek?
On an organised group trek there might be a per person weight/baggage limit. On a fully independent trek things boil down to what you can comfortably carry. Our suggestion is to keep your bag to a maximum weight of 15kg. Also, if you’re going to fly to a trail head be aware that most internal flights in Nepal have strict baggage weight limits and these can be as little as 15kg for hold luggage.
Will you hire a porter?
We would always suggest hiring a porter. Not just does it provide income to the local community, but it means that you can skip daintily over the Alpine flower meadows carrying just the minimum of gear for the day ahead (water, a jumper and rain jacket, a snack and a camera) while a porter shoulders the load.
There’s no doubt about it, porters are tough and you will likely see porters carrying a couple of large, heavy gas canisters and a big bag of other supplies heading to remote trekking lodges with nothing on their feet but a pair of flip-flops. However, tough as they are, there’s normally a baggage weight limit per porter of 30kg.
You should also ensure that each porter is well-kitted out clothing wise – and provided with adequate food and accommodation. Porters have died after being left out in the elements with insufficient clothing and food.
Where will you be Trekking?
Where you go trekking will have a big impact on what – and how much – you have to pack for your trek in Nepal. If you’re doing a popular, lower altitude (and therefore warmer) trek with good trekking lodges (teahouses) all along the route then you can get away with carrying much less than if you’re doing a higher altitude, longer and remote trek with far fewer facilities.
On a lower altitude trek with plenty of trekking lodges you can bring a thinner, lighter jacket and sleeping bag and you could leave your gloves, woolly hat and thermals at home.
If you’re on a remoter, higher trek, then you will need to carry a lot more equipment and, because many Nepalese treks take you into both hot and steamy lowland valleys and over cold, bleak high altitude passes, you’ll need clothing and equipment for a far greater array of conditions.
You might also need full camping and cooking equipment. This will be considerably more than you can carry alone and so you will need one or more porters, plus all the equipment and food that they might require.
When will you be Trekking?
Whether you’re doing a lower altitude trek or blazing across high altitude passes, the time of year you trek will likely impact your Nepalese trekking packing list.
Put simply, trekking in December through to February is going to be cold no matter where you trek and you will need thicker, heavier clothes to cope. Trekking in May and early June, when temperatures in Nepal are at their highest, means that even at 5,000m it doesn’t get quite as cold as you might imagine (Though don’t bother to pack a bikini. You’ll still need a thick mountain jacket, thermals, fleece, gloves and hat. It’s just that you won’t need to wear several fleeces at the same time!). In the main October-November and March-April trekking season then you’ll need to be prepared for serious cold up high and hot days at lower altitudes.
No matter where, when or how you’re going to trek there are a few items that are near enough essential to pack for a Nepalese trek.
1. Hiking boots: You’ll need boots and not hiking or trail running boots. Make sure they’re waterproof, very sturdy and above all, comfortable.
Don’t buy a cheap pair and make sure you break them in at home before travelling to Nepal. It’s possible to rent (or buy) hiking boots in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but we’d advise against this because the quality might not be up to scratch and poor fitting boots will give you blisters.
And few things can ruin a trek like a big fat blister or three. Also, while we are on the subject of boots and blisters. Bring a roll of Second Skin which is a thin sticking plaster like material that helps prevent and heal blisters.
2. Winter jacket: A thick, warm, waterproof, breathable, but lightweight jacket is another must. It should keep you toasty in sub-zero temperatures. These can easily be rented in Nepal but most are inferior quality knock-offs of respected mountain brands. Even so, if this is your first high altitude trek then you can probably get away with using one of these rented jackets.
If you’re likely to do a lot of mountain trekking then it makes sense to buy a high quality jacket.
3. Sleeping bag: It gets bitterly cold at night, even at low altitudes in winter (don’t be surprised if the hills surrounding Kathmandu receive a dusting of snow in December and January), and the thin, gap riddled walls of trekking lodge bedrooms provide little protection.
As with jackets, get the warmest yet lightest one you can afford. Remember that when a bag manufacturer says a sleeping bag can be used down to minus ten degrees the reality is you won’t be comfortable in it below about plus five.
If you’re going to be sleeping at high altitude then aim for one that says it will keep you warm down to minus twenty or lower. A really good sleeping bag is an expensive bit of kit and bags can be rented in Nepal.
As with jackets they’re very rarely of good quality, but they will be sufficient for lodge based treks at warmer times of year or at lower altitudes.
4. Water bottle: Take two bottles of at least a litre each and refill whenever possible. Don’t rely on bottles of mineral water. It’s often not available and at the best of times it’s environmentally unfriendly, but up in the mountains where there’s little chance of recycling it’s even worse.
5. Water purification system: You can either use water purification tablets (get enough to treat at least three litres of water a day) or, better, invest in one of the growing number of water purification systems. We strongly recommend the LifeStraw system (get the straw and the corresponding bottle), which allows you to drink water instantly and is very effective at cleaning the water.
On more popular trekking routes some lodges provide pre-treated water but don’t rely on always getting this.
6. Thermals: Two or three thermal tops of different thickness and even a pair of thermal under trousers are worth their weight in gold for colder routes and even on lower altitude treks you’ll probably find yourself using a thermal top at night.
7. Fleeces: Two fleeces, one thin and one thick, are a vital bit of kit for a Nepalese trek.
8. Walking trousers: Don’t try and skip round the Annapurna Circuit in a pair of jeans (yes, we’ve seen trekkers try). Get some comfortable walking trousers. Two pairs should be sufficient for the longest treks.
9. T-shirts/shirts: Many people recommend specialist quick dry shirts designed for trekking. Don’t go overboard with the number of them that you pack because the truth is you likely won’t change your shirt more than once in a two week trek (or perhaps that’s just us…)!
10. Socks: Specialist hiking socks are supposed to reduce blisters and are worth purchasing. However, you should always change your socks frequently (even if you don’t change your t-shirt!) as this seems to reduce blisters as much as any clever equipment. Take at least 3 pairs for a two week trek. Also pack a thick, warm pair of ski socks to keep your toes warm when you arrive at camp.
11. Sandals: Most people appreciate being able to remove their boots at the end of the day and put on some sandals (with or without thick ski socks depending on how cold it is).
12. Hats: A sun hat is vital for hotter, lower elevations and a winter hat or balaclava for up high.
13. Gloves: Take a thick warm pair of skiing gloves and a thin, cotton pair of under gloves. You won’t be able to press the shutter button on your camera or eat properly wearing a pair of thick gloves, but you can with the thin gloves and they’ll still keep your hands warm for a few minutes.
14. Sunglasses: An essential bit of kit at all elevations. The sun reflecting off the snow can quickly frazzle your eyes.
15. Sunscreen and sunblock: Slather lots of sun cream on no matter what the weather or elevation. Use total sun block on lips, nose and ears.
16. Trekking Poles: You might think that a set of trekking poles are the domain of creaky old people, but creaky old people are often wise old people and they know that a set of poles can be a god send. You can use them to help haul yourself up a steep slope and they ease the pain and chance of stumbling on sharp descents. Plus, when you’re not using them, you can wave them around like a sword while pretending to be a knight in armour.
17. Wash kit: Keep this minimal. You won’t get much chance to wash. A little light weight travel towel isn’t a bad idea.
18. Torch: A head torch and spare batteries is a must.
19. Book to read: The evenings can be long. Bring a good book (and not a tablet or Kindle as power sources can be erratic and batteries drain very fast at altitude).
20. Camera: Even non-photographers will want a memory of the stunning Nepalese scenery.
21. Spare batteries: Bring spare torch, camera and phone batteries. Below a certain temperature and above a certain altitude (all of which varies on the product) batteries drain very fast or simply don’t work at all.
Above about 3,000m put the batteries in your sleeping bag at night to keep them warm as this helps to reduce drainage.
22. Snacks: A few biscuits and chocolate bars might help give you that energy boost you need to get over that pass.
23. Backpack: To carry all this you will need a decent, comfortable trekking backpack (don’t contemplate trying to bring any other kind of bag). If you’re using a porter then you will need a small backpack for your day gear and you’ll have to provide a bag (a hold-all is best) for the porter to carry everything in.
24. Insurance: Easily forgotten, but perhaps the most important item of all is a decent, comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers trekking at altitude and in Nepal.
You should check these last two points carefully because many travel insurance policies do not cover trekking above 2,000-3,000m which is problematic in Nepal and some no longer insure people travelling to Nepal at all.
Things not to bother taking on a trek are computers, tablets and such like. They get easily broken on the trail and batteries tend not to work above a given altitude. And more to the point, most other people don’t want to see their fellow trekkers glued to their tablets in a trekking lodge at night.
Altitude and Temperature in Nepal
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