Hindsight (as they say) is a wonderful thing, and it’s all too common to return home from a trip and think ‘If only I’d thought of that’ or ‘If only I took that’…. Well I love that I can possibly help to eliminate some of those annoying ‘If only’ statements by sharing with you my packing experiences for the grueling (yet unbelievably rewarding) trek to Everest Base Camp.
Having completed the trek to Everest Base Camp back in September, I’ve since been asked numerous times by friends, colleagues and clients for advice on what to pack and if I had any particularly helpful tips for them, so I figured this is something that I could share with anyone considering this trek, or who may just be interested in knowing more about it.
So, where to start….
I’m not a seasoned hiker so I needed to invest in some gear. It would be easy to go overboard as there is sooo much out there – from state of the art day packs to hiking poles and everything in between – but I was thinking of the poor porters who had to carry my gear so I opted for the bare minimum to make their life easier.
I didn’t need high end gear, but I wanted to ensure that what I did get was comfortable and functional. In hindsight I probably would have waited and purchased most of the gear in Kathmandu, as Thamel is lined with mountain sports stores selling absolutely everything you’d need, and the prices are great. >> Beware of the ‘North (Fake) Face’ gear that they flog off at low prices but very average quality.
Anyway, as I was in the UK at the time and had expert local guidance (thanks Scott) we just went to Sports Direct. A huge sports store that had a great range of gear, where I managed to stock up on most of what was required.
Most trekking companies will provide you with a gear list, so if you have one … follow it, but as a guide this is what I took, what was useful, what I wish I had and some other hot tips that I picked up along the way.
* Day pack – 30-40 litres
I recommend the ones with the cushioned airflow or mesh gap between your bag & back. Without it, it gets awfully sweaty when you’re hiking in the sun for 8hrs.
I’d also suggest getting a pack with the Camelbak section. Staying hydrated is the number 1 thing to do, to avoid altitude sickness and it was SO good not to have to pull a water bottle out every 15-20 minutes.
This pack has to be 5kg or under (water bottles empty) for the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Remember, the lighter the better as you are carrying it, and once you fill up your water bottles, you’re adding another 2-4kg in weight.
* Main pack – North Face, 55L litres
This pack has to be 10kg or under to ensure it makes it on the light plane to Lukla with you, and so that the porters can carry it. Even though they are used to carrying large weights, they are trekking with up to 4 or 5 of them at a time, so be nice.
My #1 tip…. Take GOOD QUALITY thermals. Don’t skimp out on these.
Get WOOL as it breathes and has excellent moisture management properties which means, when you sweat (and you will), the wool will keep you cooler AND absorb the moisture. The other great part about wool is that it doesn’t smell, and with NO laundry facilities once you’re in the mountains, you want clothing that you can wear every day, regardless of how much you sweat.
I took Smartwool thermals, and they we’re perfect! Others on the trek who had lower cost garments in synthetic fabrics, not only found that they weren’t as comfortable, but they smelt! (No offence people… it’s a tough trek. We understood)
My next tip….. Pack SUPER LIGHT!
I was skeptical when I saw the packing lists….. 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, for 15 days? We’re they serious? Yes they we’re! As I said, as long as you have good quality stuff it’ll get you through, and if you have 2 of everything and you just run it on alternate days, you’ll be fine. (It’s not a fashion show up there after all, and although you’ll see some people with a new outfit every day, think of the PORTERS!
Here is my clothing list….
-Hiking boots (Well broken in, with good ankle support)
-Thongs/Flip Flops (For the showers, hanging in the tea huts at night)
– 2 x pairs trekking socks (As I said, I had Smartwool and they still didn’t smell after 15 days!)
– 2 x long thermal bottoms (Wool)
– 2 x Thermal long sleeve tops (You guessed it … Wool!)
– 2 x short sleeve t-shirts (Wool, Wool, Wool!)
– 2 x super lightweight cargo pants. If they zip off to shorts, even better. (Yep, I’m a hiking nerd, but can’t deny that they are practical). If they don’t zip off, then take a pair of shorts as well.
-1 x pair of skins (I took these to hike in on the warmer days, other girls/guys hiked in gym tights or shorts)
– 1 x fleece jumper
– 1 x lightweight wind proof/waterproof jacket (Gortex)
– 1 x pair of lightweight wind proof/waterproof pants (Gortex)
– 1 x warm windproof/waterproof jacket (This could be replaced with a down jacket for the dryer cooler hiking months).
– 2 x Sunglasses (spare pair, just in case)
– Headband (To keep your hair out of your face if you have long hair)
-Towel (Lightweight travel towel)
– Sleeping bag (Can be ired from Kathmandu, but probably invest in one if you can)
– Silk sleeping bag liner
-Torch (a headlamp is even better, especially for the Kala Patthar hike at 4am in the dark!)
Staying hydrated, healthy and protected!
– Camel pack (3L)
– 1L water bottle (I had this in addition to the Camelbak as once you purify your water, there is a ½ hr wait to drink it, so it’s good to have 2 sources).
– Hydrolytes / Electrolytes to add to your water.
– Water purifying tablets – Iodine
– Cleansing wipes (no showers above 4000m, but you might get a bucket of warm water if you’re lucky)
– Sun cream (50+)
– Diamox (Altitude sickness medication)
-General First aid kit, including stuff for headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea etc…
-Band aids (Blister kit)
-Face Moisturiser/Lip balm (Windburn is a b$#tch)
-Toiletries (Tooth brush, Tooth paste, Soap, Feminine hygiene products etc..)
-Any standard medication that you normally take of course (If any).
– Camera with 2 spare batteries (Charging is possible, but they charge you for it & it’s good to have backups. You don’t want to miss that photo of Mt Everest at sunrise!)
– A good book or a journal if you like to write about your travels
– Pack of cards (there are some GREAT Nepalese card games to learn along the way)
…. andddddddddddd that’s about it.
All of this condensed into my 2 packs, believe it or not! (It looks like more than it is). Looking back there is little that I would have changed or taken instead. I used everything I had, and didn’t want for much else.
My TIPS to make it even BETTER!
Now, onto those hot tips that we picked up along the way… this is where we get into the nitty gritty and believe me, some of these tips we’re absolutely PRICELESS as we climbed higher, and higher and higher! Some we picked up from other trekkers along the way, and others we figured out for ourselves.
1. If you do two things to prepare for this trek, it should be HILL CLIMBS and SQUATS. When you’re up there, it’s all about your lungs and your legs. If you can breathe and you can walk, then you’ll be fine. At the end of the day the fitter and stronger you are the better, and the more you can forget about the trekking, and focus on the spectacular scenery around you, the better.
2. Stay Hydrated. As mentioned above, having a Camelbak meant I had constant access to my water without having to stop, undo my bottle and hold up the group. I sipped water all day, every day, and I think that this helped me avoid altitude sickness.
3. Don’t be a hero…. Go SLOW! It’s the speed of accent that is the major cause of altitude sickness, so it’s often the fittest people that get affected. Go as slow as your guide recommends, and make use of the acclimatisation days, and hike slowly to higher heights, and come back down to sleep. Know your limits, and speak up if the group is going too fast. It can be seriously dangerous up there if you don’t listen to your body.
4. Don’t start the Diamox (Altitude medication) too early. The earlier you take it at lower altitudes, the less of an impact it will have by the time its day 10 and you’re at 5600metres. Our guide suggested only taking ½ a tablet IF we started to feel any of the effects of altitude sickness, or as a preventative IF required and then we started taking the full tablets once we got to about Labouche. Of course, if you are suffering any major symptoms, then your guide will advise you on what to do, but unless you need them, wait until you are almost to Base Camp before starting.
5. Eat Chocolate. Don’t be afraid to eat a chocolate bar or two (or three) every day. You are burning some serious calories on this trek, and you need all the energy you can get. While the tea houses serve the food that will get you to the top (CARBS!), it’s also important to stay fuelled up in between meals.
6. Get Tang or Flavoured Hydrolytes to add to your water. Not only do they replace essential nutrients, but you get pretty sick of boring water. Plus the iodine and water purifiers sometimes leave an icky taste in your month. I stuck with orange, but there are lots of other flavours out there now too.
7. Keep spare batteries warm at night by sleeping with them in your sleeping bag. In the cold they lose charge really quickly, and while you can charge batteries at some tea huts, often there is a queue and it’ll cost you.
8. It gets colder as you go up, and there is nothing worse than waking up and having to put on freezing cold clothes, so sleep with the clothes you want to wear, under your sleeping bag, so that they are warm to put on in the morning.
And last but not least…..
9. Stop every now and then to look up & around you. It’s sometimes too hard to always look up while you’re trekking, and I kept tripping over my feet…. so STOP and take a moment.
RELAX, ENJOY, BREATHE and take it all in. It’s the most spectacular trek I’ve done with so much beauty, culture and wonder to experience, so be present in the moment, and it will take your breath away.
If you want to know more about why I chose the trip and what I did to prepare, check out my previous post on the trip itself! http://wp.me/p3LBgc-52
Or If you have any tips of your own that you can share, then please leave a comment. Otherwise if you need a hand planning your own trip, I’d love to help. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org