EBC Minimalist Packing Guide

Minimalist Packing for Everest Base Camp Trek

 

Choosing what to bring on a 16-day trek in the Himalayas is not easy.   Without a porter to carry our gear, we wanted our loads to be as minimalist as possible yet still have enough gear to be warm and comfortable.

Fully loaded with water and food, our packs weighed 20 kg (John) and 7 kg (Teo). This is what we carried:

 

Clothing

We had one set of clothing for trekking and one set for the tea houses. We carried only lightweight, quick dry polyester and nylon blends or wool. No cotton, period.

 

 

Johnny

Trekking Clothes:

  • 1 Shade hat
  • 1 Wool beanie
  • 1 Buff
  • 1 Sunglasses
  • 1 Rainproof/windproof jacket
  • 1 Rainproof/windproof pants
  • 1 Long sleeve polyester shirt
  • 1 Short sleeve polyester shirt
  • 1 Windproof gloves
  • 1 Hiking pants
  • 3 Merino wool hiking socks
  • 3 Quick dry underwear

 

Tea House Clothes:

  • 1 lightweight fleece pullover
  • 1 Fleece pants
  • 1 Merino wool thermal underwear (top)
  • 1 Merino wool thermal underwear (bottom)
  • 1 Heavy duty down jacket

 

Teo 

Trekking Clothes:

  • 1 Shade hat
  • 1 Wool beanie
  • 1 Buff
  • 1 Sunglasses
  • 1 Rainproof/windproof jacket
  • 1 Rainproof/windproof pants
  • 1 Lightweight down jacket
  • 1 Long sleeve trekking shirt
  • 2 Short sleeve merino wool shirts
  • 3 Sports bras
  • 4 Quick dry underwear
  • 3 Merino wool hiking socks
  • 1 Windproof gloves

 

Tea House Clothes:

  • 1 Heavy duty down jacket
  • 1 Fleece pants
  • 1 Lightweight fleece pullover
  • 1 Merino wool thermal underwear (top and bottom)
  • 1 Tights

 

 

Tip: Our one outfit wardrobe was designed for layering and we added or removed items as necessary. As time wore on, our clothes became dirty and smelly as are most of the other trekkers along the route. We hand-washed socks and underwear a couple of times.   The fleece pants/pullovers and heavy down jackets were mostly tea house attire.

 

Layering; we’ve got just about every item of clothing on here. Gokyo Ri summit, 5360 meters.

 

 Footwear

 We both wore Salomon low-top, waterproof hiking shoes (not boots). We’ve trekked in these shoes on three continents during this trip alone and they are well broken in. Low-top hiking shoes have less ankle support compared to boots but the trade-off is they are lightweight and comfortable.

Tips:   Footwear should be well broken in.   Wearing quality merino wool hiking socks makes a ton of difference. Hiking in new shoes is a good way to lose toenails and causes blisters.

 

Backpacks, Sleeping, and Miscellaneous Gear

 

  • Deuter Air Contact Pro 85 liter backpack
  • Lowe Alpine 30 liter backpack
  • Sea to Summit waterproof compression sack for clothing
  • 2 zero degree down sleeping bags
  • 2 silk sleeping bag liners
  • 1 quick dry trekking towel
  • Sawyer Squeeze water filter
  • 2 Nalgene 1 liter water bottles
  • 2 pairs microspikes
  • Nylon strap, small bit of paracord, duct tape
  • Leatherman multi-tool
  • 2 headlamps with spare batteries
  •  Map of Khumbu and Gokyo Valley
  • Compass via iPhone app
  • Large garbage bags as waterproof pack liners
  • 2 trekking poles
  • Deck of cards
  • Notebook and pen
  • Lock (combination) for room door, we always have our own

 

The 85-liter backpack was overkill, but that’s all we had. This pack is bomber, made from heavy nylon and the most comfortable suspension system. Both packs have raincovers. Ideally a 45-liter pack is large enough for everything you’d need for 16 days. The sleeping bags were also our own; 600-fill goose down, weighing just 1.5 pounds each. All of this gear we had with us when we arrived in Nepal (except the Nalgene bottles, map, garbage bags, trekking poles and the microspikes which we bought in Thamel).

 

The Deuter Air Contact Pro is the most comfortable pack I’ve ever carried. the pack itself is nearly 3 kg, but by this time on the trek, weight is not an issue. Gokyo Lake on Day 11.

 

Tips: There is a ton of knock-off gear to rent/buy in Kathmandu. Having your own equipment is preferable to renting, especially regarding shoes and a backpack. If you need to rent or buy gear, we recommend Shona’s Alpine in the Thamel district in Kathmandu. They sell brand name and knock off gear and are honest in telling you one from the other.

If you have a zero degree bag at home but don’t think it will be enough for EBC, reconsider. Our friend rented a minus 10 degree Celsius bag that was twice as heavy and bulky as our 2 ultralight down bags combined. Remember you will be sleeping inside a guesthouse, bed and blanket is provided. Don’t try to get by with guesthouse blankets alone either, you will be miserable. Wintertime trekking is a completely different story and will require heavy-duty cold weather gear not included in this packing list.

The microspikes were used only for crossing the Cho La Pass. This $7 piece of equipment was helpful but not essential.

 

The approach to Cho La Pass, the microspikes come on.

 

Above Namche Bazaar, the guesthouses electricity supply is solar/battery, have a headlamp for when the power goes out and late night bathroom runs.

Bringing our own water filter saved us a lot of money and peace of mind. This four-ounce set up takes up very little space and filters down to 0.1 microns, thereby eliminating bacteria, spores, and microorganisms like Giardia.   Buying bottled water on the EBC trek gets crazy expensive and we paid for our filter many times over without contributing any plastic garbage to the Everest ecosystem.

 

First Aid

 Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is our mantra. Traveling to the Himalayas is a humongous effort and we did not want be sick during the trek.   We designed the following minimalist first aid kit.

 

  • Oral rehydration salts for excessive water loss-diarrhea/dehydration
  • Gu brand electrolyte tablets – we put one in a liter of water every day
  • Loperamide/immodium for diarrhea
  • Dulcoflex for constipation
  • Diamox/acetazolamide to prevent altitude sickness
  • Dexamethasone and nifedipine – emergency altitude sickness meds
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Ciprofloxacin – antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea (TD)
  • Metronidazole – antibiotic for cipro resistant TD, and Giardia
  • Tinidazole – anti Giardia medicine
  • Probiotics – for general gastrointestinal health, esp. after taking antibiotics
  • Ibuprofen and Tylenol – for headaches and muscle pain
  • Aquatabs – water purifying tablets, adjunct to water filter
  • Band aids, gauze, alcohol prep pads
  • Moleskin, medical tape, needle and Bic lighter – blister treatment kit
  • SPF 50 sunscreen, SPF 50 lip balm
  • Tiger Balm
  • Thieves essential oil (clove, rosemary, lemon, cinnamon oil blend), topical antiseptic, bug repellent and antifungal properties. Rubbed feet with every night.

 

Items on this list were purchased prior to arrival in Nepal.  Most of the medicines are available in Kathmandu pharmacies (without a prescription!). We started taking Diamox in Namche Bazaar (Day 2), and continued until leaving Gokyo Lake (Day 13).

Tips:  After Namche Bazaar it will be very difficult to find any of these items. To read more about altitude sickness and recommendations for treatment/prevention, click here.

At high altitude you are much closer to the sun, protect yourself with sunblock/lip balm, wide-brimmed hat, good sunglasses and long sleeve clothing.

Having an insurance policy that includes helicopter evacuation is essential in the event something serious should happen.

 

Cameras and Electronics

Take only photos and leave only footprints. Memorializing the trek with quality photographs was high on our priority list and we attempted to pare down to the minimum. Here’s what we ended up packing.

 

  • Canon 6D DSLR, case, spare battery and charger
  • GoPro 4, 2 spare batteries, charging cable, small tripod
  • iPhone 5S, charging cable
  • Plug adaptors
  • Spare SD card and micro SD cards
  • Battery pack for charging smartphone/GoPro, charging cable

 

Of all our electronic gadgets, it was our DLSR that is the heaviest. Choosing to carry our own gear, we trekked slowly and didn’t spend as much time photographing as we would’ve preferred.   We met several photographers who had porters carrying all of their equipment allowing them to spend more time shooting. We’ll be the first to admit we were envious.

Tips:  Bring a camera (preferably a small one) and take lots of photos, you will be glad you have them. Carry as many spare batteries as you can, the cold air really drains the juice. Keep batteries as close to your body as possible, body warmth will extend their lifespan. At night, place all batteries inside your sleeping bag.

Charging electronics is expensive and prices range from $1-$5 per item or per hour depending how far up the mountain you are. In Namche, the Himalayan Café has a free charging station, so pull up a table and a cup of coffee while topping off.

 

Toiletries

Traveling as a couple we share most of our toiletries already.  Here’s what we packed for the trek.

 

  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss
  • Small bar of soap, anti-bacterial gel, wet wipes, toilet paper
  • Baby powder, moisturizing lotion, and lip balm
  • Nail clippers, cotton swabs, rubber bands/hair ties, feminine hygiene products

 

Tips:  You’ll discover that personal hygiene on the EBC really takes a back seat.  Be prepared to smell like a homeless person, really.  Few guesthouses have hot showers and at others you can buy buckets of warm/hot water for bathing but it’s not cheap. We chose wet wipe baths, basically using two wet wipes to cleanse our bodies at the end of the day. Baby powder helps with chaffing and keeping odors down in your shoes/clothing.

Carrying your personal hygiene products can add up in both size and weight. Bringing travel size items is preferable. Toilet paper is expensive on the mountain, carry about 2 rolls per person.

 

Food and Drink

Food on the EBC trek is outrageously expensive for Nepali standards and the value for the money is terrible.   Buying snacks en route is limited to Pringles and Snickers Bars (at highly inflated prices).  We carried nearly 3 kg of snacks with us to save a few bucks and add to variety.

 

  • 3 Snickers, 1 chocolate bar, assorted hard candy, Mentos
  • 12 Yogi bars (energy bar from India)
  • Dried fruit (apricots and raisins)
  • Trail mix (we made our own with almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, raisins)
  • Instant coffee, tea, sugar, hot chocolate, powdered juice

 

Tips:  We both lost weight on the trek and felt the tea house diet was low on protein.   In hindsight, we would have preferred to carry more snacks but it was a trade-off. More snacks equals more weight to lug around, and in the end we spent more money on food because we were famished.

Most of our snacks were purchased in India. The prices were 30-40% less than buying the same items in Kathmandu. We recommend bringing snacks from home if possible.

Hot drinks are ultra expensive and we often ordered a cup or thermos of hot water and made our own coffee/tea.

 

EBC Packing List Analysis

This packing list was carefully designed after scouring gear list after gear list and forum after forum.  Our reported pack weights are fairly accurate having had the packs measured at the airport and adding 1 kg each for water.  We carried  1-liter of water each all the time except crossing Cho La Pass, adding an extra liter and that was barely enough (consider 2-liters per person minimum).

If money was not an issue, buying brand name, lightweight mountaineering clothing and gear could have cut considerable weight.  The same goes for our DLSR, she’s a beast, but we’re glad we brought her along.  If money weren’t an issue maybe we’d have hired porters, a clean change of clothes for every day, laptops and camera tripods, bottles of wine and foie gras.  Wait that sounds like the expeditions, where money is no issue at all.

 

Nepal Trekking Tips Part 4: EBC Packing List is part 4 of a 4 part series about our experience trekking in Nepal’s Himalayas.

Click here to read part 1: How Much It Costs To Trek EBC Independently

Click here to read part 2: Everest Base Camp Trek: Guided or Unguided

Click here to read part 3: Everest Base Camp Trekking: Altitude Sickness and Other Annoyances

Click here to read about our Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Itinerary…Unguided