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:
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.
Tea House Clothes:
Tea House Clothes:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Traveling as a couple we share most of our toiletries already. Here’s what we packed for the trek.
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 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.
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.
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 3: Everest Base Camp Trekking: Altitude Sickness and Other Annoyances
Click here to read about our Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Itinerary…Unguided