Despite the sense of wonder and adventure associated with a trek through the Himalayas, the journey does not have to be as rough as you would think. Surprisingly, trekking in Nepal does not have to involve any camping. Due to the frequency of small villages and “tea houses” along many popular hiking paths, most visitors and trekkers stay the night in small hotels or guest houses which provide a comfortable stay, meals, and even toilets.
So, if we’re not camping, then what do we need? Some basic outdoor equipment is necessary, as are good shoes and clothing for multiple climates. We’re talking about the Himalayas, where high altitudes can mean cold weather and rain (but not always). Food and water are also readily available, but a reusable water bottle and water purifiers can save you some cash along the way, too. And to protect the environment, single-use water bottles are prohibited along many parts of the Nepalese hiking trail system.
Below are our top recommendations and packing list for a trek though the mountains in Nepal.
Small and compact, a liner will provide multiple benefits. First, if the beds you’re sleeping on don’t have sheets, or the sheets aren’t clean, then this gives you a layer of protection. Second, this interior lining traps your body heat to give you more warmth during those cold nights. And because they pack up into such a small size with very little added weight, you can toss one into your bag without sacrificing space for other needed essentials.
Another tiny yet important piece of “survival gear” is a good hat. Since most of your body’s head leaves through your head, you’ve got to keep it covered. Fleece is a great material because it is easily washable and dries very quickly. It also compresses down to a small size to fit into those nooks and crannies in your bag or coat pocket.
Sometimes those tea houses way up in the mountains don’t have towels, even though many offer showers and hot water. A large, soggy towel is that last thing you want to weigh down your pack with, so opt for one of those smaller micro-fiber quick-drying space-age towels from the future.
If you haven’t heard of the SteriPEN, here’s how it works. You fill up your water bottle (such as this one) from a local stream with clear or nearly clear water. Then, you turn on the SteriPEN and insert the strange blue light into the water for a couple of minutes. This device, which somewhat resembles a flashlight, uses UV light to kill any bacteria and microbes in the water, making it safe to drink. This is a great alternative to the very common chemical sterilizers which leave your water with a bad taste, or to boiling your water which requires fire, a cooking pot, and lengthy amounts of time. Although a bit pricey, this is a must for anyone who might find themselves somewhere in the outdoors and in need of water. It will also save you money if you don’t want to continuously purchase bottled water along the trail (which can get quite expensive in more remote locations).
A Great Compact Camera
Both the Canon M-200 and the Sony Alpha offer amazing features in small packages. And when you’re carrying everything with you, small packages are what you need. With DSLR-like features and smaller interchangeable lenses, both of these smaller cameras offer the features you need to take those National Geographic style photos of the wilderness and people of the Himalayas, all while not breaking your back or the bank.
Sturdy Hiking Shoes
Shoes are probably the most important item of equipment for any outdoor activity, and hiking through the roof of the world is no exception. You don’t need full sized hiking boots – some trail shoes will be ideal (men’s, women’s). At lower altitudes, where many of the trails begin, you’ll be spending time in warmer climates, wearing shorts and T-shirts, and likely getting a little wet in streams and the occasional rain shower. As you progress to higher altitudes, the trails become more rocky, the climate cooler, and your shoes need to adapt. In light snow, trail shoes are still ideal and manageable if you’re wearing proper socks and pants.
It should go without saying that you’ll need a winter coat. As we mentioned before, depending on the trail you will spend a good bit of time not wearing it. But when you get to those higher altitudes, you will be thankful that you (or your porter) carried it up the mountain. Water proof, snow proof, and down or “down alternative” are a must.
Depending on your travel style and whether or not you hire a porter, you may decide on a smaller or larger backpack. If you’re going to carry a bag yourself (either your main bag or a day-pack), we recommend smaller rather than larger. You will be more comfortable in the long run if you don’t burden yourself down with too much clothing and equipment.
So, there you have it. If you’re still trying to make a decision about which trail to take, or whether to even go or not, you can read about our experience in Nepal here. Or check out our travel costs for Nepal.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.