Nepalese couples wearing traditional attire attended a ritual for a mass wedding in Kathmandu, Nepal, 08 February 2015. For the first time ever in Nepal a total of 100 Nepalese couples, representing the different caste systems, participated in the ceremony organized by the Radha Krishna Foundation to promote unity and Hindu culture in the country.
Two hours before, barely 200 meters away, we had witnessed several cremations at the Pashupatinath Temple. This simple irony of new life versus old life slips seamlessly through Hindu culture while we Westerners observe the latter, the public display of the end of life, with a mixture of shock, anxiety and morbid curiosity.
The following list is a comprehensive inventory of what you might need on our tour. Based on your personal experience and needs, you may decide to bring more or less equipment. You will be able to buy/rent gear in Kathmandu if you would prefer not to lug it all with you.
Down-filled bags are the best to bring. Beg, borrow or steal a good one (i.e. 4-5 season) because high altitude nights will be cool, and there is nothing worse than being cold at night. If you have a 3-4 season bag then you can get a fleece sleeping bag liner in Kathmandu, they are cheap and reasonable priced. Quite good sleeping bags are inexpensively available for rent in Kathmandu.
Sleeping bag liner
Cotton, silk or fleece. Saves washing your sleeping bag and adds warmth. Cotton or silk ones can be made in Kathmandu but are more easily bought from home. Fleece ones is readily available in Kathmandu and will cost you next to nothing.
Inflatable sleeping pad
Thermarest or similar. We provide a sponge foam mattress and if necessary, a closed cell pad, but if you have your own Thermarest, bring it.
This should be comfortable and have a good waistband that transfers some of the weight to the hips – this is most important. It needs to be big enough to take a jacket, fleece, water, camera and odds and ends. You pack your daypack in the morning and give the rest of your baggage to the porters. You should have everything you need trough the day with you, since it is likely that we don’t see the porters again before we camp for the night.
For a comfortable trek you need comfortable feet. Good boots should have good ankle support, plenty of toe room for long descents, a stiff sole to lessen twisting torsion, and they should be as light as possible. Look at the inner lining –leather is good and Cambrelle is even better (a material that eats smelly feet bacteria). Good lightweight trekking boots or light all leather boots are perfect. Boots must be lightly worn in before trekking and this should include some steep hills to show up trouble spots. The longer the trek, the better the boots you need.
In the low country your feet will be warm or even hot while walking so quality cotton mix sports socks are best. Three to four pairs are enough. Thick trekking socks are better for higher up and cool evenings, four pairs. I will suggest wearing two pair of socks, since it is my experience that this is the best way to avoid blisters.
At the end of the day your feet needs some air, so bring some sandals or running shoes.
Most trekkers consider this essential, but alternatives are a thick thermal top or a light down jacket. In Kathmandu you can get cheap Korean fleeces but they lack that essential style.
This is something you don’t want to miss on those cool evenings. If you don't already have a down jacket they can easily be rented in Kathmandu for around $2-3 a day.
Waterproof and breathable. Plastic ponchos or non-breathable raincoats are not suitable.
Thermal underwear top and bottom
Good thermals are one of the secrets to cold weather trekking comfort. Expedition-weight thermals are the most versatile and can be worn as your high altitude trekking top.
Great for the chilly evenings, thicker is better. Readily available in Kathmandu.
Day wear shirt
T-shirts are popular but a cotton shirt or mixed yarn travel shirt is more useful. The collar protects the back of your neck and the sleeves can be rolled up or down. Take two so you can swap damp for dry.
You will live in these. Light material, loose and dark-coloured is best. You can survive with only one pair. Cotton cheapies in the local fashion can be bought in Kathmandu.
If your trekking pants are reasonably windproof then special wind pants are not needed. If you do bring a pair, it is not necessary to have gore-tex or similar, non-waterproof is quite OK.
This is not something people tend to forget, but I put it here anyway bring 4 to 7 pairs.
Warm hat or balaclava
Nice for those cold mornings and evenings.
Suitable for snow, it is bright up there, and you don’t want to end up snow-blind. Specialised glacier glasses with side pieces are not needed. Contact lens wearers report very few problems except cleaning them in the conditions. Ski goggles are unnecessary.
These don't need to be fancy (pockets are the warmest solution to cold hands), so local Kathmandu fleece gloves are fine.
Should be one litre or more in capacity, take boiling water and be leak-proof. You want a total of 2 litres capacity.
MagLite or Petzl head torch or similar. Head torches are more convenient, and are available in Kathmandu.
Toiletries and odds and ends
Essentials for the month only. There are a surprising number of showers or buckets of hot water available. The smallest tube of toothpaste is perfect for a month. We provide toilet paper. Roll-on deodorant can spare you grief with your tent partner…
Bring only a small one trekking, or even better a sarong. In Kathmandu and Lhasa hotels supplies towels.
Sun screen and lip care with sun protection
The sun is strong at altitude, especially after snow.
A small tube for sensitive or well cared for skins. The air is dry and the sun harsh.
First aid kit
We carry one with aspirin, paracetamol, various antibiotics for Nepalese varieties of diarrhoea, antiseptic, antihistamine cream, bandages, and tough blister tape (but not moleskin). You should bring any personal medicines that you need.
One bottle of iodine tablets between two. Couglans or Potable Aqua is the best. We tend to use boiled water from the lodges but occasionally take water from the streams. The use of mineral water is discouraged from an environmental point of view.
One or two with high swap ability. Kathmandu has some great second-hand bookshops. You will also find a very big variety in Himalayan titles in the bookshops here, I recommend Pilgrims bookshop in Thamel.
Money pouch/belt/inside pocket
Most people find wearing one while trekking a hassle and keep it buried in their kitbag or daypack. The Kathmandu hotel has safety deposit boxes.
Not needed but if you have them, bring them.
Snacks and nutrition
You will feel your best with plenty of good food and keeping hydrated. We provide the food and the water. The last two ingredients are wholesome snacks and vitamin tablets. Chocolate and chocolate bars are readily available in Kathmandu. Bring vitamin tablets from home.
What is available in Kathmandu
There are dozens of small gear shops in Kathmandu but they mostly sell locally made fake gear and a strange variety of new gear. Always available are head torches and batteries, fleece gloves and hats, fleece jackets and pants, sunglasses, Swiss army knives and large kit bags.
The items that are better brought from home are: socks, boots, thermal underwear, quality fleece, liner gloves and Gore-tex clothing.
Easy to rent items in Kathmandu are down jackets and sleeping bags and day packs.
Gear Check list
A Comprehensive Equipment list
Available in Kathmandu
Some of the items available in Kathmandu will be of a different quality.
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe