Packing lightly for a trip out of the country is in itself exhausting. However, when you only have so much baggage allowance yet you are preparing for a trip and a hike at the same time, the task can be so daunting as you have to be wise about every bit of weight you put in your rucksack.
On October 2016, I went on a month-long trip to Nepal where I also did the 12-day Everest Base Camp Trek. Since it was my first time hiking in the Himalayas, prior to leaving my home country, I read every article on google about the things that are essential to bring. Almost all articles listed everything – from the kinds of jackets one must bring, down to the number of underwear one must carry.
Two months after my trek, I found myself writing almost the same things-to-bring article everybody else already wrote and posted on their blogs. However, you should know upfront that you won’t find here detailed information of what the items you must stuff in your rucksack for you Himalayan dream. Here, I have listed what you should never forget to bring with you aside from the obvious jackets, trousers, hiking boots, underwears, toiletries, etc.
1. Water Purification System
Bottled water is available in every tea house but as you get higher, prices will get steeper. During the trek, you will be required to drink at least three liters of water a day. When you reach the altitude of 4000 meters, you will have to increase your water intake to up to five liters. Unless you are willing to splurge on bottled water during your trek, bring with you water purification drops, tablets or some other gadgets. As for me, I used water purification drops and they worked just fine.
Every single day of the trek, you will be walking under the sun for a minimum of five hours. Slather on a sunscreen before you leave the tea house and reapply every so often, especially on your exposed skin. Halfway through our 12-day trek, our faces were starting to get sunburnt even if we were wearing caps. The first four trekking days were mostly cloudy but it didn’t mean we were safe from the sun’s UV rays.
3. Lip balm (with SPF)
Protecting your lips is as important as protecting the rest of your skin. With the combined power of the heat of the sun and the harsh wind, your lips can be as dry as the desert if you do not put on a lip balm.
At some point, I started getting headaches and I thought it was merely the altitude sickness kicking in. Later on, I realized it was the glare that had been causing the headaches as my eyes had a hard time adjusting to the brightness of the surroundings. I put on my sunglasses, which has been sitting in my backpack all the time and the headache was instantly relieved.
One thing my guide kept on reminding me was to never let the head get cold or you will be more prone to getting altitude sickness. I had a beanie with me but it’s not as warm as the knitted one my guide lent me. You can find a plethora of these in Kathmandu and even in the villages you’ll pass by during your trek.
6. Warm Gloves
This item is a must especially for people like me who easily get cold. This would of course depend on your tolerance as everyone is different. At +3000m my hands were already freezing while my guide’s hands were still warm. I used thin warm gloves I bought from Thamel in Kathmandu. Though knitted gloves are also available in the tea houses.
A secret to efficiently packing light is to bring items with multiple uses. Buff® is a multi-functional headwear that can be used as a baclava, hair tie, cap, hat liner, wristband, etc. I mainly used it as a hairband, sun guard or even face mask when it got to windy. This also served as my handkerchief when I was not on the trek.
No, I do not mean dog treats. Lol. This could be chocolate, peanut butter, chips or other food you might crave while on the trek. Doing a 12-day trek is no joke and somewhere along the way you will try to find something to reward yourself and usually that reward is food. You can of course always buy these from the tea houses when you start craving them but, like water, they can be more expensive up there. A German friend was wise enough to ask her brother to buy chocolates from the airport for the two of them so that they can have at least one per day when they did the 20-day Manaslu trek. As for our group, since we didn’t bring enough, we resorted to buying mars bars, mars rolls and pringles in the tea houses.
This was something not listed in the articles I read before but I decided to include this as this is more important than any gears and equipment you will bring. Trekking in the Himalayas is not easy and she won’t always show off her beauty. The truth about doing trips like this is you cannot always get what you want whenever you want it. And you get what you don’t want when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes, you’d be annoyed by too much clouds, too much rain, too much sun, bitter cold, too much crowd, and a lot of hella other things you can complain about. But that’s the beauty of it. It exhausts you, breaks you, drives you nuts to the core then disappoints you, and then one fine day it just unfolds right in front of you what you have always been looking for … and more. And it leaves you breathless, speechless and grateful more than ever before. You just have to be patient.
I almost cancelled on doing the trek as I believed I don’t have enough physical strength to finish it. But then, I decided to push through after hearing the advice of the first few Nepalese I met in Kathmandu. It is not always just about the physical strength. Anyone deciding on doing the trek must first be mentally strong. You have to believe you can do it, or else you will definitely fail. You have to have faith in yourself and faith in the God above that He will give you the strength you need. I honestly didn’t have the physical strength to do it but I finished it and I will forever be grateful for that. (Plus, I got a a great guide to help me.)