Steve Wroe, our Himalaya Destination Manager and trekking aficionado, gives us a rundown on how and what to pack for your trek.
When preparing to head off on a trek, packing is usually one of the last things we do. Despite having packed for trekking/outdoor trips countless times, I still rely on a packing method I learned from a world-renowned trekking guru. Of course lists are good, but what if you forget to put something on the list?
What sort of trek are we packing for?
Let’s assume we’re going on a high altitude trek in Nepal. Temperatures could range from 25°C during the day to -10°C at night.
The fail-proof packing technique
I always pack using the ‘invisible man (or woman)’ technique. OK, the name is a bit tongue-in-cheek but it does work. It’s all about putting layers of clothing and various gear on an imaginary figure. I’ll also talk about gear selection which may help if you’re not sure what to buy.
Dressing for any outdoor activity in the cold is all about layering. So, start with your socks and jocks. Work out how many pairs of underpants you want to take (say five, depending on whether you have the chance to wash and dry clothes) and then socks. When trekking, it’s a good idea to wear TWO layers of socks – thin ‘inner’ and some thicker wool socks (it’s worth spending the money on good socks, believe me!). There are a number of reasons for the two-layer system:
Thin socks move slightly inside the thicker socks, so there is much less chance of getting blisters on your feet as the friction between your feet and the boot is reduced
Thin liners are easy to wash and your thicker socks stay clean and smell-free for longer
It’s warmer and a lot more comfortable!
So now you have a pile of undies and socks. Put them where a person’s feet and nether regions would be if they were lying down.
Merino wool or polypropylene thermals are essential. Merino wool is really good as it’s a natural fibre; it’s warm and doesn’t get as smelly as synthetic fibre. It’s expensive but worth it. I travel with two pairs of long thermal pants, a couple of short thermal tops and one or two long tops. Also, add a couple of t-shirts or specific trekking shirts you get from a gear shop (these are expensive and t-shirts are fine I reckon). Now you have a person-shaped figure on the ground!
Tip: Make sure you wash your new thermals a couple of times with fabric softener before you go so they’re not itchy.
A pair of cheap fleece pants are great for wearing in the lodge. If it gets cold during the day, a pair of thermal pants under trekking pants is usually plenty to keep you warm so it’s very unlikely you’ll wear the fleece pants while walking. You need at least one fleece top as well. I personally like one lightweight fleece top and one thicker one – one for during the day and one for night in the lodge.
Your invisible man/woman should now be taking shape.
This is for extreme cold and bad weather. As a Peregrine trekker, you get a high-quality down jacket included in your trip price. These things are very warm and make life far more pleasant once you start getting above 3000m or so. And frankly they are pretty much essential if you’re going much higher or trekking in the colder months.
You can get yours in Kathmandu from your tour leader. Lay down your waterproof jacket – preferably Gore-Tex or similar and two pairs of trekking pants. Whatever you do don’t trek in jeans! By all means pack some waterproof shorts for trekking in the lower altitudes (also good when you’re washing). Trekking pants should be lightweight, comfortable, breathable and quick-drying. One lightweight pair and one mid-weight are fine. If it’s really cold, wear thermals under your pants. Waterproof pants are handy if you own some, but I wouldn’t go and buy some if you don’t.
Tip: A belt might also be handy – you WILL lose weight when you’re trekking and your pants can fall down. Seriously!
Footwear first. Crocs are a questionable fashion item but ideal for wearing in the lodge or dining tent. Either way some camp shoes/slippers are useful. Pop them on top of the socks.
Trekking boots next. Put them next to your invisible man/woman’s feet. If you haven’t bought boots yet, most of the time the lighter weight Gore-Tex boots are fine and you don’t need the full leather variety unless you’re carrying a heavy pack (you won’t be on a Peregrine trek) or are walking above the snowline for extended periods.
Gaiters are something to consider if you’ll encounter deep snow or mud – they keep the stuff out of your boots and keep the bottom of your pants dry.
Steve recommends: I’m a big fan of these Salomon hiking boots (and own a pair).
That’s feet done, next, hands.
I like a pair of silk liners (you can wear just these if it’s a bit chilly) plus some good quality warmer gloves. Generally, the colder it will be, the more you should spend. These are fine for, say, Everest Base Camp, and even a trekking peak. The ‘mitten style’ are warmer so if you get cold hands, consider these. I like gloves with fingers as you have more dexterity. A lot of people trek with walking poles (either one or two). These look silly to some people but a lot of experienced walkers use them, especially on rocky sections. They are collapsible so easy to stash away if you’re not using them. Put them next to the gloves.
While we’re on hands, your hands will dry out at altitude so pack some moisturiser (even men… nothing to be ashamed of). Also pack hand sanitiser gel – although this will also be provided for use at dinner time by your leader.
Steve recommends: Black Diamond Prodigy Glove
The UV is mighty strong up at 5000m so it is ESSENTIAL that you have good quality sunglasses with UV protection. Ideally they’ll be the wraparound kind to prevent light coming in through the side. If it’s sunny and you’re walking on snow with a pair of Wayfarers, you’ll get a headache from the intense light coming through the side.
Good quality sun cream (SPF 50+) is a must. Pop it next to the head of your figure. At night or on a cold day a comfortable beanie (warm hat) is important. Some people like to trek in a cap.
Steve recommends: A buff can be used as a sweat band, or to keep your head warm, or as a mask if gets dusty (and it can). They’re versatile and cheap. Finally, a head torch. Get one with three small LEDs or one big one. Black Diamond and Petzl are both good brands. I like this Princeton Tec model too
And there you have it an ‘inside – out’ way to pack for your trek.
Other items you might need
Water bottle. Some people like to bring two – one for water and one to save yourself a freezing trip to the loo in the middle of the night (I won’t explain this further). Or a hydration pack – these are great and slide into your backpack – most backpacks have a hole for the tube and nozzle to snake out of
Waterproof bags. Carry a few – one for clean clothes, one for dirty and one for electronic gear or whatever. Garbage bags work fine, or get some proper dry bags if you plan to use them in the future as well. Ziploc bags are good for snacks, spare batteries and other loose items
Toiletries. Make sure you have pain killers (avoid codeine at altitude), ear plugs, bandaids or blister skins, lip balm (a must), Imodium (or similar) for diarrhea (best not to take these but you may need to!), hand sanitising gel, eye/ear drops plus the usual stuff you’d take on holiday
Snacks (lollies, chocolate bars, energy gels). You’ll burn a lot of energy so keep them handy to avoid going hyperglycaemic
Preparing for your trek is exciting. At Peregrine we provide you with the best possible experience while trekking. So it’s worth taking the time to bring the right gear so you make the most of it. Packing for a trek is almost as exciting as trekking because you know you’re heading off on an adventure! If you do prefer a checklist, we provide one with your pre-departure info before you leave.
Feature image c/o Charlie Stinchcom, Flickr