So, you’re thinking about going for a vacation trekking in Nepal? If you’d like to see what the experience is like, check out 10 Reasons Trekking in Nepal Should Be On Your Bucket List. If you’re more practical minded and just doing some research about what to pack for trekking in Nepal, read on:
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Trekking in Nepal: How it Works
If you’ve never visited Nepal or been on an extended trekking vacation, you may be curious about exactly how it all works. Do you need a tent for trekking in Nepal? Do you need to bring food? What about trekking guides? How much does it cost to trek in Nepal?
I’ll briefly break it down for you:
- For all the most popular trekking routes (Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, Annapurna Base Camp), you will be sleeping in “teahouses” or “trekking lodges.” These are combination restaurants/bunkhouses. Usually you can sleep for free or very cheap, as long as you purchase both dinner and breakfast at the lodge. Food here is cheap. These lodges are open to both independent trekkers and those with guides (although guides will often call ahead to reserve spots).
- So no, no need to pack a tent or food for trekking in Nepal — beds, drinking water, and hot meals are easy to come by.
- You can trek independently in Nepal without much fuss — you just need to acquire a TIMS permit in either Kathmandu or Pokhara before you depart. Information on how to do this is plentiful on the Internet. However, a guide doesn’t cost all that much, and you are supporting the local economy in a very real way. Even if you don’t need a guide per se, I’d encourage you to think about hiring one. Nepal is an incredibly poor country, and many people depend on tourism for their living. But, the decision is yours, and independent trekking is certainly allowed.
- How much does it cost? This varies, but I’d say for your meals and accommodation, you can get by on between $10-$20 a day, if you are okay eating Dahl Baht (basic Nepali food) for most meals. Prices increase as you gain in elevation, so that will affect your budget as well. If you are trekking with a guide, remember you will need to tip them at the end of the trek.
Packing for Trekking
Okay, so now that you know all the basics, you probably want some advice on how to pack for a trekking trip. What’s necessary, what’s not, and what are the luxuries you might like. Let’s start with the most essential items: your boots and your sleeping bag. These will make or break your experience trekking in Nepal, and are worth investing in.
Can’t Miss Items
- Hiking Boots: Preferably a pair you purchase at home and bring to Nepal. If you don’t own hiking boots, I’d point you towards the Vasque Breeze Goretex Boots. Great boots that I personally own, use, and can fully recommend. Whatever you end up choosing, make sure the boot is a good fit for your foot, and ensure you break them in before you start trekking. Walking long distances in new boots can quickly result in blisters — which aren’t any fun on Day 1 of a 12-day trek.
While everyone tells you not to buy or rent boots in Nepal, I did this and had no issues. So you CAN do it. I still wouldn’t recommend it though, as the quality of goods made and sold in Nepal is… in general… not great. Better to stick with something from home, and pay for the quality.
- Sleeping Bag: While you will be sleeping in beds with blankets, trekking lodges are always poorly insulated. Especially as you reach higher elevations, you’ll need the extra protection provided by a sleeping bag. These are available to rent in both Kathmandu and Pokhara, but determining the quality can be extremely difficult. Since your comfort depends on it, this is again an item I’d recommend bringing from home. Look into a zero-degree bag like this one if you are planning to trek to Everest Base Camp or anywhere else with an elevation above 4,500 meters. A 20 degree bag just won’t cut it up there.
Clothing For Trekking
Your hiking boots and your sleeping bag are the two most important items you’ll need to pack for trekking in Nepal, but they’re far from all you’ll need. You will also need appropriate trekking clothing. These items can be bought at home, or if you’re budget conscious, knockoff versions can be bought for cheap in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Just don’t expect anything you purchase in Nepal to last — because it won’t.
- 50-70 liter backpack: If you have one at home, bring that. However, these bags are ubiquitous can be rented from cheap in Pokhara and Kathmandu. Make sure the bag fits your frame comfortably and has a rain cover. It rains most afternoons in the Himalayas.
- Layering System: This is explained in detail in the next section.
- Comfortable socks: (I recommend Merino Wool for its smell-resistant properties)
- First Aid Kit: Bring medicines for common ailments like headaches, blisters, etc. You can buy cheap pre-stocked kits on Amazon. I use this one myself.
- Diamox: for altitude sickness. Buy it at a pharmacy in Nepal — you won’t need a prescription.
- Trekking Poles: Optional, but recommended. A tree branch works for this too, if you’re cheap.
- Buff: Critical if trekking in the dusty Everest region. You’ll also want this to cover your mouth on the streets of Kathmandu.
- Warm hat and warm gloves
- Sunglasses: Do NOT buy in Nepal, as you’ll have no guarantee of actual UV protection. Buy at home.
- Sunscreen: The sun is stronger at high altitudes. Bring high SPF.
- Several pairs of underwear and socks: These are the first to start to smell, so you need extras. I’m a big fan of the synthetic Ex-Officio travel underwear and Merino Wool socks because they can absorb a lot of sweat without starting to smell or needing to be washed.
- And finally… don’t forget your sense of adventure!!
How to Layer for Hiking
The key to a good hiking system is layers. You need to be able to add and remove layers of clothing as the weather changes, you heat up from activity or cool down from rest, and so on. An additional concern on a high-altitude trek like the trekking routes in Nepal is the fact that it gets significantly colder as the elevation increases. So you need to be equipped for super-hot days at the bottom, and much colder ones at say, Everest Base Camp.
While you may imagine the trek to Everest Base Camp as a cold, miserable affair, the reality is you’re usually quite hot while hiking. And even at high altitude, the days can be sunny and warm. But when you stop moving, or if a storm comes in, things quickly get cold. And at night, you’ll definitely want that zero-degree bag. So you need to be able to add and remove clothing to address both states of being, as well as everything in between.
My own layering system usually includes the following. I’ve linked the products I personally use for playing in the mountains (which I do a lot), but of course you can get all this stuff from a million different manufacturers:
- Synthetic Long Johns/long underwear bottoms
- Cotton t-shirt or tank-top for hot days
- Synthetic ¾ zip long-sleeve shirt—this usually serves as my base layer
- Zip-up Fleece and/or Puffy Down jacket (depends on temperature. Puffys are warmer, lighter, and take up less space — but they’re way more expensive.)
- Waterproof rain shell
- Athletic shorts
- Zip-off trekking pants (preferably waterproof)
- Merino wool hiking socks
- Down Booties (if your feet generally run cold)
You can dial the system in according to your own needs and budget. The best way to learn what’s comfortable for you is just to spend a few weekends out hiking around your home before you leave, and understand where your comfort zone is.
But remember — it’s better to have too much than too little. You can always take clothes off. You can’t add another layer which you don’t have.
Other Items for Trekking in Nepal
You will want a few things in addition to your clothing and gear. These can generally be summed up as “quality of life” items. They’re not totally essential — but you’ll probably want at least a good number of them. Many of these are available for purchase on the trail, as seen in the photo above, but I recommend buying them in advance. You’ll save a lot of money.
- Hand sanitizer: Trekking is a dirty, dirty activity. And you can’t count on guesthouses to have soap. This is one item I didn’t have and really regretted.
- Toilet Paper: You are expected to carry your own. You can purchase more at the lodges along the way if you run out. (Read my hilarious story of forgetting to carry toilet paper in Nepal, here)
- 2+ reusable water bottles: Buy aluminum water bottles and refill them at the lodges as you go. This will be cheaper and much more environmentally friendly than buying bottled water. Just remember — you can’t drink the tap water. Buy clean drinking water from your lodge if it’s available. If you are suspicious about the water quality, treat it with AquaTabs or something similar.
- Deodorant: You’ll be exercising all day, and you probably won’t be showering much. (Lodges charge for showers AND there’s rarely hot water). Your fellow trekkers will thank you for bringing this item along.
- Book/Kindle: Reading material is scarce on the trail. You’ll probably want something to entertain yourself with during some of the evenings. A Kindle is the most weight-efficient option, but physical books have their own appeal. (Click here to read my list of 11 books that will kickstart your wanderlust).
- Journal: It can be nice to recall the day’s events in a journal. I turned my trekking journal into a book. You might want to do the same, or maybe you’ll just flip through it twenty years later and remember a grand adventure. At the very least, it’s something to do. Bring a few pens and pencils in case you lose one.
- Snacks: Sometimes you just really want a candy bar or some crackers. It’s nice to have something to snack on between the lodges, too. You can buy snacks at the trekking lodges, but it’s much cheaper if you buy them ahead of time in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
- Sandals: Some people like to bring an extra pair of shoes for walking around the lodge. While there’s no denying it feels nice to get out of your hiking boots after a long day on the trail, sandals add weight and take up space with little added benefit. Up to you if you want to make that trade off.
Below I’ve answered a few common questions I’ve been asked about packing for trekking in Nepal. If your question isn’t answered below, feel free to ask it in the comments. I’ll answer it as soon as I can.
Can I buy equipment in Nepal or during the trek?
In the tourist neighborhoods of Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara, every third shop is a trekking shop. So you can buy or rent anything you need in these towns. But the quality is atrocious — the items will fall apart on the trek, or soon after. Luckily, the prices reflect the quality.
If set out on your trek only to realize you forgot something critical, some items can be purchased in the larger towns and villages along the trekking route — at an obscene markup. If you are lucky, you may be able to barter with fellow trekkers or guides. In Namche Bazaar in the Everest Region, you can buy anything you want. But in general, the prices will be a lot better in Kathmandu, Pokhara, or your home country. In the Himalaya, you are a captive audience — and the vendors know it.
Do I need a map for trekking independently?
A map is a good idea if you are trekking without a guide. While it isn’t a total necessity (the trekking routes are well-traveled), maps are cheap and ubiquitous in the shops around Kathmandu and Pokhara. A dollar or two will get you a made-in-Nepal map, which might alleviate some anxiety. If you want a more detailed topo, buy the National Geographic maps before you leave home. They are widely accepted as the best.
Should I Bring My Electronics Trekking?
- Your phone? If it’s your camera, sure.
- Your camera? Yes. Oh god yes.
- Your laptop computer? No. You don’t want the weight. iPad or tablet is a personal choice. Might be useful if you want to watch movies.
- Your Kindle? Yes. There’s not much to do when you’re done walking for the day.
- Your Solar Charger? Maybe. See below.
Power points for charging are available at all trekking lodges, assuming there is power (the power supply is notoriously unreliable in Nepal). The catch is, the power’s not free. It costs between $1 and $3 every time you want to charge your device.
If you bring a solar panel, you can avoid paying these fees. But unless you already have one of these, it’ll be cheaper just to pay the lodges.
So definitely bring your camera, because you’ll want it for sure. But let’s remember — you’ll be in the biggest mountains on Earth — don’t feel a need to recreate your lifestyle from back home! Embrace the exotic experience! Leave the computer, and don’t pay for the wifi at the lodges — it’s usually so slow as to be useless anyways. We don’t get many opportunities to disconnect these days.
If you can’t disconnect in mountains of Nepal, where will you ever do it??
What’s the Deal With Food?
This is one of the more curious aspects of trekking, actually.
Every trekking lodge serves the exact same menu. This menu is set by the government of Nepal, as are the prices. Some lodges have a specialty dish or two, but the vast majority of the food options are exactly the same for the whole trek. You will become intimately familiar with this menu. You will search in vain for new items, every night, but you will never find anything. You will sigh, and order Dahl Baht.
The cheapest option is always Dahl Baht, the Nepali national food.
In addition to being the cheapest thing on the menu, you can always get a second helping of Dahl Baht for free. You cannot do this with the other food options. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that Dahl Baht is literally all the Nepali eat. Do as the locals do.
You will get to encounter different spins on Dahl Baht, because every cook has a slightly different recipe. This helps alleviate the monotony a little bit. But when you leave Nepal, you probably won’t be telling all your friends how much you loved the food.
How much does food cost while trekking?
That depends on your elevation, strangely enough. The higher your elevation gets, the higher the prices for food. This makes sense if you think about it, because all the supplies need to be walked in. As of March 2016, a plate of Dahl Baht costs around $2 at the beginning of the trekking routes, and costs around $10 at Everest Base Camp.
Western foods like pizza cost more, and buying alcohol on the trek can be quite pricey.
If you want to indulge in these things, it’s better done at lower elevations.
Unless you are doing more rustic trekking, you DO NOT NEED a tent, a stove, or food. Water is available at lodges, although you may want filtration tablets.
The items you will need for trekking in Nepal:
- Good Hiking Boots or trail shoes: You COULD trek in sneakers or an approach shoe if you wanted, but you will need to be more aware of stream crossings and snow. Hiking boots are waterproof — sneakers generally are not.
- A solid layering system: Tailor this to your own personal needs, as well as the elevation your trek goes to. Higher elevations will call for warmer clothes.
- First Aid Kit: Diamox for severe altitude sickness, Tylenol or Ibuprofen for headaches and sore muscles. Duct-tape and Moleskin for blisters. They don’t weigh much, and it never hurts to have these items.
- Some snacks: You’re going to get tired of the food at the trekking lodges, guaranteed. A Snickers bar or some dried mangoes here and there can be a real treat while on the trail.
- A camera: whether it’s your phone or your DSLR, you’re going to want something. Every step in these mountains is a postcard.
If you happen to forget any of these items, you can buy anything you need on the ground in Nepal. Don’t stress too much in the planning, and enjoy the adventure! You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.
Any questions? Recommendations for fellow travelers? Drop ’em in the comments!
And if you’re a packing nerd, check out my ultralight packing list for extended international travel, here!