My hike in Nepal a couple of years ago along the route to Everest Base Camp (EBC) was a great experience. Hiking in Nepal is unlike my experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or trekking in Patagonia‘s Torres del Paine. In Kilimanjaro and on the ‘W’ circuit in Patagonia, one is walking along areas where humans do not live: they are parks. But to get to Everest Base Camp, one walks along hamlets and a rare town that either pre-date the route’s popularity due to hikers or that arose due to the demand. Either way, the result is the same: one gets to experience Nepalese hospitality and customs in a way that enhances the experience; it is not simply a hiking experience, a physical challenge.
Trekking to Base Camp or just a view of Everest
In my hike, I did not have the time off work (yes, I have a regular job with the usual constraints on vacation time!) to be able to get to Everest Base Camp and return. That was OK with me. In the trek I joined with Trekking for Kids, there was an option to only go past the Tengboche Monastery to Deboche and then turn back around. (Note: if you are interested, Trekking for Kids is planning to return there in late 2018 with both the full trek to EBC or the shorter one like I did called “Everest View”, see here more more details on that trek.)
While it would have been cool to see EBC, I was not crushed; I was just glad to be able to see Mt. Everest in person (and discover the more proximate and impressive Ama Dablam!) and experience the trekking route.
Considerations driving the packing list
Preparing for hiking along the route to Everest Base Camp was not vastly different than some of my other hikes…
The route to EBC continually goes up in altitude as one goes along (no surprise there!). The trek itself, if you start in Lukla (the one with the crazy airport), starts at around 2,800 m (9,300 ft). EBC itself sits at near 5,400 m (17,600 ft). So that right there will make it cold, like with Kilimanjaro (particularly at night). Add to that the fact that heating at the teahouses where one stays at is ‘limited’ to be generous (one exception: we stayed at a proper hotel in Namche Bazaar): the rooms are not heated and the common space where one eats meals and hangs out before heading to bed only usually have a tiny stove in the center. So, cold weather gear and clothing was key (again, no surprise there).
As with Kilimanjaro, you have to mind the amount of stuff you bring along as there will be limitations on what can be carried by the support staff. So being smart about light items, re-usable items, and the concept of “just enough” vs. “just in case.”
It is worth noting that some teahouses have a tiny counter that may sell some basics but I would not make my plans with that as the approach to packing – it could be hit or miss. Namche Bazaar, along the way, will have plenty of the basics available (including some medications) as a backup to anything forgotten.
Clothing and Footwear
- Upper Body and Legs: The main point to the clothing to be taken is to stay warm and be comfortable first and foremost. Layers are key to both. Base layers for the torso and legs, with an added layer for extra warmth, and an outer layer for the coldest of times are the basic framework for the clothing plan. Wind/Rain top and bottom layers are also important though rain itself was not the biggest of factors when I went; I’d recommend the top having a hood. Using wool as the material of choice is highly recommended: it provides excellent warmth while wicking moisture away (keeping you from smelling and helping with the re-use of clothing items…).
- Feet: The boots you will need should be, as expected, able to trudge through mud, ice, snow and the like – and be very comfortable. Liners and woolen socks complete the “outfit” for you feet. Nothing here is different than for most hiking scenarios in cold weather / high places. You could also bring a pair of solid walking shows (vs. boots) so you can take a break from the boots. The initial part of the trail does not necessarily require boots so you could do this if you have space. Also, you will need some shoes to wear at the teahouse every night so these walking shoes could serve that purpose perhaps.
- Hands: Again, nothing terribly surprising here but because of the great and sustained cold temperatures, a hardy pair of gloves is a must. You may also want to bring lighter gloves as it is not always freezing cold (lower altitudes or inside the teahouse at night).
- Head: A skull cap, balaclave or ski hat are a must – keeping the head warm is very important, as we all know. You may also want to wear something at the teahouses (or even when sleeping as it is cold in those rooms!).
Gear and other practical items
- Sleeping bag: While you will sleep on beds in the teahouses, they are not necessarily clean and the cold may be too much for the provided linen. So a sleeping bag rated for very cold weather is important to bring. I just brought the one I used in Kili which was 0 degrees Fahrenheit rated. Very much needed!
- Night light: When headed to the bathroom in the middle of the night, this may facilitate a lot of things… like seeing in your room, seeing in the toilet, etc. Don’t forget batteries!
- Pillow: A small pillow would be helpful though teahouses tended to offer pillow. I had my neck pillow for the air travel but I still used the teahouse-provided ones – covering them, of course…
- Trekking poles: Parts of the trek are steep so trekking poles are most helpful providing lift, stepdown, and balance support. Mine have shock absorbers to help when going down – most helpful for me to protect my imperfect knees!
- Water: Treating water is very important and the Steripen is the most practical way (in my opinion) as within a couple of minutes you have water that is safe to drink and tastes normal. Batteries are the big thing here – bring plenty as you will use this device a lot and others may ask to borrow it; add to that that batteries deplete faster with the cold and high zones you will be traveling through. Of course, you will need a bottle with a wide neck to be able to properly use the Steripen. I also will add that I used a Camelbak bag inside my backpack as it was easier and better to sip water through the attached hose than to drink gulps out of a bottle that had to be taken out…
- Wipies/Tissues: These are multi-purpose… Clean up after a day’s hike if the shower facilities are not available/too busy/too-dirty. Also, you could use these if there is not toilet paper available (or dry…) around. Or other general cleaning purposes! [I will say as a parenthetical observation that I’d rather use the portable toilet tents used in Kilimanjaro than some of the indoor toilets these teahouses had… the portable toilets were cleaned daily and did not smell as bad and the area under them was just earth, not a dirty indoor floor…]
- Towel: A small quick dry towel is important as teahouses do not offer towels. Quick dry is very important as they will not dry quickly enough overnight, especially with the air so cold. Along with that, bring your own soap and shampoo…
- Medications and first aid: The items here are more specific to each individual’s circumstances but perhaps something to help sleep, something for altitude (like Diamox), something for an unexpected bout of digestive issues (CIPRO; a couple of folks got very ill in our group), something for pains/aches (like knee pain… Ibuprofen was my choice), something to help with treating blisters, etc. Talk to your doctor about anything specific to your needs. Also, the Center for Disease Controls in the United States offers travel advice specific to each country and regions within – your doctor should know about it or be able to look it up upon your request. The route to EBC is unlikely to have too many of the typical tropical diseases (yellow fever, malaria, etc.) due to the climate but you do enter Nepal at a much lower altitude.
- Personal items: The usual suspects toothbrush, toothpaste, sunblock, lip balm, deodorant, floss, hand sanitizer, etc. Whatever you normally need (and your roommate would appreciate you using!).
- And, of course, duct tape! Prevents blisters from developing too much, fixes broken things, and who knows what other needs! I roll mine either on a pencil or on the trekking pole to save space.
I leave you with my view of Mt. Everest! Pin it to your board!
If you are interested in getting a copy of my Microsoft Excel packing list, leave me a comment below and I will email you the list I used “as is” (no bells and whistles!). Your needs may be different and I am not saying my list is exactly what YOU need but it may give you a starting point!