I just completed the Three Passes Trek (Everest Region) and Poon Hill Circuit Trek (Annapurna Region) in Nepal. I was adventuring around Nepal for a total 5-weeks. Trekking in Nepal is quite accessible for nearly everyone because of the easy access to guides, porters, and accommodation in the backcountry. Backpacking in Nepal is unique because of the abundance of lodging in remote, mountainous, areas. Tea house trekking is commonplace in Nepal and involves staying at tea houses, also known as ‘trekker lodges’, in the villages that you trek through. One of the highest villages in the Everest region is Gorak Shep (5164m), a Sherpa village which sits on a frozen lakebed on the way to Everest Base Camp. With this style of travel, a trekker doesn’t need to carry a shelter or food, as you either get lunch in one of the villages or your tea house packs you a lunch. This makes for a much lighter pack than normal. Still, there are some necessary items to take with you.
A Trekker's Lodge in Chukhung (4730m)
Much of your gear can be acquired locally in Kathmandu, but often the gear is knock-off brands and of poor quality. I brought all my own gear and everything I needed for 5-weeks of exploration in Nepal. This weighed just under 8kg. The joys of this style of trekking are that you just don’t need much. With shelter and food taken out of the equation, you can travel with a much lighter pack. Here are some essentials:
1. Backpack - I lived out of my Fjällräven Kaipak 38L for 35-days in Nepal. Above all, your pack needs to be comfortable. It should fit well and hold your gear with some room to spare (you will pick up souvenirs along the way).
The Kaipak 38L that survived the passes.
2. Camera/Phone - These days a phone and a camera are one and the same. I brought my phone (Pocophone F1) to use as my primary camera. I also brought a GoPro Hero 5 for shooting video and for use in precarious situations (e.g. canoeing in Chitwan Jungle). The phone also allows you to stay in contact with the outside world using Everest Link Wifi or a local SIM card.
3. Solar Charger - When you have electronics, you need to charge them. I used a 30,000mAh battery bank with built-in solar panels. It can be incredibly bright high in the mountains, and you can use that sunlight for free electricity. Tea houses often charge for power consumption due to being off-grid. I would recommend getting a smaller battery bank, but larger separate solar panels. This way you will get quicker charging of your power bank.
4. Water Bottle - Carry at least one litre of water. The Everest and Annapurna regions have an abundance of flowing water. Much of it is from underground springs and glacier melt. You can purify or filter it as you walk along. You’ll never need to carry any more than a single one-litre water bottle. This will save you from carrying a kilo or two of extra weight.
5. Base Layer - A long sleeve merino or synthetic base-layer is key to trekking in this region. The air and wind are cold, and the sun is hot and scorching. A long-sleeved shirt is your best bet for preventing wind and sunburn while trekking. Remember, merino doesn’t stink. If you will be wearing the same shirt for a few weeks in a row, make it merino.
6. Insulating Layer - A fleece is a wonderful layer to use when trekking in the icy pre-dawn air! Although, you’re going to need a wind-proof insulating layer as well. I recommend a mid-weight down jacket. The shell material on down jackets is wind-proof and the down provides excellent insulation for the arid alpine environment. As soon as you stop walking, if you’re not in direct sun, pop this layer on to prevent heat loss.
7. Hat - I wore the same trucker cap for 5-weeks. Any hat, or cap, will do. It’s there to keep sun off your face. A broad brimmed hat will give you more protection for your ears and neck. If you are using a cap, you can pull a Buff or scarf up around your neck and ears for more protection.
8. Water Filter/Purifier - Never trust the water. I used a simple bottle top filter, but any backcountry filter or purifying tablets will work. Just be sure you use you filter system for every bit of water that goes in your mouth; including brushing your teeth! It’s important that you take your own bottle and filter system to reduce the amount of plastic waste that is already swamping the Himalayas.
9. Sleeping Bag - Bring a lightweight bag rated between 0 and -10 degrees Celsius. I never regretted bringing my -10c bag. A good bag or backpacking quilt will be lightweight and keep you warm at even the highest altitudes. The lower the oxygen level in the air, the harder it will be to stay warm.
10. Trekking Poles - If you don’t use trekking poles, you should. These are one of the biggest game-changers for backpackers. In the mountains, they are important for glacier crossings and for improving your hiking economy. They allow you to move further, faster, and more comfortably.
Heading to Gokyo (4750m)
As you can see, you need surprisingly little gear for your time in the Himalayas!