After spending 3 months in Nepal and hiking a grand total of 400km I’ve finally sussed out what I need and what I can live without when it comes to packing. My first trip in December 2018 was a nine-day hike to Annapurna Base Camp via Poon Hill. My second visit during April and May 2019 was a lot more intense, with a seventeen-day trek to Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes, and a seventeen-day trek along the Annapurna Circuit from Jagat to Tatopani.
For each trek, I carried my own pack so it was essential that it weighed as little as possible. For me, that was maximum 13kg (28 lbs) with water and a lot of snacks. I also arrived in Nepal after backpacking through other (hotter) countries so I had no hiking equipment with me, I had to rent or buy everything when I arrived, on a tight budget.
So here’s a list of everything I packed, what I already had, what I had to buy (and for how much), plus a few things I wish I had brought along. Some things on this list are, in my opinion, essential (I’ve marked those with a ⭐) and some are just things that could make your life a little easier, warmer, or comfier.
Please keep in mind that you will be hiking steep, uneven trails at extremely high altitudes in varying weather and temperatures for hours almost every day, so you want your bag as light as possible. DO NOT PACK ANYTHING YOU KNOW YOU DON’T NEED. Please, trust me on this! That extra, unnecessary weight will make you miserable.
Keep in mind: try to avoid wearing cotton while hiking, it doesn’t breath well or dry quickly. Wool will keep you warm even when it’s wet, merino wool is even better!
⭐Hiking boots – The comfier, the better. If you buy brand new ones, break them in before the trek. If you don’t have or want to buy them, trainers will do in a pinch (I did EBC and the Circuit in my Nike’s). Waterproof boots are preferable, you’ll probably be walking in rain or snow at some point!
⭐Hiking socks – At least three pairs, you can wear a pair, wash it, and it will dry by the time you wear/wash the other two pairs. I bought some basic hiking socks for 200 rupees a pair which were just fine, but you can spend a lot more if you want Merino wool, which makes them warmer, quick-drying and almost odourless.
⭐Hiking trousers – Lightweight, breathable and quick-drying. I bought a pair from Kala Patthar in Thamel for 700 rupees, but most shops charge over 1000. Shorts are fine to wear, but women might get more than a few stares from the locals. Yoga pants/leggings are also fine, try to avoid cotton but it’s not the end of the world if that’s all you have.
⭐Underwear – At least three pairs, they can be washed on the same schedule as the socks. Make sure they’re comfortable to hike in, no need to be rocking a g-string while climbing Everest.
⭐Sports bra – For the ladies. I only packed one to hike in, but I also had a bralette that I changed into in the evenings so it would be dry and clean.
⭐Hiking shirts – Lightweight, breathable and quick-drying. Short sleeves are great for hot weather but long sleeves will stop you getting sunburnt, and they keep you warmer on cold mornings or when the wind picks up. I bought basic ones for 400 rupees each, but anything is fine as long as it’s not cotton, I really would avoid it for your shirts because your upper body is where you’ll be sweating the most, and they aren’t expensive.
⭐Down jacket – It can get bloody freezing up in the mountains, and you’ll want a down (or synthetic) jacket to keep you warm while you hike. I bought mine in Kathmandu for 1450 rupees and it was warm enough, but it never got that cold.
⭐Windproof / waterproof jacket – Some days it will pour with rain, dump snow on you, or blow a gale. This layer is essential. I brought my North Face Hyvent jacket from home, but you can pick up a basic one in Thamel from 1500 rupees. Gortex is the best at 20k (waterproofness…?), my Hyvent was 15k, try not to go lower than 10k as then it’s more water-resistant than waterproof, but good luck finding any realistic information from the people selling the fake stuff.
⭐Buff – These have so many uses. To keep you warm, to block the sun, to filter the dry or dusty air, to hold your hair back, to soak up the sweat, and a lot more. You can find them everywhere for around 100 rupees.
⭐Beanie or headband – Keeping your head warm is super important. You can buy knitted, fleece-lined wool hats and headbands for 200-250 rupees which are very warm.
⭐Sun hat – You’re gonna have lots of sunny days, and you’ll want to avoid sunburn on your face and the back of your neck, trust me.
⭐Sunglasses – I lost mine on my second day of the EBC trek and didn’t replace them when I had the chance… Big mistake. I bought another pair in Pokhara for 500 rupees, but I doubt they have any UV protection. Try and bring good ones from home.
⭐Gloves – I didn’t want to invest in fancy waterproof/windproof gloves so I bought knitted, fleece-lined wool mittens for 200 rupees in Thamel and these were just fine for even the coldest days and nights. You can buy proper gloves, the prices vary a lot depending on the style.
Crampons – These are not essential, but if you’re crossing a high pass they’re recommended, especially if you’re not wearing hiking boots. I didn’t have them, and I regretted it while crossing Cho La in my trainers. They cost between 400 and 1000 rupees, or you can rent a pair but that’ll cost more.
Trekking poles – I don’t use these, but I’ve heard they’ll save your knees on a big downhill. You can pick up a cheap pair in Thamel or Lakeside.
Day bag – Just big enough to carry water, snacks, and an extra layer if you’re doing any day trips. I took a shoulder bag which was good enough, but a fold-up backpack would have been better.
⭐Rain cover – We had quite a bit of heavy rain on our hikes and the rain cover built into my backpack did a surprisingly good job at keeping my stuff dry. I’d say it’s essential, you don’t want your pyjamas or sleeping bag getting wet if you get caught in the rain.
⭐1-litre water bottles – I only carry one because it’s easy to fill often, but most people carry two or more. Nalgene bottles are popular (buy them for 500 rupees), but my favourites are the aluminium bottles (buy them for 350 rupees) because they can sit on top of the stove and heat water for tea, or be used as a hot water bottle.
⭐Purification tablets – These take 30 minutes to work, but they are much cheaper, smaller and lighter than a Steripen or Lifestraw. Buy a pack of 50 for 200-300 rupees. You’ll want enough for at least four litres (four pills) a day.
For the evenings
Keep in mind: although it’s tempting to keep your bag even lighter by bringing even less, you really will want a pair of clothes to change into that are clean and dry after sweating all day.
⭐Thermal socks – To keep your feet warm on the coldest nights. I had yak wool socks (I bought these in Kyrgyzstan but I’m sure you can buy similar ones in Nepal) that I wore to bed and my feet were never cold.
⭐Thermals – I cannot stress enough how cold it can get in the evenings once you leave the fire and crawl into your icy sleeping bag, or first thing in the morning and a good pair of thermals will make all the difference. I had some with me, but you can easily buy them in Thamel.
Fleece jacket – A down jacket is great for hiking, but you’ll want something clean and dry to change into in the evenings. I bought mine in Thamel for 750 rupees. If a fleece is too bulky, you can pick up some lightweight layers instead.
Slippers – You can buy knitted, fleece-lined slippers for 200 rupees and they are super warm, perfect for lounging around the teahouses, but not essential if you have thermal socks and toilet shoes.
⭐Slip-on toilet shoes – Essential, because you do not want to be visiting the squatty potty with your nice woollen slippers or worse, bare feet. Flipflops are awkward with socks on so try to get something you can wear over socks.
⭐Sleeping bag – You can rent them for 100 rupees a day plus a deposit, or you can buy one, which might be cheaper. I bought mine from Kala Patthar in Thamel for 1500 rupees! It’s a -10° fake North Face, which was warm enough on the coldest nights, as long as I have a blanket too. Not essential for lower altitude hikes such as Annapurna Base Camp, if you don’t mind using the unwashed blankets the guesthouses provide.
Sleeping bag liner – Bring this if you’re renting a sleeping bag or doing a lower altitude hike and don’t want to bring one, the borrowed stuff won’t get washed. They’re also good as an extra layer to keep you warm with your sleeping bag on those ultra-cold nights.
Kindle – I read a lot and I read fast so there was no way I could carry 5 or 6 books with me. My Kindle has been the best thing for backpacking, especially because it’s backlit and the battery can last for weeks. Just make sure you sleep with it in your sleeping bag to stop in dying from the cold.
Playing cards – For those of you who like to be social. I much prefer to read my book, but whatever floats your boat.
Keep in mind: everything here can be bought easily and cheaply in Kathmandu, Pokhara, or even in some of the mountain villages if you forget something and desperately need it.
⭐Suncream – For your face, body, and lips, otherwise you will get seriously sunburnt!
⭐Chapstick – It’s cold and dry up there, so if your lips start to crack it’s almost impossible to heal them!
Cough drops – The air up there can get really dry and most people develop a dry, tickly cough, these will be a lifesaver if you do.
Painkillers – Essential for all the aches and pains you’ll no doubt be feeling.
Tiger Balm – The perfect thing for sore muscles and joint pain! Seriously, it’s a miracle ointment.
⭐Wet wipes – At least two per day for those essential wet wipe showers when showering isn’t possible.
⭐Deodorant – No explanation needed, surely?
Brush or comb – I keep my hair tied up in braids, but a comb was handy on the rare days I showered.
⭐Toilet paper – bring one roll for every 7-10 days your hiking, if you run out it’ll cost you up to 500 rupees to buy a roll on the mountain!
⭐Toothbrush and toothpaste – Obviously.
⭐Hand sanitizer – Because sometimes the water is way too cold to wash your hands properly.
Nail clippers and tweezers – You may not need them very often, but you’ll be glad you have them if you do.
Body lotion – I forgot this once and my skin dried out so much it peeled for a week.
Towel – I didn’t bring one, because I didn’t want to pay for showers while I was hiking but bring one (and some soap) if you do plan on showering. Or if you have access to some hot springs on your hike!
Camera and lenses – This is a personal preference, if you’re happy with phone photos then that’s great. If you want to carry your DSLR then trust me, it’s worth it! I carried my Fujifilm XT-20 along with the 16-50mm kit lens and a Samyang 12mm wide-angle lens, and it was the perfect set up.
Spare batteries – Your batteries will die much quicker in the cold, so carrying spares is essential. Also, don’t forget to put them in your sleeping bag at night, it keeps them warm and stops them dying as quickly!
Spare SD cards – absolutely nothing worse than running out of memory and having to delete photos that haven’t even been backed up yet. Bring spares. You can buy them in most places, but for some reason, they are outrageously overpriced, try and bring them from home.
⭐Phone/charger – My phone was absolutely essential because it was my guide (thanks to GPS and Maps.me) and a way to stay entertained with games and music.
Headlamp – Not essential, as a phone torch will do most of the time, but sometimes you’ll need your hands free.
Power bank – Most teahouses have electricity and will usually let you charge for free, but it’s a good idea to have a backup. Higher up on the EBC trek, they won’t let you charge a power bank so keep it for emergencies!
Plug converter – Nepal uses a weird mix of European and North American plugs so either one will do. I use a universal plug that also has two USB ports, perfect when you have lots to charge but only one hour of free charging.
This is a personal preference. You can bring the usual snacks from home if that’s possible, or you can buy a huge range while in the city. Carry as much or as little as you want! I planned to skip lunch every day so I brought granola bars, cookies, biscuits, and savoury snacks, even though I still ended up eating lunch almost every day. It added an extra 4kg to my bag (which is insane when my whole bag only weighed 12kg with all of my equipment) but it got lighter every day and it was a real treat to have something nice to snack on, especially my daily chocolate bar that I’d have in the evenings.
It might seem like a lot, but just be grateful you don’t have to carry your own tent and food as well. If you’re planning on hiring a porter, please don’t pack extra junk just because YOU don’t have to carry it. It’s absolutely insane the amount of weight those guys carry, but do them a favour and keep your bag light!