Nepal lodge trek gear discussion
The crux of knowing what take is knowing what to expect. This list is for our lodge/teahouse Nepal treks.
Do have a look over what people are wearing in the photos of each trip too, that is a great indication of conditions and what is suitable.
Snacks and nutrition
Before we get into gear, lets discuss something so important, that it should be stressed before the gear list...
You will feel your best with plenty of good food and by keeping hydrated. Inevitably you want some snacks for that 10am stop and midnight munchies. Since we are exercising hard, it is particularly worth focusing on healthy, nutritious snacks. We recommend quality energy bars from home such as Clif Bars/Power Bars or your other favourite, although there are some Indian-made bars that are OK in Thamel. Ready-made healthy trail mixes are readily available, and can be post-mixed with cashews and others, but don't forget some ziplocks.
Longer term energy (low glycemic) is best however, sometimes, a sugar hit is needed to fuel that addiction, and there are plenty of chocolate bars available in Kathmandu and occasionally along the trail.
We also suggest fizzy multi-vitamins. In normal life, supplements are not necessarily recommended, however we are pushing our bodies hard and occasional multi-vitamins do mean less sickness and better recovery.
Lastly, after plenty of reading, I realize that while trekking you can never eat enough protein. You need more than a normal diet (any diet!) can provide, and so I strongly suggest bringing along some protein bars, one for every second day or so, or buy them in Kathmandu.
From April to the end of October (~summer), it is warm, even hot during the day. Cool, light clothes are best.
In winter, November thru to the end of March, it is still usually warm during the day and a single layer will often do, still pants rather than shorts, however in the evenings you will want a jacket, and during late December thru to February, a light down jacket is better for eating/drinking outside.
The hotel stores luggage free of cost whatever you don't take trekking, and of course they have a laundry service. You might want to plan a clean set of clothes for your return from the trek.
Who carries what
You carry a day pack with your camera, jacket, water and snacks. The porters (or sometimes yaks/mules) carry everything else, and you pack this in a duffel/kitbag rather than backpack.
Washing clothes at altitude is difficult yet most people get by with only two changes of top and a single pair of pants. When deciding on warm clothing, the principle of only what you can wear at once should apply. Take another thermal top to sleep in but your evening long johns should do for sleeping as well. Take the best but no excess.
Teahouse treks - planning
You are trekking outside with little shelter and staying in mostly unheated lodges, please bear that in mind.
Basically you should plan with 4 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ Kathmandu and trekking in the hot low country
+ fine weather trekking in the cooler high country
+ difficult conditions when pass crossing/high country trekking
+ afternoons and evenings inside but with variable temperatures
Obviously, much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles, and each trek region is slightly different.
Everest teahouse treks
The Everest region has the best lodges in the country. Because we fly in to Lukla, we miss the low, hot country, and slightly different gear is needed. It is usually sunny but cool when trekking; however, we should be minimally prepared for all types of weather. During a fine winter day, the sun is warming even if the air temperature is not. At medium altitudes, a shirt will do; higher up, a thermal top or t-shirt/sun shirt with a light top or vest are a good combination. If there is a breeze, walking in a fleece, thermal top and fleece vest or windproof jacket becomes practical. Trousers are standard wear, rather than shorts (although hiking shorts are OK up to Namche in the hotter months).
In the evenings the lodge usually have a potbelly stove and so most dining rooms are warm, but you still need a down jacket and fleece pants or similar. Sleeping rooms are not heated.
A typical lodge room in the Everest region, spartan with beds, mattress, sheet, pillow and single light.
Kanchenjunga teahouse treks
Bring the works, it is steamy in the low country and sometimes frigid in the basic high country lodges. Remember, this is early days for teahouse trekking. Especially have plenty of warm layers and a good down jacket for hanging around.
On some treks, we also take a tent in case you prefer that to the room. In this case, you will need an inflatable sleeping pad.
Ha, it would be a bit dark without the holes in the roof; this lodge at Lhonak in Kanchenjunga is on the basic side.
Not all lodges are created equal, we are eating noodles with not too much else and note the down jackets.
Upper Mustang teahouse treks
With a much narrower altitude band, 2800-4000m/9000-13,000ft this trek escapes the extremes. It should be mostly sunny, dry and occasionally dusty, especially the first few afternoons. During June through September it can also be cloudy, possibly thick with drizzle. Evenings can still be chilly in the large lodge dining rooms as not all have potbelly stoves.
A nice Upper Mustang lodge, but note Celesta's clothing in late September: travel shirt, light insulated jacket, and Gore-tex plus a beanie.
What is available in Kathmandu?
Virtually all trekking gear is available in Kathmandu and we are happy to show you the better shops. Tridevi Marg is a street with mostly top notch imported gear, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Marmot, Black Diamond climbing gear plus head torches and others, and prices are reasonable, roughly equivalent to the no tax USA prices.
Locally made gear is much cheaper and must be tried on carefully and checked carefully for quality, but on the whole it is OK.
You can by the majority of your gear in Kathmandu but do allow time for this.
Namche in the Everest region also has some good outdoor shops, a range of gear and I have succumbed to temptation there.
Kitbag (duffel bag / duffle bag)
This carried by porters and must be a simple design without wheels or frame. You can buy cheapie kitbags in Kathmandu, although they are not as tough as say the popular North Face Base Camp Duffel or my favorite Patagonia Black Hole duffel, 120L (or 90L if you are a compact packer).
Down-filled bags are best and beg, borrow or steal a good one (ie 4 season) because high altitude nights can be cold.
Everest region: there are quilts that can cover a thinner sleeping bag, so you can get away with a three season bag but if you have a 4 season bag, definitely bring.
Kanchenjunga region: the high country is COLD, bring a good sleeping bag.
Upper Mustang: while still relatively moderate in altitude, nights can still be chilly. Local quilts are usually available to top up your own sleeping bag.
Sleeping bag liner
Cotton, silk, thermal or fleece. Saves washing your sleeping bag and adds warmth. Available in Kathmandu.
This should be comfortable and a good waist band that transfers some of the weight to the hips is most important. It needs to be big enough to take a jacket, fleece, water, camera and odds and ends.
For a happy trek you need comfortable feet. For most people, good, relatively light boots will be best however if you hike in trail shoes, they will work, assuming there isn't an unexpected large dump of snow.
Good boots have good ankle support, plenty of toe room for long descents, a slightly stiff sole to lessen twisting torsion, and are light because with every step you lift your boot up.
Gore-tex boots have an inner liner that help with warmth but your feet tend to sweat more in the warmer low country. You don't necessarily need Gore-tex boots. Good lightweight trekking boots or light all leather boots are best and must be lightly worn in before trekking including some steep hills to show up trouble spots.
My absolute favorite boots are the La Sportiva's Trango TRK GTX which are lighter and more flexible than a web picture might show, and available in Kathmandu. Also check Scarpa's range as another starting point.
In the low country your feet will be warm or even hot while walking so quality cotton mix sports socks can work well, or light hiking socks. Three to four pairs are enough. Medium/thick trekking socks are better for higher up and cool evenings, another three-four pairs. Modern trekking boots fit snugly so wearing two pairs of socks at the same time is impractical. Socks with a high natural fibre content, either wool or cotton, are usually more comfortable and less smelly than mainly synthenic socks.
Luxury and convenience for your feet at the end of the day. Crocs are the best all round, being so light, and combine with socks once high up. Or if you are worried about your boots, then bring cross-trainers/trail running shoes to double as spare trek shoes instead.
Most trekkers consider this essential, but alternatives are a thick thermal top or a light primaloft or down jacket.
Essential evening wear, a mid weight jacket with hood is better than the trendy ultralight alternatives, although those will do. A down jacket is the best option, although Primaloft is OK for less cold treks.
Waterproof and breathable. Gore-tex or similar jackets are recommended for treks over passes or climbing trips. Plastic ponchos or non-breathable raincoats are not suitable.
Good thermals, both tops and bottoms, are one of the secrets to cold weather trekking comfort. A mid-weight top (zip-T style) is great for high country day wear. Lighter thermal tops, eg merino wool tops, are still useful in the low country and an expedition-weight thermal top is a good warm but light system for the real cold.
A mid weight is perfect. A toasty sleep is essential for a full recovery.
Great for the chilly evenings, thicker is better (except for when the stoves in the teahouses really heat up!). Readily available in Kathmandu. Primaloft pants are the camping trekker's best friend though.
T-shirts are the standby, or sun shirt-style with long sleeves, and made of technical synthetics, light merino wool or the less versatile cotton. A travel shirt is looser than a t-shirt and therefore harder to layer however the collar protects the back of your neck and the sleeves can be rolled up or down. Bring at least two so you can swap damp for dry.
You will live in these. Light material, loose and medium-coloured is best. You can survive with only one pair, although two is better, and if heading high, a slightly thicker soft shell pair is really useful.
If you have softshell trekking pants then special wind pants are not needed. If you do bring a pair, it is not necessary to have Gore-tex and non-waterproof is quite OK as you won't wear often.
Essential for the evenings, and useful for cold trekking days.
A basic buff is versatile however for winter trekking consider a combined fleece buff is good or a fleece neck gaiter.
Definitely useful, especially on steep, rough terrain, and we do recommend bringing however, if you are not used to using them, you can survive without. One pole is useful for easing long descents.
Bring good wraparound glasses suitable for snow, its bright up there, but specialized glacier glasses with side pieces are not needed. Contact lens wearers report very few problems except cleaning them in the conditions. Ski goggles are unnecessary.
A good pair of wind-proof gloves is essential. Available in Kathmandu, both budget and originals.
This should be one liter or more in capacity, take boiling water and be leak-proof. Wide mouth Nalgene bottles are best however European-style aluminum bottles are adequate, all available in Kathmandu. You need a minimum of 2 water bottles, or at least 1 water bottle IN ADDITION to a Camelback or hydration system.
Hydration systems are loved my many people however are more hassle to deal with in a trekking environment, and you have to be a careful expert to get through a long trek without an accident, and so we suggest against.
Very useful on cold high country nights! You can buy a cheap one in Kathmandu.
Most lodges have a light in the room however a torch, either a head torch or mobile. The Black Diamond LED headtorches seem to be better than Petzls and the whole range is available in Kathmandu.
Toiletries and odds & ends
Essentials for the month only. The smallest tube of toothpaste available in Kathmandu is perfect for a month. Teahouse trekking, there are a surprising number of showers or buckets of hot water available. We provide toilet paper for camping treks and expeditions, you bring or buy along the way for tea-house treks. Deodorant can spare you grief with your room mate/tent partner...
Bring only a small one trekking, a camp towel or simply a facecloth. The Kathmandu hotel supplies towels.
Sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen
At altitude the sun is strong, especially after snow. Bring sunscreen (high factor protection) AND lip balm WITH SPF 15, and better still SPF 30+.
A technical running cap is ideal. A wide-brim sun hat is also good, giving added neck protection.
First aid kit
We carry a comprehensive med kit with Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, decongestants, lozenges, various antibiotics for Nepalese varieties of diarrhoea and chests infections, Diamox (an acclimatizing aid drug), antiseptic, antihistamine cream, oral rehydration, splints, bandages and band-aids.
You should bring any personal medicines that you need, and if you have had blisters in the past, a good blister kit.
On our treks we bring a water filter however it is nice to have more options on the trail during the day. This could be a bottle of iodine tablets or a strip of silver-based tablets, or a Steripen.
Bring extra batteries. I have a dated discussion. If bringing only your phone, bring a powerful powerbank.
Bring one or two with high swapability. Kathmandu has some great second-hand book shops. Kindles work well for trekking too.
Money belt/travel pouch
Most people find wearing one while trekking is a hassle and keep it buried in their daypack. The Kathmandu hotel has safety deposit boxes.
Not needed but if you have them, consider bringing them if going above 4000m.
Crampons and ice axe
Not needed for trekking - trekking is walking, not climbing.
Easy to rent items in Kathmandu are down jackets and sleeping bags.
We send one out on booking.
The crew find a warm spot in the kitchen