Nepal camping trek gear discussion
The crux of knowing what take is knowing what to expect.
This list is for our normal high altitude Nepal treks, see our lodge trek gear discussion for teahouse trekking.
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. On our camping treks we provide good, nutritious food (plenty, all you can eat!) and clean water too. However, 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 or sometimes along the trail, to save your luggage allowance.
If there is a low country sweat, we usually carry Tang (which is mostly sugar) and medical electrolytes however if you regularly use sports energy drink or electrolytes, bring your favourite. 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.
We cook a wide array of meals but occasional 'surprise' snacks to share with the group provide a welcome variety during the trek.
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 (ie 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, but 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, small personal med kit, water and snacks. The porters (or sometimes yaks/mules) carry everything else, and you pack this in a duffel/kitbag rather than backpack.
Expedition-style treks - planning
Basically you should plan with 4 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ travelling and trekking in the hot low country
+ fine weather trekking in the cooler high country
+ difficult conditions when pass crossing/high country trekking (rare, but you should be prepared)
+ COLD high country evenings
Obviously, much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles.
For Kanchenjunga, Manaslu and Annapurna treks it really can be hot and sweaty in the initial low country. For spring (April-May) you might also want an umbrella (available in Kathmandu), better in rain than any waterproof jacket.
Especially for Oct-Nov-Dec treks you really do want WARM gear for the evenings, a good down jacket and some insulated pants, and a real 4/5 season -29C/-20F sleeping bag.
Assorted clothing styles of ~5000m high country wear on a chilly day - Jamie
Celesta in pink: running cap, Gore-tex jacket, Buff, thin thermal and thick thermal top, softshell pants, all leather hiking boots
Matt with beanie: Windstopper jacket, t-shirt, thick wool thermal, thicker trekking pants with thin thermal (longjohns) underneath
LeeAnn with cotton scarf: ultra-light anorak over a thermal top and fleece, softshell pants, tough but light hiking boots and attitude!
Above, click through my Nepal Camp clothing album on Flickr for examples of trek conditions.
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, Outdoor Research, 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.
Kitbag (duffel bag / duffle bag)
For all the treks your gear that is carried by the porters or yaks is best packed in a strong kitbag. 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. Mountain Hardwear duffels look tough but are not. My favorite is the Patagonia Black Hole duffel, 120L (or 90L if you are a compact packer). You also want a bin liner to provide total waterproofing.
Down-filled bags are better for Nepal and beg, borrow or steal a good one. High country 5000m nights are cold and you need a 4-5 season sleeping bag, so a bag rated better than -24C/-10F and for high altitude late October or November nights a rating closer to -29C/-20F is best (the extreme rating, NOT the comfort rating). Note often your bag will get slightly damp and you might not have a chance to dry for several days (down is still better), and in the lower oxygen environment, you feel the cold more easily. That is why you want an overkill bag.
Good down is fluffy, light and thick, 700 to 800 fill is the best. A muff (an extra section around the neck) makes a big difference to the overall warmth of a bag. Reasonable sleeping bags are cheaply available for rent in Kathmandu. Alternatively add a fleece sleeping bag liner to add warmth to a 3-4 season bag.
See REI's advice page for a good intro into the technical aspects of sleeping bags.