The weather between Kathmandu (4,593 feet) and Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet) changes quickly – especially the higher in elevation you climb. With the balmy subtropical climate in Kathmandu and the crisp alpine climate between Namche Bazaar and Base Camp, layers are key. Often times along the trek, the day started out brisk but midday, quickly turned into a heat wave as there are many exposed paths along the trail where the sun beats down intensely.
Here’s a brief list of what Dam and I brought along the trek, what was useful and what we wished we had brought. Keep in mind that either you will be carrying your pack, or your porter will, and neither of you want more work with an overweight bag. Keep it simple and keep it light. If it doesn’t have a purpose, it doesn’t go.
Note: we completed this trek Mid-April to Early May. You may need additional items to keep you warm if you complete the trek in mid-fall or early spring.
Sleeping Bag – You will want to make sure you have a warm, yet compact, bag. We brought synthetic zero degree bags that worked great. Plus, most tea houses have a pillow and warm blanket waiting for you that you can add on if you get cold at night.
Backpack – We each brought a small, 30-45 liter day pack (I opted for a lightweight trekking daypack where as Dam opted for a more functional pack) that kept our camera, water and snacks for the day. Our amazing porters carried our backpacks that were approximately 50-60 liters and held our clothes and sleeping bags. I am in love with all things organizational, so I found the Eagle Creek packing cubes to be a godsend. It makes rummaging around our bags at night 10xs easier – especially in the cold.
Hiking Boots (1) – A well broken-in pair of hiking boots (preferably waterproof) is required for this trek. Even after 75+ miles trekked and various types of weather encounters along the way, we swore by our Ahnu Montara Boots as they kept our feet dry, even on the wettest snow/sleet day and our feet never ached at the end of the day. Not even once.
Sandals (1) – We opted to bring a pair of sandals to walk around Thamel, as the climate was much warmer here and gave us a chance for our feet to breathe.
Down Booties (1) – We brought along a pair of 450 fill down booties to wear during cold nights in the tea houses. Although we used them only a handful of times at higher altitude, they were not all that necessary. With being down, they are easy to pack and very lightweight.
Socks (9) – ARE KEY. Towards the end of the trek, I was extremely glad I had packed that extra pair of socks: especially on the day of the earthquake when we had to walk through a snow-slush storm and I was soaked head to toe. We brought about 5 pairs of lightweight hiking socks (mixture between synthetic and wool), and 4 pairs of heavy wool socks.
Lightweight Down Jacket (1) – Not really a necessity (Dam went without), although it was nice to wear as a layer under my jacket during those extra cold mornings or evenings at the tea house.
Waterproof Jacket (1) – I highly recommend spending a little extra for an actual waterproof/windproof shell jacket, preferably Gore-Tex. I made the mistake of taking an insulated “snowboarding jacket” along, thinking the face fabric would be weather resistant, but in constant rain and snow (which we only experienced two or three days), I was soaked all the way to my skin and the jacket took forever to dry.
Fleece Layer (1) – Dam and I both took one fleece and wore it throughout the entire trip. Fleece fabric dries fairly quickly and is a great layering piece.
Lightweight Trekking Pants (2) – Convertible lightweight trekking pants that have a bit of stretch are great, as you can layer underneath or zip the bottoms of the legs off when the afternoon warms up. They should dry quickly in case you get caught in the rain or need to do a quick mid-trek wash. Dam opted for his favorite Prana pants, although comfortable, they are not the most light weight to carry.
Waterproof Shell Pant (1) – Along with your waterproof jacket, you should also bring a lightweight, waterproof shell pant. These are designed to go over your trekking pant, although you could wear solo with am insulated base layer underneath. Though the weather gods may be on your side and you might never use them, you’ll surely be glad you packed them in the off chance you get caught in a rainstorm.
Base Layers/Long Underwear (2) – Dam and I each brought along 2 sets of base layers and lived in them as we trekked higher up the mountain. Synthetic is great as they dry quicker, although wool is sometimes softer and actually respells odor better than synthetic fibers do. We recommend bringing one of each.
Short Sleeve T-Shirt/Top (2) – We found am amazing find at Costco, although you can purchase them on Amazon as well. These t-shirts are synthetic material, extremely soft and comfortable to wear. They are also quick drying and have anti-odor properties, which you will need. We wore ours almost every day and managed to not smell too terribly by the time the trek was over.
Long Sleeve Top (2) – We brought along 2 synthetic long sleeve tops that were comfortable for layering and would also wick away moisture as we sweat.
Mid-Weight Long Sleeve Top (2) – We both had 2 mid-weight long tops, one with a half-zip and the other a crew neck. Very comfortable for layering.
Sports Bras (2) – Make sure they are comfortable enough to sleep in, yet sturdy enough to trek long distances. As we got to the higher guest houses, I had a habit of sleeping in my full gear because it was so cold to change. The last thing you want to do is fish out a half-frozen sports bra to change into. If you do, it’ll feel like Doctor hands, and nobody likes that.
Necessary Accessories – We each took a warm hat (I recommend one having a fleece or wool liner as sometimes, crossing the plateau gets a bit windy and can wreak havoc on your ears. We also took a pair of mid-weight fleece gloves – since you are not building snowmen on this trek, no need to bring the bulky ski gloves. Another necessary accessory are buffs. We each brought two and used it the entire time. From walking along the dusty streets of Kathmandu, to protecting your scalp from the intense UV rays mid-trek, to recycling moisture from your own breath at high altitude – they were a must. You can pick them up very inexpensively in Thamel before your trek. Finally, bring some GOOD polarized sunglasses – those snowy peaks are BRIGHT and you’ll burn your retinas if you don’t adhere to our warning. Just ask Dam.
Other Items We Found Useful: Universal adapter plug – although you will have to pay along the trek if you want to charge anything – might be worth to invest in a solar charger. Flashlight and headlamp – electricity at night is pretty much nonexistent the higher you go and you will have to go to the bathroom at least once in the middle of the night – especially if you take any altitude sickness medications, which I will dive into later. Extra battery for camera – we took 3 and we ended up with over 1,500 photos. The Himalayas are magnificent – so, capture it! Trekking Poles – although we never used ours, it is still good to have for those steep downhill switchbacks… just in case you have knee, hip or stability issues. Water bottle (at least 1 liter) and CamelBak (2-3 liters) – hydration. Enough said. Hand Sanitizer – good for those right before lunch and no sink days. You’ll be dirty. First Aid Kit – though we never used ours, it is good to have. Be sure you have some good Imodium and Paracetamol as your stomach will be upset at least once and you most likely will get a headache at least once. Dry Shampoo – the only thing that allowed me to now shower for 3 weeks and look “okay”. They make great travel sized options. Baby wipes/hand wipes/body wipes – you’ll need them. Go for the big “sheet” body wipes as they cover everything head to toe. Sunscreen – you’re the closest to the sun you’ll ever be. Cover up. Travel Sized or Roll of Toilet Paper – this becomes like currency the higher in altitude you get. You’ll want to make sure you keep it in a waterproof bag.
Water Treatment – Though bottled water is an option all along the trek, the higher you go, the more expensive it is. We opted for water purification tablets, which you can get in Thamel, and they worked great. Tiny to carry and quick to dissolve. We found that the taste wasn’t anything different than drinking tap water in America. Slightly chlorinated but it’s really fine.
Acli-Mate Drink Mix – We read about these right before we left and thought we would give it a try. They are a mountain endurance packet of electrolytes that not only help with acclimatization, they also help keep you hydrated and your energy levels up.
Diamox (Prescription for Mountain Sickness) – We took some Diamox along with us although, I only took two pills as I HATED the side effects. Imagine when your leg “goes to sleep” and that weird, painful feeling shoots down your foot… that same feeling covers your entire body and every time you touch your face, your lights up. It also makes you have to pee about every three minutes, which is really irritating at night when you’re nestled in your warm sleeping bag. Some people on our team had no issues with it and took it throughout the entire trip, although about half of the group did not take it and was just fine – as long as you allow yourself enough time to acclimatize before moving onto the next altitude increase.
SNACKS – Do yourself a favor and bring a few snacks that put a little pep in your step. We brought a few protein bars, meat sticks, trail mix and chocolate. On those days where you are really dragging and boiled vegetables and noodles won’t cut it, you’ll be glad you have a little protein or sweets to keep you going.
Entertainment – Cards and a Kindle are all you will need to keep yourself entertained on this trek. There will always be one person who will want to play cards with you and on the nights when you just want to be lazy, diving into a good book is a great way to unwind.
Items We Wish We Had – Febreze – although not an necessity, it would have been my one luxury item I would have brought as towards the end of the trek, your clothes and shoes begin to stink. Real bad. Clean Clothes in Thamel – little did we know, you can actually have your hotel (if you are staying both pre/post the trek) keep a bag for you while you trek. Had we known, we really would have loved to come back to some clean clothes for the remainder of our time in Kathmandu.