Gear for fast packing in Nepal

This list is designed for non-winter months. Note that there often a negative correlation between travelling light and safety. It is also hard to predict what the weather will be like. The safest thing you can do is stay at home. After that, you can load a pack up with layers, shelters and navigation aids. It is very difficult to fast pack with this amount of weight. But these are also the Himalayas  and high altitude passes can be fickle. The gear choices we list below are not recommendations, they are simply a statement of our own personal experiences and how others describe their experiences. Ultimately it is your choice what to bring.  Some more thoughts below:

  • You can buy lots of different gear in Kathmandu, there are tons of shops. However, the quality can vary widely and sizes for women might be difficult to find.  It is helpful to arrive early on the first day so you have time to walk around Thamel to get last minute gear, change money (remember to get get at least half your money in 500 Rupee notes, the 1000 notes are hard to change on the trail), and buy some snacks for the first day of movement. It is also good to idea to know what is available on the trail, usually these are larger villages but the gear is limited to simple things like hats, water bottles, better batteries, post cards, flip flops, etc
    • Annapurna circuit: Manang, Kagbeni, Tatapani, and Ghorapani.
    • Everest Base Camp Trek: Full gear shops and more in Namche Bazaar
    • Langtang: Very limited, maybe a few light items along the circuit.
  • Know that you can leave stuff in a secure room in Kathmandu while we are in the mountains.
  • In general, you will want to wash probably your underwear, socks, and shorts every day as soon as we get into a lodge. There will be some kind of water spigot and you can wash your legs, feet, and face while washing your clothes. You may need to carry some of these the next day on the outside of your pack so they can finish drying
  • We may ask members to carry up half a kilogram of group gear – typically part of a med kit or a water filter. By dividing the weight, we make it manageable! Members may also be asked to carry a radio (we will provide) when exploring routes without the main group.

Shelter

Annapurna: No need to bring a tent or anything. We will sleep in lodges and tea houses every night.

Langtang: Our approach to Kanja Pass has no lodges or settlements. So we will need to camp for at least two nights as we acclimatize. Each person will need to have their own shelter (or ideally share) and a sleeping bag. Shelters we might be bringing and that may be available for free loan:

Unfortunately there are no rental options for quality ultra light tents in Kathmandu.  You can go super cheap and just visit the hard wear store and get a grommet kit. And for $50-$100 there are good options in general camping retail stores, They weigh a little more but would probably work fine. Having grommets and tie-offs are important to me. We like catenary cut tarps but there are good arguments for the versatility of flat tarps. And don’t forget the ground sheet – but that can be any light weight piece of plastic.

Sleeping

For any event in Nepal (and really, anywhere) – bring an emergency bivy sack made out of reflective foil. Like this one from SOL. Temperatures will likely approach freezing when we are approaching high passes.

Annapurna: Bring a sleeping bag liner. The lodges have thick blankets but you will appreciate first slipping into your liner when the blankets are less than clean looking (they usually look pretty good but you never know). You can buy a liner in Kathmandu for $10 USD and up (maybe $30 for silk).

Langtang: Bring a sleeping bag or quilt that is rated to freezing and also a sleeping pad for ground insulation. We find the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite very light (non affiliate REI link) with good insulation, but also a little awkward to sleep on because of how high it is – and it is also rather expensive. Others love it. In planning your sleeping system remember that you can layer there as well, potentially wearing all clothes as well as your emergency reflective bivy bag

Food

Annapurna: No need to bring anything, you can easily buy trail snacks in Kathmandu near the hotel and on the trail. They may not always be the healthiest or your first choice, but they are available.

Langtang: For food please bring at least 2 dehydrated dinners with 800 calories minimum per person. We have these (vegetarian only, Mountain House Brand) in Kathmandu leftover from past expeditions and can sell them to you at cost ($8). A long handled spoon is a good idea. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks can be purchased in Kathmandu before departure but we recommend you buy this on the trail so you can minimize how much you are carrying (but understand your choices on the trail will be limited like ramon noodles, snicker bars, and cans of tuna fish).  Please tell us if you have a lightweight epi gas stove and any titanium pots so we can coordinate. Don’t worry if you don’t as we can share.

 

Great Himalayan Trail

Quick notes sent by Seth to prospective thru hiker: If your stove can also attach to epi gas (isobutane, commonly called ‘epi’ in Nepal) AND all types of liquid then you should be good. In theory you can get kerosene in some villages but we  had very little luck with this, nor did we need to look much as we were able to stretch out our epi when needed. In general, outside of the technical passes, we were able to choose when we wanted to camp and we did this because a) staying in a village would have meant stopping earlier than we wanted, b) we wanted the solitude.  But quite often we had to balance this with knowing we would be eating dried noodles and using some epi gas. Because calories were important – we would often try to stay in lodges along the way. When there were no lodges we would usually find the local entrepreneur (often the store owner) and negotiate dinner and a place to sleep at night. At first I worried we would be taking their own food supply or displacing people from a bedroom. I think this is a valid concern, especially if more people start hitting the trail or you are in a larger group, but in practice we paid them well, walked away with a full belly, and everyone was the happier. We never melted snow for water. We were able to find rivulets and streams just before crossing the high technical passes. The one catch was when we got stuck camping on the glacier between Sherpani Col and the West Col. We ran out of water and we couldn’t get the stove to work at that altitude (it was an old MSR that only worked with liquid fuel and the pump gasket didn’t work in the cold). It was not a fun night.

Clothing Top

  • Long sleeve (1)  and short sleeve (1) shirt, merino wool or synthetic. Lighter colors that don’t absorb as much sun will be good but will show more dirt.
  • Bring a light puffy jacket with a hood. Seth is carrying something similar to this down jacket by feathered friends. It has  3.7 oz / 105 g (size Medium) of down fill. Not a lot – this would be considered minimum insulation. He will put on every layer he has if he needs too. We are fans of 900+ fill down and understand from down experts that paying more for hydrophobic down (relatively new on the market) is not always worth it as you lose the coating soon. Remember to look for cruelty free down.
  • Wind/light rain shell like a Patagonia Houdini.
  • Hard shell: This is recommended although you will probably only use it on the pass. Please consider  pac-light gore tex which is lighter then the 3 layer versions. .
  • Back-up contacts/glasses (bring your prescription to Kathmandu if you are arriving early, it is a great place to get glasses made on the cheap).
  • Sun glasses – category 4 if crossing snow fields/glaciers (Langtang possible, Annapurna unlikely).
  • Base ball cap or visor to keep sun/rain off face
  • Buff
  • Langtang: We are bringing rock climbing helmets.  The last 150 vertical meters on the pass (going up and the same on the other side) has a lot of loose slippery rock. We will cross it near dawn and stagger our paths to minimize rock fall risk but the safest thing you can do is wear a helmet. Note that the very final 20 meters will require some basic scrambling and the first 20 meters of descent will have some exposure and require care. There is a catwalk which is about 1 meter wide and 5 meters long, this can be safely traversed by holding on to chains. Please look at our pictures to get a better idea of this and feel free to ask us questions.

Clothing Bottom

  • Running shorts/skirt/or whatnot  (1)
  • Tech pants (1) – preferably quick dry and convertible to shorts. This could be skipped and you can hang out in the lodge in your puffy pants instead (long underwear might be a stretch).
  • Underwear (1 or 2)
  • Insulating layer – long underwear or puffy pants.
  • Running socks (2 pairs) and 1 pair camp socks.
  • Running shoes
  • Incredibly light flip flops or sandals if you can handle the extra weight.

Feet

Normal trail running shoes should be fine plus 2-3 pairs of merino wool socks + one thicker pair for around camp and as a last resort. If your fingers/toes run cold then bring at least one set of chemical warmers for when the pass ( usually 3-5 hours).

Langtang: Goretex trail shoes might not be a bad idea as there could be some sloppy trails and snow on the pass. Gators would be a good idea. As well as a couple chemical warmers for your toes and fingers. Foot traction is highly recommended but full crampons are not necessary.

If you are going somewhere that might have even a remote chance of snow, we  always bring some strong plastic shopping bags. At least two. We use these as as stuff sacks and to save feet if things get cold. You can step into each bag, then put your shoes on and you will have a vapor barrier that greatly helps with warming feet. This is especially important if you have to face long travels through snow in trail running shoes. Not a complete, nor ideal, solution but something to employ if caught out in less than ideal conditions.

Misc

  • Pack: A 30l pack for most of our adventures should be more then adequate.  (Lantang Fastpack will probably require closer to 45-50l)
  • Water bottles/bladders: We like to buy two  750-1000ml water bottles from Kathmandu and carry them on our packs that we can easily access. Some people like to use bladders.
  • Some kind of water treatment system. (Langtang Fastpack will use a group gravity bag filter system, please save weight and don’t try to carry your own) On Annapurna we ask people to bring their own light weight system. If they don’t have one – no problem, you can share in the gravity bag that Seth and Sudeep are carrying. Before we leave Kathmandu we will offer members very light weight strips of water purification tablets to carry as a backup.
  • Travel meds as advised by personal clinician. (See section below for conversation starters)
  • Plug adapter, we recommend those that adapt to many plug types. The most commonly used in Nepal is round with two prongs, but sometimes you find others. Also consider an adapter that includes USB charging ports. This one wasn’t too bad for us in Nepal but we would like to try some others. We don’t recommend you bring any small solar panels due to the added weight and the availability of recharging in lodges.   You might consider a rechargeable battery pack, and extra batteries for your camera.
  • Headlamp plus one set extra batteries if not USB rechargable.
  • Toilet paper (no need to start with a whole roll, most people buy some on the trail as well).
  • Personal hygiene kit: Tooth brush, part of a bar of soap, tooth paste…
  • Bandanna
  • Pocket money
  • Passport (can be left in Kathmandu if you want), emergency contact sheet (we will give this to you in Kathmandu).
  • Phone (we can help you get a SIM card if interested).
    • App on your phone that lets you follow a GPX track (can be downloaded from the route page).
  • Maps (we will give this to you)
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Travel luggage lock (combination style). Use this to secure your room when we are using lodges.

Strongly Encouraged

For our inaugural trip to Langtang this year we are carrying a Black Diamond Carbon Whippet (Sudeep) trekking pole which has a pick that can be used for self arrest and also a Black Diamond Raven Pro  ice axe. We anticipate these may only be needed on a short section descending Kangjin La and that we will have at least one other self arrest tool available and will be able to ferry tools back up the terraine if it is needed by other people in the party who do not have a self-arrest tool. The odds of this are low, but it is the Himalaya and we would like to be as prepared as possible.

Optional

  • Satellite Tracker/beacon
  • Reading material
  • Pack towel
  • Camp slippers/sandals

Good to Know

You can leave a bag of stuff at the hotel in Kathmandu. We lock it well, label it, and hotels are happy in Kathmandu to store it in a safe place. If we want to leave anything valuable – we check it in with the hotel safe.

First Aid Kit

  • In the Himalayas you are responsible for your own first aid kit. We always bring a small blister kit, some bandages, and at least one elastic bandage.
  • Pack away some knowledge and literature on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
  • Remember to see a physician well before you leave and discuss your trip with them. See them as early as possible in case they recommend vaccines. Bring this page and use it as a starting point about what medications you may want to bring. The info on this page is meant to be used at your own risk.

Golden Rules *

  • If you feel unwell at altitude it is altitude illness until proven otherwise
  • Never ascend with symptoms of AMS
  • If you are getting worse (or have HACE or HAPE), go down at once
    – If possible, you should spend at least one night at an intermediate elevation below 3,000 meters.
    – At altitudes above 3000 meters (10,000 feet), your sleeping elevation should not increase more than 300-500 meters (1000-1500 feet) per night.
    – Every 1000 meters (3000 feet) you should spend a second night at the same elevation.
  • Source: http://www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm#prevention

We enjoyed reading India Mike’s High Altitude First Aid Kit – you might want to check it out as well as this other description from the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter.

Medications

Acetazolamide (AMS Prevention and Treatment)

Amount: 250mg tablets, #30. Easily obtained in Kathmandu.

This is the go-to medication for preventing AMS. People should try it before they are on a trip to make sure they do not have a bad reaction (especially true for people with sulfa allergies)

“For treatment of AMS: We recommend a dosage of 250 mg every 12 hours. The medicine can be discontinued once symptoms resolve. Children may take 2.5 mg/kg body weight every 12 hours. For Periodic Breathing 125 mg about an hour before bedtime. The medicine should be continued until you are below the altitude where symptoms became bothersome.” Source:  http://www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm#treatment (They do not recommend it for prevention, however many others do with the same treatment dosages)

 

Dexamethasone (AMS Treatment)

This is not commonly carried by trekkers, more by high altitude climbers but it is worth considering.

Decadron (dexamethasone) 8mg tablets, #20 8mg tablets can be split in ½ to make 4mg, or can carry 4mg tablets as well) IM dosing: 24mg/ml, available in 5ml vials.(WMS guidelines say ‘ 8-mg dose (intramuscularly, intravenously, or orally) followed by 4 mg every 6 hours until symptoms resolve’)

From Wilderness Medical Society Consensus Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Altitude Illness (Luks, Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 6/2010) Extensive clinical experience supports the use of dexamethasone in patients with HACE. It is administered as an 8-mg dose (intramuscularly, intravenously, or orally) followed by 4 mg every 6 hours until symptoms resolve.
“Dexamethasone (Decadron®) is a potent steroid used to treat brain edema. Whereas acetazolamide treats the problem (by accelerating acclimatization), dexamethasone treats the symptoms (the distress caused by hypoxia). Dexamethasone can completely remove the symptoms of AMS in a few hours, but it does not help you acclimatize. If you use dexamethasone to treat AMS you should not go higher until the next day, to be sure the medication has worn off and is not hiding a lack of acclimatization. Side effects include euphoria in some people, trouble sleeping, and an increased blood sugar level in diabetics.or treatment of AMS For Treatment: Two doses of 4 mg, 6 hours apart. This can be given orally, or by an injection if the patient is vomiting. Children may be given 1 mg/kg of body weight, up to 4 mg maximum; a second dose is given in 6 hours. Do not ascend until at least 12 hours after the last dose, and then only if there are no symptoms of AMS.” source: http://www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm#treatment (same content on basecampmd.com):

Nifedipine (AMS Treatment)

This is not commonly carried by trekkers, more by high altitude climbers but it is worth considering.

Procardia, Adalat (nifedipine) 10mg tablets, #40 or SR 30mg tablets #30

“This drug is usually used to treat high blood pressure. It rapidly decreases pulmonary artery pressure and also seems able to decrease the narrowing in the pulmonary artery caused by low oxygen levels, thereby improving oxygen transfer. It can therefore be used to treat HAP[E], though unfortunately its effectiveness is not anywhere as dramatic that of dexamethasone in HAC[e]. The dosage is 20mg of long acting nifedipine, six to eight hourly. Source: http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm  This medication is not easily obtainable in Kathmandu – best to get abroad.
“A single, nonrandomized, unblinded study demonstrated utility of nifedipine in HAPE treatment when oxygen or descent is not available.  No other treatment studies have been conducted, but there is extensive clinical experience with its use as an adjunct to oxygen or descent. Sixty milligrams of the sustained release version is administered daily in divided doses without a loading dose. It should not be relied on as the sole therapy unless descent is impossible and access to supplemental oxygen or portable hyperbaric therapy cannot be arranged. Recommendation grade: 1C (for use as adjunctive therapy). Grading: Strong recommendation, low-quality or very low quality evidence. Benefits clearly outweigh risks and burdens” From Wilderness Medical Society Consensus Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Acute Altitude Illness (Luks, Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 6/2010)

Other

Sleep: One prescription sleep aid that has shown NOT to disturb breathing at sleep is zoldipem. Source: http://www.basecampmd.com/expguide/sleepingpills.shtml Not available in Nepal.

Antiprotozoan: Tinidazole is the best drug to self-treat presumed Giardia or Amoeba infections while trekking. It is not available in the United States but can be purchased in Nepal OTC. Take twenty 500mg tablets.

Antiheminth (worm medicine): Six 100-mg tablets of mebendazole. One tablet taken morning and evening for 3 days will take care of most worm infestations. We usually take this if we have been in country for over a month or if things seem ‘off’.  Can be purchased in Nepal OTC.

Topical Ophthalmic Antibiotic: Good choices of ophthalmic antibiotics are those that contain bacitracin, gentamicin, polymyxin, or tobramycin. Avoid any that contain steroids such as betamethasone, cortisone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, prednisolone, or others. If you wear contact lenses trekking, be sure to bring antibiotic eye drops.

Azithromycin (Zithromax, diarreha). 500 mg daily for one to three days or 1,000 mg in a single dose. Sourch: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0601/p2095.html

 

 

C-flox (Cipro, ciprofloxacin, intestinal bacterial infections)  10 x 500mg

Loperamide (Immodium, for diarrhea) 20 x 2mg

Oral Rehydration Salts 3 x Packs

Ibuprofen (Muscle/joint injury/aches)

Paracetamol (Tylenol, Acetaminophin, fever/pain) 20 x 500mg

Malaria: There is some risk in Kathmandu but can be mitigated. Risk from areas we trek in is low, but not non-existent.

Vaccines

Please see the CDC guidelines for Nepal

Updated MMR, Tetanus, Diptheria, Typhoid, Polio, Hepatitus A

Commonly used by people who spend longer times in Nepal or want less risk: Hepatitis B, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis.