A Nepali Sherpa wears gear recommended on packing lists for Nepal treks. // © 2016 Mindy Poder
Feature image (above): When packing for a Nepal trek, be sure to bring a waterproof cover for your backpack. // © 2016 Mindy Poder
If you travel to Nepal with a tour operator, you’ll likely receive a comprehensive packing list. And if you’re new to trekking, the list may seem daunting. Items beyond the obvious core necessities — such as worn-in hiking shoes, a warm sleeping bag and a lightweight backpack — can appear unnecessary. Or, if you’re a seasoned trekker, you may be referencing memories of past adventures when weather was better-than-expected and gloves went unused.
But, as I found out on my second trek in Nepal, weather can transform suddenly and unseasonably. Following are several pieces of gear that will turn Nepal’s unexpected snowstorms and rainfall from an annoying inconvenience to a positive — and dare I say, magical — experience.
After all, as I often heard from my well-prepared trail companions: There’s no such thing as bad weather — just bad gear.
You might consider yourself a competent hiker who doesn’t need poles when hiking trails back home. But, even if you have a great sense of balance and strong legs, trails in Nepal are notoriously uneven.
Expect to climb for hours, only to sharply descend and climb again. Multiply that sort of movement for a few days — or weeks — and you’ll be wishing you had brought something with which to distribute your weight. If packing poles for an overseas flight sounds daunting, don’t worry, you can leave them at home.
In Kathmandu, you can’t walk through the backpacker’s district of Thamel without spotting shops hawking poles and other trekking gear. Expect to find inexpensive “Northfakes” as well as pricier lightweight poles that can fold in half in order to fit into a backpack. Your knees will thank you.
Waterproof Cover for Backpack
Waterproof backpacks are few and far between, with many gearheads complaining about their price, design and seepage issues. Plus, though some rain might occur, it’s unlikely that downpours will be a regular occurrence.
So use your favorite trekking backpack and purchase only an inexpensive waterproof pack cover that is easily storable and retrievable. A well-made cover is far better than a trash bag with a weak or nonexistent drawstring. Trash bags, as I unfortunately found out, have a tendency to loosen over the course of a snowy hike.
Just as you need a cover for your backpack, gloves for your hands, a scarf for your neck and a beanie for your head, you’ll want to cover your body. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, you’ve probably heard of the three-layer system, but it’s worth repeating: Pack a base layer, which manages moisture and has contact with your skin; an insulating layer, which shields you from the cold; and the outer, or shell, layer, which is your savior from wind, snow and rain.
Sleeping Bag Liner
Some Nepal trekking operators provide a sleeping bag; others will note on packing lists that you are expected to bring your own. Either way, you might end up with a rental or loaner. While shelling out the money for a -20-degree Fahrenheit, compressible sleeping bag is not recommended, don’t be surprised if the used sleeping bag emits a musky odor. My saving grace was my clean, soft and lightweight sleeping bag liner. If you sleep better when warm, look for one that provides added heat.
A SteriPen will also protect you from water — detrimental drinking water, that is. Plastic is a real problem in the Himalayas, where most supplies must be transferred by hand or by yak. After a certain elevation, it’s simply too high to send nonrecyclables to a recycling facility.
But Nepal’s tap water is not advisable to drink. So, what’s a thirsty trekker to do? For instant in-room and on-the-trail hydration, bring a reusable water bottle and a SteriPen, a handheld, ultraviolet water purifier. After about 90 seconds, the UV light destroys more than 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Otherwise, you’ll be depending on boiled water for everything.