I remember the moment vividly. It was two weeks before we were due to depart for a once in a lifetime trip to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and we’d decided to do a dry-run pack to make sure we had everything we needed. We’d just finished ‘neatly arranging’ (a.k.a. piling up) our gear on the bed when I decided that now was the perfect time to look at our flight baggage restrictions. Obviously our flights from London to Kathmandu provided ample allowance, but what I hadn’t factored in to my meticulously organized packing equation was the domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla; where our hike would truly begin. At that moment I quickly came to the realization that one pair of pants a day was truly out of the question (just to confirm, that’s underwear for my American readers – I wasn’t planning to travel with a fresh pair of trousers for every single day). You see, domestic flights to Lukla have a maximum checked baggage allowance of 10kg (22lbs) and a carry-on allowance of a measly 5kg (11lbs). Not only did this mean I’d have to discard a few pairs of pants from my pile of cloths, but it also meant that I’d have to economize on the number of camera lenses I intended to take (my hopes of capturing a snow leopard with a 400m lens were honestly misplaced anyway).
To avoid you having the same conundrum I thought it might be useful to explore what the core necessities and absolute luxuries are when it comes to packing for a trip to EBC from both a packing and an ‘I’ve been there’ perspective. What follows is the Take Photos Leave Footprints ‘Ultimate Guide to Packing For Everest Base Camp’. For the full downloadable and printable checklist CLICK HERE.
Packing For Everest Base Camp: Clothing
|1||Quick Dry Long Sleeve Base Layer Shirts||2|
|3||Trekking Shirts Short Sleeve||2|
|6||Woolen Blend Trekking Socks||3|
|7||Zip-Off Trekking Trousers||2|
|10||Wind and Rain-Proof Outer Layer (Jacket and Trousers)||1|
|12||Warm Winter Hat||1|
|13||Lightweight Thermal Layer Hat||1|
|14||Peaked Hat/Baseball Cap||1|
|16||Gloves (Winter and Liner)||1|
Some Key Points to Note:
2. I threw in 6 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of trekking socks and 2 pairs of liner socks; but obviously you need to pack what makes you feel most comfortable (with only six pairs for a two week trip there were admittedly some points when I was less comfortable than others). More than anything my decision to cut down on underwear was based on weight restrictions. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are most likely going to be times when you haven’t had a good wash in days and at that point what’s the point of donning a clean pair of tighty whiteys? With regards to socks make sure you keep one pair of liners for the evenings so that you have something less stinky to wear.
7. Zip-off trekking trousers aren’t a must. In fact, I only zipped them off once. That said it’s always nice to have options when things heat up in the afternoon at lower altitudes.
11. If you don’t already own a down jacket (and don’t foresee needing one all that much in the future) then I wouldn’t advise that you go out and spend a fortune on a brand new branded jacket. Instead you could either rent a down jacket when you arrive in Kathmandu (Jackets can be fairly cheap to rent in Thamel) or you could buy a knock-off down jacket for around USD 50 (again, in Thamel).
15. The one item that I didn’t take off for the entire duration of the trek was the ever-dependable, multi-purpose buff. Given my ghost-like complexion and ginger hair it served as a great sun shield for my neck and ears. Alternatively it can also act as a scarf at higher altitudes.
17. In the weeks and months leading up to your trip make sure you spend as much time as possible wearing your trekking boots to wear them in. The last thing you want is blisters!
18. The Crocs/sandals/down boots are for in the evenings when you arrive at teahouses. By that point you’ll want nothing more than to peel your boots off, clean your feet with some handy wet wipes, pull some fresh socks on and slip into something more comfortable (footwear that is). I personally opted for some hard soled down boots because they keep your feet warm and squash down pretty well for packing purposes.
Packing For Everest Base Camp: Equipment
|21||Sleeping Bag and Liner||1|
|22||Alarm / Clock||1|
|28||Portable Power Bank||1|
|30||Spare Batteries for Headtorch||1|
|32||Platypus / Camelback / Sigg Water Bottle||1|
|33||Water-Proof Backback Cover||1|
|35||Pack Liners/Hand Vacumn Packs (to Waterproof Bag)||2|
Some Key Points to Note
21. If you don’t own a good, cold weather, sleeping bag then my advice is to rent one in Kathmandu when you arrive. As with the down jackets they’re easily rentable, and cheap, if you head over to Thamel when you arrive. On the other hand, I would suggest that you do buy your own liner, particularly if you’re renting a sleeping bag!
23. Obviously I wouldn’t advise that you take your best designer sunglasses on the trip. Cheap sports sunglasses should do the trick – ideally with a string attached so that they don’t fall off on the trail.
27. I was so glad that we had our solar charger and power bank with us! Charging your various devices in the tea houses can very quickly become a hideously expensive endeavor as each and every one of the teahouses charges for the privilege. In addition, the colder it gets the quicker your devices drain. My advice is to hang your solar charger off of you pack during the day (using a carabiner) so that it’s ready to charge your devices every evening.
32. With the amount of water you’re going to be drinking water bottles soon become a hot topic of conversation. We took a dual approach and carried both a platypus and a Sigg bottle each. There were a number of reasons for this. The first is that a platypus (or camelback) is easier to drink from whilst your walking. It’s helpful to be able to continuously sip from the bag and to have the tube clipped to your t-shirt or jacket. The second is that a sigg bottle is the height of luxury in the evenings when you can ask the teahouse kitchen to fill it with boiling water. It then serves as an excellent hot water bottle through the night before chilling down in time for your walk the next morning. Third is that by having both you can be drinking from one whilst your water purification tablets work their magic in the other (if you plan on drinking un-bottled water then you should always use water purification tablets on the trail).
34. Trekking poles aren’t a necessity and you’ll see plenty of people walking without them. I personally like them as they help save my rickety old knees on the descent.
35. I love taking my clothes in vacuum cubes (the ones that you don’t need a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of). Not only do they compress your bulky sweaters etc. but they also mean you keep your dirty, stinky, clothes as isolated as possible. Trust me, you’ll be grateful for that!
Packing For Everest Base Camp: First Aid
|48||Vicks Vapor Rub||1|
|49||Sunscreen (Factor 50)||1|
|50||Chapstick / Lip Balm||1|
|51||Anti Nausea Medication||1|
|56||Advil Cold and Sinus||1|
|64||Water Purification Tablets or Drops||1|
Some Key Points to Note
45. Let me start with a disclaimer – I am not a doctor and so anything I say or recommend should be taken with a grain of salt and you should consult with a doctor. That said, I opted to take Diamox to avoid altitude sickness and was glad I did. Two members of our 14-strong group decided not to take it and I think they would probably admit that they wished they had. However, taking Diamox does not guarantee that you won’t get altitude sickness….just ask my wife!
67. I appreciate that the first aid kit list looks somewhat long but every single item on the list (except for the sewing kit) ended up being used during our trip. Admittedly it wasn’t all used by us, but sharing is caring, and the others in our group seemed profoundly happy that we had enough drugs to stock a pharmaceutical warehouse.
Packing For Everest Base Camp: Toiletries
|73||Micro Fibre Towel||1|
Some Key Points to Note
69. I don’t really have a lot to say on toiletries expect for advising that you take as many wet wipes as you can carry. Showers on the trail are few and far between. Those teahouses that do have them often serve up freezing cold water. Wet wipes will be your saving grace morning, noon and night!
70. You will need to have your own toilet paper as the teahouses don’t provide it in the toilets. However, you can easily purchase it on the trail so it’s not like you need to cram your bag full of Andrex.
Packing For Everest Base Camp: Sundries
|39||Trailmix and Nuts||1|
|42||Locks for Bags||1|
|43||Spare Shoe Laces||1|
Some Key Points to Note
38. I didn’t take snacks and relied completely on teahouses to provide me with my sweet and salty fix. Snickers bars get more and more expensive the higher you get but they’re worth every penny!
41. A pack of cards is an absolute must. You spend a lot of time in the evenings in the dining halls of tea houses and good old game of cards is a great way to while away the hours and make new friends.
|76||Passport (with Photocopies)||1|
|77||Waterproof Document Pouch||1|
|80||Tickets and Itinerary||1|
|81||Insurance Documents (and Photocopies)||1|
|82||Vouchers and pre-departure information||1|
|83||Required visas or vaccination certificates (required) (With photocopies)||1|
Some Key Points to Note
81. I cannot stress the importance of insurance enough. Not only that, but you need to make sure that it specifically covers you for medical evacuation from the Everest Region by helicopter (many don’t because of the obvious costs involved). I highlight this because we made use of the medical evacuation when my wife came down with a nasty bout of high altitude sickness just after we reached basecamp. One helicopter from Base Camp to Kathmandu, followed by two nights in a Kathmandu private hospital later, I can confirm that our insurance was a godsend and saved me from many nights of crying myself to sleep in the embryonic position because of the financial implications. We personally used World Nomads for our coverage and found everything about the process was made wonderfully simple (although the fact that my wife is an International Expatriate HR Advisor and medivac insurance expert certainly helped!).
77. Make sure all of the documents you carry are in waterproof pouches. I thought mine were until I found out they weren’t (I swear the pouch I have was mis-advertised!). Trying to dry out soggy passports and tickets can be difficult when the temperatures are in the negative digits.
Buying New Gear
Not everyone that attempts Everest Base Camp is a hiking veteran with all of the required gear sitting gathering dust in their wardrobe. In fact, it had been a solid 15 years since my last big ‘hiking expedition’ and I had to make a fair few purchases during the planning phase of our trip (unfortunately, some of that was due to effects of an aging, and ever-expanding, waistline). What I quickly learned was that with a bit of planning, and a couple of days shopping in Kathmandu before the hike (Thamel in particular), you could save huge amounts of money on the essentials with very little loss of quality (as long as you don’t plan on the gear lasting a lifetime and don’t mind a lack of warranty). So here is my advice on what to leave purchasing until you arrive in Kathmandu:
Everything: I’m serious! If you are an extremely brave risk-taker you could buy literally 99% of what you need in Thamel at a fraction of the cost (as long as you are prepared to barter and, on occasion, barter hard). As I mentioned above, don’t expect this stuff to be 100% genuine, and don’t expect an enforceable warranty – but as long as you make the purchases with your eyes wide open then this stuff is an absolute bargain and will definitely see you through the trip; and possibly for a few trips thereafter if you treat it with care.
……Except Boots: Ok, having said ‘everything’ I realize that the one thing you should definitely buy before you leave is your boots. Seriously, make sure you wear your boots in for a solid 3 months before you leave. If there’s one thing that could kill your entire trip it’s the wrong boots. There’s nothing worse than a foot-full of blisters after the first day of hiking followed by two weeks of pure agony! Plus, I found that the savings available on boots in Kathmandu don’t outweigh the risk – even if you don’t plan on wearing them on that specific trip they were still pretty expensive for boots from a ‘dubious’ source.
I think that takes care of everything! If you want a handy copy of the Take Photos Leave Footprints ‘Ultimate Everest Base Camp Packing List’ then CLICK HERE to download a copy. Think I’ve missed something vital off of my list? Then make sure you share your experience in the comments section below!