Going for a Himalayan trek? Great! Is it your 1st trek? Awesome. You are in the right place. In this article you will read about trekking gears that comprises the most significant component of a trekker after being physically and mentally acceptable for the trek. This is a comprehensive beginners guide to Himalayan trekking. During a hike, trekking gears are the equipment’s essential for a trekker. Several lightweight materials are available in the market to choose from. However, most of the trekking gears except the garments are available on rent from different organizations, but I personally prefer purchasing the gears rather than renting.
Table of contents- How to prepare for Himalayan trek
- Clothes essential for Himalayan treks
- Footwear suitable for treks in the Indian Himalayas
- Necessary equipment’s while on the trek
- Sleeping materials required in Himalayan treks
- Medicines to be carried on a High-altitude Himalayan trek
Because you will be carrying your own backpack containing all equipment’s, the lighter the materials, greater is the comfort for you on the slope.
The weight of the backpack with all gears should ideally range between 9 Kg to 10 Kg
All the gears listed in beginners guide to himalayan trekking are on the perspective of any winter trek or any moderate to difficult and difficult treks in the Indian Himalayas.
Beginners guide to Himalayan Trekking- The right clothes for treks
The requirement of garments can be divided into the following segments-
- Essential clothes for your head
- Clothes for your body and
- Essential clothes for your palm & foot
Clothes for your Head
The base camps of most of the moderate to difficult treks and some difficult treks lay at an altitude ranging between 6000 feet to 8000 feet. Many treks have their base camps at altitudes greater than 8000 feet too. These are itself high altitudes where the day temperature during summer remains below 10 degree centigrade and during night or in other seasons, you can expect the temperatures close to zero degree centigrade or negative. The higher you ascend the temperature decreases with strong cold winds blowing all the time.
In the base camps and in the trails, it is extremely important to cover your head and ears to avoid the loss of heat from the top of your head. During the day, when you are trekking, your body remains warm and you do not need to cover your head. However, after a days long hike, in the second half, covering your head and ears becomes especially important.
The clothes required for covering your head for a successful trek ahead in the Himalayas are:
- Fleece Balaclava
- Woolen/Fleece mufflers
- Warm ear cover
Balaclava and the warm mufflers made of fleece, plays a dual role in covering your neck and hence you will not require any neck cover. Fleece materials are light weight and easy to carry in a trek. Apart from these, you also require a cap to protect your head from the sun while hiking.
Clothes for your Body
Never use cotton wear on a trek as they absorb the sweat and becomes heavy. They also absorbs a lot of body heat and make you cold and uncomfortable. Always carry and wear tee shirts made of synthetic materials. Synthetic materials are light weight and quick dry in nature. They reduce the heat loss from your body.
The below requirements are ideal for treks up to 8 to 10 days in duration. For treks of higher duration, increase the number of tee shirts and pants. Rest all will remain the same.
List of Garments- Beginners guide to Himalayan Trekking
- 4 pieces of full sleeve tee shirts with collar including one thermal wear.
- A fleece jacket / light weight woollen sweater
- A light weight down jacket what can resist temperature up to negative 10 to negative 15 degree centigrade. For treks like Chadar & EBC, the down jacket should be of far better quality to resist temperatures up to (–)30 degree centigrade.
- 2 numbers of quick dry pants
- 1 thermal pant to wear under the quick dry pant.
- 3 to 4 numbers of innerwear.
- One raincoat / poncho
We can not resist cold by wearing a thick jacket, but by wearing clothes in layers.
4 layers of tee shirts over which a fleece jacket will make you comfortable even in negative 15 degree Celsius.
Quick Dry Materials recommended
On a trek, many times you need to cross streams or may have to walk on snow. Therefore, clothes made of quick dry materials are needed so that they dry up quickly in case they become wet.
When you start from a camp, you feel cold and wear all 4 layers with the fleece and the down jacket depending on the altitude. But, gradually, you will start feeling warm and tend to reduce the layers. However, always keep wearing at least 2 layers to avoid cold entering your body. One layer of quick dry pant is enough. However, at night, in the camps, the warm inner thermal pant will be required. In higher altitudes, wearing the thermal pant below the quick dry pant while hiking will make you comfortable.
There is no option of taking a shower on the trail. Therefore, changing of cloths are not necessary. As per my experience, the bottom 3 layers always remain on the body till you complete the trek and come back to the base camp.
Between a poncho and raincoat, I prefer poncho as it covers the entire body with the backpack on your back. Ponchos are absolute necessary as weather in the mountains are very unpredictable and can rain/snow anytime without any prior indication.
Clothes for your palm and foot
- 1 pair of fleece gloves
- 1 pair of good warm waterproof gloves to be worn over the fleece gloves
- 2 pairs of good warm socks
- 1 pair of knee length woolen socks
Woollen socks are required every night when you sleep. On the summit day, you will require to wear 2 layers of gloves and 2 layers of socks.
Footwear suitable for treks in the Indian Himalayas
The trekking shoe play an important role in successful completion of the treks. Meanwhile, the following features are important in a trekking shoe.
- Ankle high with excellent grips
- Water and snow repellant/ proof
- The shoe should be manufactured for high altitude treks and not for normal hiking
Ankle high shoes with proper grips are a must as they will protect your feet from sprains in rough trails.
Other necessary equipment’s required for treks in the Indian Himalayas
There are certain other equipment’s that are important during treks in the Indian Himalayas.
- Cat-4 sunglass
- Gaiter (Required for winter treks on snow and high-altitude treks above 14,000 feet)
- Head lamp
- Trekking pole
- Camera with extra batteries
- Water bottles & thermos flask (optional)
- One quick dry face towel
Sunglasses are mandatory when you are trekking in high altitudes and in the snow. The sun rays are stronger in the mountains with chances of UV rays damaging your eyes. Category-4 sunglass will come to your rescue in the high altitudes.
Dark brown and grey glasses with polarized lenses are best to use in the high altitudes while trekking. Moreover, ensure that the glass fits on your face properly covering the complete eyes without any space for the biting cold air to flow into your eyes. UV rays are responsible for cataract formation and causes damage in the retina. This can lead you to trouble in the long run if not immediately. Hence, wearing a good quality Cat-4 sunglass while trekking in the high altitudes specially on snow is essentially important. –Dr. Aniruddha Maity, FICO MRCSEd (Ophth).
Dr. Maity is an eye surgeon by profession and a seasoned trekker by passion.
Gaiter and Head Lamp
Gaiter is a water repellent garment worn over the shoe and below the knee on both the legs. It prevents snow from entering your shoe and keeps the lower portion of your pant safe from being drenched in snow. If you are using waterproof pants, that can cover shoe gaps near your ankle, gaiter will not be required.
Head lamps are preferred to handheld torches. In extreme cold temperature, holding a torch is exceedingly difficult. On the slope, head lamps and torches are the only source of light. On a summit day, normally the trek starts early in the morning around 2:30 am and head lamps show you the path.
Trekking pole, Backpack & water bottles
The trekking pole acts as a 3rd leg and helps in balancing the body on the slope. I will recommend 2 trekking poles one in each hand for difficult treks. For the other treks, one pole will suffice. Your hike will become more comfortable when you use the trekking poles specially during descend.
All the above gears including the camera, except for the trekking pole should fit inside a backpack. 60 litre will be the ideal size of your backpack for any treks up to 12 days. The backpack should be water resistant or else water repellent with a cover.
One small backpack(20 Litre) called the day pack will be needed on the summit day to carry your medicines and water bottle to the peak. On the summit day, we trek to the peak from the camp and descend to the camp the same day. The heavy backpack can be kept in the camp and need not be carried to the peak.
2 water bottles of one litre each is mandatory for any trek. Water is life in the mountains. Sipping water frequently helps the body remain hydrated. One thermos flask of 1 litre (optional) may help you during night.
Sleeping gears required in Himalayan treks
Tents/camps are the only means of accommodation in most of the treks. Sometimes the tents are set up inside the jungle, may be by removing the snow in many places or even on the rocks. A sleeping mat and a good quality sleeping bag with an inner lining is required in all cases.
If you trek with any professional organization, tents, sleeping bags and mats are provided by the organizers. You reach any camp site on the trail and you will find the beautiful colored tents set up for you and the team. Normally, 2 people are accommodated in one tent. With IndiaHikes, they accommodated 3 people in one tent during one of my treks.
I normally slip into the sleeping bag with 2 layers on my body, woolen socks, and balaclava. On the slope, in high altitudes, do not expect a sound sleep. The low air pressure will disrupt your sleep with a tendency of loo frequently.
List of medicines to be carried on a High-altitude Himalayan trek
The following types of medicines you should carry for any emergency:
- Medicine for acclimatization- Diamox
- Medicine for fever
- Tablet for indigestion
- Medicine for diarrhea
- Tablet for allergy
- Medicine to stop vomiting tendency
- Tablet for headache
- Strong Painkiller
- Medicine for Gas/Acidity
- Band aid
- Antibacterial ointment
- Kneecap/ crepe bandage
- Sunscreen lotion- SPF 40 or above
- Hand sanitizer
You are required to carry all these medicines irrespective of whether you need them or not. Diamox should be taken only if you are on a moderate to difficult or a difficult trek based on the advice of the trek leader. If you are on any medication, consult your doctor before consuming any of these medicines.
The sunscreen lotion should be SPF-40 or above. These have good UV protection formula and should be used every 45 min while hiking. Apply the lotion in all exposed parts of the body including your face, neck, palms & wrist.
Caution: Your blood pressure should be normal (120/80) at the base camp from where you start the trek. If your blood pressure is high, you may be barred from the trek.
During every trek of mine, I measured a high BP because of long travel from the nearest city/airport to the base camp. Each time I had to explain the trek leader that I am not prone to high BP nor do I take any medicine for the same. Luckily, I was never barred from any treks.
Checklist for himalayan trek
|5||Full sleeve Tee Shirt with collar||4||Synthetic Material|
|6||Fleece Jacket/Woolen Sweater||1||Fleece|
|7||Down Jacket||1||Light weight|
|8||Quick Dry Pants||2||As available in the store|
|11||Raincoat / Poncho||1||-Do-|
|13||Warm waterproof Gloves||1||As available in the store|
|14||Warm socks||2||Merino wool|
|15||Long Woolen Socks||1||Wool|
|16||Ankle high trekking shoe||1||As available in the store|
|20||Trekking pole||1 /2||Good quality|
|21||Backpack||1||60 Litre minimum|
|22||Day Pack||1||20 litre|
|23||Water Bottles||2||1 litre each|
|24||Thermos Flask (Optional)||1||1 litre|
|25||Quick Dry face towel||1||As available in the store|
|26||Camera batteries||2||As per camera|
|27||Medicines||As per list||As specified|
|28||Dry fruits||As per requirement||As required|
Also read Trekking in India for beginners, which is the second part of beginners guide to himalayan trekking.
Hope you enjoyed reading my atricle. Stay safe and keep yourself fit. Dont forget to refer to Beginners Guide to Himalayan Trekking for a quick reference to the trekking gears.