What do I bring when trekking to Everest Base Camp?
Standing at 8848m, Mount Everest is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from all around the world. It needs no introduction.
The most popular of the treks in the region is to Everest Base Camp (EBC). If you’re after something a bit longer and a lot more challenging, then I would recommend the Three Passes trek. If you’re keen on ticking off some climbs, then Island Peak and Mera Peak are two “trekkable” peaks which only require basic mountaineering skills. There is something for everyone in the Khumbu region!
The main trekking months are March to May and September to November, which are pre and post monsoon season respectively. Trekking in December to February is possible but it is very cold and some of the passes may be closed.
Your first glimpse of the mountains will usually be from the plane from Ramechhap Airport to Lukla. Currently (March 2023) flights from Kathmandu direct to Lukla are not happening during the trekking seasons. Therefore a somewhat arduous 5 hour bus or taxi journey is required to Ramechhap. The upside is that flights out of Ramechhap are more reliable as airlines are not competing for space with international jets like they are at Kathmandu. Lukla Airport is perched on the side of a mountain, with a very, very short runway! Be flexible – flights into and out of Lukla are cancelled due to poor weather conditions. The weather has to be clear for planes to land at Lukla.
The locals believe that the mountains are a sacred place, and when you are there, you can feel why.
To trek in the Khumbu/Everest region, you will require:
- Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance permit which can be purchased at a clearly signed booth just as you leave Lukla. This is currently provided as a digital Trek Card.
- A Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit, which you can get in Kathmandu or Monjo. It is better to get it in Monjo at the park entrance. At Oct 2022 this permit cost 3390 NPR.
Please note; a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management Systems) permit is no longer required for the Everest region. Beware of many unscrupulous operators in Kathmandu who insist you need this pass and will sell you one.
Guides and Porters
The majority of trekkers in Nepal will utilise a guide and/or porter. When organising and booking make sure:
- Your guide is a registered guide.
- Your guide and/or porter have insurance
There are many options to procure a guide. Many travel companies offer fully organised trips in Australia. These are usually run to a high standard and come priced accordingly. It is very easy to arrange a guide in Kathmandu. In fact, if you are carrying a pack at the airport, you would be lucky to get out without offers. There are many operators in Thamel. Of course, the quality can be variable. Fully independent trekking is definitely a viable option in the Khumbu region. All villages have multiple Tea Houses, while tracks are clearly marked and well-trodden.
Tipping is not something Australians are accustomed to, but make sure you tip your guides and porters at the end of your trip as it is custom. You’ll notice how hard they work and how deserving they are of your small contribution.
Tea Houses are local lodges where you will eat and sleep during your trek. This is the most common way that trekkers explore the Himalayas in Nepal. I found Tea House trekking such a luxury as you do not need to pitch a tent, set up a campsite or cook at the end of the day! Tea Houses charge a low fee with the expectation is that you will eat all your meals there. If you wish to eat your meals elsewhere, expect either conflict or an inflated room charge, which is far enough.
I highly recommend pots of the ginger, lemon and honey tea to warm you up. The local specialty of Dal Bhat is great for hungry trekkers as the lentils and rice are usually bottomless! Garlic soup is also popular and quite good – especially if you’re struggling to keep your appetite up in the higher altitudes.
As a trekker, tents, sleeping mats and pillows are not required! You will need to bring a sleeping bag, sleeping sheet and pillow case. The Tea Houses are very simple and not well insulated, so it can get very cold at night, especially in the higher altitudes. During the main trekking months, I would recommend a warm sleeping bag rated to at least -7 degrees celcius. The Tea Houses also provide you with a thick warm blanket but it is not adequate by itself.
Quality sleeping bags are filled with either down or synthetic insulation to keep you warm. A down sleeping bag is preferred as it has superior warmth to weight ratio. Down sleeping bags are lighter, warmer and much more compressible than a synthetic bag.
If size and weight is not an issue then I would recommend the:
For the ultralight enthusiast or those without a porter, I would recommend the:
Consider pairing your sleeping bag with a thermal liner. This will not only increase its warmth, but will help to keep your sleeping bag clean.
High altitude can make you fatigued and disorientated, potentially causing slips and trips whilst walking. I would recommend a pair of waterproof mid to high cut boots that fit well and are worn in. Boots are more supportive and can reduce the risk of rolling your ankle if you do misstep. Goretex boots or boots with a waterproof liner will stop your feet from getting wet from rain and snow, they will also be warmer which is a blessing for those cold mornings.
Pair your choice of footwear with medium or heavy cushioned wool or synthetic socks. Save the heavy cushioned socks for the higher altitudes where it is colder. If your feet tend to get cold then consider layering them with a pair of thermal liners.
I never hike without my Superfeet insoles. They are stiffer and more contoured than the generic foam insoles that come with all shoes. Since I’ve started hiking with them 2 years ago, I personally find they are:
- More supportive
- Better for my feet and legs as they take longer to fatigue whilst hiking
- Better for recovery as the stiffness and soreness after a multiday hike is considerably shorter
I choose the Superfeet Trailblazer for all my hiking boots and shoes and usually replace them after 800 to 1000km of use.
Gaiters are not essential but I do recommend using them. They keep your pants clean, block the wind and add a little warmth on those cold days. My go to for gaiters are the Outdoor Research Crocodile gaiters – they are waterproof, durable and come in a range of funky colours.
Make sure your first aid kit contains products for blisters!
Having a layering system which works for you is very important. Correctly layering your clothes for the conditions will keep you comfortable and protect you from the elements.
Each layer of clothing has a function:
- Base layer: Manages moisture and regulates your temperature.
- Mid and insulating layers: Keeps you warm and insulated from the cold.
- Outer layer: Protects you from the elements like wind, rain and snow.
Your base layer sits next to your skin and should wick sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you dry and comfortable. Stick to merino or synthetic base layers for best performance. Avoid cotton products as they will absorb your sweat and become wet, making you cold and potentially hypothermic in cold and windy conditions.
For the warm and humid low elevation, a lightweight 150 to 200 weight merino or synthetic top will serve you well as a base layer. For cold conditions, your base layer should fit snugly to trap body heat and keep you warm. For walking in the cold, I would recommend the Icebreaker 260 Tech top and leggings as they will keep you warm and regulate your temperature during activity.
If you tend to sweat a lot even in cold conditions then I would recommend synthetic base layers such as the Mont Power Dry. Synthetics will absorb less moisture than merino and this will stop you becoming hypothermic or feeling colder when you stop for rests in cold weather.
This is something you wear on top of your base layer to provide extra warmth. Most mid layers are made of fleece or wool. I would recommend mid layers which have a half or full zip as they will offer more flexibility with your ability to regulate heat. I prefer mid layers without a hood as my outer and/or insulating layer already has a hood. So long as you have a good insulating layer, then I would recommend a mid-weight fleece as they are warm and comfortable to wear, meaning they will be more versatile to use for other trips.
A synthetic or down insulating layer will provide extra warmth at a much higher warmth-to-weight ratio than your mid layer. Down is warmer, more lightweight and more packable than synthetic insulation. The drawback of down is that once it gets damp or wet, it will no longer keep you warm. This is why synthetic insulated jackets are popular for wet and rainy conditions.
I would recommend the Mont Fusion down jacket to keep you toasty warm on the cool evenings and cold summit push. Its box-wall construction and water resistant and windproof Hydronaute XT outer fabric will ensure you stay warm. Although great for the trekkers keeping pack size limited, a light weight down jacket (for example, the Mont Neon), will not be adequate enough at higher altitudes, but can be a worthwile addition if pack weight isn't an issue.
If you prefer a synthetic jacket then the Rab Photon Primaloft is a a quality option. You can expect a similar warmth ratings between down and synthetic jackets.
Your outer layer is usually considered to be your waterproof jacket and pants. It will protect you from the elements and keep you dry. Ensure your outer layer will fit comfortably over your other layers.
The best outer layers will:
- Offer some breathability even though they are waterproof.
- Have taped seams and waterproof zipper systems.
- Be constructed of 3 layers for improved durability.
It is best to try on a range of different outer layers to see what fit, features and design suits you and your needs. A good place to start would be the Rab Arc jacket and Outdoor Research Apollo Pants as they will perform well on Kilimanjaro and other trips.
If you are after something more durable and with a few more features than my outer layers of choice, the Arcteryx AR series and Rab Firewall Rain pants I have personally found these to be durable and comfortable, with all the features I want for my normal hiking and alpine adventures.
In warmer weather in the lower altitudes, you will not need to wear a base layer under your hiking pants. As it gets cooler you may want to layer your pants over your base layer, and for the summit push you will likely layer your waterproof pants over both of them! If you prefer warmer or thicker hiking pants, then I would consider a lined softshell as they will be warmer and provide more weatherproofing than regular hiking pants.
It is a myth that we lose most of our body heat through our heads! Although, our face and head are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, which is why covering them up is so important in cold conditions.
I use a combination of 2 Buffs/Neck Warmers if I want to cover most of my face – one around my neck pulled up to below my eyes, and one around my head pulled down to above my eyes. This way if I need to scratch or get too hot then I can adjust them very easily.
A nice warm Beanie is essential – and make sure it covers your ears! If you are like me and tend to get a hot head but cold ears then consider using ear/head bands such as the Outdoor Research Ear Band which is made of Windstopper material – but don’t forget to pack a beanie as well!
For the EBC trek, most people will need 2 pairs of gloves – a liner glove paired with a more insulated glove. I would recommend a thin and light glove to be your liner glove – as they will be useful in evenings when the temperature drops and for performing intricate tasks such as tying shoe laces. The Rab Silkwarm or Outdoor Research Vigor Lightweight Sensor Glove are some good options to look at.
Your outer glove should be warm and preferably waterproof and should fit comfortably over your liner. For EBC, the Outdoor Reasearch Gripper Glove is a good option as it is made from weather-resistent Windstopper fleece. If you tend to get cold hands or are doing the Three Passes trek then consider a more insulated and waterproof glove such as the Outdoor Research Adrenaline Glove.
Water and Hydration
It is important to stay hydrated when hiking, but especially so when hiking in altitude as you may need to drink more water than usual to stay hydrated. In higher elevations, there is less humidity so the air is drier. This means that moisture will evaporate more quickly from your skin. It is likely you will be breathing faster and deeper than usual as the air is thinner – which means with every breath you are also losing moisture. Many trekkers will take Diamox (acetazolamide) to prevent altitude sickness which also works as a diuretic so you will be peeing more than usual. So staying hydrated is very important!
Most trekking companies will provide you with drinking water for the whole day so make sure you have enough capacity to carry however much water you think you will need. Check with your trek company about how they treat their water.
If you are an independent trekker then most Tea Houses are happy to provide tap water free of charge – but make sure you treat the water! Often you can get boiled water, perhaps for a small fee, so make sure you have a water bottle that can cope with hot boiled water. At higher altitudes get your water sorted out in the evening as taps can freeze overnight.
You can also choose to buy bottled water for your whole trek – please DON’T! There are other options that won’t destroy the beautiful environment.
Read the opinion piece by Bogong owner Neil Blundy about the issue of plastic bottles in Nepal after having trekked there late 2022. Read Plastic Avalanche: Bottled water in Nepal here.
If you plan to use tablets, I would recommend Katadyn Micropur tablets as they kill all microorganisms, including giardia and cryptosporidium and don’t taste terrible.
I had a 3L Source Bladder and a 1L Nalgene Bottle which was more than adequate for my needs. Use a combination that works for you to keep you adequately hydrated. For me, the bladder ensured I stayed hydrated, while the bottle was more convenient in the Tea Houses. On particularly cold nights, I would get my Nalgene filled with hot water to use as a hot water bottle.
Many trekkers also use supplements to replenish electrolytes, calories and to make water more palatable. I would usually use 1 to 2 serves each evening depending on how I felt. There are many options out there – pick one that is agreeable to your palate and your stomach. Here at Bogong we stock Skratch Labs, Tailwind and Chimpanzee nutrition and hydration products.
If you have a porter: who is carrying the bulk of your belongings then I would suggest a day pack around 30L in size. This will comfortably fit your water, snacks, extra clothing layers and first aid kit for the day. Try on a few different day packs with at least 3kg of weight in them to see what is most comfortable for you. Hiking specific day packs are best as they are usually hydration bladder compatible and come with trekking pole holders.
If you are carrying all your own gear: then a 50L hiking pack should fit all of your gear. If your sleeping bag is bulkier or you are bringing a lot of electronics and camera gear then a pack with a larger capacity will be required. Try on a few different hiking packs with at least 8kg of weight in them to see what is most comfortable for you and to compare what features you prefer.
Make sure you bring a fitted pack cover in case the weather turns. Also consider using a pack liner if you are carrying all your own gear - you do not want to get to the Tea House and find that you have a wet sleeping bag!
These are an optional item but I would highly recommend them. High altitude can make you more fatigued and disorientated, potentially making you more prone to slips and trips whilst walking. My poles saved me from falling over a few times. They were also useful as a resting pole when I was exhausted and to help keep balance whist scree-skiing down the mountain. They will be a blessing on your knees and ankles for the long downhill.
If you are trekking as part of a tour group with guides and porters: then a guidebook, map and compass are not necessary. Guides will also carry a first aid kit – but I would still recommend carrying your own first aid kit with all your personal medications and blister kit. Don’t forget your sunscreen, lip balm and hand sanitiser. Make sure you pack this in your day bag as your porters carrying your luggage will speed ahead of you.
If you do not have a guide: and are trekking EBC, a map is not essential but I would still highly recommend carry one. They are great for pouring over in the planning stage and get accustomed to. Bogong sells a range of maps to popular trekking areas in Nepal. Maps will show you elevations and the peaks surrounding you as well as all the towns you can stay in if you have a flexible itinerary. Maps also make great souvenirs. The EBC trail is very clear so a compass would not be necessary.
Three Passes Trek
If you are trekking the Three Passes without a guide then I would definitely carry a map and a global or northern hemisphere compass. We carry the Everest Gokyo Three Passes Map. This is a more challenging trek and the path may not always be clear as there are fewer trekkers that travel this route.
Carry a pair of microspikes such as the Edelrid Spiderpicks. These will come in handy when descending the passes – Kongma La, Cho La and Renjo La, if they are icy and slippery. Many trekkers who did not come prepared with microspikes had to improvise with pieces of rope tied around their shoes or wore socks over their boots to try to get more friction and grip. Others very very slowly crawled down the pass or used their guides as a wall to stop them from slipping down. So if you plan on doing the Three Passes, bring microspikes! You may not need them but if you do, you will feel extremely relieved that you have them. With my trekking poles and microspikes I very easily and quickly stomped my way down the passes with those without microspikes looking on in envy.
I chose to trek the Three Passes as a solo female, without a guide or porter. I met many people along the way and always felt safe in terms of other people. As extra safety precautions: I had preloaded maps, GPS tracks and waypoints loaded onto my phone to be available offline. I also purchased a local sim card in case I needed to use my phone.
Note: It has just been announced by the Nepalese government that solo trekking will no longer be allowed in National parks such as the Sagamartha NP from April 2023. It is unclear how this will be policed.
Rescues in the Everest region due to illness or injury are self-initiated and run by private companies – so travel insurance which covers trekking at altitude is highly recommended! Just about any Tea House can arrange a helicopter evacuation flight and indeed there is a constant parade of choppers ferrying people up and down the Khumbu. Due to this, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is not particularly necessary. I still chose to carry my PLB as I thought it was better than nothing in a desperate situation such as a natural disaster.
I found crossing the Kongma La and Khumbu Glacier was the most challenging part of the Three Passes trek. Route finding was very difficult and there was a lot of scrambling involved – it also did not help that it was lightly snowing which covered tracks of those who have trampled before me. After making it to the tea house a local guide told me that the route across the glacier changes every 2 to 3 months as the glacier is constantly moving so I was very relieved to have made it across by myself in one piece.
Don’t forget to pack your headtorch! My Black Diamond Spot head torch has never let me down and has all the features I need including adjustable brightness, and a night vision red light option. Remember to pack some spare batteries as well.
A powerbank is useful to keep your phone and other electronics charged in the higher altitudes where power points are in high demand. Your charger will require an adaptor such as the Korjo Europe adaptor to work in Nepalese sockets.
Make sure to pack enough toilet paper and hand sanitiser! There are limited showers and no showers the higher up you go so pack some wet wipes if you want to add a sense of decorum to your mountain trip. And for the ladies, time spent in high altitude can affect your menstrual cycle – so come prepared.
High altitude affects everyone in different ways, so make sure to listen to your body and to your guide (if you have one!). Altitude sickness is not to be trifled with. The simple rule is to ascend slowly so your body can acclimatise. Read up about this in detail before you go.
For the Sherpa people, Everest is the “Goddess mother of the world”. The mountain holds a spiritual significance for the Sherpa culture which is reflected in the many monasteries and prayer flags which decorate the area. The Everest region is a beautiful area with breathtaking vistas. Trekking through the area was a journey filled with many highs and lows and definitely an unforgettable experience.
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