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Travel Tips: Preparing for a Himalayan trek

Everyone dreams of being in the Himalayas, among the green meadow, snow caps, fir trees and the clean air. While several people get the wish granted in the form of road trips through the highways of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir, Sikkim or Arunachal Pradesh, many of them are not satisfied with experiencing Himalayas through a windshield and the windows of a vehicle or with the limited time in which they get to play in the lap of nature. Thousands of people enroll for treks over the trails of Himalayas every year. While the list of treks is countless, only between 50 – 100 trails are trekked on every year, the majority of them conducted by organisations like YHAI or IndiaHikes. There are independent trekkers who plan their own routes and do not depend on trekking organisations. Regardless of the method you follow, the checklist for what to wear for such treks, what to carry and how to maintain fitness and hygiene do not change.

Here are the broad categories that you should take care of in a Himalayan trek. Consider this to be a checklist of things essential to enjoy a trek safely and in good health.

For your feet

  • Trekking Shoes – with medium to high ankle support. The shoes should be waterproof. Soles made of plastic are a no-no. So are running shoes. Also, do not wear brand new shoes for a trek. Break in the shoes well before the trek to avoid sore feet and blisters.
    Optional – You may consider carrying backup shoes for treks that last more than a week.
  • Cotton Socks – 2/3 pairs spanning full length, ie. upto your shins, not your ankles. Also consider one pair with a gap for your toe. You can wear with this pair in your camp with sandals / slippers.
  • Woollen Socks – 1 or 2 pairs. Woollen socks should ALWAYS be worn on top of cotton socks. Direct contact with skin with cause blisters.
  • Woolen Gloves – 1 – a glove with a flap that can be retracted off the fingers is excellent. We have found it impossible to tie a lace with a regular glove on and in that freezing cold taking the gloves off to tie a shoe lace and putting them back on is just too much work !!
  • Waterproof Gloves – 1 (If trekking in snow)

For your body

  • Dri Fit T Shirts – 2/3
  • Dri Fit Pants – 2/3
  • Rain Coat/Poncho – Preferably one that has a separate upper (with hood) and lower for better movement. Don’t even consider umbrellas.
  • Thermal Wear (Top & Bottom) – 1
  • Windproof Jacket/Wind Cheater – Better if hooded and water resistant
  • Heavy Jacket – 1 – Double layer/Fleece/Synthetic fill/Down feather (If trekking in high Altitude snow areas)
  • Under garments/Inner wear – As required

For your head

  • Sun cap/Wide-brimmed Hat/Bandana – 1
  • Sun Glasses – Polarized/ Anti – Glare – Must when trekking in Snow areas. Those who wear spectacles may wear customized sunglasses.
  • Retainer Strap – This holds the sun glasses in its place and can be very handy in a trek, where the last thing you want to worry is about is your glasses would fall or where you kept them.

Your luggage

  • Rucksack/Back Pack – 45 – 60 L
  • Rucksack cover (Waterproof) – Protects from Rain/Dust/Stain (Esp if the rucksack is yours or if you are carrying fragile electronics in it)
  • Water Bottle or Hydration Bag – 1- 2 L
  • Plastic Covers – 2/3 (To carry wet/soiled clothes)

Staying clean and healthy

  • Lip Balm/Chap Stick – 1
  • Moisturizing Cream/ Body Lotion – 1
  • Sunscreen – SPF 50 or above – Trust us! Despite the cold temperatures, you are directly exposed to the sun and will have a sunburn without a sunscreen. Daytime temperatures can soar to mid-thirties in the summer.
  • Tooth Brush and Tooth Paste – 1 Carry smallest quantity
  • Towel – DriFit Light
  • Soap / Soap Strip – Carry Pocket Size
  • Hand Sanitiser – 1 Small bottle
  • Nail/Tin Cutter – 1 (Have your hand and toe nails neatly clipped. This may cause a problem during climbing or descent if not cut closely)
  • Tissue roll (Toilet) – 1
  • Wet Tissues – 1

Specifically for women

  • Tampons/Sanitary Pads – As required.
    Many Women face early and/or prolonged periods due to the effect of high altitude, so be sufficiently prepared. Do not take any drugs for postponement or pain reduction without doctor consultation. Preferably, use cotton pads that can be disposed without any environment hazards.
  • Sports Bra – Medium Impact – As required.

While camping

  • All-weather Tents (only required if you are going without a trekking organiser)
  • Cooking Utensils & Materials (only required if you are going without a trekking organiser)
  • Mess Tin/Lunch Box – 1
  • Plates – 1
  • Monkey Cap – 1
  • Small LED Torch – 1. Preferably one that straps over your head. This is required for your toilet breaks before or during your sleep.
  • Camp footwear – Floaters or Slip Ons

For sleep

  • Sleeping Bag – 1 (only required if you are going without a trekking organiser)
  • Sleeping Bag Liner – 1 To Maintain hygiene esp in shared/borrowed sleeping bags (only required if you are going without a trekking organiser)

Snacks on the go

  • Chocolate bars/energy/nutri bars
  • ORS/Glucon C/D/Gatorade sachet
  • Dates/Walnuts/Almond/Raisins
  • Toffees

Mending and healing

  • Needle and thread – To take care of any emergency wear and tear
  • Personal first-aid kit – Anti septic cream, Betadine/Dettol/Savlon, Band aid, cotton, crepe bandage, safety pin, scissors etc.
  • Medicines
    • General medicines comprising of headache, fever, vomiting, stomach upset and pain killer (Volini gel/spray)
    • Anti Diarrhoearal
    • Antibiotics – ( choose broad spectrum antibiotics for treating a variety of infections – carry a course of each)
    • Mild analgesics – (Aspirin/Paracetamol etc but DONOT take Codeine based painkillers).
    • Strong analgesics ( Co-Proxamol/Ponstan/Temgesic, use with care).
    • Anti-inflammatory (Nurofen or diclofenac sodium)
    • Diamox – This helps in acclimatization (a proper dosage is must if taken. Drink lot of water as this is a diuretic drug.
    • Anti – Fungal Powder for your legs

Body reacts a lot different at high altitudes, so do not overuse any drugs and always check with your doctor and your personal medical history before consuming any drugs.

Other gear you may use (if space permits)

  • Daypack/Knap sack – Easier to carry Camera, Snacks, Water and any other essentials required on the way. Provides an option to offload rucksacks with porters or mules if and when required.
  • Walking Sticks/Trekking Poles – Good to have, reduces the pressure on knees and gives balance specially while descending.
  • Knee Cap – 1 Pair – If you have knee injuries/problems
  • Face Mask – 1 Many advanced mountaineers use this to avoid exposure to the harsh skin.
  • Bungee Cord – 1 It helps to tie things with a mule or provides required support anywhere.
  • Rope
  • Writing Items – Pen and Paper
  • Camera – Not all of its magnificent beauty can be captured, but what can be captured itself is rather breath taking.
  • Rubber Bands – 12 (Binds loose things in neat and compact ways)

This post also appears in Priya’s own travel blog: The Indian Adventure. The above checklist of essentials can be downloaded as a PDF from this link: Packing for a trek – checklist