I felt super unprepared when I set off for Nepal, to hike to Everest base camp. There’s a few things I did well, and a few things I wish I’d known. I would love to help you not make my mistakes, and pack like a pro!
Firstly, and most importantly for altitude: water.
At higher altitudes, your heart rate increases, you need to clear more CO2, and to do this your body needs water. At least four litres a day. I bought chlorine tablets to use, and was one of the only people who didn’t get sick. Threw a couple of these in my budget version of a Camelbak and I was good to go. The Camelbak was worth every penny. Being able to drink constantly meant I stayed more hydrated than if I’d had to stop and pull out a drink bottle on the regular. A drink bottle is also handy. I got one with a filter, which came in handy when the water had things swimming in it. If I did it all again, I’d buy a Lifestraw one. No purification needed – just suck and go. Too easy. Whatever you do, don’t buy bottled water. I passed a man carrying a stack of bottles three times his size down the mountains. Totally not necessary people!
Keeping your stuff dry:
You can buy dry bags which roll up, sealing off your clothes. I had two which made it easier to pack my things and keep them organised. I also had a bag cover, which luckily I only needed once. I’m sure I would have been more grateful for it if it poured the whole time.
In hindsight, I probably should have got waterproof walking shoes. But my pink Nikes did the trick. Whatever you do, don’t buy new ones on your way to the airport. An extra pair of shoes for night time is good too, when you can’t handle making eye contact with your hiking footwear.
Yes, Donkey was onto something. Hikers need layers too. Chances are you’ll get hot during the day, but you’ll want to have lightweight clothes that will keep you warm when the sun runs away. I also rented a down jacket in Kathmandu to save on luggage space. Thermals are also key.
A decent sleeping bag:
If you’re getting up above 4000 metres, the snow will hang around most of the year, and accommodation will be basic. I rented a down sleeping bag, so I didn’t have to drag one around the world. I’m normally a boiling sleeper, and still wasn’t overly warm most nights, so I wouldn’t recommend anything less than this.
I imagine other hikes like Kilimanjaro are similar – the food gets pretty bland pretty quick! Most stop points will feed you plenty of carbs and not a lot else. If you have any room for dried fruit or nuts, you’ll be happy you did. I took some chocolate, but they do sell it along the way. Best to take food you aren’t likely to find in the mountains.
After a few days of no showers, you’ll really begin to see why these come in handy. Your fellow travellers will probably be more grateful that you used this advice than you are.
As you hit higher altitudes, you get more sunburnt. My ridiculous sunglasstan lines were proof of this. Even if your skin is normally pretty tough, you’ll need to apply it every hour or two.
Last, but definitely not least: take out almost everything.
Those ten tshirts you plan on changing daily? Take three, max. (See last bit re no showers, you’ll all stink anyway). Makeup? Forget it. I took dry shampoo as a hair-washing alternative. Never used it and it exploded in my bag. White powder errywhere. Any kind of appliances? Chances of you finding a plug are just above zero. Leave as much as you can behind. Either you or your porter will be lugging your stuff. And you’ll hate yourself, or feel guilty every morning as you pass them your life in a bag. If you’re still thinking you need it all because you’re headed off elsewhere after, most hotels will store stuff for you.
Hopefully this sheds some light, but if anything still isn’t clear, get in touch and I can shed some more light! If you’d like some tips on physically preparing, check this out. You want it to be the best trip ever, so be prepared and make it happen!