So you’ve decided to trek to Everest Base Camp but you’re unsure how to pack light when you know you won’t be able do laundry. Been there! This list is exactly what I took for our 11 day/10 night trek, and notes on what I learned along the way. Though everyone’s needs are different, hopefully this post can help you figure out how best to pack for this once-in-a-lifetime, 70 mile hike at the highest altitude you may ever be.
Shane and I trekked to Everest Base Camp in late September with Mosaic Adventure. Mosaic arranges tours for small groups, with a guide and porters. The porters carry your luggage for you, so you only have to carry a daypack with water and essentials. (If you are planning to trek this path solo, your packing list will undoubtedly need to be adjusted as you will be carrying everything yourself).
Before I start the list, let me make a few important notes on your accommodations and how that may affect your packing list:
Tea Houses On this trek you will be sleeping and eating in tea house lodges. This will easily be the coldest part of your day because there is no heat and the buildings are not insulated. If there is running water at all, it’s freezing. You can buy a liter of hot water in a thermos to wash your hands and face if you wish. The toilets and sinks are shared. If you are traveling as a pair, you’ll share a room but if you’re solo, you’ll probably be placed in a room with another trekker.
Laundry is not really possible on this trek, because there are no electric dryers, and if you have a cloudy day then your clothes are not going to get dry hanging on a clothesline. Only once were we able to wash a few items of clothing, in Dingboche. We stayed there two nights to acclimatize, so we were able to wash clothes as soon as we arrived, and they hung on the line for a day and a half and just barely got dry. We washed them by hand with a bar of soap. The tea house only provided the water and clothesline.
Showers A few of the tea houses will have a hot shower available, usually for about 500 rupees. But you should not count on this being available as some of them use solar power so if you have a cloudy day, there is no hot water. Washing your hair is not a good idea as you may not be able to dry it and it could cause you to catch a cold. Only once did a tea house owner allow members of our group to rent her hair dryer. During our 11 day trek, we were able to take showers 3 times.
Okay, so now that those questions are answered, here’s the list of exactly what I took (and wished I had taken)!
Hiking Clothes and Outerwear
Your boots are going to be the most important piece of gear you take, and you definitely need to start wearing them as you train for the trek so you can get them broken in. I chose a pair that would not typically be considered good mountaineering boots, and was surprised how well they performed. However, I did a lot of hiking in them before we left to make sure they weren’t going to cause me any problems. Dress in layers! At the lower altitudes I was okay in a t-shirt, but was certainly layering a fleece and a down jacket over a t-shirt on the highest days.
2 pair hiking pants I took Dish Denim Performance water resistant pants, but I also like the prAna Halle pant.
2 long sleeve thermal layer shirts Three words: Duckworth Merino Wool.
3 moisture wicking short sleeve shirts Take quick drying performance wear like Vuori, Smartwool or prAna. I took a cotton shirt that never dried after being soaked in sweat at the end of the first day, so I ended up leaving it behind. Don’t take cotton.
Fleece layer I opted out of the bulky fleece and took a half zip Smartwool layer that I could wear over a t-shirt and under my coat.
Down jacket Mine is by Aether but another good choice would be the Patagonia Nano Puff. Important that it folds up small so you can stuff it in your daypack if it gets too warm to wear.
Packable rain jacket I took a cheap brand but this one is a more reliable option that I wish I had taken, because while the rain was not so much a problem, the wind was biting cold.
Hiking boots I chose the Merrell Ashland Vee Boots because they’re lightweight, weatherproof and don’t look like bulky, ugly mountaineering boots, so I can still wear them around town. I was so impressed how well they held up! While the rest of my body was stiff and sore, my feet never ached.
Knee brace If your joints start acting up in cold weather like mine do, you’ll want a knee brace or two. I only took one with me and ended up having to buy a second in Namche Bazaar for my other knee.
Tea House Clothes and Sleepwear
Let me emphasize something for you: hanging out and sleeping in the tea houses are going to be the coldest part of your trek. After a full day of walking, when you’re soaked in cold sweaty clothes, you want to have clean, warm clothes to wear in the tea houses in the evenings. I kept my “clean” tea house clothes separated in my bag from my hiking clothes to keep them smelling fresh. I basically took two tea house outfits: something warm to wear to dinner and hanging out with the other travelers, and something to wear to bed.
1 pair leggings The bamboo Boody brand are the most comfortable leggings I’ve ever had. On the highest altitude days, I also wore these during the day while trekking, under my other pants.
1 pair fleece pants Took my favorite pajama pants from Toad & Co.
2 long sleeve shirts or sweatshirts I took an oversized long sweatshirt that I wore with leggings around the tea house, and another long sleeve shirt for dedicated sleepwear. But I still had to wear my down jacket, hat and scarf in the tea house and wish I had packed warmer clothes to wear in the evenings!
Slip on sandals that you can wear with socks I took my super cheap but reliable Jesus sandals. You definitely need shoes in the tea houses which really don’t get cleaned, and you probably don’t want to keep wearing your boots after a long day, so something you can slip on over thick socks is best. Not flip flops.
Fleece booties Everyone highly recommended buying these certain socks they sell in Namche Bazaar to wear at night, so I did exactly that. They are crocheted booties lined in fleece and they are super warm.
Essentials and Accessories
Sun and wind are more brutal at high altitudes. If you don’t have your ears and neck covered, you WILL catch a cold and get a bad sunburn at the same time, so don’t skip the beanie/scarf/something to warm your head.
Sunglasses I typically don’t like trekking in sunglasses but the sun is so brutal at this altitude, it started giving me eye strain headaches if I didn’t wear them. Shane took a pair of ROAV collapsible sunglasses and he loved them. (Use code PENNYCARAVAN to save $30 on your purchase of ROAV sunglasses!)
Gloves I took some cheap souvenir gloves I got in Peru, but if you don’t have any laying around, these are a good choice.
Cowl/Buff I just took a light scarf and wrapped my head and face like a hijab, but I wish I had taken something a bit warmer. They sell cheap buffs in Kathmandu and Namche Bazaar but I probably should have taken a warm one like this.
7 pair socks 5 hiking socks, plus 2 pair to wear at night. I recommend Smartwool brand.
7 pair underwear I buy the sustainably made bamboo Boody brand.
2 bras Again I recommend Boody brand.
I realize this is a trek but you will be taking photos so you want to look your best! I wore makeup every day on this hike, sorry not sorry. This list isn’t for everyone, but it’s what I took personally.
Dry shampoo I buy this brand, it smells like rosewater and works great.
Sea salt spray I have the frizzy and unruly hair. This spray calms it down and helps define the curls.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Face lotion Dry skin can really take a beating in the cold weather. I’m using Mineral Fusion.
Makeup Mineral Fusion concealer, Zuzu Luxe face powder, mascara, eyeliner, Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm.
Makeup remover pads
Razor In truth, it was too cold to shave. So you could leave this behind.
Soap and washcloth Just took a small hotel soap as we only took showers 3 times!
Shampoo bar Again, it’s a bad idea to wash your hair on this trek because it’s simply too cold to have wet hair. Personally I did not wash my hair at all, just used the dry shampoo listed above. But if you must wash your hair, this brand is a great choice for traveling.
Wet wipes With limited shower availability, you’ll want to have lots of wet wipes at the end of a long day’s hike. Yes, it’s cold, but leaving cold sweat on your body is worse. Also, there is almost never water to wash your hands. We used wet wipes for our hands most of the time.
Hand Sanitizer Again, this is pretty much your only option for hand washing so take plenty.
Feminine products I usually use a Moon cup but the toilets on this trek are not hygienic and it would have been very difficult to use had I needed it. If you will have your period, take disposables. Actually, bodies do strange things at high altitudes, so take some anyway, just in case.
Toilet paper No toilet on this trek will provide toilet paper, and it gets quite expensive to buy the higher up you get. I didn’t pack enough and had to buy a roll in Lobuche, which cost 500 rupees. Take the cardboard roll out of the middle and flatten it down into a ziploc bag so it takes up less space.
Our trek was booked through Mosaic Adventures, who provided a guide and porters. So during the day, we only had to carry a day pack with snacks, camera, toilet paper, and whatever else is needed during the day. The porters carried our luggage to the next tea house for us. They provided a duffel bag so our luggage and extra items that were not going on the trek could stay in the hotel in Kathmandu. Mosaic also provided sleeping bags, and the tea houses provided pillows and blankets, but please note these only get washed once the trekking season is over, so you definitely want a sleeping bag liner with a pillow cover. Don’t skip it.
Daypack You need a small backback to carry during the day. I recommend Osprey.
Raincover I always keep this raincover in my daypack to keep my camera safe if I get caught in a downpour.
Stuff Sacks I always pack my clothes in these packing cubes and for other miscellaneous stuff, I use waterproof stuff sacks.
Dryer Sheets These turned out to be essential! I took a couple of these in a ziploc bag to wipe down smelly clothes that I needed to re-wear, and I also layered them between clothes in my bag to keep things smelling fresh(ish).
Sleeping Bag Liner The Friendly Swede is the sleeping bag liner brand I have. It has a pillow cover too, so I was able to use the pillows provided in the tea houses.
Water You need to carry at least 1.5 litres of water on the trail, and you need to have a water sterilization solution. Some people had the Lifestraw Bottles. Shane used a Sawyer Filter, which is highly rated. Personally I like having a water reservoir when hiking, so I popped some water sterilization tabs into my reservoir and was good to go, though many people don’t like the taste!
Trekking Poles Okay, this is the only thing I’m including in this packing list that I didn’t actually take, but wish I had. I like to have my hands free when I’m trekking, so I didn’t take any, but I desperately needed poles to help me get up the inclines, and then again on the way down, to take some pressure off my knees. Thankfully a companion let me borrow hers, and I really think I would not have made it to the top without them! So if you’re thinking you might need them, take them, or rent some when you get to Kathmandu.
Earplugs For teahouse sleeping, these are essential! The tea houses have no insulation, so you can hear everything and will have a very hard time falling asleep without ear plugs.
Playing Cards For teahouse down time.
Kindle Loaded with books about Nepal, of course.
Packable Duffel Great solution to bring souvenirs home if you’ve already stuffed your bag to the gills before you even arrive! This is the one I have.
Headlamp To use in the tea houses for middle of the night bathroom trips.
Universal Power Adaptor This is the one I have.
Power Bank You have to pay by the hour for electricity usage at the tea houses. I avoided this by charging up my phone with this portable power bank.
Camera I use my iPhone for photos when traveling. Shane uses a Sony A7s. Don’t forget all your chargers.
Medical Kit Your group will have a medical kit, but I always take a few things I know I’ll need. I definitely needed lots of Ibuprofen, chewable Pepto, blister cushions for foot blisters, Neosporin, Immodium, Mucinex, Sudafed, and cough drops!
Diamox for altitude sickness. I bought mine at a pharmacy in Chetrepati Chowk in Kathmandu, for 200 rupees.
Muscle Rub I rubbed tiger balm on my knees every single day. If you know you’ve got a troublesome area, take something like this with you. You can also buy it in Namche Bazaar.
Electrolytes are a necessity to keep you going! I took some Mio water enhancer and emergen-c powder. Electrolytes are so important that even our guide carried some in his medical kit.
Dehydrated Vegetables Your meals on the trek will consist of a lot of rice and pasta, so I took these dehydrated vegetable tablets to drink in my water.
Snacks I loved having my Kind bars and Tanka Buffalo Jerky, gum, mushroom coffee, tea bags, and a bar of my favorite chocolate.
Passport Please don’t forget this.
Visa Photos The Kathmandu airport now has kiosks that take your Visa photo, so you no longer need to bring your own, BUT your trekking company may require two 2″ x 2″ photos.
Cash If you’re with a trekking company, your meals are covered. But if you want to buy drinks at the tea houses, hot water, a shower, electricity usage, wifi, miscellaneous stuff like toilet paper, you’re gonna need cash. Our trekking company recommended taking about $200USD per person and that was pretty spot on. You also need to take enough cash to tip your guide and porters at the end of your trek. Many of them don’t go all the way back to Kathmandu with you, so you can’t wait until then to tip them. You need to tip them on your last night in Lukla before you fly back to Kathmandu. It’s recommended to tip 10% of your trip cost. Give that to your guide and he will divide it up between himself and the porters. We tipped $150 each (so between my husband and myself, $300USD, which was then pooled with everyone else’s tips and divided between the guide and 5 porters).
Overall I was happy with everything I brought. and had no problem getting my luggage under the 15kg weight limit. Let me reiterate the only things I wish I had done differently:
· I wish I had taken more moisture-wicking shirts and less cotton. I remedied this by buying a moisture wicking Sherpa brand shirt in Namche Bazaar and leaving the cotton one behind. (Highly recommend stepping into a Sherpa gear store, either in Kathmandu or in Namche Bazaar. They’re such a cool brand!)
· I only brought one knee brace and ended up having to buy a second one in Namche Bazaar.
· I would not have made it to the top without the trekking poles that my friend so graciously allowed me to borrow. On my next hike, I will definitely be buying or renting some.
· I didn’t take enough toilet paper and tiger balm, but both were readily available to buy along the trail, in tea houses and souvenir stands along the way.
Got questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer!