What exactly does one need to pack when scaling the dizzy heights of Everest, Mount McKinley or Kilimanjaro? We get an experienced Sherpa to run through the basic essentials, after years of experience leading groups on trekking expeditions;
Hiking Boots – The most obvious and most essential bit of kit by far is good quality, lightweight walking boots that are up to the job. And if they’re a new purchase, make sure you wear them in first to avoid blisters – only amateurs rock up with brand new unworn boots! Also bring a pair of spare laces.
Trainers/Sneakers – Also bring along a worn-in pair of comfortable trainers to wear around camp at night or when your boots are wet through.
Jacket – A good quality jacket is absolutely essential and both fibre and down filled jackets are fine. If your expedition is during the harshest winter period make sure it’s up to the job. And if you’re trekking in spring, summer or autumn, opt for a 3 in 1 type jacket which you can layer up or down as the weather demands. And this is one instance where the spec really matters; opt for a hood, breathable fabric and also waterproofing.
Vests, Shirts and Sweaters – Thermal vests, heavyweight shirts and thick wool sweaters form the base of every professional climber’s kit. Especially during the winter months when clothing makes the difference, it’s essential to layer up to trap precious warmth and during the summer months, to avoid sunburn. Thermal underwear is also ideal to sleep in.
Trekking Trousers/Pants – Pack two pairs of trousers designed specifically for trekking: one pair should be lightweight and one should be a more heavyweight material. Jeans are not suitable to wear on treks. Trekking pants are made with breathable fabric, which will also repel water and the sun, with a multitude of pockets and useful sections. Heavyweight trousers really come into their own at night and also first thing in the morning. And if you plan on hiking over 10,000 feet, waterproof and windproof heavyweight trousers are an absolute must.
Tracksuit – Pack a cotton tracksuit which is useful for wearing both in camp and also in your tent, again to layer up, depending on the local weather conditions. During the warmer months you should also pack a pair of leisure shorts.
Sleeping Bag – A decent sleeping bag is an absolute must. Whether it’s synthetic or down, it must be a four season sleeping bag. Added features should include a sculpted hood, shaped foot area and insulated collar to really keep you warm and keep draughts out. A liner will also help to keep your sleeping bag clean. You can rent most items of hiking equipment in your destination, but this is one item that will stand you in good stead for many years. Plus, you know who’d been in it before!
Sun Hat, Sun Block and Lip Salve – If you only pack three toiletry items for your trek, make sure you include a high factor suncream (preferable sunblock) with both UVA and UVB protection. A sports suncream has the added benefit of being sweat and waterproof. Second up is a sunhat, and if you have fair skin or burn easily, a legionnaire style hat is recommend – the extra flap on the back protects the neck against sunburn. And third is tubes of lip salve, again with a high SPF. I’d recommend taking several along; one for every pocket, plus you always lose these along the way.
First Aid Kit – Packing a capsule fit aid kit for personal use is highly recommended. Just packing a few plasters, blister relief kit, anti-diarrhoea medicine and some painkillers could really come in handy.
Accessories – And finally, pay attention to the smaller clothing items that make up your backpack – every inch counts. Decent gloves, socks and underwear all need careful consideration. Pack a pair of leather gloves with a wool lining. Take along thick wool or thermal socks, which are designed for walking. These will have enforced toes and heels. And again, sounds obvious, but try your socks on with your boots to ensure a good fit. Also bring along standard underwear and a swimming costume to bathe in. And last up is a sturdy pair of walking sandals for those cultural stops and city trips.