In just a few hours, I'm going to be boarding a plane and heading to Nepal for a month..! Time has absolutely flown by, but I couldn't be more excited to be within the mountains so soon. After an exceptionally busy week, I finally managed to pack my rucksack over the last couple of days and have written this packing list so you can get an idea of what I'm taking on my travels. I've been very lucky to have the support of Rab on some essential items (down jackets and sleeping bag), while those final few bits and bobs all came from Ellis Brigham. I don't believe that you need a whole set of shiny, new gear for a trip like this - you'll be surprised to see what you already have that will work! While some items are worth investing money in, travelling doesn't need to break the bank. This list contains a mixture of items I've had for years and years, and those that I've recently acquired for past, present and future backpacking trips.
Just to give you a quick recap, my two sisters and I are trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal which is around 130 miles and should take between 10 and 16 days. We will be staying in teahouses enroute, which means we don't need to carry a tent or cooking equipment, and our highest point is Thorong La pass at 5,400m. The lowest temperature may be around -10 degrees celsius, while the warmest will be around 15 degrees celsius. You can see that that makes packing slightly more difficult, as we'll need to be prepared for both warm and cold climates, while also ensuring our backpacks are manageable to carry over the pass and on the trek for around two weeks.
Now you've probably already read my Planning & Preparation post, and maybe you're thinking of booking your own trip to the Himalayas...?! Or perhaps you're just curious as to what gear you need for this kind of trip. I've read a lot of different packing lists and guides - and along with the advice of friends who have been to Nepal before, and my own experiences of multi-day hiking - I have now organised exactly what I'll be trekking with in Nepal.
I've split this packing list into sections (trekking, resting/sleeping, toiletries/first aid, camera gear) that should make it more coherent, and I will also go into more detail on certain products that I did a lot of research on and would personally recommend. Please use this list as a guide for your own trip, or feel free to leave any comments with any pieces of gear you think are essential or I've missed out!
Rucksack - Lowe Alpine Women's Manaslu 55:65
I've always been a fan of Lowe Alpine, having used their rucksacks on every long backpacking trip I've done. The rucksack I had was a little small, so when I decided that I wanted a bigger rucksack, Lowe Alpine was my first choice. The Manaslu backpack is described by the brand as their 'go to' rucksack, i.e. it is versatile and perfect for multi-use. I knew I'd want to keep it for years and years, not knowing what adventures it would go on, so this seemed like the ideal choice. I was also super impressed by the women's specific back design and loved the bright blue colour that is colourful but not too girly.
The backpack has an amazing Axiom back system that allows you to adjust the back-length, while the hip belt feels both comfortable and secure and features handy pockets for storing essentials like your phone and snacks. The back fabric is made from ventilated spacer mesh, which is ideal for trekking in warmer climates (which we will encounter at low-level), while the rest of the backpack uses ripstop fabric and can be covered with a waterproof rain cover if bad weather rolls in. Probably my personal favourite thing about the Manaslu is the fact that it opens both from the top with a roll-top, and from the front with a zip - meaning you can easily access items that were stashed at the bottom of your pack. There is also a mesh pocket on the front of the pack which is ideal for a camel-pak water system, map or other items you want to use while hiking.
Having used the Manaslu on the West Highland Way in October, in my opinion this is an amazing backpack that has been designed with every detail in mind. I did have some issues with back pain, however this was mostly due to not being used to carrying a heavy load, and since that trip I have been taught how to ensure the backpack sits right. I love the design, all the pockets and the bright colour and there was no question that this would be my trekking backpack on the Annapurna Circuit!
Fitting your backpack: when fitting your pack, make sure that the hip-belt sits directly on your hip bone, with the top of the strap in line with the top of your hip bone. Use the main straps to pull the backpack close to you, and adjust the back-length accordingly if the hip-belt rises. The final thing is to pull the top shoulder straps to ensure there is minimal space between your back, shoulders and the pack. If fitted properly, the only space there may be will be in the centre of the back. Go to your local outdoor store to get your backpack fitted properly before a big trip!
Boots - Berghaus Hiking Boots
I got my Berghaus hiking boots back in my second year of university, and five years later I am still using them and am reluctant to get a new pair due to their comfort and durability. I'm not going to go into detail about these boots, what I will say is that make sure the boots you use for trekking have been suitably broken in (I'd recommend at least 3 months use beforehand). You don't need any rated mountaineering boots for the Annapurna Circuit, just a solid pair of hiking boots that are comfortable and durable. Mine are also Gore-Tex so hold the rain off for a considerable amount of time, which is always an added bonus!
Socks - 2 x Stance Hiking Socks, 1 x RMBLR Sock
Over what could be 2 weeks on the Annapurna Circuit, I'm taking three pairs of socks for hiking that have been tried and tested beforehand. Socks are really important for trekking; to keep your feet warm and comfortable. Sometimes you may think it is your boots causing blisters and pain, but actually your socks are just as important for looking after your feet. I love the snug fit of Stance's hiking socks and find them extremely comfortable over long distances. They are, however, quite thin so I'm also bringing my favourite pair of RMBLR Kinder Socks for when the weather gets colder higher up. All these socks are made from wool so will smell less over the two-week period. I will dry my socks out every evening at the teahouse and use a fresh pair each day.
Underwear - 4 x Quick-Dry Pants, 2 x Nike Sports Bra
All with a quick-drying fabric. I will rinse my pants every night, dry them out and put on a fresh pair each day. Staying sanitary and clean with your underwear is essential on a multi-day trek.
2 x Walking Trousers
I have a pair of North Face hiking trousers that I've had for years and a pair from Mountain Warehouse, which my mum gave me. Both are light fabric, semi-waterproof, quick-drying and also either roll-up or zip-off for the warmer days. Neither pair are super technical or expensive, but have been used before for long treks and are trousers I am comfortable with. I will alternate the trousers each day.
2 x Quick-Dry T-Shirts
I have two quick-drying t-shirts that I will alternate each day. Again, both I have had for years from my university rowing days and are making a come-back for this trip...
2 x Long-Sleeve Thermals
I have aways used Helly Hansens on long adventure trips. They are a quick-drying and warm extra layer when hiking. Their only downside in that they do start smelling really quickly, so I'd recommend airing them out each night and maybe giving them a rinse if you can! The purple Helly Hansen (pictured top left) came with me around New Zealand and on the West Highland Way - I'm secretly hoping it becomes an item I take on every adventure trip!
Thermal Leggings - Heat Holders
I'll put these underneath my walking trousers if it gets cold. Mine are a pair of Heat Holders that I've had for years and love as they are snug-fitting (almost like tights) and keep my legs super warm. Patagonia also do great thermal leggings, as do Icebreaker.
Fleece - Patagonia R2
Patagonia have an excellent range of technical fleeces, with R1, R2 and R3 fleeces to choose from. They range from the most warm R3 fleece, to a fleece more ideal for summer layering with the R1 fleece. I went for the versatile R2 fleece, which is great for all times of year - as a warm layer in the summer, or as a mid-layer when it's cold. The fleece is full-zip, has excellent wicking properties, is breathable and packs down well. It's much more light-weight than anything I've used before, so I'm looking forward to having it stuffed in my backpack and bringing it out when it gets chilly!
Buff - North Face Wool Buff
I almost always wear or carry a buff when hiking, as if it gets windy your neck and face can get really cold! Mine is a North Face buff with fleece on the inside and wool outside. It has a draw-string toggle to tighten to your face.
Gloves - Hestra Three-Finger
I get REALLY cold hands and have recently started getting Raynaud's in my fingers. As a result, I decided to invest in a fairly pricey pair of Hestra gloves from Ellis Brigham - but have no regrets whatsoever! I went for a three-finger pair, so my thumb and index-finger have their own pockets and my other three fingers are grouped together. I think this will keep them warmer, while having my thumb and index finger separate means I can still do things like take photos, open zips etc.
Headband - FINDRA Merino Wool Headband
Something to keep my head warm when my hair is tied up! I'm obsessed with FINDRA products and this headband has a beautiful cable-knit pattern that I adore.
Waterproof/Windproof Coat & Trousers - Columbia Outdry Coat, Trespass Trousers
I was at first undecided as to whether to bring waterproofs, but in the end decided to bring both just in case! I went for my Columbia Outdry coat as I have complete faith in it's ability to keep me dry, and though it doesn't pack down small, I think it's worth the extra space. I've written about the Columbia Outdry here so check it out to find out more. I also find it really handy for keeping my camera dry. My waterproof trousers are, again, a pair from Trespass that I've had for years - they're a little old and tired but still do the job!
Sunglasses - Oakley Cycling Sunglasses
I initially didn't think of bringing sunglasses, but was recommended to bring them by people who've been to Nepal before. The reflection of the sun on snow is really bright and can seriously damage your eyes, so sunglasses are actually an essential item. I'm using a pair of Oakley cycling sunglasses that wrap around my face for full protection and won't fall of my head or face when trekking.
Down Jacket - Rab Electron Jacket
A down jacket is an essential item when trekking in the Himalayas. Our coldest temperature may be around -10 degrees celsius, so I wanted something that would keep me warm at that temperature and that would pack down small into my rucksack when I'm not using it. The Rab Women's Electron jacket is a great choice, as a mid-weight, technical down jacket that can be used all year round. The jacket uses 800-fill Goose Down which is an incredibly high-quality down, and packs down into a small stuff-sack. I'm going to do a full review on this coat as I already love it and think it's a great option for anyone looking for a down jacket!
Sleeping Bag - Rab Mythic 600
A sleeping bag is another essential item for heading into the mountains, worth investing that little bit extra into. When choosing a sleeping bag, you need to think about the lowest temperature you will be sleeping in, how heavy the bag is (as you'll be carrying it on your back), and how small it packs down. I'm a big fan of Rab; the Sheffield-based brand have an incredibly high attention to detail when it comes to their products, and so I knew a Rab sleeping bag would be ideal for this trip. The Mythic 600 is new this season, not yet available online but is already in some stockists around the country. Made from 900-fill goose down, this is the highest quality down I've ever used, while being super light-weight at 885g. Having gotten used to getting little to no sleep when camping in cold temperatures, this will also be the warmest sleeping bag I've ever used with a comfort rating of -5 degrees celsius and extreme rating of -32 degrees celsius. Safe to say that I already can't wait to test this sleeping bag out on my first night on the trek. As with the jacket, I'l be doing a full review of the sleeping bag in case it's of interest to anyone!
'Pyjamas' - FINDRA Merino Long-Sleeve Top, Kathmandu Leggings
To sleep in, I'll be putting on a complete set of dry thermals. I adore my FINDRA Merino long-sleeve (find out more here) - it's incredibly warm, comfortable and designed not to be washed for days on the trails. I'll also be wearing some Kathmandu wool leggings that I got in New Zealand. If it's cold, I'll also sleep in my fleece.
Socks - RMBLR Peveril Socks
I love having a pair of fresh, dry socks to put on at the end of the day, so I'll be keeping my favourite RMBLR Peveril socks for the teahouses. These have a double-faced outer so are extremely warm, snug-fitting and cosy.
Hat - RMBLR Shining Beanie
The RMBLR Shining beanie is my current go-to woolly hat, so I've decided to take it to Nepal with me. Though it doesn't pack small, the hat is so cosy on my head and will probably be the first thing I put on when I get to the teahouses after a long day of trekking.
Sandals - Teva Original Universal Puff
I'd been after a pair of Teva sandals for a while, not just for this trip, but as a light-weight, easy-packing sandal to take on future hiking and backpacking trips. I saw these in the sale for just £27 so decided I had to get them for Nepal. These will be to wear around the teahouse with a pair of cosy socks underneath, and also to wear in Kathmandu and Pokhara before the trek.
Head Torch - Petzl Actik Headtorch
The Petzl Actik headtorch from Ellis Brigham offer 300 lumens of brightness and has various light modes and patterns. Something that appealed to me was the fact that you can either use conventional AAA batteries or a Petzl rechargeable battery with the head-torch; great not only for this trip, but for future camping and backpacking trips.
Mini hairbrush and hair-ties
Female sanitary products
Map & Compass
Book - I'm going to be reading 'Annapurna' by Maurice Herzog
Pocket knife - something I always carry, just in case.
Spare batteries (for head-torch)
Power pack - I've used this since cycle-touring in NZ; it's 20,000mAh and should last up to a week!
Duct tape - an essential on any trip!
Dry bags - I have a couple of Sea to Summit bags and a more expensive Event Drysack that compresses out air. I also have a mini dry-bag for toiletries from Pannier CC.
Notebook & pen
Playing cards - for the nights in the teahouses without wifi
Small lock - to keep valuable safe if ever we need to leave our packs
Camera - Canon 6D
I got my Canon less than a year ago but absolutely love it. Though it's not exactly lightweight, it's worth bringing on a trip like this where the photo opportunities are going to be endless. The 6D is a full-frame camera, often considered a cheaper version of the 5D which is popular with professional photographers. From my personal experience, the camera is easy to use and takes great photos. To store the camera, I'm planning on simply wrapping it in a beanie and putting it in a dry-sack... Most of the time it will be strapped around my neck anyway!
Lenses - 24-70mm, 4.0 and 50mm, 1.4
The 24-70mm is a great landscape lens and will probably be the one that stays in my camera for most of the day. However, I also love the 50mm as the aperture goes down to 1.4 so you can use it for portraits, product photography and more lifestyle shots. It's also much smaller and nice to have on the camera to make it feel more compact and lighter.
Memory Cards - 3 x SanDisk Extreme 32GB
Hopefully this will be enough for all the photo opportunities...
My battery can last up to 6 days, so I'll just have one spare which will hopefully suffice!
I've never done astro-photography before, but figured that Nepal would be a great time to try it so I've decided to carry a tripod with me that my sister and I will both share.
It sounds like an awful lot of gear doesn't it! However, all of that will fit into a 65L rucksack and will be carried on my back for around 2 weeks. I'm feeling pretty confident with all the gear that I have, most of which has been tried and tested or, if not, was recommended by someone I know. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what you might need for your own treks, and feel free to ask any questions about any specific pieces of gear that I'm taking on the Annapurna Circuit.
See you soon, Nepal!