Must-have gear for trekkers

Posted on 11 Jun 2019

The tent has become my home. A two-man tent for me alone with a red cloth covered, double thick mat lay down the middle. On the far side the red bag, a World Expeditions supplied duffle bag, and carried by porter or mule, and only available when I’ve reached camp for the day. On the entrance side, my own day pack, always available, carried by me.

At home, the contents spill out, and I try to keep them on their respective sides. I lay out my very snug black sleeping bag (I did not get cold in it at 6000m and -15’C on West Col); a very comfortable red inner fibre pile sleeping bag; a very warm, bulky red down jacket; and six toilet rolls. The remaining space is yours.

My day pack is from a market stall in Bugis, Singapore. Not the best, but it is largely waterproof, and easily converted for checked baggage on an aircraft, and I use a spare as a dry bag inside the red bag. Others recommend, and use, Osprey, which I will later try.

My gear list

Which items go in which bag? My day pack carrys:

• 2 filled one litre water bottles

• Sun hat

• Sunglasses

• Sunscreen cream

• Rain gear, and warm clothing if your day’s end will be cold (the porters may be late).

• Camera

• Some toilet paper

• Toothpaste and tooth brush

• Hand sanitiser

 Itch soothing cream

 Head lamp (you may still be walking at nightfall)

• And stuff you definitely do not want to lose, or have broken; e.g. personal medication, spare sunglasses, USB cables, spare batteries, SD memory cards, mobile phone, short wave radio.

Jasmine’s experience is that all solar panels in the red bag die, mine did too, so she carries a big heavy panel in her day bag. I think power packs are a better deal. Your call.

The rest goes in the red bag – some delicate stuff can go in there too, e.g. spare camera and power packs, but these have to be in a dry bag, and surrounded by thick clothing or the folded red inner sleeping bag. The cold weather can drain the battery.

The red bag will be handled very roughly. Plastic containers are likely to crack, but still be usable. The smaller the container the better, and screw top is better than clip top. In the vulnerable corners of the red bag place joggers, gloves, gaiters, rolls of toilet paper in plastic bags.

Packing cells are a must, Daiso have cheap ones; and big dry bags are useful. You can easily lose control of the contents of a bag.

You want to know where each item is; with what in which packing cell in which part of which dry bag.

Clothing

The GHT demands the best. This is not T-shirt country. Clothing from outdoor shops is performance clothing. It will keep you warmer, drier and more comfortable than ordinary clothing. It should be lighter and fast drying after washing than ordinary clothes. It is worth the expense.

For tops use one to three layers of long-sleeved thermals, with collar. The collar is important. The Himalayas are at latitude 28 north. Brisbane is at latitude 28 south. The sun is the same, and that is before you start climbing. Slip slap slop fully applies.

The cheaper thermals are proven by me to be leech resistant. The merino blend ones may be too, but I am not game to try. In hot conditions, your sweat is wicked to the outer surface, and evaporates from a bigger surface area than your skin, instead of running down your skin. That evaporation cools you. I have had an itchy back problem for a month now. The silkier material of the Lowe Alpine thermal top seems to have solved the problem, but the sleeves are shorter than another more common brand. This is only a problem when wearing thermal tops continuously for 3 months.

Then a fibre pile top, where I have my camera and a folded length of toilet paper in its small pockets. You would layer another fibre pile jacket, though I felt I didn't really need it on this trek, then the down jacket and a goretex rain jacket on the outside.

The legs have a lightweight thermal long john. Again, no insect bites inside it. When cold, an old Damart DoubleForce long john. When very cold, above 5500m, a fibre pile long john. Then lightweight (200gm) Outdoors Research Ferriso trousers, with a really useful zipped leg pocket.

Choose a lightweight belt that can double as a packing strap. Then, when possible, rain trousers. Mine have no zip and are seriously torn at the rear. You may do better.

Socks. Mine are ordinary Coles Explorer, a wool and something mix. I should really do better, but Brisbane does not get cold enough for trials.

Gaiters. Make sure you can easily put these on, you will be doing so with cold fingers.

Boots. Buy a Scarpa pair (or trusted brand of your choosing) that fits comfortably. A cheap pair in 2017 died en-route at Chap-chu. Don't forget to clean them thoroughly when returning back home. Biosecurity. I also have a pair of KT26 as back up, and for the easier sections.

Crampons. Various types were tried, over many varied terrains. All the micro-crampons, with the rubber surround, broke. My ice-walkers, bought long ago in Singapore, consisting of a square metal plate with the corners turned down, strapped to the instep of the boot, unless strapped ultra-tight would inevitably slide to the inside and become like spurs, threatening to rip the inside of the other lower leg. Not recommended. Double boots, although warmer to the feet, the conventional crampons were troublesome; and walking on rough ground was like walking on high heels. Also, the extra width of the double boots was unfamiliar, causing me to trip repeatedly. Not nice, while descending a long steep snow slope.

The winner was what was called decades ago, foot fangs. These are a rigid set of points, the foot length adjustable, strapped to ordinary trekking boots. But you have to put them on properly; the thick plastic clip at the back must bite deep into the heel base of your boot. A dent of 1 or 2 mm is needed. And light enough and small enough for the GHT trekker to carry her/his self and put on/take off as needed.

Head wear. A sun hat, with chin strap on one of them; and a balaclava.

Bring a micro-towel for drying your hands, using for a body wet wipe, and also adequate for that rare shower.

Gloves. Several pairs: an ordinary pair, in your pocket for, mild cold, scrambling, likely fall to protect against lacerations; for holding a hot soup bowl; and as a cover for the time lapse camera. A really warm double layer motor-cycle-looking gloves for above 5500m. You really do need these.

Accessories

I have now learnt the usefulness of walking sticks. They can

1. Arrest toppling. When descending a steep section, you have a long way to fall.

2. Arrest a slide down a steep snow slope.

3. On descent down unstable rock, typically the glacier side of a lateral moraine, you can sense the stability of a lower rock, then gingerly step down onto another lower rock. If it moves, you can push with your stick to return up to your previous position.

4. On crossing a stream, the extra point of contact makes balancing on the stepping stones much easier. All of the above have been done by me on this trek.

Radio. A short wave radio is useful for the news. Two years ago the bands were almost empty, only Radio Thailand on 9390 Mhz at 6.30 pm, exactly at dinner time. Now some stations have returned. The radio itself is surprisingly light and small, and easy on the batteries. I use a Digitech AR-1733 from Jaycar. Scan with the radio, and you will find in the late afternoon and early evening BBC World Service Radio and China Radio International. Transmissions start and stop on the GMT hour which is quarter to the hour in Nepal. Also Radio Bhutan on 6035 Mhz in the afternoon is easy listening, mostly in English. The BBC World Service is available on 9900, 11495, 12065, 15145 Mhz as in 2019. The BBC is also available on 103.0 Mhz in Kathmandu, and in surrounding areas viewable at FM frequencies such as Panch Pokhari. China Radio International is available at many frequencies, including 11760, 13800 Mhz. Some other trekkers may actively not want the news. Respect their wishes.

Cameras. The light is bright in the Himalayas. You do not need a heavy big lens camera. Mobile phone or tablet may be ok, unless you are a camera buff. I personally like my Nikon Coolpix. I should have bought two. I carry it in a little chest pocket, so I do not have to take my pack off to take a photo. There are long periods during stage 1 to  when it is dangerous to take your pack off. It will fall away from you.

Also there are periods when it is even dangerous to look at a screen. You will lose your sense of balance. Sherpani Col and West Col spring to mind.

But along the way, when capturing photos and videos, take Bikash’s advice: keep looking behind you, you will sometimes be walking away from a great view.

What I wish I brought

What I do not have, but Jasmine and Miai did have and I should get, is an Iridium (satellite) messaging device. Small, modest cost for messaging; but only available from niche outdoor shops. The device includes GPS, though the main use is the height figure, which will tell you of progress to your destination. The actual position information is difficult to relate to where you should be.

If you’re planning your next trek in Nepal, I hope my gear tips give you the upper hand.

- Brian

world expeditions