Possessing more UNESCO heritage sites than any other country and the infamous Himalaya range, it is obvious why Nepal is such a popular destination for backpackers. However its combination of various altitudes and seasonal weather makes deciding what to pack almost as difficult as deciding what sites to visit! Listed below is a packing guide for one of the most popular times to visit Nepal, its dry season, between September and November.
1 50-70-litre rucksack: If you plan on spending two weeks or more in Nepal, and plan on doing various activities like hiking, sightseeing, swimming, a safari, etc., then you will want an approximately 60-70 litre bag to comfortably contain everything, with extra space for souvenirs you want to take back home. If you are planning on staying for a shorter amount of time, or will be constricting yourself to city-based exploration or one sole activity, then you can get away with a smaller-sized bag.
1 20-30 litre day sack: Nearly all tour operators in Nepal hire porters for group treks, and even if you plan on trekking independently, Sherpas are available for hire as well. With tour groups the porters generally walk on ahead to deposit your luggage in your room before you arrive in the tea house, so pack your daily essentials like warm layers, snacks, camera, and water bottles in a day sack.
3-4 waterproof sacks: Nepal has the second largest water resources in the world; just spend one day in the mountains and you will see countless waterfalls, rivers, creeks…you get the idea. Not only are waterproof bags practical in that they protect your clothing and electronics, but they are helpful organisers too. Store your clothing, electronics, toiletries, etc. in separately coloured bags and it will reduce the amount of time you spend searching for items in your rucksack.
Rucksack raincover: It might be the dry season, but much like the fabled ‘Nepalese flat’ (a little bit up, little bit down), dry season actually means- little bit of sunshine, little bit (sometimes lots) of rain. If you don’t want your rucksack to be a soggy mess when you reach the teahouses, a raincover is a must!
Shoes and Socks:
1 pair of hiking boots: When choosing a pair of hiking boots, the most important factors to consider is whether they have waterproofing and ankle support. Even during the dry season Nepal experiences rainy weather, and in the mountains slippery rocks and crossing streams are just waiting to catch trekkers off-guard. If you are unsure of what hiking boots to choose, take a look at my tips for finding the right pair.
1 pair of sandals/relaxation shoes: After spending 6-8 hours hiking in stuffy boots, your feet need to breathe. A pair of sandals or breathable trainers are an ideal choice for relaxing in at the teahouse after a long day. When choosing sandals however, look for a pair that has a high sole for two reason; most toilets in Nepalese teahouses are located outside, and if nature calls at night the last thing you want is muddy feet. The proliferation of mule, donkey, and horse faeces around the mountains of Nepal is widespread, and additionally something else you probably don’t want stuck to your feet after hiking all day.
4-5 pairs of hiking socks: Look for hiking socks that provide thick cushioning around the toes, heel and ankle, but allows breathe-ability around the top and arch of your feet, which are prone to sweating more and don’t require as much cushioning. Look for socks made from merino wool or synthetic fibres, which wick the sweat away from your feet. Avoid cotton socks; these will just soak up the sweat and rub against your feet, causing blisters.
2 pairs of walking trousers: Choose loose-fitting, lightweight trousers that pack down small and can dry quickly. It can be tempting to wear shorts, but just remember that leeches are drawn out after heavy rains in the mountains, and it is more difficult for them to penetrate loose trousers than none at all!
1 pair of relaxation trousers: Choose a pair that are rugged and, if you won’t have access to washing facilities, dark toned. If you plan on hiking up in high altitude in the mountains, choose something like jeans or thick trousers, as it can become very cold at higher altitude!
1 dress/skirt: For anyone on an organised trek, many tour operators at some point include a nice dinner or evening out for travellers. Having a lightweight, packable dress or skirt is an easy way to dress up without losing vital space in your rucksack. For inspiration, Patagonia and Royal Robbins do a nice selection of outdoorsy dresses and skirts.
5 tees: Choose approximately three tops in merino wool or synthetic fabric for hiking/outdoor pursuits, and two in cotton for sightseeing days or relaxing in the evening. Although merino wool takes longer to dry than synthetic fabric, its anti-odour properties make it an ideal choice for multi-day hikes when you don’t plan on washing clothes.
2 fleeces: Trekkers in high altitude will find the weather grows cold and misty once you head up into the clouds! Wearing layers is key to comfort in Nepal, as the weather is so changeable on a daily basis.
1 down/synthetic insulated jacket: For mornings and evenings that are particularly cold, you will appreciate bringing a coat when you are feeling warm and cosy after a long day’s hike or while you’re getting ready for the day. Feeling cold and tired before the day’s begun is a big hit to morale when hiking, and with so many lightweight, packable jackets available nowadays, there’s no reason why you can’t bring a jacket with you. Rab manufacture down jackets that stuff into its own pocket, and several Haglofs and Mountain Equipment jackets include small stuff sacks for coats as well.
1 raincoat: Despite September-November being the dry season in Nepal, storms are still frequent, and when it rains, it pours. Make sure you invest in a breathable jacket with a well-structured hood to ensure comfort while hiking.
1 peaked hat: Even on cloudy days the sun can emit an intense glare, so make sure you wear a hat that provides adequate protection to your face. You can buy hats very cheaply in Kathmandu and Pokhara if you forget.
1 buff: This should probably be listed as an optional item, but its benefits are so many that it should be on every list. Keep it around your neck at lower altitude to protect the back of your neck from the sun, soak it in water and wear it to keep cool in the heat, or turn it into a hat to wear as a beanie at higher altitudes.
7 pairs of underwear: Even if you don’t have washing facilities on a trek, these can easily be washed in the sink. Many outdoor companies make merino wool and synthetic pants specifically for trekking as well, as long as you don’t mind forking over £10+.
3 bras: Pack 1-2 for hiking purposes, such as sports bras, and one for everyday use when sightseeing.
1 pair of long johns: Most teahouses do not have heating, or if they do, they turn it off at night.
1 swimsuit: Whether you’re bathing with elephants in Chitwan, relaxing in the hot springs, or wading in one of Nepal’s many streams, a swimsuit is a must.
2-litre hydration system or two 1-litre bottles: It is commonly advised to drink between three and four litres of water a day when trekking in Nepal. If you are the type of person that struggles to drink the recommended allowance of water each day, water bottles might be preferable as they allow you to see how much water you’re drinking, but make sure it is a ruggedised version, such as Sigg bottles.
1 trekking towel: These lightweight pieces of cloth soak up water like a sponge, and are quick-drying too.
Headlamp or torch: Not all teahouses will have outdoor lighting to the toilets, and if you don’t want to wander off the mountain late at night, a headlamp is a small, lightweight piece of kit that will prove essential to your trip.
Swiss Army knife: This is one of those items that you think to yourself, “When am I ever going to need this?” and then you find yourself using it for everything from slicing fruit to picking splinters out or opening bags.
First aid kit: blisters, infected bug bites, and small cuts are all minor injuries that are expected on a trek, but without proper care can turn worse, especially in humid, tropical climates where a hospital isn’t nearby and hygiene standards aren’t necessarily at the top of your priorities when trekking.
Sunglasses: When choosing a pair, look for at least a category three lens, and remember that even up in the mountains on a cloudy day, the glare can cause even the most resilient pair of eyes to squint furiously.
Sleeping bag liner: While most teahouses provide blankets, if you are more susceptible to coldness or are a little picky about sleeping on blankets that have dubious stains on them, a sleeping bag liner is recommended.
Sleeping bag: If you plan on trekking in Nepal at the end of October or in November, the weather takes a turn for wintry temperatures, meaning a sleeping bag is a must. There are loads of choices out there, and if choosing one is leaving you confused, take a look at my advice feature for Go! Girl Guides on finding the right sleeping bag.
Antibacterial hand gel: Keeping your hands clean when you eat is one of the easiest ways to prevent an upset stomach. However not all teahouses provide soap in the toilets, and if you are stopping in the middle of a trail for food, there might not be a toilet available. Bottles of antibacterial hand gel are lightweight, portable, and alot less hassle than constantly stopping on the trail to empty your stomach.
Water purification: Whether you choose tablets or a purification pen, you can save yourself a lot of time and money if you purchase these before arriving in Nepal. The higher up in the mountains you climb, the more expensive bottled water becomes; nearly all the bottled water in Nepal is treated with water purification tablets or purification pens anyway, and will state so on the label, so save your money for Everest beer and fill your bottles up at the tap. Confused about the technology and choices out there for water purification? Read my helpful guide to sourcing drinkable water.
Granola bars: If you find yourself flagging mid-hike, a quick energy boost with a granola bar or trail mix could be just the thing to keep you going.
Trekking poles: These are optional, but if you have had sports injuries in the past then it is worth investing in a pair.
1 roll of toilet paper: ESSENTIAL. YOU REALLY, REALLY NEED THIS. Most toilets in Nepali teahouses are what you would call squat toilets, and almost all of them do not provide toilet paper or bidets to clean off afterwards. Seriously, bring a roll of toilet paper and a plastic bag to stop it getting wet in your rucksack.
Shampoo bar/dry shampoo: Lush will be your best friend when it comes to Nepalese shower time; their shampoo bars come in lightweight small bars that are easy to pack and last a surprisingly long time. For days when you don’t feel like taking a cold shower early in the morning, dry shampoo should be close at hand to give you a quick refresh before hitting the trails.
Soap/bottled shower gel: Make sure you choose one that is eco-friendly, and leakproof.
Razor: This one is optional; some choose to embrace the arm and leg hair on their trek, others don’t feel clean without a good shave.
Toothbrush and toothpaste: This one goes without saying….
Deodorant: Be courteous to your trekmates and bring one along; it doesn’t weight much, it takes up minimal space in a bag, and it will prevent people from keeping a three-foot radius away from you.
Contraceptive pill / tampons / pads / mooncup: Some women choose to skip their period when trekking, but if you aren’t on the pill then the mooncup or plastic applicator tampons are your next best bet.
Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, the sun’s glare can cause sunburn, so lather up!
Bug repellent spray: Nepal is a humid country, and its mountains are teeming with water: the ideal conditions for mosquitoes and midges to feast on people’s skin. The most effective forms of repellency are sprays containing DEET, but if you want alternative options take a look at my list.
Stomach medication: Your stomach might not have the enzymes needed to digest the Nepalese diet before arrival, so make sure you stock up on diarrhoea and indigestion pills to avoid sudden sprints to the toilet (or tree, if Mother Nature calls at a very inconvenient time).
Rehydration sachets: Stomach bugs and hiking can leave you feeling dehydrated, so make sure you bring a couple of these to mix with your water.
Mobile phone and charger: Many hotels in Kathmandu or major cities like Pokhara have free wifi for guests, and it is much easier sending a quick message home to family letting them know you’re okay on a phone than lugging a laptop around.
Plug adaptor: You will find a number of different plug sockets in Nepal; bring a universal adaptor to avoid any unnecessary hassle.
E-reader: Lighter than a library and more waterproof too, an e-reader is an ideal choice for relaxing in the evening or on the plane.
Camera (plus additional batteries for SLR versions) and charger: Your friends and family can’t be jealous of your travels if they can’t see where you went.
Copy of passport: The more information you have on you, the easier it is for embassy officials to help you out of a scrape.
Travel insurance policy and contact details: Have the number and name of the first point of contact for your insurer, as some refuse to cover a policy if you do not notify them within a specific time limit of hospital admittance.
Details of next of kin: Not wanting to put a downer on the trip, but it is better they are properly notified than to find out through a passport shot on television news.
Details of any allergies or medical conditions: If for some reason you are unconscious and require medical treatment, having a list of any medication you are allergic to or any medical conditions you have will help the personnel properly treat you.
Details of flight and transportation: Keep track of your flight times and numbers so you don’t end up stranded at the airport!
Phew! Have I missed anything?