Trekking Gear: For your mountain hike or your everyday adventures
I just trekked over the 17, 769 foot Thorong La Pass in Nepal. This presents two questions. What did I wear and carry and what in the world will I do with it now?
I'll begin with the clothing. First you need to understand that this trek began at an altitude of about 2600 feet in hot and humid weather. The following days were progressively higher and increasingly cooler with the final ascent to the pass at 4 am in the dark and in the snow, with the pass itself below freezing with howling winds. Because everything has to be carried either on your own back or the back of a porter, weight and versatility are keys. Another concern is wash-ability and, just as important, dry-ability. Anything you can wash and dry overnight means fewer items that need to be carried along. It would probably be difficult to find everything you need at one place, but I did come close. Almost all of my clothing came from one place and I didn't even have to spend a dollar for gas. I picked it all out on the Magellan's website.
ClothesI knew that my trekking company was going to provide me with a down jacket for the ascent over the pass, but predicting the weather up to and including the ascent was a problem. My first concern was rain, since the trek was beginning at the end of the rainy season. I chose the GoLite Jacket and Pants at just under 1 pound for both items. We had a few drizzly days in Kathmandu after the trek and the jacket with hood was great. The pants I wore over my ExOfficio Amphi pants going over the pass and they kept out the bitter wind and I was very comfortable. I didn't want to wear long underwear for fear that I might get too hot and be miserable until I could find a place to shed them - not likely along that steep, uphill climb, partly in the dark. I took along three pairs of ExOfficio lightweight, quick-drying briefs and could have done well with only two. Very comfortable and dried easily overnight. An Exo quick dry 1/4 zip long sleeve shirt was perfect for everyday and great as an undershirt on cold evenings. I wore it a number of times and never felt the need to wash it. It stayed odor-free and comfortable for the duration of the trek. I also had two long sleeve shirts with collars that were perfect. The Coolibar airflow travel shirt, I wore on the plane going and coming and a couple of evenings before and after the actual trekking part of the trip. The adventure and travel shirt from Magellan served me well during my 36 hour layover in Guangzhou, China and my evening at the Inchon Transit Hotel on the way home. I had two pairs of long pants for the trip but wore shorts for much of the trip so one of the long pants, which turned out to be a bit too big in the waist for me, I gave to one of my friends who was taking the trek with me. They were the zip-off shorts with insect shield and, after an initial little problem with one of the zip-off legs were worn for much of the trek. They were reportedly very comfortable and held up well under the stress of this very long and very arduous trek. The Smartwool crew socks were exceptional. I took 3 pairs along with one pair of vented insect shield socks. They all served me very well. Even though they didn't completely dry overnight, I had enough so that by the second day they would be dry if I just tied them on to my pack during the day.
PacksAnd, speaking of packs, I even got my pack from Magellan and it was absolutely perfect. An interesting coincidence was the website description of this pack - look at this: The next best thing to a yak - and you don't have to feed it. Whether you're trekking the Himalayas or heading cross-town in the urban jungle, the sturdy nylon Kelty Backpack is the way to go. Well, I can vouch for that. The Kelty Redwing pack had the perfect balance of size and weight and adjusted easily to keep most of the weight on my hips and off my shoulders - it was just what I needed to carry my camera gear, netbook, rain gear, passport, papers, energy bars (cookies), and other misc. stuff that I might want to access during the day. We used porters on the trek for a couple of reasons. One, it's good for the local economy, and two, I wanted to enjoy this walk across the roof of the world without an aching back and shoulders every day and night.
HatSeveral other items surprised me. I'm not a "hat person," but decided I might need one for long days on the trail at high altitude so I decided to try a Tilley Hat. I've never cared much for the floppy looking ones, so picked the Western-style hat. Yes, they do appear to be a bit expensive, but it turns out this is a once in a lifetime expenditure. Had I known that maybe I would have picked one up earlier. What do I mean by "lifetime?" Well, I'll tell you what it says inside my hat and I'll write this as I'm reading it. "Insured against loss, guaranteed for life. (Replaced free if it ever wears out.)" It even comes with an owner's manual! Now, go back and read that again - the part where it says it's insured against loss. If you wear it out they'll replace it and if you lose it they'll replace it. That sounds like one heck of a guarantee. I guess I should mention that it is very comfortable and even has a tie for under your chin to keep it from blowing away in the wind - and we faced tremendous winds for several miles in the Kali Gandaki Valley after descending on the other side of the pass.
Food for the TripOne very important item that I took to Nepal for this exciting trek around the Annapurna Circuit was a whole bunch of Hulee Super Cookies. I have never liked the taste of granola bars and really hadn't found an energy bar that I actually enjoyed eating till I discovered the Hulee Super Cookie. These things are terrific. They use the natural vitamins, fiber, and proteins in nutrient rich foods like dried dates, prunes, apricots, oats, flaxseed, and rye. Once you try Hulees you won't want to eat another cardboard tasting energy bar.
BootsI got my trekking boots from Merrell. Actually, I got two pairs. I do a lot of hiking year round and like to be able to switch them off daily. The pair I took to Nepal was the Chameleon 3 Gore Tex Ventilator mid-height boot. I didn't have much time to break them in, but they were comfortable from the very first day. I chose them because I needed a rugged pair of waterproof boots for the long trek. I didn't realize how important the water proof feature would be until I got to Nepal. For several days we hiked past hundreds of waterfalls and there was water flowing across the trail almost constantly. With the comfortable Smartwool socks and the nicely cushioned Merrell Chameleons I never had a single moment of discomfort or any concern about hot spots or blisters. Much of the trek was across rock and it was often uneven.
Other Trekking EssentialsI also picked up a small LED flashlight, a money belt and a pair of very comfortable shoes from Magellan. The flashlight was great - very bright and I had to use it almost every night along the trek since we didn't always have electricity. It was very important for the early morning ascent of the pass. My only complaint was the carry strap was too small to put over my wrist. Not sure why it was designed to fit over only a couple of fingers, but that can easily be changed on your own. The money belt was very nice, especially since it did not have a metal buckle and I didn't have to remove it to go through security. That's important because one of the items that frequently gets left behind at security checkpoints is the belt. It held a few large bills and I always knew exactly where the belt and my money were.
And Now at Home: Daily UseSo, what do I do with all this gear now that the trek is over? I could put it all in the garage and save it for my next adventure, but, the fact is it's all good for daily use. The shirts and pants look terrific. The underwear and socks are daily items. I walk 3-4 miles every day and since I'm often hiking in the foothills near my home I'll be wearing the socks with my boots. I found a beautiful watch from Suunto that included an altimeter, barometer and compass. I didn't need to use the compass, but it worked really well. If for any reason I had become lost it might well have saved my life. I have to say that the watch got a lot of attention and many people asked me about it. I was a little disappointed in the manual that came with it. I found it difficult to decipher as did a couple of friends. It didn't seem to be very user friendly and some of the best features of the altimeter I didn't use simply because I couldn't figure it out. Overall, though I really do like the watch and am going to try to contact customer service and figure it all out. Any questions, just ask. email@example.com. Keep on Traveling.
ResourcesMagellan's. Request their catalog and check out the lightweight and innovative travel gear. Lots of cool stuff that you might want to try - and a 100% guarantee of satisfaction. Merrell. Check out all their boots, free shipping and return policies here. Great boots! SuuntoWatches. Large variety of beautiful, functional watches. HuleeSuperCookie. Check here for a local outlet. If you can't find one, copy the site, take it to your local sporting goods, health food store, grocery store, etc. and beg them to stock Hulee Super Cookies. They really are far superior to the so-called "energy bars."
A former college professor, Robert Painter is author of one of the highest ranked Southwestern Art and Travel books on Amazon.com. He has traveled extensively throughout Indian country attending virtually every major American Indian art show in the Western U.S. and visiting Native American communities throughout the country. Robert has recently completed cruises on the Crown Odyssey, the Silver Cloud, the Silver Shadow, the Norwegian Dream, Seven Seas Navigator and the Windjammer S/V Mandalay. He has traveled to Italy, Greece, Barbados, Russia, Denmark and more countries than we have room to list. Story and photos by Robert Painter: firstname.lastname@example.org.