We, as humans, often like taking up challenges that test our limits. The idea of trying new things out of our comfort zone fascinates us. If you are someone who loves exploring the mountains and enjoys adventure sports you may consider going on a trek. The adrenaline rush that comes from experiencing trekking expeditions is incomparable to any other.
The popularity of trekking in India has grown over the years. People from all over the world come here every year to trek the Himalayan trails. It is the world’s mightiest mountain system and has nine out of the ten highest peaks on Earth. Trekking the Himalayas comes with picturesque views of valleys, extensive snow-capped mountain crowns, pristine water streams, and a wide variety of biodiversity. Some of the Himalayan trails can be strenuous, but the rewards are unparalleled.
The mountain range of the Himalayas does not have uniform weather. The climate is distinct in every part and changes throughout the year. The monsoon is the main factor that affects the weather in the Himalayas. The extreme temperature of the region during winter makes the trek harder.
However, winter treks test the mettle of the trekkers best. These treks push the trekkers to extreme conditions. The view of snow-clad mountain ranges makes trekking through the bone-chilling temperature worth it. Treks during winter are not just journeys to summits, but a path to self-discovery.
Preparing yourself for a winter trek in the Himalayas is very important. Making a meticulous packing list can save you a lot of time. It will make sure that you have everything you need during the trek.
It is good to be prepared, and you can double-check with the trekking team before leaving your home that you have everything you need. A checklist also helps you while packing. You can include all the essentials you need on the trek in the list and can locate each at the right place.
List of things to carry on a Trek
Here is a list of things that you can carry with you when embarking on a trek in frosty conditions:
1. Essential Gears
1. 1. Shoes
The kind of shoe you need to carry on a trek depends on the weather, duration, feasibility, and terrain. A good hiking shoe is one that is comfortable, sturdy, lightweight, warm, durable, and waterproof. It is essential for the shoe to have a firm grip on slippery areas, and to offer decent ankle support. High-ankle shoes help to avoid ankle twists.
A pair of crampons work best if you are trekking in the snow and need to walk on ice. I will not recommend sports shoes, as they are not comfortable for high-altitude Himalayan treks. But for an easy low-altitude trek, you can carry sports shoes along with a backup shoe. Trekking companies also provide you with shoes. However, if you consider it from point of hygiene, it is not a good option. It is always best to carry your own shoes.
1. 2. Backpack
Be careful when you choose your backpack. It should have a comfortable back and come with sternum and waist straps. The straps help in distributing the weight of the backpack. It ensures that you don’t burden your back. The pockets of the bag should be easily accessible. To keep your things organized during hikes, a good backpack is a must. It will protect the gears from light rainfall and snow.
The weather in the mountains is unpredictable. A sunny day can also turn into a rainstorm. So, it is necessary to carry a poncho or a raincoat during Himalayan treks. A poncho is an oversized rain jacket with openings for the head and the arms.
The ventilation panels in the poncho help to reduce condensation. A raincoat is a water-resistant or waterproof coat. It protects the body from rain and snow. If you are hiking, raincoats will have better durability than ponchos.
1.4. Trekking Pole
Everyone can use trekking poles. You can be perfectly fit and still choose to use a trekking pole. The poles help to maintain body balance, provide stability, and increase the walking pace. They lessen the energy consumption during the trek. The steep ascents and descents of the Himalayas become easier to cover with the poles. Trek organizers also provide trekking poles for rent, if you don’t want to invest in one.
1.5. Head Torch and Flashlight
Headlamps keep your hands free and are important for treks during the night. A good head torch covers a wider area and doesn’t focus the light on a single beam. It helps you see your surroundings and what lies ahead. You can also balance yourself better on hilly terrains. They are lifesavers when the flashlights run out of batteries.
2. Necessary Items
Do carry at least one quick-dry T-shirt for your base layer of clothing. They take less time to ventilate sweat. A warm jacket or a fleece is comfortable to wear at the campsite. A windproof jacket comes in handy during high-altitude treks. Quick-dry track pants with proof quality are a must. You can also choose between 3-quarter, convertible, or cargo-style pants. They are very light to carry and wearable. Take a few casual warm wears to wear at the campsite.
Your feet deserve to rest after a long day of trek. Keep a pair of regular flip-flops to wear at the campsite. They provide adequate comfort to your legs and give them time to breathe.
2.3. Day Bag
A day bag is a small backpack that you can use to carry items you need during walks. Your day bag will only have your water bottle, camera, and some snacks. Do not overload your day bag. You can leave your other things at the campsite. Trekkers mostly like to carry a day bag on the summit day.
You can carry innerwear that comforts you the most. There is no specific rule regarding it. But make sure that it is well fitted. Loose inner wear gives space for winds to get in.
The best way to dress up for a trek is by layering your clothes. Thermal inners work great as the first layer. Woolly cot upper and lower thermals are preferable for winter treks. They keep you warm, hold the body heat, and keep precipitation away. Trekkers usually need thermals during the night, as the temperature drops to subzero.
Woolen gloves are a must. It helps to prevent numbness in the hands and protects from cold. But if you are prone to catch cold, waterproof or fleece gloves will suit you better. Waterproof gloves are best for high-altitude treks that have chances of a downpour or snow.
2.7. Head Protection
Heat strokes are common during high-altitude treks. So, it is necessary to protect your head from the direct rays of the sun. A sun cap helps in head protection. It saves you from the scorching heat of the sun and is an ideal choice for sunny days. Sun caps that have a sun flap and cover your neck work best. You can also carry woolen caps. They are very wearable and keep you cozy and warm. The wool absorbs moisture and helps to keep your head dry.
2.8. Feet Protection
Woolen socks are essential for winter treks. They are comfortable to wear and help to keep your feet warm. But for the daytime and descending trails, cotton socks work better. Always try to carry two or three pairs of socks. If you wet your socks, change immediately to a fresh pair. It will protect you from frostbite.
The campsites have dry toilets. So, it will be beneficial to carry sanitizers, toilet rolls, soap papers, and wet wipes. You can take along a mouthwash, as it is a boon on winter treks. It helps you to skip brushing your teeth, and does not burn or swell your fingers. You can also carry dry shampoo to treat greasy and sticky hair. Do not forget to add lightweight towels and napkins to your kit of toiletries.
2.10. First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is a must in your backpack. It should be one of the few things that you pack first. You can include the following things in your first aid kit –
- General medicines for headache, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
- Your daily prescribed medicines.
- Gel and sprays for treating body pain.
- Different courses of antibiotics for treating various possible infections.
- A neurotic drug that helps in acclimatization. Always take a doctor’s opinion before taking any medication.
- Mild analgesics for pain relief. But do avoid painkillers that contain codeine.
- Strong analgesics for severe pain. Anti-inflammatory medicine can also be taken after proper consultation.
- Crepe bandages, bandaids, cotton, antiseptic lotions, and burn creams.
2.11. Personal Kit
A personal kit will have all your essentials.
- To protect yourself from the harmful Ultraviolet rays of the sun, always carry sunscreen and sunblock lotion. Try to find sunscreens that are above SPF 50. It reduces the chances of having sunburn.
- Body lotions help to moisturize your skin. It prevents your skin from flaking due to the harsh weather and snow. You can also apply a generous amount of body lotions to avoid rashes.
- Lip balms moisturize your lips and do not let your lips chap. You can also try out lip balms with SPF. It protects your lips from sunburns.
- To brush your teeth, carry a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste.
- To reduce odor and keep your trek shoes and socks dry, carry anti-fungal powder.
Trekking in the snow can be dangerous. The snow reflects the rays of the sun and causes soreness to the naked eye. The pain gets worse during the night. So, to avoid snow blindness, sunglasses are mandatory. Choose polarised or anti-glare sunglasses with UV400 (UV A and B) protection. They help to block the harmful rays of the sun and protect your eyes from snow blindness.
2.13. Neck Gaiter or Balaclava
It is necessary to cover your head and ears during winter treks. A balaclava helps to keep your neck warm and does not let cold winds reach you. It is usually woolen or mixed synthetic material. It protects you from harsh weather and chill winds.
2.14. Quick-Dry Towel
It takes time for towels to dry in winter, especially in high altitudes. Quick-dry towels are made of microfibers and dry three times faster. They are very useful for winter treks.
3.1. Water Bottle / Thermos
It is no secret that water is a necessity. Your body tends to dehydrate when you are trekking. So, you have to hydrate yourself. Some Himalayan trails do not have a natural source of water. Water bottles always come in handy on such treks. Buy a good quality water bottle. It should not break or leak easily.
Try to avoid plastic bottles. You will not only save the Himalayas from plastic garbage but also can refill natural streams. It is also important to drink warm water during winter treks. To keep your water warm for long intervals, carry a thermos.
You must carry some dry food with you on treks. It helps you to fight sudden hunger on trails. Chocolates are instant energy boosters. But if you prefer eating healthy, energy bars or protein bars are a good alternative. You can also carry some dry fruits and nuts and a pack of trail mix. The good thing about taking snacks with you is that they take up less space than cooked food.
You will not even have spillovers. If you do not like to have regular water, add any preferred flavor to your water. It enhances the taste of water and keeps you hydrated.
3.3. Swiss Knife
A swiss knife is a multi-purpose set of tools. It is beneficial for all kinds of trips. You can use it on your trek for a variety of work-
- Pitch a tent
- Carve into an object
- Cut fruits and ropes
- Chop small branches of trees out of the trail
- Tighten your gear
- Open your favorite can of beverage.
3.4. Batteries / Power Banks
Power banks with turbocharging are efficient for travel purposes. If you are someone who likes taking pictures and videos, you are most likely to drain out your phone battery. You can charge your phone and GoPro hassle-free by using a power bank.
3.5. GPS / Smartwatch
Smartwatches that have GPS are an absolute favorite of fitness enthusiasts. If you want to record the trail of the trek, carry a dedicated GPS tracker. An accurate GPS device can also help you to pinpoint your location if you lose the trail of the trek.
When you are on long treks, you should be well prepared. A detailed map helps you follow the correct trail, in case you get separated from the group. So, you must always carry a hard copy of your trekking route.
3.7. ID Proof and Documents
Do not forget to carry your official documents such as –
- Original and photocopied certificates or identification papers like driving licenses, Voter IDs, passports, Aadhar cards, etc.
- Medical Certificate from a doctor
- A disclaimer
- For foreigners, you’ll have to carry your passport and visa for verification.
What is the right way to pack your backpack?
Traveling with a backpack has changed a lot from the early days of hiking. Back in the time, rucksacks were heavy, structured, and stiff. Now, it has become much more convenient to travel with a backpack because of the recent developments in high-tech backpacks. If you are going on a short trip to a beach or a city, you can throw a few clothes inside and call it a day. However, trekking needs the utmost care in the technique of packing as every necessary item should be in the right place. So, you can follow this simple guide to pack your bags for the next hike.
For convenience, we can divide the backpack into three parts and two peripherals. Those are as follows –
- Bottom part
- Core part
- Top part
- Accessory pocket
- Tool loops and lash-on point
You should keep the bulky items in the bottom part of the backpack. Experts also recommend that hikers keep the things that they will not need until camping, at the lowest part. You can consider putting the following bulky items in the bottom section:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Camp shoes
- Down Booties
You should keep the heavy items on your list, which you don’t need during the trekking, in this part. You can put the following heavy things in the middle:
- Solid, heavy food
- Water bottles
- Food canisters
- Tent body
- Extra clothes
In this part, you should keep the bulky items that you need to use during the trek. You can keep the following things in the top section:
- Heavy-duty jackets
- Extra trek clothes
- First aid kit
You should identify the items, which you surely need during the trek, and arrange them in several pockets according to your need. The following items should be on your list:
- ID and cash
- Water bottles
- Lip balm
Tool Loops and Lash-on points
These are ideal places for trekking gear. You should keep the following items in tool loops:
- Trekking poles
- Tent poles
- Ice ax
- Climbing rope
A little practice will make you efficient in no time, and you will be ready for your next great adventure.
By now, you will have a clear idea about all the things that you need to carry while trekking in Himalayan terrains during winter. The bone-chilling cold temperature in the winter calls for more careful packing than a trek at any other time of the year.
If you start maintaining a list of everything that you need to carry to the trek and keep consulting with your trekking team continuously, you will be fully prepared to embark on the hard trek that lies ahead. We have given you a priority-based list that will help you organize your preparation according to your need.
You should be in close contact with the trek organizers. It will help you to have a clear distinction between the things that you need to bring like your clothing etc and the gear that can be provided on a rental basis. In the end, we have also given you a guide on how to pack your rucksack. If you follow this simple guide, you will always be comfortable while carrying the heavy backpack during the long trekking hours.
Author Bio: Meenakshi Majumder is a content writer at Moxtain. She has completed her graduation from Calcutta University with English Honours. She’s been working as a content writer for about 2+ years. She loves traveling to offbeat destinations and watching the sunrise on the lap of the mountains with a good book in her hand.