Posted by: Tommy | April 18, 2011

Annapurna – Preparing for the trek

What do you take with you when preparing for 15 days in rugged mountains? 3 distinct climates with days in the upper 80s and nights that are well below freezing?  How about if you have to carry it all on your back for over 100 miles?

That’s the conundrum I was faced with when I arrived in Nepal, with only 2 days to prepare for something commonly referred to as the world’s greatest trek.  Because of the “carry it all on your back for 100 miles”, my answer was “as little as possible”.  However, I’m a thin-blooded Texan.  The hot days didn’t scare me, but I wasn’t looking forward to the cold nights.

Luckily, Nepal caters to trekkers.  It’s difficult to find a street without a shop offering a full range of knock-off Northface gear, both for rent and for purchase.  While I had only 2 days to prepare, my trekking buddies (Jay, who I’d met in India and Alex, a girl he’d met in India months prior) had been in Nepal for a month, carefully compiling packing lists, shopping for deals, getting permits, etc.  Alex actually sent me two very detailed emails about what exactly I needed to do in the two days I had before departure.

As soon as I arrived in Kathmandu, I headed for the permit office.  20 minutes and $50 later, I was allowed to spend 3 weeks in the Annapurna protected area of Nepal.  From there, I scoured a few trekking shops looking for warm gear.  I spent $3 on a pair of fleece pants, $6 on a pair of warm hiking socks, another $3 on a pair of gloves and $2 on a scarf.  I would end up finding a  fleece neck warmer “Gator” for $2.50 on the trail to complete my purchases.

Alex, after much comparison shopping, decided we should rent -10 Celsius sleeping bags and Northface down jackets from one guy.  So we did – for a total cost of $1 per day  (I love Nepal – it’s cheap!).  After spending Holi in Kathmandu, we left early the next morning for Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal and the beginning for all treks.

We spent 1 day in Pokhara, getting organized and buying a few last minute things.  I got sunscreen, granola bars and Snickers, a deck of cards and a waterbottle in Pokhara.  Additionally, I found a place that would rent hiking boots. I had been planning to hike in my sneakers, but this made me a little nervous – the tops of the sneakers are mesh and we’d potentially be walking through some fairly deep snow.  I was going to do it anyway, rather than spend $100+ on hiking boots.  But when I found a nice pair of rental boots for just over $1/day I jumped on them.

We bought bus tickets and found a place to store our extra stuff for the 15 days we’d be gone.  Early the next morning, the 3 of us set out for the bus station and our great adventure.

All my stuff for the trek

From left to right, top to bottom:

Longhorn shirt and zip-off pants.  Hiked in these every day.  Washed them once.  They smelled.

3 pair boxers. 3 pair of socks.  Jay and I perfected the “1 for hiking, 1 for night, 1 for laundry day” system of socks/boxer use.

1 frisbee – it was always too windy, too cold, or too tired to use it. Plus, it broke and now I have no disc for the rest of our trip. The only thing I wish I’d left behind.

1 trekking permit.  Essential.

1 working Steripen.  I bought this for $60 in Kathmandu, since the one I got for Christmas was defective.  The water you can get on the trail makes tourists sick, so you have to “clean” each liter of water you drink (or pay $3 per bottle, plus carry all of your empty bottles, for bottled water.  Not a realistic option for 15 days of intense hiking).  The Steripen sterilizes the bacteria in the water. The bacteria remain, but they can’t reproduce and therefore aren’t dangerous to ingest.

50 spf sunscreen.  I was the only one to not get a sunburn on the trek.

Granola + chocolate bars.  I ate all of the Snickers before I thought to take this picture.

“Gator” neck warmer.

Quick-dry long-sleeve shirt.  Didn’t really wear this much.  It was either too hot or too cold for it.

Small, Leatherman type tool. (A Christmas gift from Judy in our office last year)

Orange (of course) Nalgene bottle.

Tylenol/Aleve.  Probably took too many of these, but things hurt. I’m old.

Fleece hat. Warm socks. Fleece pants. Gloves.  So glad I had all of this stuff.  Usually I slept in each of those items, including the gloves. Scarf is there also – never used it.

At the top, in the compression sacks, my rented sleeping bag and down jacket.

Hiking socks from REI.  I tried hiking in the “Northface” socks I got for $6 in Kathmandu once.  Not a good idea.  I wore the real REI socks for every other day of the trip.

Toilet paper.  It’s not provided on the trail.  And if you’ve never seen a squatter toilet, well, then you’ve never been to India or Nepal.

Sunglasses, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, headlamp, shampoo (used as soap, too).

Camera battery charger.

Mesh bag with rehydration packets, razor (never used – and got a sweet neckbeard), some medicine, malaria drugs (still taking them, though there’s no risk in Nepal).

Rain poncho (it rained on us once, but we were too tired to get out the ponchos.  Then I got a cold- not smart).

Travel towel.

Kindle (a lifesaver – everyone else had to carry heavy books.  I had 600 books in a tiny package and the battery lasted the whole time.  I might buy stock in Amazon.)

Watch.

Rain jacket.

Moleskin – what was left of the full package I started with.  More on that in future posts.

Cards and a pen.  I converted 2 new people to Casino – best game you can play with 2, 3 or 4 people.

Sun hat – wore this constantly, sometimes over my fleece hat.  I’m sure I looked awesome.

Grey Texas shirt and khaki pants – changed into these every day after showering, so I had one “clean” set and one “incredibly dirty” set of clothes.

A grimy, dirty backpack – that was actually very comfortable to carry 6-8 hours per day, even though it weighed 26 lbs.

And that’s it, other than the camera (not pictured, obviously) and the flipflops I was wearing.  Other than the frisbee, which I wouldn’t have taken, I really needed everything I took.  But I don’t think I would have brought anything else.   Posts on the actual experience of hiking the trail coming soon.

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Responses

  1. It’s really hard for me to envision you as old – if things hurt now, just wait ’til you hit 50!

  2. Tommy – that is amazing that you could assemble all that in such a short time. I think that you thought to do this is even more amazing.

  3. Hey!

    Thanks so much for your detailed write-up of your preparations for your trek. How did those boots you rented work out? I don’t want to buy and haul a pair of boots all the way to Nepal. Thanks!

  4. so useful. im going in a month. THANKYOU


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