The Proper Gear for Trekking the Himalaya

Everything Youl Need to Hike the Mountains of Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan

Male trakker standing on Gokyo Ri.
Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images

Nepal is one of the most popular trekking destinations in the entire world, and for good reason. It is home to some of the best trails on the planet, including the spectacular Annapurna Circuit, and the very popular hike to Everest Base Camp. The truly adventurous might even take on the entire Great Himalaya Trail, which stretches for a mind-blowing 2800 miles through alpine settings that are unmatched by any other mountain range on Earth.

But before you go, you'll want to make sure you have the proper gear to keep you safe and comfortable along the way. From finding the right backpack to wearing adequate footwear and clothing, you'll want to plan everything you'll need before you ever set off for the Himalaya, because once you're there, it can be tough to find good equipment.

The following is a solid overview of the gear you'll want with you on your trek through Nepal, Tibet, or even Bhutan, and while there are other items to bring as well, these products serve are a good base to get you started on your journey.

Layered Clothing for Hiking the Himalayas

When creating a good layering system for staying comfortable in the outdoors, everything starts with the base layer. These are the articles of clothing that sit closest to the skin, and help wick away moisture to keep us dry and comfortable. Highly breathable, most base layers are versatile enough to be worn on their own, or in conjunction with other clothing as well; be sure to bring both a top and bottom to keep you warm and dry.

There are a lot of base layers on the market to choose from, but we recommend Smartwool base layers for all of your outdoor adventures.

The middle layer of any layering system sits between the base and the outer shell and provides important insulation for warmth. Often made of fleece, the mid-layer adds versatility to the system by allowing it to be added or removed as needed. This layer will also come in various weights to match the temperature. In cold conditions, wear something thicker and heavier, but as the mercury climbs switch to a lighter garment. While hiking in the Himalaya, a proper mid-layer will definitely be a much-appreciated addition to your wardrobe, especially on colder days at higher altitudes.

In the early days of the trek carry an Outdoor Research Shiftup Hoody as an additional insulating later. But as you climb higher into the mountains, temperatures will drop considerably. That's when you'll want to have a down jacket with you in your backpack. Lightweight, highly packable, and extremely warm, down jackets are a mainstay in the mountaineering and trekking world. When the winds begin to howl and the snow starts to fly, you'll still stay warm and cozy in something like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket.

No matter which down jacket you go with however, be sure to get one with waterproof down. It not only holds its loft better but continues to perform well in damp, cold conditions. 

Finally, you'll also want a more versatile jacket to wear for most days on the trail. A storm shell fits those needs nicely, providing protection from both the wind and rain. Thinner and lighter in weight than a down jacket, a shell is built for active pursuits in the mountains. When paired with a layering system, it provides an outer defense that helps keep you warm and dry when the weather takes a turn for the worse. We recommend the Outdoor Research Interstellar jacket for use in environments where the weather can be wild and unpredictable.

The final piece of your wardrobe for any Himalayan adventure is a nice pair of trekking pants that are specifically designed for hiking and backpacking. These pants typically provide support in the knees and seat while allowing the wearer to walk unimpeded even through demanding environments. Pants like the Fjallraven Vidda Pro trousers are built for trekking long distances and are meant to work as part of a layering system, allowing you to wear a base layer underneath if necessary.

Clothing Accessories for Hiking the Himalayas

From packing the right socks to bringing the right hat and gloves, the clothing accessories you pack for your trip along the Himalayan trails will greatly affect the comfort and ease of your journey. Here are a few suggestions for accessories you should pack to complete your wardrobe.

Most people don't put a lot of thought into their socks, but they are a key element to keeping your feet happy and healthy on a long trek. You'll want socks that are comfortable, breathable, and provide plenty of protection. Stick to merino wool, or something similar, such as the Smartwool Hiking Socks for the best all-around performance.

Speaking of footwear, the hiking trails in the Himalaya can be remote, rugged, and demanding; that's why you'll need a good pair of boots to help keep your feet, ankles, and legs well protected and feeling fresh. Light hiking shoes won't cut it in the big mountains, so invest in a pair of boots that are built for backpacking or mountaineering—we recommend something like the Lowa Renegade GTX for example.

Depending on which route you're trekking, and the weather you encounter along the way, you may need to carry two pairs of gloves with you. A lighter pair for keeping your hands warm when the weather begins to cool off—such as The North Face Power Stretch Glove—and a thicker, more insulated pair for when temperatures really take a plunge—like the Outdoor Research Ascendant Sensor gloves. Conditions could include snow or freezing rain along the way as well, and a good pair of gloves will allow your hands to stay plenty warm when that happens.​​

You'll definitely want to carry a hat with you on your trek through the Himalaya, and quite possibly more than one. At lower altitudes, a wide-brimmed hat –– such as the Marmot Precip Safari Hat –– helps to keep the sun out of your face and eyes. When you go higher a warmer beanie stocking cap like the Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Beanie may be in order. Either way, you'll be glad you have some protection for your head throughout the hike, as conditions can vary dramatically from one day to the next.

We would also recommend carrying a Buff with you not only on a trip like this one but pretty much anywhere you might happen to go. This versatile piece of headwear can serve as a headband, neck scarf, balaclava, facemask, and more. Available in a wide variety of prints, weights, and styles, you'll be glad you have one for your next adventure.

Outdoor Gear for Hiking the Himalayas

Finally, you'll want to make sure you travel with the proper hiking and camping gear so that you'll have a comfortable place to sleep on your travels and a bit easier time getting up the mountains in general.

Whether you are trekking independently or with guides, you'll want a comfortable backpack with plenty of storage capacity to carry all of your gear. During the day, you'll need easy access to extra layers of clothing, snacks, camera equipment, and various other items, and your pack will be key to carrying all of that equipment and more. Make sure that it is also hydration-ready, meaning it can hold a water reservoir, allowing you to easily take a drink while out on the trail. The Osprey Atmos 50 AG is a great choice to meet all of these needs and more.

It is a comfortable, versatile pack that will serve you well on a wide variety of adventures.

Most nights in the Himalaya will be spent staying in traditional Nepali teahouses or sometimes even tents, depending on the location. As the altitude increases, the nights will get colder, which means you'll need a good sleeping bag to help keep you warm and cozy as the mercury drops. That bag should have a temperature rating of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degree Celsius) or you'll run the risk of getting too cold. We suggest the Therm-a-rest Oberon, but if additional warmth is needed, you can augment the sleeping bag with a Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor liner as well.

 

Trekking poles are essential for a long distance hike like the ones that you'll find in the Himalaya. They can provide stability and balance both while climbing up and descending back down, saving you a lot of wear and tear on your knees. Using these walking sticks can take a bit of getting used to, so practice with them before the trip. Out on the trail, trekking poles like the MSR Ascent Carbon Backcountry will quickly become your new best friend, helping you to scramble over rough terrain, navigate slick sections, and allowing you to maintain balance throughout the journey.

Lightweight, durable, and comfortable to use, these carbon fiber poles won't break the bank either.

With the proper equipment in your pack, you'll stay warm, comfortable, and happy on your trek into one of the most spectacular settings found anywhere on Earth. Gear up and get going. The Himalaya are waiting.