The Proper Gear for Trekking the Himalaya

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

A group hiking on the Himalayan Trek

 Chris VR / TripSavvy

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 the planet.

But before you go, you'll want to make sure you have the proper gear you'll need to stay safe and comfortable along the way. From selecting the right backpack to finding the best footwear and clothing, you'll want to decide exactly what you need to bring long before you ever leave for the Himalaya. Because once you there, finding good equipment can be challenging and costly, if it is even possible at all.

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

Layered Clothing for Hiking the Himalayas

A proper layering system plays a big role when it comes to staying comfortable in a variety of weather conditions. Whether its warm and sunny or cold and rainy, having the proper layers means that you're always fully prepared. It also means you have a versatile wardrobe that can be used in virtually any situation, something that any traveler can appreciate.

When creating a good layering system 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 and quick drying, 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 options on the market to choose from, but we recommend Smartwool base layers for all of your outdoor and travel adventures.

The middle layer of any layering system sits between the base and the outer shell and provides important insulation for warmth. The job of this insulating layer is to trap warm air closer to the body. to help maintain better warmth. Garments that are especially good at this are fleece pullovers or a down jacket, depending on the outside temperatures. Fleece works great on relatively cool days, while a thicker, warmer jacket is needed when things are colder. 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 Vigor fleece 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 too. In the past, that was an issue with natural down, but it's no longer a concern with the hydrophobic versions.

The final layer you'll need to complete your system is a shell jacket, which provides protection from the wind and rain. This is the layer you'll want to have close at hand when the weather takes a turn for the worse and you're still caught out on the trail. 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, even when things get particularly nasty. 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. Merino has the added benefit of being antimicrobial, which means it is odor resistant as well.

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 the Lowa Renegade GTX or something similar, as the boot provides excellent stability and protection for extended hikes in rugged environments.

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. When that happens, go with 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 whichever pack you go with is hydration-ready, meaning it can hold a water reservoir that allows 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. Not only is it comfortable, it is a highly versatile pack that will serve you well on a wide variety of adventures across the Himalaya and beyond.

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 at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 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 higher on the trail and while descending back down. This can save a lot of wear and tear on your knees and hips, helping your legs to stay fresher throughout. Using these walking sticks can take a bit of getting used to, so practice with them before the trip so they start to feel natural in your hands. 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. 

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