What Gear Do I Need for the Everest Base Camp Trek (and Why)?
*Last Updated December 2015*
What gear you need for the Everest Base Camp trek depends on what season you will be trekking in. It is perfectly possible to start walking the EBC route in shorts and a T-shirt, and end in layers of down.
It is possible to do laundry in Namche, but it’s pricey. It’s also possible to handwash in often icy water – or hand over laundry – to lodges along the way if you’re staying long enough for things to dry. This list assumes that you’ll smell like a homeless person by the time you return to Namche – you can mitigate this by bringing body wipes, but be sure to chuck them in a stove or carry them out.
Everyone will need the following basic gear for the Everest Base Camp trek:
BASIC GEAR FOR THE EBC TREK
Backpack: You don’t need a special backpack to do the Everest Base Camp trek – but it should be front-loading (i.e., you can open it like a suitcase), not purely top-loading (everything goes in from the top), to save you repacking the entire thing every night. The Osprey 70 is a good option. If you’re climbing Island and/or Lobuche, look at specialised lightweight, waterproof climbing packs from North Face. Don’t buy a super-cheap fake in Kathmandu: they can fall apart even before you finish the trek.
Headtorch (with batteries): This is handy both for early morning climbs and for getting around lodges in the dark. Buy cheap versions in Kathmandu or an adjustable model online. Invest in Western branded batteries, not Nepalese brands, or Nepalese fakes.
Sunglasses: A good pair of polarised sunglasses protects against both sun and snow glare, and can also be handy when facing blizzards in winter. If you don’t already have some, buy before you go as the fakes in Kathmandu don’t provide protection.
Water bottle: Mineral water is hugely expensive on the EBC trail and unsustainable to boot. In winter, water often freezes higher up the trail, so your best bet is to get hot water from your lodge. A wide-mouthed bottle makes it easy to drink even when your water is beginning to freeze: buy before you go or pick one up in Kathmandu.
Map: You can buy cheap maps in both Kathmandu and Namche. If you’d actually like to know the elevation of peaks, you’ll want National Geographic’s authoritative Everest Trekking map.
Daypack: For day hikes – such as the acclimatisation treks out of Namche – you’ll need something to hold your water bottle, snacks, and spare layers (never, EVER trek in the Himalayas without sufficient layers). Either use a backpack with an integrated daypack or look for a lightweight one with pockets for your water bottle like this.
Sleeping bag: Lodges do provide quilts but rarely enough, and the expectation is that you will use a sleeping bag under the quilts. It’s possible to rent sleeping bags in Kathmandu, and some tour companies provide them. The precise temperature rating of your sleeping bag will depend on the time of year you’re trekking at: to be on the safe side, opt for one rated to -20°C (or -30°C if buying a fake in Kathamandu). This one will handle everything the mountain can throw at you in winter and compacts down well for its price.
Hiking Poles: The route up and down involves a lot of steps up and down. Hiking poles take the pressure off knees and make life much easier all round. You can pick these up in the mountains or in Kathmandu (though the locks go fast on the Nepalese versions): look for lightweight versions with snow discs, like this set, which include a compass.
Sunblock and Lip Balm: Even when it’s cold, it’s easy to burn at the high elevations of Everest Base Camp. Bring a strong (SPF50) waterproof sunblock (Coppertone Water Babies is excellent value), plus moisturising lip balm with sun protection (Nivea Sun Protect is good). Vaseline is great for moisturising wind burn.
Trekking Solo? Bring a Compass: If you’re trekking solo without a guide – which I wouldn’t recommend not only since Nepal needs all the tourism dollars it can get, but because it’s safer, bring a proper compass. And know how to use it.
AND DON’T FORGET….
Change of Clothes for When You Get Back: If you’re flying into Lukla, you’ll probably leave electronics and other bits and pieces with your guesthouse while you go trekking. I recommend that that includes one outfit you feel nice in. There is nothing so great as returning to Lukla, throwing everything at a laundry, and changing into blissfully clean underwear and top clothes. If you’re walking in from Jiri, forget that luxury.
CLOTHES FOR THE EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK
What clothes you need for the Everest Base Camp trek will depend on the seasons. Roughly speaking, winter runs from late November to March. Peak season is April to May and September to early November. Monsoon season for EBC is June to August. In winter, you’ll need to prioritise cold weather but also be ready for warm; over peak, you’ll still need warm gear but less of it; in monsoon season, waterproofing is a priority though there can be snow higher up.
Everyone will need these clothing basics:
Decent Boots: Most hikes can be done in trainers/sneakers. Because of the weather risk on Everest Base Camp, you need boots. Don’t buy them in Kathmandu, or online. Go into a shop, have them fitted and wear them in. (I did EBC including the Cho-La in a pair of furry Chinese boots with zero support, but then I’ve been known to trek in flip-flops.)
Underwear: If you’re feeling spendy, and anticipate washing, you could invest in dedicated quick-dry travel underwear (I didn’t): but be sure to have a cotton gusset or, ladies, you’ll spend your EBC trek battling thrush. The route down involves lots of steps that can be surprisingly hard on the boobs. Women with B-cups or above should be sure to get a decent high-impact sports bra.
T-shirts: Even in December, the base of the Everest Base Camp trail can be T-shirt weather. Pack four T-shirts for peak season, three for monsoon and winter. You don’t need a special T-shirt but ExOfficio has lightweight, quick-dry versions that will come in handy if you’d prefer not to smell and plan on doing laundry. Sherpaville is a conservative culture, and Sagamartha is sacred, so keep your shoulders covered, ladies!
Socks: Bring at least six pairs of socks. Even if you’re trekking at the warmest times of year, make at least two of those pairs warm, breathable, long ski or winter hiking socks, optimally with cushions. It’s easy to buy hiking socks very cheaply in Kathmandu and the quality is fine for the duration of the EBC trek.
Sandals: You’ll want something to wear once you’re out of your boots, even when it’s peak trekking season – and it’s key to have something to protect your feet from icy floors and horrible loos in winter. Any old flip-flops or sandals will do, while you can buy mountaineering booties in Kathmandu and Namche if your feet feel the cold badly. Or invest in a pair of KEENs.
Hat with Ear Protection: It’s your ears that will really feel the cold! You can buy hats with dangly, novelty ear-pieces, including Sherpa-style woollen hats, in both Kathmandu and Namche. Or buy a lighter-weight peak season hat or heavy duty summer hat before you go.
Gloves: You can buy gloves all over the trail – though once you’re past Namche they tend to be wool-knit – but it’s wise to bring gloves even when trekking in peak season. Lightweight gloves will do in peak season (many now support touchscreens); over winter, you’ll likely need both ski gloves and glove liners. You can buy fakes in both Kathmandu and Namche: Kathmandu is much cheaper than Namche.
Fleece: Easy to buy in Kathmandu and elsewhere, a fleece is an essential extra layer whatever season you’re trekking in. If buying online, look for a good weight to warmth ratio: North Face has great technical fleeces.
Front-zip Fleece: At lower elevations over winter, and higher elevations during peak season, this will be your main outside layer: when the temperature drops, a good front-zip fleece also makes a great inner layer. These are easy to buy in Nepal, or go for North Face’s technical expertise.
Two pairs of Pants: Trekking pants look good, and are lighter than standard pants, but I did Everest Base Camp with a pair of combats, a pair of jeans, leggings and tights, and was fine. You can pick up trekking pants all over Nepal. Alternatively, ExOfficio has a great range of lightweight, quick-dry pants for peak season, while North Face’s Paramount range convert easily into shorts. Bring at least two pairs, one heavier, one lighter, but not more than three.
Jacket: The type of jacket you need varies widely according to season. I cover these separately below. When buying down jackets, online or off, be aware of the fill: how densely packed a jacket is with fill affects how warm it is.
EXTRA CLOTHES FOR EBC IN PEAK
Shorts: Yes, really! The Everest Base Camp trek can be warm enough for shorts both at lower elevations and up towards the top. Buy zip-off convertible trekking pants cheap in Kathmandu, or consider North Face’s Paramount range of trekking pants that turn into shorts. Or, if you’ve got lightweight shorts, bring those. Nepalese culture is conservative, so don’t opt for short-shorts, ladies.
Windproof Jacket: Unless you’re unlucky – in which case you have layers for that – your main weather concern during peak season will be wind. North Face has great windproof jackets.
EXTRA CLOTHES FOR EBC IN WINTER
Spare Fleece and Spare Gloves: Doing a high pass or high peak during winter in the Everest region, you might well wear every layer you’ve got. A spare fleece makes a reserve layer for emergencies, while spare gloves will come in handy if you lose the ones you brought.
Thermal Underwear: Bring at least two sets of thermals when trekking in winter – if you’re shoestringing, tights or leggings and long-sleeved, form-fitting tops add an extra layer without any extra spending. If you’re not, Polarmax do lovely silk thermals.
Ski or Board Pants: These add an extra layer of warmth and weather protection that can be a lifesaver if extreme weather comes in or when crossing a high pass. You can find them everywhere in Kathmandu at good prices, or look at North Face’s Thermoball range.
Heavyweight Down Jacket: As mentioned above, when looking for down be aware of the fill. When buying in Kathmandu, pinch jackets well to see how plump they are, check for down leakage and bend over to ensure that your jacket won’t expose your kidneys to the biting winter air. In midwinter, look for a 900-fill down jacket – North Face’s Nuptse range is good.
Snood for High Passes: When you’re up high, the whole of your face, not just your ears, will feel the cold. Bring a snood that you can pull up to cover your face – they’re on sale in Kathmandu and Namche for a song — or consider a hat with an integrated snood.
EXTRA CLOTHES FOR EBC IN MONSOON
Lightweight Rain Poncho: Monsoon means rain, and you’ll get a lot of it. To be honest, especially with visitor numbers low, I’d counsel against trekking in the monsoon. However, if you do, buy a poncho or longer jacket to protect yourself against the worst of the damp: these are super-cheap and easily available all over Nepal. Alternatively, go for a waterproof jacket.
Waterproof Pants: If you opt for a waterproof jacket over a waterproof poncho, you’ll also want to top off with waterproof pants. Pick these up in Nepal, where they’re super-cheap.
And, finally, some other notes on gear for Everest Base Camp. I can spin these out into separate posts depending on interest levels: drop me a comment if you’d like to see them.
ELECTRONICS FOR THE EBC TREK
Electricity is sparse and expensive, higher up the trail. So leave your laptop behind – and your tablet, unless you read from it. The EBC trail is no place to run an online business, so don’t tout gear you don’t need.
Camera: If you have a camera, bring it, with a lens that covers wide-angle and zoom (Canon’s Rebel T5i is a great entry-level DSLR. Bring multiple memory cards – real ones, not Nepalese fakes (I lost a week’s worth of pictures on a fake SanDisk) — and consider a spare battery, plus charger and adapter.
Kindle: Charge reading devices before you go, and fill them with good stuff. Evenings are long, and a Kindle will save a tonne of weight over paper books.
Phone: Don’t expect much reception at higher elevations, but a phone is handy to have. If you’re not an aspiring photographer, and are carrying your own gear, consider using your phone for all your needs, from reading to photography.
MEDICAL KIT FOR THE EBC TREK
This should include Diamox for altitude sickness, Cipro for stomach bugs, basic first aid (including bandages), painkillers, antihistamines and Tinidazole against giardia. This is not a comprehensive list and I am not a doctor: ask if you want a lengthier list, and I’ll see about adding one.
PAPERWORK FOR THE EBC TREK
Cash: Bring sufficient Nepalese Rupees to cover all expenditure (see How Much Does the Everest Base Camp Trek Cost?), plus a couple of hundred US dollars and a credit card for emergencies. Make sure your dollars are in good condition.
Travel Insurance: Whatever gear you have, you’d be mad to go to this elevation without insurance that will cover you for medical and evac. For most travellers, World Nomads will be the best choice.
Passports: Yes, of course you need your passport.
TIMS Card: This is your Nepalese trekking permit, which you or your operator will have purchased in Kathmandu. You’ll pay again to enter the park, but can’t enter without it.
Emergency Contact Details: Travel with a printed (not digital!) version of all emergency contacts (you don’t want it to be inaccessible when batteries run low). Besides your travel insurance emergency number, policy number and details, carry contacts for next of kin and your country’s embassy or consulate in Nepal.
And…. whew! …. I think that’s it. Head on over to my Everest Base Camp FAQs for more details on the Everest Base Camp trek, and How Much Does the Everest Base Camp Trek Cost? for pricing info. To read my own account of doing Everest Base Camp by way of Gokyo (with 12-year-old in tow!) start here.