A.K.A all the stuff I wish someone had told me before I did the Annapurna Base Camp trek.
Me and my very good friend Hannah recently trekked unguided to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in the Himalayas with absolutely no previous trekking experience.
If you’re about to do the same, here’s what you’ve gotta know:
You want to pack as lightly as possible, since you’ll be carrying everything on your back. Mine and Hannah’s bags were about 10kg each. Some people in our group had bags weighing nearly 20kg. A bag this heavy is gonna rub on your skin and cause painful sores. I used this Osprey Aether 60L Backpack
Ok so on the Annapurna Base Camp trek you’re gonna experience some wild variations in temperature and conditions. We did it in October and had temps ranging from near 30°c in the first few days to -2°c at the top when we reached base camp.
- Waterproof jacket. This is super important because it can rain quite a lot along the entire route. I used this cheap and cheerful Peter Storm Womens Packable Hooded Jacket, which is handy because it folds up small. It’s good for use in light or short showers, but the problem was that on days with heavy rain my clothes underneath would still get wet. A better option would be this Regatta Wrightbridge 3 in 1 Jacket which uses Isotex fabric for waterproof capabilities, and the waterproof jacket and fleece can be worn separately or together
- 2 or 3 pairs of leggings or lightweight trousers (it’s difficult to dry stuff once you’ve washed it/if it gets rained on. Hang the wet pair off your rucksack, wear a dry pair for trekking and have a clean dry pair for sleeping in. Wearing wet clothes when you’re cold is incredibly grim, and sleeping in wet clothes is even worse). I used these Adidas leggings most days, however I wish I brought something like these Mountain Warehouse Convertible Trousers which double up as both trousers and shorts and will be handy if you’re travelling to other areas too
- 2 or 3 t-shirts (I only brought 1 t-shirt for the entire trip. This was a bad idea.) Take something like this Head Technical T-Shirt
- Long sleeved top or thermal, this Dublin Technical Top is ideal
- Jumper (also handy for evenings. It can get pretty chilly once the sun goes down, I slept with my jumper on almost every night)
- 4 pairs of wool socks (towards the top it can take 2 days to dry stuff so having extra is useful)
- 4 pairs of pants or more (see drying issue above)
- Gloves (cause they’re lightweight and don’t take up much space)
- Hat- a cap is useful because it keeps the sun off your face and also keeps you warm when it’s freezing, how handy 😉
- Swim clothes, there are some hot springs on the way and you don’t want to miss out on them
You NEED a pair of walking boots. You’ll be walking on mixed terrain and will need something with good grip and ankle support.
If you want to buy something before you arrive in Nepal, I’d go for these Karrimor Orkney III boots. Having waterproof boots is a necessity, and these have the high ankle support you need.
I bought some fake North Face boots in Thamel the day before the trek, and whilst they were not waterproof, I had no other problems with pain or blistering. In fact I had the least-blistered feet out of anyone in our group of 6.
A while back you used to be able to rent boots from hiking equipment shops in Thamel and Pokhara. You won’t be able to find anywhere that will do this anymore because the rental shoes had a tendency to fall apart halfway through. Not ideal.
You should also bring a pair of flip flops, slides or even specialised walking sandals like these Karrimor Hiking Sandals.
Honestly you’ll be beyond grateful for them after a day of walking in boots. Plus they’re handy for the shower.
The sheets in the guesthouses on the Annapurna trail don’t get cleaned very often because they need to save water. So bring a sleeping bag or liner. Something lightweight will be fine, although you may get cold higher up. Some guesthouses might have extra blankets you can use but this isn’t for certain. I met someone on the way who didn’t bring a sleeping bag, so his rucksack was much smaller and lighter. I personally didn’t want to sleep on dirty sheets, but that’s your choice 🙂
This Highlander Echo Sleeping Bag will do a good job of keeping you warm. Or alternatively you could get this LIFEVENTURE Silk Sleeping Bag Liner which will be much smaller and lighter to carry, and layer up in the night or borrow some blankets from the guesthouses.
To be honest you probably won’t need these, however there are loads of steps up and down on the Annapurna route, and it can be useful to have a stick to help with your knees on the way down because descending puts an enormous amounts of pressure on your knees. You can take a bamboo stick from the route and use that instead of walking poles. If you can’t find any bamboo then ask one of the local guides where to find some.
If you’re worried about your knees then I would get these Trekrite Antishock Hiking Sticks. They’re lightweight and have an antishock feature which is useful for steep downhill gradients.
Unsurprisingly there are no ATMs or card machines at all on the Annapurna route. Budget around £10 per day but you should take more in case you need to buy extra things on the route, and budget more if you eat a lot. You could get a meal for around £1.50 and a bed for between £1.50 and £4 (at the time of writing).
Food and accommodation is cheaper towards the start of the trek and gets more expensive the higher up you go, because everything has to be carried up.
All of the menus at each guesthouse are set by the government, meaning the prices are set and trekkers don’t get ripped off. This is a good thing, although it does mean the food gets incredibly samey, as the menu for each restaurant will be nearly identical.
If you want some variation, bring some Ration Meals. I brought a few of these on my trip and they come with a self heating device. They are a welcome break from the endless sea of noodles and dal bhat.
A map comes in handy. Again this is something Hannah and I didn’t bring, and had we not been with a group with a map, we’d have got lost a couple of times. That being said, the route to Annapurna Base Camp is fairly simple, and if you go in peak season you can always ask fellow trekkers which route to go in case you don’t have one.
Other things to take on the Annapurna Base Camp trek
Lip balm. Honestly you’ll be thankful I told you to bring this.
Toilet roll – good luck finding any on the route
Standard first aid kit (of course)
Animals on the Annapurna Base Camp trek
Leeches: there will be leeches around, especially if it’s been raining. Avoid walking in long grass without boots on. I got leeched once during the 8 day trek, they are harmless and you can just pull them off. You might feel some itchiness the next day.
Monkeys: there are some monkeys on the route. Remember these are wild animals so please try not to exasperate them. If you notice some signs of aggression then walk away, otherwise they may attack you or steal/damage your belongings.
An important note on safety in the Annapurna region
If you’re a lone female traveller and are considering trekking alone, please consider taking a guide or going with a group. There have been instances of disappearances, attacks and worse on lone woman trekkers in this region. There is a company called 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, which has female guides and assistants for trekking the Annapurna trail and other Himalayan treks. Please consider using them if you’re a lone female traveller.