Packing for the trek of your life, is unlike any other leisure or holiday packing, where the weight of your bag is one of the most important factors to consider. Pack light and pack right is the key funda, and most of the times even your favorite suitcase and your most expensive and fancy clothes won’t do the job perfectly.
While it may sound like a week long or more trip to a far away exciting place, crucial to remember is – that a trek is a very niche activity be it on the unpredictable mountains of the Himalayas, or in a green meadows of Kashmir or Sikkim and alike. Each trek requires a specific kind of clothing, shoe gear and other trekking accessories depending up on the trek you choose and in which season.
So my personal experience of ‘packing right’ for a trek comes from my recent Chaddar trek 2014, in as adverse climatic conditions as -15 degrees or more. Although I have always been a last minute packer, this one was a tricky bet, and I had to be a lot more prepared than usual. Usually your trek leader will provide you with an extensive list of stuff you need to carry with you, and my advice is to only follow it seriously. And once I received mine, I realized it takes easily around a month to 2 weeks at the least to find all the required items enlisted.
Therefore START EARLY (#1) being the starting point of this post – let me take you through the other really pro guidelines that will help you pack just right, irrespective of the trek you choose…
#2 WHERE TO BUY?
Just like your trek, most of the gear you will need is highly niche, and will be available only in specific shops, and not any other regular store. If you are based in Delhi, Adventure 18 should be your first stop, in Satya niketan market, and right next to it you can also fine Adventure Point. Both the chains have other stores too nationally, and therefore you can always find one in your city as well.
While Adventure 18 comes out be a more experienced shop with more affordable gear, one can find more variety, expensive and imported gear in Adventure point. Both the shops have been in the trade for a while and are more experienced than any other you would find around. All you have to do is tell them which trek you are going for, and they will guide you through the right, most sound gear for it. Other good options are Wildcraft, Noida an Indian brand for all sorts of outdoor and adventure gear and Trekkers point, in Connaught place.
#3 RENT IT ALL…
INDIAN MOUNTAINEERING FOUNDATION – IMF, Satyaniketan, Delhi, was till date my best find while searching for the best options to pack everything on my list. While most of the jackets I had to buy were as expensive as Rs. 25,000, I was on a lookout for cheaper ways and options, until I stumbled across THIS goldmine of all technical outdoor gear.
From shoes, trekking poles, sun glasses, back packs, sleeping bags, blankets, ski gear, tents to jackets for all temperatures, whether extremely hot, wet or cold, you can possibly rent everything from IMF, on really cheap rates.
All you have to do is give them a deposit, rent your gear and return it after the trek. As the rent is calculated each day, it is advisable to rent closer to your date of travel, but visit them much earlier so that they can book and hold on to your sizes. Not very common, but still famous among regular trekkers, the gear tends to finish up early and if your late, you will most likely not find what you were looking for.
#4 – CONSIDER THE WEATHER / TEMPERATURES AT ALL TIMES
Considering that there are treks throughout the year, the weather should be your priority checklist. Winters and low temperatures require ultra warm / fleece / wool and other heat retaining clothing, while dry climates would require wind resistant and cotton clothing. A common t-shirt or jacket won’t suffice as wearing the right clothes is what will get you through your trek in the first place. Make sure you follow your list of technical clothing precisely, packing each and every item instructed.
#5 – PICK THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT / ACCESSORIES
Once you are done with your clothes, the next is to be sure about your backpack and your shoes.
While normal weekend camping can be done with any bag, trekking needs to be done with a proper backpack – which has a strong back support, lots of pockets for sippers etc., wide padded straps along with extra straps such as the S straps and the waist straps (helping you spread the weight around while your hike/trek) and a rain cover.
From personal experience, I would strongly advice to carry two of them one around 65 liters for your clothes, bathroom kit etc, as this is the one your porter will carry; and the other one around 25 liters for yourself which is light and still gives you space on your shoulders to carry your energy bars, water bottles, shoes, socks, etc.
When it comes to your shoes, please be clear that a pair of normal walking shoes, day shoes, gym shoes or regular sports shoes is NOT what you need for a trek. You require specialized technical trekking / hiking / climbing / skiing shoes depending on your activity of choice, which sure comes at a cost, but are always a good investment. You will find these shoes in specialized stores mentioned above, or you can order them online as well in advance as the actual delivery may take its time.
For winter treks, its wiser to buy a size above than your normal shoe size as you will have to layer your feet with extra pair of socks and still leave room for it to breathe. Also, remember to break into your shoes at least a week before so that you become comfortable with them and they open up to your feet size in time of your trek.
Signing up for the Chadar Trek and not sure to do it or not? – Make sure you read this one – 10 vital questions answered – for you to sign up for CHADAR TREK