So, you’ve seen the breathtaking pictures, heard the amazing stories and want to tick the Everest Base Camp trek off of your bucket list. Great to hear! The trek is absolutely incredible and by far one of the most rewarding experiences we have had throughout our travels.This article will hopefully give you some idea of what to expect from the trek and a few helpful ideas about what to pack.
For most mere mortals, it’s going to be tough.
Expect long days of uphill hiking in a range of weather conditions. Wind, rain, snow, heat – the Everest Base Camp trek has it all. Walking distances will vary day to day. You will hike less distance per day as you ascend compared to your descent, as you need to give your body time to adjust to the rising altitude.
You will be walking 3 to 7 hours per day, usually at fairly steep inclines and declines. While the inclines are hard on the lungs (especially at high altitude), the declines are hell on your knees and toes.
In saying this, we managed to complete the trek without any incidents and we were always sure we would be able to finish the trek. I would say that when we are at home we have an average level of fitness – we exercise a few times a week, eat pretty well but also enjoy a pint or two and find it hard to walk past the chocolate section in the supermarket.
There is a range of accommodation on offer, even ‘luxury’ lodges, but for the most part expect the accommodation to be pretty basic. You will be staying in trekking lodges along the trail, which are usually family run and offer great value meals. Once you leave Namche Bazaar (the biggest village in the region which you will reach on day 2) the lodges will slowly become more basic the further you ascend.
The lodges differ in size – we found the larger ones a great place to meet other trekkers. All of the lodges we stayed in had electricity but very few had running water (especially at higher altitude). Hot showers and internet will be an extra cost.
The lodges centre around a dining room/lounge which is usually heated by a yak dung fire. There is usually a hallway leading to the bedrooms, which are made from thin cladding and do not have heating. Most rooms are accessible without having to walk outside though. The shared toilets are usually squats with a bucket of water for flushing (especially at higher altitude).
The beds are definitely on the firmer side and the bedrooms get very cold at night. Some lodges offer blankets/doonas, but you should bring an extra warm sleeping bag just in case.
The food does get quite repetitive but is very tasty. The infamous Dal Bhaat (vegetable curry and rice) becomes a staple for many trekkers as there are infinite free refills. Other dishes such as fried rice, fried noodles, Sherpa stew and omelettes are tasty options.
We were vegetarian during the trek – trekking past Sherpas carrying legs of beef that haven’t been refrigerated for several days was enough to steer us away. There are meat dishes available if you want to try your luck.
You can also find some small comforts along the way – most lodges and shops will sell chocolate bars, chips and candy. It will get more expensive the higher you ascend.
Bottled water is readily available for the entire length of the trail but will become increasingly expensive as you ascend. Lodges will be happy to boil water for you to use the following day (at a price). A great way to avoid having to fork out money for bottled water day after day is to take sterilisation tablets or a UV steri-pen.
Aside from the sense of completion you will receive upon finishing the iconic Everest Base Camp trek, the scenery is the main reason you are there and it certainly does not disappoint. It’s straight from a Lord of the Rings movie with snow-capped peaks soaring high above streams running through picturesque valleys. You will see plenty of yak and donkey trains, and ascend to desolate glaciers. There will be a couple of places to view Mt Everest. Arguably the best views are from Gokyo Ri (a three day side trip from the main Everest Base Camp trekking trail). You will not see Mt Everest from the Everest Base Camp itself.
Preparation for the Everest Base Camp as with any trek of this length will differ from person to person depending on your level of experience and physical fitness. We had been travelling through India for the 2 months leading up to the trek with minimal exercise other than walking, and we completed a 15 day Everest Base Camp Trek with a side trek to Gokyo Lakes without too much hassle.
It was definitely physically challenging for us but at no point did we consider turning around or quitting the trek. We would recommend doing some steep treks at home in the weeks leading up to your Everest Base Camp trek and exercising at least three times a week to ensure you have a reasonable level of fitness before you embark.
Altitude Sickness – there is no foolproof way to prepare yourself for potential altitude sickness. The effects differ from person to person. The most common symptoms include headaches, nausea, weariness and a loss of appetite. Be aware of your body’s changes as you ascend, and don’t be afraid to ask your guide or lodge for assistance if you are feeling the effects of altitude sickness. The cure? Head back down the mountain.
What To Pack
The Everest Base Camp trek is a pretty serious hike and you will need to pack accordingly. Tights and runners aren’t going to get the job done unfortunately. Spend the money to buy quality gear that will be comfortable, warm and sturdy. Generally, you should bring gear from home. However, Kathmandu has a gazillion camping stores selling gear. The quality varies so inspect garments closely before purchasing. The labels might say North Face or Patagonia but they may not be the genuine article.
The key to clothing is layering. While you may need shorts and t-shirts for trekking during the day, it’s also important to have warm clothing at night and to be prepared for rain or snow.
Laundry services are available at some lodges, but you will probably just end up hand-washing the essentials. Ask your lodge for some warm water and a tub, but expect to use your own soap or body wash.
We have jotted down a few items we found particularly important:
Shoes – get yourself a waterproof, high quality, comfortable pair of shoes. We recommend getting a pair of boots that go above the ankle just in case you need to trek through snow. Have them fitted properly and wear them in before you start to avoid any blisters.
Beanie, gloves, thermals – packing clothes that are going to keep you warm is incredibly important. No matter what time of year you are trekking you are going to come across some very chilly weather. Gloves should be wind and waterproof.
Walking Poles – they may look a bit silly but on a trek like this they are an absolute must. You can pick up a good pair in Kathmandu and donate them to a hostel or guesthouse when you’re done.
Cash – you will still need some spending money along the way for items such as water, snacks, showers, internet and maybe a sneaky beer or two. There are ATMs in Lukla and Namche Bazaar but it’s not uncommon for them to be out of order and the fees are insane, so make sure you take some Nepalese Rupee with you.
Here is a comprehensive packing list for your trip:
- beanie/wool hat
- 5+ pairs of underwear
- 1 x hiking shorts
- 1 x hiking pants
- 1 x thermal leggings
- 5 pairs of good quality woollen hiking socks
- Waterproof hiking boots with spare laces
- Flip flops/thongs
- 3 x t shirts
- 2 x long sleeve thermal tops
- 1 x down jacket
- 1 x waterproof jacket
- 1 x pull over/hoodie
- 1 pair of waterproof gloves
- 1 x scarf
- sleeping bag
- basic first aid kit (including broad spectrum antibiotics, Diamox for altitude sickness, and bandages for blisters)
- plastic bags for wet clothing
- trekking poles
- 1L water bottle
- deck of cards
- 1 x quick dry towel
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- soap/body wash
- nail clippers
- tampons/sanitary pads
- wet wipes
- toilet paper
- antibacterial hand sanitiser
Hopefully this article has let you in on what you will be experiencing throughout the trek and what to take when you embark on your adventure!