Thursday, October 11, 2007

Trekking gear discussion

India summer trek gear discussion

Dress standard Cultural sensitivity is the hallmark of considerate travelers. Dress standards vary considerably around India—eye-popping halter tops and loincloth-clad saddhus to the Victorian ankle standard—but foreigners are judged differently. For trekking, dressing conservatively with covered shoulders and long pants earns the most respect, while skimpy tops and tight leggings invite unwarranted attention. Longer shorts, 3/4 pants are fine when hot. Skirts are not required for women.
Pre-trek Delhi is almost always scorchingly hot and humid, so bring light, loose and cool clothes. Spiti is dry and hot during the day, and cool in the evenings. We often throw on a fleece or a down-jacket for dinners in Spiti. Shimla is sunny and often pleasant during the day, so long shorts, 3/4 pants or light pants and a loose shirt are fine and a jacket for the evenings when it cools down. It also rains in the summertime in Shimla, so a rain jacket is useful, or an umbrella.
While trekking Trekking in Spiti requires some planning to be comfortable. You can expect a great variety of weather conditions, far more, say, than trekking in Nepal. In July-August-September you must be prepared for sleet, snow, dust storms AND dry heat with temperatures up to 30°C/80°F. River crossings can be easy but after rain they can be up to waist deep, and pass crossings can be under awesome blue skies or cloaked in freezing fog reminiscent of Scotland. Do not believe the "It never rains in Spiti". During the day all trekkers should carry a warm layer (fleece vest/jacket is ideal), a windproof/waterproof layer (Wind stopper fleece or the soft shells are good) and for river crossings, a walking pole, sandals with ankle straps, or old trainers. For walking the best upper layers are the 'wicking' t-shirts that many companies make। They come in a wide variety, long sleeve, and zip top, short sleeve। The long sleeves and collar versions are great to keep off the sun and are comfortable over a wide variety of conditions। Travel shirts also work well in the heat but are not as versatile, alternately a local cheap, 'hippy' cotton shirt. For trousers, all the outdoor companies make a wide range of travel and trekking pants, most of them amazing for the thought that has gone into their design। The ones featuring zip off lower legs to make shorts are handy। A good sun hat is vital, either wide brim or with a neck protector, or ordinary hat and light neck scarf.
In the evenings in India we have no lodges to retire to, instead our mess tent is cozy and well lighted but can still get chilly, thus a light down jacket, and a good one is the Himalayan trekkers best friend। It also doubles as pillow, extra layer, and is the envy if all on the bus journey to Spiti when the bus breaks down during a snowstorm in July!
Who carries what?
You carry a day pack with your camera, jacket, water, purifier, sometimes sandal and snacks. The horses and mules carry everything else. Duffel is easiest to pack and unpack in the tents, and fits well on the ponies. They are readily and cheaply available in Delhi, if you want to buy one there and store the backpack or roller-duffel until the end of the trek.
Expedition-style treks - what you are planning for
Basically you should plan with 5 specific climates/functions in mind:
+ traveling in the Indian summer heat
+ Fine weather trekking in the hot high country
+ Difficult conditions when pass crossing/high country trekking
+ River crossings - on certain treks
+ Cool high country evenings

Obviously, much of your gear will fulfill multiple roles.
September treks are far colder than the summer treks.

India gear discussion
Sleeping bag
Down-filled bags are better. Beg, borrow or steal a good one (i.e. 4 season) because high altitude nights will be cool. A muff (an extra section around the neck) makes a big difference to the overall warmth of a bag. Add a fleece sleeping bag liner to add warmth to a 3 season or tired 4 season bag.
Sleeping bag liner
Cotton, silk or fleece. Saves washing your sleeping bag and adds warmth.
Inflatable sleeping pad
Thermarest or similar padding is great for the Spiti treks as the ground is hard, and pads add warmth. We provide a sponge foam mattress for everyone, but if you have your own Thermarest, bring it along.
Daypack
This should be comfortable and a good waist band that transfers some of the weight to the hips is most important. It needs to be big enough to take a jacket, fleece, water, camera and odds and ends. Erring a bit on the larger side is better, bags cinch down.
Boots
Lightweight trekking boots are ideal, or the lighter leather models if you are going for 6000m. They need to be broken in, so a few country walks are in order.
For a happy trek you need comfortable feet. Good boots have: good ankle support, plenty of toe room for long descents, a stiff sole to lessen twisting torsion, and are light because with every step you lift your boot up. Look at the inner lining - leather is good and Cambrelle is even better, a material that eats smelly feet bacteria. Good lightweight trekking boots or light all leather boots are perfect. Boots must be lightly worn in before trekking and this should include some steep hills to show up trouble spots. The longer the trek, the better the boots you need.
Socks
In the low country your feet will be warm or even hot while walking so quality cotton mix sports socks are best. Three to four pairs are enough. Thick trekking socks are better for higher up and cool evenings, four pairs. Mostly modern trekking boots fit snugly so wearing two pairs of socks at the same time is impractical.
Sandals/camp shoes
Good sandals such as Tevas are a necessity for river crossings in Spiti (unless you like wet boots), and a luxury for your feet at the end of the day. Running shoes double as an extra pair of day shoes, or for the evenings at camp. Flip-flops, available for cheap in India, are good for washing in the river, and dry faster then Tevas, which tend to stay wet and cold after a wash.
Camp booties
A luxury and unnecessary but are so comfortable for cool evenings in the dining tent. Down or synthetic work.
Fleece jacket/Vest
Most trekkers consider fleece essential, but alternatives are a thick thermal top or a light down jacket. Layering is essential as the weather can be changeable. A fleece vest or jacket is easy to carry in your daypack, and layers well over a T-shirt and long-sleeved mid-weight shirt.
Down jacket/vest
Almost essential for the cool evenings. If you don't already have a jacket, inquire about renting one. A down jacket is the best option, although a vest can also be brought along.
Wind/Rain jacket
Waterproof and breathable. Plastic ponchos or non-breathable raincoats are not suitable. Gore-tex (or similar) jackets are recommended for treks over passes or climbing trips. Lighter jackets should be a second jacket, easy to throw in the daypack for warmer days.
Thermal shirts/underwear
Good thermals, both tops and bottoms, are one of the secrets to cold weather trekking comfort. Expedition-weight thermals are the most versatile and can be worn as your high altitude trekking top or under pants on extremely cold days. Zip-up tops are great for changeable weather.
Nightwear thermals
Silk-weight is lightest and warm, mid-weight is perfect. Great for warm nights in the sleeping bag!
Fleece/sweatpants
Essential; great for the chilly evenings in the dining tent, or after unpacking camp.
Day-wear shirt
T-shirts are popular but a cotton shirt or mixed yarn travel shirt is more versatile. The collar protects the back of your neck and the sleeves can be rolled up or down. Take two so you can swap damp for dry.
Trekking pants
You will live in these. Light material, loose and dark-coloured is best. Bring a couple of pairs of pants and a pair of shorts. Again, shorts should be longer (knee-length, or just above) to avoid attracting attention (and humoring) from the villagers.
Wind pants
If your trekking pants are reasonably windproof then special wind pants are not needed. If you do bring a pair, it is not necessary to have Gore-tex. Similar, non-waterproof is quite OK.
Underwear
They're light, so bring enough.
Warm hat
Nice for the evenings, hats essential for cold trekking days.
Trekking poles
Definitely useful, especially on steep, rough terrain, but if you are not used to using them you can survive without.
Sunglasses
Bring a good pair with UV protection, and an extra pair is good just in case.
Mittens/gloves
A good pair of wind-proof gloves are essential and makes packing up camp on cold mornings much more bearable!
Water Bottle
Should be one liter or more in capacity, able to take boiling water and be leak-proof. Nalgene or a similar brand, or European aluminum bottles, are best. You need AT LEAST 2 water bottles, or at least 1 water bottle IN ADDITION to a Camelback or hydration system.
Pee bottle
Very useful on cold nights!
Torch / Flashlight
Petzl Tikka's and other similar torches with LED bulbs are absolutely essential. You should have one in your daypack every day. Headlamps are ideal for reading in the tent and also essential for night toilet trips.
Toiletries/odds & ends
Essentials for the month only. There are a surprising number of campsites where we can wash up, and warm washing bowl are provided in the mornings and in the evenings. We provide toilet paper, but you might bring tissues or soft rolls for the nose.
Towel
Bring only a small one trekking, or a camp towel. In the hotels in Delhi and Shimla provide towels.
Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
The sun is strong at altitude, especially after snow. Bring at least sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 15, better still SPF 30+. And bring more than you think you will use!
Moisturizer
A small tube for sensitive or well cared for skins. The air is dry and the sun harsh. Local apricot oil is also available in Shimla, and great for hydrating the skin.
Sun hat
A light baseball cap or similar is ideal. A wide-brim sun hat is also good.
Bandana/scarf
Bandanas are perfect for keeping the harsh sun off the back of the neck, and scarves ideal for the Lawrence of Arabia look in the often desert-like conditions of Ladakh. Both locally available.
First aid kit
We carry one with aspirin, Paracetamol, ibuprofen, decongestants, lozenges, various antibiotics for Nepalese varieties of diarrhoea and chests infections, Diamox (an acclimatizing aid drug), antiseptic, antihistamine cream, rehydration, bandages and band-aids, tough blister tape (but not moleskin) and the book Medicine for Mountaineering.
You should bring any personal medicines that you need.
Water Purification/filters
A few bottles of iodine tablets such as Potable Aqua, Polar Pur or Couglans. Plain vitamin C tablets take away the iodine taste. We boil water for drinking in the evenings, which you can bring into your sleeping bag with you and then drink in the morning, but water purification tablets are ESSENTIAL during the day, as we advise drinking at least 3 liters of water daily! We carry purifying tablets with us, but it's best to have your own as well. Water filters are also good to have along, but not essential. If the water is excessively silty, you can borrow ours if you don't have one. BUT if you use one all the time, you'll need to bring your own (as the filter replacements are not available in India).
Camera
Bring a spare set of batteries or a small solar charger for rechargeable batteries. And LOTS of film, Shimla and northern Trans-Himalayas are extremely photogenic!
Video camera
Either bring extra batteries or a solar charger.
Books
Bring a few of your favorites; we have a 'library' that we bring with us and keep in the dining tent as well. You can borrow books (please take care of them) and leave your old ones for other trekkers. There are good book shops in Shimla.
Money belt
Most people find wearing one while trekking is a hassle, and keep it buried in their daypack (safer than in your gear or duffel bag).
Snow gaiters
Not needed but if you have them, bring them.
Crampons and ice axe
Not needed on our treks. For additional climbing discuss with us.
Evening Camp wear
Around camp, you can wear camp shoes, sandals with or without socks (for non-winter treks) or leather boots. No matter what altitude and what season, it is cool to freezing in the evenings. By far the best clothing is:
+ a down jacket, light or heavy, and/or a down vest
+ fleece pants or sweatpants
+ fleece jacket
+ silk or mid-weight thermals
+ wool or fleece hat
+ thick socks
+ down booties
We have light blankets to throw around the dining tent for the evenings, but if you have a favorite fleece blanket, bring it along. Shimla is also famous for their wool shawls in great, geometric patterns, and their cheap, bright wool shawls.
Snacks and nutrition
You will feel your best with plenty of good food and by keeping hydrated. We provide good, nutritious food (plenty of it!) and the water. Chocolate bars, dried fruit bars and dried fruit are readily available in Shimla & Spiti, but Clif bars, Power bars and the like are not.
We bring a wide array of food, and cook delicious Indian, Tibetan and an assortment of other foods, but 'surprise' snacks to share with the group provide a welcome variety during the trek. More about this when booking...
What is available in Delhi, Shimla & Manali
If you have extra time in Delhi, you can find a variety of boots, running and hiking shoes and sandals in Connaught Place in Delhi, as well as some clothing and gear. But supply and sizes are limited. There is a bit of gear available in Shimla & Manali, but it is best to bring your own.
Renting equipment
We sometimes have down sleeping bags and down jackets or vests to rent. Inquire with Sanjay before leaving home.
Gear list
Duffel bag
Sunglasses
Torch/Headlamp
Camera
One liter water bottles
Water purification/filter
Pee bottle
Film
Books
Lip balm
Sunscreen
Camp towel/towel/sarong
Toiletries
Personal medicines
Money pouch/belt
Energy bars
Vitamin tablets
Extra passport photos
Bandana/scarf
Sleeping bag
Sleeping bag liner
Daypack
Boots
Camp shoes/sneakers
Tevas and/or sandals
Socks
Gore-tex jacket
Light wind jacket
Down jacket/vest
Fleece jacket/vest
T-shirts
Underwear
Trekking pants
Thermal tops
Thermal bottom
Warm hat
Sun hat/baseball cap
Light gloves
Down/synthetic camp booties

What you DON'T need
You don't need a mosquito net; we stay in good hotels where there are no mosquitoes and there is very little chance that you will ever get bitten. Although India is a malarial area we recommend that you DON'T take malaria prophylaxis because Shimla, Manali and the trekking regions are NOT malarial areas. We can discuss this further if necessary.
What we provide
Our camping trips are full-service, with tents, sleeping pads, our Tibetan dining tent, cook tent, all supplies and food, ponies and a fantastic staff and guides provided. You just need to bring your personal gear, a good spirit, gear and hats to swap with Negi, and perhaps a few pounds of good cheese or a bottle of wine or two to keep Sanjay happy!

4 comments:

trekking in india said...

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Icicles Adventure Treks And Tours said...
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