Useful Tips for a first-time trekker in the Himalayas of Nepal? Here is some food for thought!
Any avid trekker would be motivated enough just thinking about completing a trek in the shadow of the world’s highest peaks; a bonus would be boasting about it afterward. One doesn’t need to be a seasoned world traveler or an exceptional hiker. All you need is to be in good shape, love walking, and have a thirst for learning about different cultures with an open mind, a sense of adventure, and this dream can become a reality. Having a sense of humor is a bonus.

1.    Start easy.

As exotic as a 16 day trek to Everest base camp sounds, take it easy if this is your first time making an extended hiking trip and traveling to a developing nation. We usually advise first-timers to take a shorter trek in the lower elevations, such as in the Annapurna region. It will be no less challenging with all the uphill and downhill walking but with a plentiful supply of oxygen. You will pass through beautiful villages, farms with spectacular mountain vistas making up for the physical effort.

2.    Book with a tour company or go independent

Opinions vary on this subject of  – whether to do the trek with or without a guide? A tour company will save time even for the most independent of travelers. The right tour company can save you from frustration and give you peace of mind by taking care of all necessary arrangements in detail. A reputable tour operator should provide you with a perfect English-speaking guide along with porter support.

You will see many younger people trekking on their own with a guidebook – fantastic! However, with an excellent guide, not only will you gain new friends, but you will be able to facilitate logistics and little-known secrets of the area, adding value to your Himalayan hiking experience.  More often than not, your guide is from the local area, if not a regular in that region, who knows the villagers quite likely to invite you for a cup of tea or even Rakshi – a local brew. You might be uncomfortable with having a porter to carry your belongings while you are just taking your day pack but keep in mind that you are helping to employ one more local with a relatively good income.

You will be provided with a duffel bag before leaving for the trek, where you pack all your belongings for the trek you need for the trek. Porters usually walk ahead with your duffel bag, either meeting you when he is resting or at lunch or sometimes even at the end of the day’s hike. They often reach the lodge ahead as they have a faster pace. Some excellent porters come down on the trail after picking the best room in the hostel and even offer to carry your day pack until the lodge at the end of the day.

3.    Trekking lodges.

Depending on the region you end up trekking in, the accommodation will vary from very basic tea houses. For example, in some Langtang and Helambu region villages, the lodges were destroyed by the April 2015 earthquake, and some are being reconstructed now. However, there is a growing number of comfortable family-run lodges and small chains of “Luxury” lodges owned by bigger companies. A standard family-owned inn would have neat and clean rooms with a wooden framed bed with mattress and shared toilets/bathrooms. You are advised to either bring your own or hire a sleeping bag. Although the lodges have blankets, some of them might be smelly or moldy. During the peak season, the guides and porters use those blankets. They have quite an extended menu with a variety of hot food. Don’t expect the food to be the same as back home when you order macaroni and cheese. After a couple of days, you will notice that all the menu is identical, but the taste will be different as they prepare food fresh and not packaged stuff.

Most trekkers gather in the dining room, and there is usually a heater. There are typically are cloth lines on top of the heaters where you can hang your wet clothes to dry. It is a great place to read, play games, or meet other trekkers from around the world.

Tip: You can lay your clothes on top of the mattress and under your sleeping bag to avoid having to wear cold clothes in the morning.

The types of packages vary between different local trekking agencies. However, if you have booked with a reputable tour operator, your meals would be included. If you are an independent trekker, you will notice the price of food getting more expensive the higher you get. This is because porters or mules carry everything up through difficult terrain.

a man standing on a rocky hill

a man standing on a rocky hill

4.    Listen to your body.

You are bound to feel the hike’s toughness regardless of your fitness level, as you are not trained for multi-day hikes. An excellent guide shouldn’t be too far away, and he/she should encourage you to keep hydrating and take it slow and steady with frequent stops to admire the scenery, people, and for rests. It is good to bring some snacks with you to keep the energy levels topped off before or after your lunch.

5.    To buy or to rent.

This advice is for non-regular hikers. You can buy every bit of cheap knock-off (fake) gear in the numerous “trekking shops” in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You will also be able to rent puffy down jackets, sleeping bags for about US$1 per item per day. Hiring allows you to return the equipment after the trek you might never use again and gives you room in your suitcase/backpack for souvenirs.

6. Here’s a checklist of other miscellaneous items:

  • Bring six (4) passport-sized photos to Nepal for your visa and trekking permits.
  • Pack with light layers in mind
  • Bring some Aqua tabs/water purifiers and your own water bottle to have water on the cheap and avoid buying bottled water bottles. Purchasing a Camelback is a good investment.
  • Dress modestly as you’ll be passing small villages where local customs are still followed but don’t be surprised to see youngsters dressed up like in the cities – this is due to the internet and social media.
  • Photography wise, bring extra memory cards and batteries, a small tripod, and an Asian two-rounded-prong outlet adapter.
  • Wake up early for every single sunrise. Nepal is known for its superb sunrises!