I completely and entirely winged any advance preparations for the Everest Base Camp trek. I just bought a one-way ticket to Nepal and I had a pair of trekking boots, that’s it. The idea to go to EBC was finalized only two days before and I had one day to prepare.
However, I was lucky that my couchsurfing host was a trekking guide himself. Although he couldn’t go with me, he helped me with all the preparations, and I borrowed a bunch of stuff from him too.
I went in November-December 2014, so it’s the beginning of winter. It IS colder, not so mild as in, say, October. But on the bright side, there was less ‘tourist’ traffic. Also, that was before the April 2015 earthquake, but the trek has now been restored. So, go:)
DO I NEED A TREKKING PARTNER?
I didn’t have one initially. I did find a group of girls on Trekking Partners to go trekking with. But it’s hard to meet everyone’s needs, so I just decided to go with my own flow. But def check out that site, it’s good if you’re looking for someone! Not too many hikers go on their own though. It’s fun to go in a SMALL group, with similar interests and fitness level. Big groups are a bummer. I’d prefer to go solo. So I went with just a local sherpa and then I met a group of 3 Russian guys en route and we trekked together, which was fun.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL/ TREKKING AGENCY?
So many options, for all budgets:) Since I’m writing more for shoe-string budget travelers, I’ll say this: do not spend unnecessary sums, paying expensive European firms to organize the trek. Get a ticket to Nepal, find a local trekking agency on spot (word of mouth, forums), go with them or at least get first-hand info from them. I was with Apex Himalaya, they’re my dear friends and I totally vouch for these guys.
You don’t need to buy packages from agencies! You can even just get free info! You can just get a per diem trekking guide through them. Get help with a permit, etc. Get only what you need, otherwise you’ll get a bundle of services, like a tour in Kathmandu.
DO I NEED A GUIDE/ A PORTER?
I went with a local sherpa as a guide/ porter. He didn’t speak much language and (surprisingly!) was very bad with reading maps, but he new Himalayas like the back of his hand!
Some people go without guides, which is ok. Especially, in the high season, you can kinda follow other groups/ the path is more or less clear. But I really needed one. I’ve seen groups and a few solo guys without guides; never a solo girl. Some (not many though!) choose to carry their packs themselves, I tip my hat to those.
DO I NEED A TREKKING PERMIT?
I say yes. It was checked all the time on multiple posts.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes, I strongly advise it! Luckily, I never used mine, but the risk is real. Apparently, it’s a good idea to ask your insurance if they cover a helicopter rescue:) I used World Nomads insurance, because theyspecifically cover backpackers.
WHAT TO PACK?
Basically, you can buy or rent (!) everything in Kathmandu, it’s a mecca for that. If you go shopping with a local/ haggle, you’ll also get a good price. It will not be authentic North Face or Marmot, but it will most likely do it’s job. The only thing which I wouldn’t mess around with is good sturdy hiking boots. Broken into. With ankle support. Water resistant (snow or rain).
• Backpack – a big one with your stuff (50L is a good size). And a small day pack. For the small stuff for you to carry if you decide to have a porter. Or for you for acclimatization days, when you stay at the same place, just hike around during the day, getting used to the altitude.
• Sleeping bag – have a good and warm one! I rented a -20º North Face, no need to purchase one. Check that it’s stuffed properly.
• Trekking poles – some don’t really like them, but for me they were super useful. They help you find balance, extra sturdiness and take stress from your knees and legs (spreading it more evenly throughout the body).
• Down jacket – yes! It gets cold, especially in the evening on the tops, where you go see the sunsets. And a thin wind-proof jacket. During the day it’s hot and windy. (I had a North Face, can’t be more happy about it!)
• Warm hat and scarf
• Gloves: I suggest having two pairs, thinner ones and bigger wind-proof ones, to put over.
• Gaiters – I was so lucky that my couchsurfer gave me those! They are for moist and wind protection, and they keep the heat in. And they protect your pants from getting dirty (and you WILL get dirty). I wore those every day and was very very happy about having them on.
• Trekking pants – have two pairs, dark colors. It gets dusty and dirty. Make a note: if you buy them in Kathmandu, it will probably be difficult to find the right size (pants only, all of them are short:) I compensated their shortness with wearing gaiters though. Also, have thermal pants for the nights and trekking on higher altitudes.
• Shirts – two fleeces/ wool. Two (at least) thin synthetic/ thermal long sleeves. Do NOT trek in cotton (“cotton kills”, it gets wet with sweat fast and dries slow). Cotton shirts to change into in the evening.
• Underwear/ socks – you can wash them on lower altitudes. When I attempted it higher up, I found a frozen mold in the morning:)
• Polarized sunglasses – the sun reflects from ice and snow and it’s so brutal, your eyes hurt:)
• Spikes – after the Everest Base Camp we also went to the Lake Gokyo via a glacier Cho-la Pass. For this I purchased spikes in Kathmandu. Never used, since sherpas told me not to put them on. That was a questionable decision though.
• A buff is a must – you will use it as a headwear, as a neckwear and very importantly, will cover your face/ nose on stretches that are very dusty.
• Sweet treats – I bought 13 sneakers bars with me!!! Best.Decision.Ever:) You can buy them in the mountains too, just like hats and gloves, but everything gets more expensive.
• Cleaning/personal stuff – like a little shampoo, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, tissues. Again, you can buy it, but none of it is provided.
• My new friends with whom I trekked had a thermos to bring hot water/ tea with us. You have to stay hydrated and it’s cold and impossible to drink cold. So that was a necessary gadget.
FIRST-AID KIT/ MEDICATIONS (not a full list, just some suggestions!)
All the meds you can also buy in Kathmandu and save yourself lots and lots of dollars!
• Painkillers – most likely you WILL need them. Headaches come with altitude. There’s a hypothesis, that Acute mountain sickness is an inflammatory process, and a study is being conducted. In case it’s true, I opted for Ibuprofen.
• Acute mountain sickness (altitude sickness) pills – well, that’s questionable. I did buy pills in Kathmandu (forgot the name) but the instruction was that I could take them for 3-4 days, so already on the very top basically, if you already feel the AMS. However I felt symptoms well before, on day 3 (unusual fatigue, headache, weakness in limbs and nausea). Starting day 3 my fellow trekkers gave me a AMS prevention pill – acetazolamide – and we were taking it every morning since then, till we started descending. Hard to tell if that really helped, but well, I made it:)
• Something for sinusitis, runny nose, sore throat (!) and tissues
• Anti-diarrhea, antibiotics (I had cipro), water-purifying pills – I had that, but never used. Food is very simple and it’s so cold so I think all bacteria are dead anyway:) And I bought bottled/ boiled water.
• Knee-brace - good to have, just in case, because anything can happen. Didn’t use, that but had it.
• Bandaids – yes, a lot!
• Vitamins – the food is pretty bland and I was really missing fruits. So taking a Vitamin C is not a bad idea. We also took B complex vitamins for energy.
MONEY MONEY MONEY
Everest Base Camp is not the cheapest thing you can do, that’s for sure. But there’re ways to spend less.
• You don’t need to buy a tour, especially (an expensive) one organized somewhere in the US/ Europe. Get local professional help from a trekking agency in Kathmandu instead. Local business is built on tourism and trekking, so most of them are highly knowledgable! I got my shepa and info thru a local agency.
My friends did even a more money saving move: they flew to Lukla (that’s how most likely you start your trek to EBC). In Lukla a bunch of locals wait for tourists to arrive. There you can find a guide/ porter on spot. No middlemen at all. So they negotiated a guide and 2 porter boys for real cheap.
• You need to obtain a TIMS card (Trekkers’ Information Management System) and a trekking permit (the yellowish insert). All together it’s about $40.
• I paid $22 a day to my sherpa guide/ porter (so for guiding me and carrying my pack). I think it’s a very fair price.
• Most likely you’ll fly from Kathmandu to Lukla (some choose to trek there, which is 7-8 days one way). Return ticket Ktm-Lukla is about $320.
• During the trek you’ll be paying for all the services as you go. A room (for two people, but I stayed alone) starts from $2 for the first few nights, higher up it’s $4-5. Basically everything increases in price with altitude, which is understandable, almost everything is delivered on sherpa’s backs! Meal: $2-5. Shower (a bucket of hot water higher up): $2-5. Wifi: around $3.5 for a session. Charging (yes it’s paid separately!): also around $3. Water: $1 per 1 liter bottle. $1.5 for boiled (hot water). Hot tea becomes the biggest commodity with altitude! We bought big pots of tea for 4 of us, $4-12 (!!!).
On a final note: prepare yourself physically, get strong legs and good cardio, that you will definitely need. I could say so much more, because this trip was simply unbelievable. Do prepare yourself, but don’t overthink it. Go explore the natural wonders, go discover yourself! ♥!Enjoy!♥
Read more about my Everest Base Camp trek here.