You’ve been wearing the same clothes for nearly 10 days now. You aren’t sure the last time you’ve actually taken off your long underwear. Yesterday? Or maybe 3 days ago? What day is it anyway? It would be considered a crime to ask someone to smell your socks. The phrase “tatu pani” is a part of your every day vocabulary. Coconut cookies are a daily part of a healthy diet. You’re sweaty, dirty, and picking up a questionable chocolate habit. Welcome to being elbow deep in the mighty Himalayas.
Number 1 Tip: Avoid Buying Bottled Water
If there is one thing you should do, it’s avoid contributing to the trash problem in Nepal. We did not use a single plastic bottle of water during our entire time in Nepal and you can too! We relied on our water filters: a SteriPEN (that broke), a Sawyer Squeeze bag filter, and iodine tablets that we never used. About 2/3rds of the way through the trek we simply used untreated, boiled water (available for a small fee) and never got sick. The joy of the boiled water is that it doubles as a sleeping bag warmer at night, keeping your toes toasty and happy!
In Kathmandu the hotel provided us with free treated water from a water cooler at no cost to us.
First, it’s important to understand that there is no infrastructure to recycle in Nepal. So how much are you wasting by using bottled water? According to the Nepal tourism board, 36,794 people visited the Everest Region in 2016. Say all of those people bought bottled water for the entirety of their journey. To keep numbers simple, say the average trek is 10 days (it’s usually longer). It is recommended that you drink a minimum of 1 liter a day at lower elevations and 2 liters a day at higher elevations. This number excludes things like brushing teeth, taking medicine, or any other reason to use potable water.
Water is sold in 1.5 liter bottles across the trek. Let’s assume that you use 1 bottle a day at lower elevations, and 2 at higher elevations. Again, conservative, I went through 2-3 liters a day. Furthermore, you also spend 1/2 your time at lower elevations and half at higher. That’s a total of 15 wasted plastic bottles for you (1 each for five days and 2 each for five days) and a whopping 551,910 bottles for a single year in the Everest region alone! Think about it, using conservative numbers, that’s over a half a million water bottles with nowhere to be disposed.
There is not a single reason why anyone would need to purchase bottled water during their trek in Nepal. It’s ultra easy, and significantly cheaper to not use plastic. Let’s look at the cost of those 15 bottles. Starting out of Lukla a bottle will run you about $0.80 US or 80 Rupees. Up in Gokyo that same bottle of water will cost you $4.50-$5.00 US or 450-500 Rupees. For simplicity’s sake let’s say the average cost of a bottle of water is 250 Rupees. This really isn’t that outrageous considering you drink MORE at higher elevations and the price of water increases dramatically after your day 2 arrival at Namche. You would spend at a bare minimum, 3,750 Rupees or approximately $37.50 US on bottled water (15 x 250). The Sawyer Squeeze Filter costs much less than that on Amazon (at the time of this post the filter costs $27). Or, if you don’t want to buy a water filter, you can pick up iodine tablets in Kathmandu for less than $5 (500 Rupees).
With that being said, there simply isn’t a reason to use bottled water and contribute to the trash problem in Nepal. I would recommend taking a squeeze filter and iodine as a backup. We never encountered any problems with boiled water. One method that works well is to fill up a water bottle at night, snuggle up with it, pour it into a water bladder in the morning when it’s cooled and refill the bottle with more boiled water on the way out. This isn’t necessarily cost effective, but it’s a safe way to have drinking water and not use plastic should your other purification methods fail you.
Nepal Trekking Tips: Bathroom Adventures
Anyone who has traveled to Asia has at least one compelling bathroom story to tell. The same goes with Nepal. Quality varies wildly during the trek. From full on porcelain to a slat in the ground with a pile of pine needles. Either way, when you’ve gotta go on the trail, sometimes there’s no choice but “behind that lovely rock over there.” Toilet paper waste is unsightly and has difficulty decomposing at higher altitudes. Pee rags work wonders. What is this you ask? Well it’s awesome for us ladies! Use an old bandanna for all your number 1 needs. Tie it to the outside of your bag during the day and it will naturally sterilize in the sun. Plus, it beats the scratchy one-ply toilet paper you’re going to encounter in Nepal anyway.
Before leaving Kathmandu, load up on a few goodies! They are cheaper in town than on the trek and the selection is usually wider. We went one step further and brought some cheese crackers from home. Don’t forget, sharing is caring! It was fun to share our snacks with our guide, porter, and anyone else who was hanging about. We loved Nepal’s mixed, dried tropical fruit and coconut cookies!
Nepal Trekking Tips: Battery Saver!
A lot of people spent a pretty penny charging up their electronics every day. In the 11 days we spent trekking, we charged up once. Here’s the secret: batteries hate the cold. Don’t leave any batteries (phone included) out at night. A good secret is to stuff them in the clothes you plan to wear the next day, wad them up, and snuggle with them at night to keep you warm. Not only will you have warm clothes to put on, but your batteries will maintain a charge. You can also pack them next to a bottle of boiled water at night for the same result.
Lessons in Mountain Hygiene
For those of you thinking that a hot shower will be waiting for you around every corner, think again. Yes showers will be available, but not only are they expensive; if there hasn’t been sun, the solar showers don’t work. Furthermore, it’s quite difficult to coax yourself out of your clothes when the temps are 20 deg F (-7C). I took one hot shower the entire trek on day 9. Day 7 I purchased hot water for washing to give my essentials a good scrub after a particularly tough day. Lastly, I never bothered washing my hair. Wet hair and cold air don’t mix.
Whether it’s baby wipes or hot water and a wash cloth be sure to hit the essentials every day. Your face, pits, crotch, and bum will be thankful!
Learn Some Nepali
Pick up a language book and learn some Nepali! We had a lot of fun trying out our Nepali skills. The locals appreciated are attempts at trying to communicate and we had a good time playing with words. Of course, by day one our guide called us Fox (Piyauri) and Squirrel (Lokharke). Our trail names got quite the laugh from the local community.
Treat Your Feet
I have 3 words for this: silk sock liners. I wore mine every day. In fact, I’d recommend having 2 pairs, I longed for a clean pair on the trek! They keep your socks fresh and help your feet breathe, which prevents blisters. Also bring a blister kit in case you do get a little cut up. I am a personal fan moleskin, but others swear by the liquid stuff. Address ANY issues immediately. If you’re feeling a hot spot on your feet, pull over and take care of business before any problems occur.
Have a change of shoes for the tea houses. We had closed toe sandals and they worked ok. I ended up purchasing down booties in Namche. My feet resemble icicles so some down lovin’ was the perfect way to end a long day trekking. I’d also recommend packing a pair of thick wooly socks for any cold days.
You’re Going to be Cold – Get Used to It
We trekked in early March and it was COLD. There was an unusual spring storm that rolled through and sent temperatures to 0 deg F (-18 C) once the sun went down. Even I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. There were definitely times where it was tough to cope with the cold, especially if the sun wasn’t out or it was windy.
Once you arrived at the teahouse we discovered that the best course of action was to hang out in the main area near the stove and not huddled in your sleeping bag. First, change out of your sweaty clothes. A rough rule of thumb is to have a set of clothes for trekking and a set of clothes for the tea houses. It feels good to put on relatively clean clothes after hiking all day. Fresher clothes feel warmer. The tea house common areas were usually warmed by the sun and the fires were lit by 4pm unless there was crummy weather.
My last piece of advice: remain positive. Complaining isn’t going to change your situation so the best course of action is to focus on something different and bundle up. You’re in middle of the most stunning mountain range in the world!
Nepal Trekking Tips: Take it All in
Enjoy it. Every minute of it. The uphill grinds leave you with a deep sense of satisfaction. Sleepless nights at high altitude greet you with a breath taking mountain sunrise. Stop caring about your dirty hair. Savor that Himalayan hot tea. Embrace the camaraderie by communal stove. Nepal breathes beauty in each moment.