We had an enquiry in our Perth shop from someone who is planning to trek to Mera Peak in the Everest region in November, asking for advice on suitable gear. Lucky her. If she is going to Base Camp that’s one thing. A peak ascent would be slightly different.
Here are my thoughts. We’d really like to hear yours. Tim Jasper, Brand Director
So, if you are an experienced hillwalker you will have already have evolved your own favourite system of clothing to deal with the widely varying conditions you can encounter. Himalayan trekking is not really any different, just likely to be more intense. When it’s hot it’s hotter, and when the rains come in they’re even wetter (or snow…). November is later on in the trekking season, but should be an ideal time to trek. You just need to be prepared for fast changing conditions.
You’ll know that a full waterproof suit of jacket and overtrousers is essential – whatever the weather forecast when you set off in the British hills and on treks it’s even more important. With a bit of luck the jacket will only be used for keeping the wind off on the tops (unless you also take a dedicated windshell – see below) and your O/T’s will happily stay in your pack all day. But if the weather closes in you will need the security of full protection. Modern, breathable materials are essential and I don’t believe – from my own experience – that you’ll get a decent level of technology in a jacket for less than £150 retail in general. Then it’s down to the effectiveness of the garment design – we’re very proud of our One-Pull hood design it’s simple to adjust, has a proper stiffened and wired peak and fits properly! Many hoods don’t… Rohan Women’s Waterproofs & Overtrousers
Moving to the against the skin layers, fast drying and wicking fabrics are essential to prevent chilling after activity and for comfort when you’re moving. Merino represents the very best balance for most people, as Superfine Merino will balance your temperature during the day – cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s chilly. For trek SFM has the massive benefit that it is naturally antimicrobial so can be worn for literally days on end in comfort and without causing offence! Other technical base layers are almost as good, but again you’ll probably have your own favourites. A long sleeved layer is really helpful for sun protection too, not just warmth when layered. Rohan Women’s Base Layers
On your legs I would choose a wind resistant and stretch fabric. For our female customers both Roamers and Crossovers are ideal. If you always feel the cold then Striders are on option, but on my first few visits to the Himalayas I was conscious of how warm it was at lower levels – as well as obviously pretty chilly at altitude. My system was thinner trousers as described with thermal leggings to wear under for the evenings and when higher. Worked a treat. But then I always backpack so need to carry my own gear. If you have porter support you can pack thicker and thinner trousers for lower and higher. Rohan Women’s Trousers
Personally I always take a thin fleece – Microgrid is exceptional and gets used a lot – and a thicker fleece. The thick fleece could be replaced by a light insulation piece like Icepack (available September), which is also windproof and showerproof – and lighter for the same warmth.
I’m always rueful about the many walkers who use their waterproof essentially as a windproof. A dedicated windproof jacket (like our Windshadow/Windrider/Windrush range) will do this job far better, because it’ll be lighter, more comfortable and with greater breathability – and will fend off showers and drizzle – meaning your waterproof shell can be carried and reserved for when it’s really needed. Rohan Womens Fleece
One essential for Himalayan trekking, in my opinion, is a good down jacket. The temperature drops sharply at nightfall and as the air is thinner when you’re higher and you’ve been active all day there is nothing more comfortable than a thick down for stargazing and general comfort when camping. Our Nightfall Jacket (that’s why it’s called that!) is a premium goosedown jacket which means it is lighter and more packable than cheaper down, for more warmth. These pieces are an investment but will last for many years. Rohan Women’s Insulation
Accessory garments are essential for your comfort: gloves, for instance, I would take thinner gloves (like Control) and proper, warm waterproof gloves too. When you do need them you’ll be so glad you have them. A warm hat, or a combination of thin and thicker hats, is also essential. Many people trek in a brimmed hat or cap, specifically for keeping off the sun. A Buff or light scarf is great: I’ve used a Buff as a neck gaiter to stop rain dripping down my neck, as a sun protector for my neck tucked under a cap and as a dustmask (the trails can get very dry and sharp winds blow up mini duststorms). Rohan Accessories
Sunglasses, of course. Sunblock, lipbalm…
Footwear is very personal. The most important thing is that your boots – and yes I would personally wear boots rather than trail shoes, though many don’t – are super comfortable and give you happy feet. It’s not necessary to wear very high specification winter-type boots. Something softer and more flexible will be more comfortable, unless you’re going for the peaks. I look for a waterproof boot with medium support and a good construction that will stop stones being felt through the soles – very tiring after a few hours. Our Lapka is for me an excellent, very light but supportive trekking boot. You may have found similar success with other models or brands. Merino socks and change them frequently – maybe two pairs on wash and wear rotation. Some people like to wear a liner. We supply all this in our Climate Socks range.
Read More on the technical specification and care Rohan Women’s Footwear
If you’re going for the peaks then things change somewhat. The clothing system outlined above will do the job for most people – you’ll make your choice for summit day according to conditions, but I wouldn’t go high in the Himalayas without my down jacket bundled in the pack as an insurance policy. Boots are a different matter: you will need proper stiffened boots (sole and upper) to take crampons. If you’re doing this, you’ll know what you’re doing and be familiar with snow tools and how to use them. Definitely fresh and thicker socks and the essential gloves and warm hat.
So here are some general suggestions.
The Himalaya is a fantastic environment for anyone who loves the mountains and the human cultural side of travel. Areas of Nepal in particular, especially the Everest region, are now very well developed, so there is plentiful support, shelter and many other trekkers around. If you want to get off the beaten track there are still huge opportunities for that too.
It would be really interesting to hear of other experiences and suggestions.
Any thoughts from Rohantime readers? Do share them. Thanks.