When I decided to go for my first trek, the very first thing I did was to start collecting the trekking gear. Even after having spent some money on it, when I reached the coldest part of the trek (about -10 to -14 degrees) my jacket was not good enough to keep the cold out. Once I was back, I went ahead and bought a new one. That worked fine but not in the rain, so I got another one and the new one was perfect for any weather.
A similar thing happened with the shoes I wore on the treks. The point here is that I have experimented a bit with the trekking gear that I use and now know enough to point you in the right direction. So, without further ado here is what you need to carry with you on a trek.
Note: This list is not for solo treks. Solo treks will need more/slightly different equipment.
Trekking gear list
- Rucksack/Backpack 60 litres with a rain cover
- Waterproof bags (AKA dry sacks)
- Raincoat/waterproof clothing
- Trekking shoes
- Gaiters (not needed for all treks)
- Bottles for water (carry 2 one-litre bottles)
- Trekking glasses (category 3 or higher)
- Trekking poles X 2
- Jackets (waterproof and warm)
- Thermal inners X 2
- T-shirts X 3
- Trekking/track pants X 2
- Gloves (fleece or heavy gloves depending on the conditions)
- Warm caps or balaclava
- Toilet bag (with toilet paper and wet wipes)
- First-aid kits
Where to buy the trekking gear
Buying the trekking gear is where the real challenge comes in. If you look around there are plenty of companies that sell it but only a few have dedicated product lines. My gear is a mix of Decathlon and Wildcraft (two companies that I trust).
In certain things like backpacks and jackets, I suggest you don’t compromise on the brand, but other things like t-shirts and pants you can buy whichever brand you’d like. I’ll tell you more about each of these things next.
The finer points of buying trekking gear
All trekking gear needs to be carried from point A to B. A backpack that is 50-60 liters will do just fine. You’ll need to make sure that it has a rain cover. In this case I would advise going with Decathlon’s 50 liter or 50+10 liter rucksacks. I have an 80 liter and a 90-liter backpack from them, and the 80-liter backpack has come with me for 4 treks and one trip to Thailand. It is tough, durable and front loading, so it is easy to pack.
Dry sacks/dry bags
These are small/medium/large pouches that you will use to pack things in and then put inside the rucksack. There are two advantages to using these. First, they add another layer of protection and second, they help keep your things organised. I got mine from Wildcraft, but you can get cheaper ones on Amazon.
Note: The setup I use is one medium for pants, t-shirts and other clothes; one medium sack for electronics and toiletries; and one large sack for the warm clothes.
Here you have two choices. The first is to buy a raincoat or that top and pant set. The second option is to buy a proper jacket and a pair of waterproof pants. I’ll talk about the jacket a bit later but a good option for the rain pants is the one sold by Decathlon. It has a zip near the bottom which makes it easy to slip on without removing the shoes.
Tip: Waterproof pants are great at keeping the cold air away from the legs.
Speaking of shoes, this is where you need to be a bit careful. Most people will advise you to get a pair of ankle boots which will cost you something like Rs. 2,700 or so (the most common choice is the Forclaz 500). I recommend to go for the Quechua Arpenaz 100 (NH 100).
It’s not an ankle length shoe but a regular one that offers the same grip and toughness the Forclaz 500 does. Also, it costs only about Rs. 1,000 and can be worn with a pair of jeans and t-shirt once you get back to civilisation.
This is an accessory that is worn below the knee over the pants to keep them dry. It is not really needed for all treks, so you don’t really need to worry about this much. If you do want to buy a pair, then Wildcraft is a good option.
Bottles for water
When you are on the trek, it’s very important to keep hydrating making this critical to your trekking equipment. The best way to do that is to drink water often. To do that you should carry 2 bottles, 1 litre each, with you. There is no specific brand that you need to target for this, but my suggestion is to go for bottles with filters and sippers. Also, it’s best not to take metal bottles because they weigh more, and you have to carry them.
Tip: Don’t take hydrating packs. The pipes are exposed to the cold and can freeze up, preventing you from being able to drink.
It is very important that you protect your eyes when you are trekking in the mountains. To that end, you need a pair of glasses. The sunshine is brighter because of the thinner air at higher altitudes and it also reflects off ice/snow and water, which hurts the eyes. What you need to do is look for polarised trekking glasses that are rated Cat 3 or more. They also need to cover the sides, so wraparound styles are preferred.
If you wear glasses that have power, you can go for dark glasses with power but that will cost you a bit more. Another option would be to take photochromatic glasses, but they may not help you in the snow and ice, because they need to be polarised to keep most of the bright light away from the eyes.
Tip: When buying dark glasses with power, don’t go for a famous brand like Ray Ban because the optician will remove the glass that is already on the frame and replace it with one with power. Essentially, you’ll be paying a lot of money for a fancy frame.
Trekking poles are essential to having fun on a trek. They basically help you with the climbs and ensure you have some support. You may see that some companies that organise treks suggest getting one along. The truth is that you ALWAYS take two, one for each hand. The trekking poles will set you back by about Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 5,000 depending on the brand and features.
The one I would NOT go for is by Wildcraft. The height adjustments on those are done using clasps, which, when they become loose, meaning that you’ll be readjusting more often that you’d want to. You can check out Decathlon for choices. Just make sure that your pole comes with a snow cap that prevents it from sinking in too deep into the snow.
Tip: When trekking, adjust your pole to such a height that then you hold it, your elbow is at a 90-degree angle.
Jackets (waterproof and warm)
This is the one thing that defeated me on my first trek. The jacket I had was not good enough but now I have an excellent one. I found it in Decathlon. This jacket has two layers; a waterproof outer layer and a warm inner layer. The two layers can be separated so if it’s rainy but not cold, wear just the outer layer. If it’s dry but cold, wear only the inner layer. If it’s too damn cold, wear the whole thing.
Tip: This jacket is good for almost all variations of cold weather. You don’t always have to go for heavy down jackets if you use this in addition to dressing in layers. I have used it in -30 degrees Celsius and stayed warm and toasty.
A key factor in keeping warm when on a trek is to dress in layers. This also includes what you wear under the pants and t-shirts. You will need to buy a set or two of thermal inners, both thermal tops and pants. You can get them from Jockey or Decathlon, or even a local store.
The thing to remember with thermal innerwear is that you want to buy something that is warm but also thin, so that once you wear your t-shirt and jacket/sweaters, you don’t start feeling constricted in your clothing. Mine were thick and I had this problem with the pants.
Tip: The number of pairs you need also depends on how long your trek is. You don’t need multiple pairs for a 5-day trek but for an 11-day one, you will need it.
T-shirts are what you will be wearing the most while you trek. You may not wear the jacket or the thermal inners while walking but a t-shirt you will. What you need to do, is buy two or three sets of these. You also need to ensure that they are full-sleeve t-shirts because that helps in keeping you warm.
My suggestion would be to go for something made of quick-dry materials. This will ensure that the sweat dries up faster and you don’t catch a cold. They are also easier to pack because they take up less space than their cotton counterparts. Decathlon’s running brand Kalenji is a good place to find these.
When it comes to pants you have two options. One is to buy track pants and the other to buy dedicated trekking pants. Track pants are lighter and take up less space but may not be as durable as trekking pants. Don’t buy something made of cotton; buy synthetic materials that have a mesh lining inside it. It should also be loose enough so as not to restrict movement.
Trekking pants, on the other hand, are tougher and last longer. They are also made of stretchable quick-dry material, but they cost a lot. I have two pairs from Decathlon, and they cost me about Rs. 2,700 a pair.
Tip: DO NOT wear jeans or cargo pants. Jeans are heavy and restrict movement and cargo pants may not be able to take the abuse of rubbing up against rocks and stuff. Besides, neither of them dries up fast if wet.
Gloves (fleece or heavy gloves)
When you are at a higher altitude, in the cold, it is important to keep your hands warm. If you don’t you risk frostbite (if it’s too cold) or loss of dexterity. Both Decathlon and Wildcraft have fleece gloves that will work up to temperatures approaching -10 degrees. They also have rubber padding on the palm that helps with gripping the trekking poles.
For temperatures colder than that, you’ll have to go for heavier gloves (skiing gloves). What I’d suggest is to get a pair of each and then layer them up if the fleece gloves are not warming your hands up.
Tip: If your hands are cold in the gloves, take your fingers out of their section and make a fist inside the glove – they’ll warm up in no time.
Caps and balaclavas
When it gets sunny on the trek, you’ll want to carry a peak cap with you. This doesn’t need to be anything specially built for trekking. Any garden variety peak cap will work. When it does get cold, you’ll need fleece to keep the dome warm and that is where a fleece balaclava comes in.
Toilet bag (with toilet paper and wet wipes)
If you are trekking in the mountains and it’s cold, you’ll not be allowed to have a bath or wet your head (for safety reasons). What you can do is to brush your teeth and wash your face. To do that you need to carry toiletries. A good way to keep track of them is to carry them in a toiletry bag.
Since the outdoors don’t come with working bathrooms, you will also have to do your ‘business’ out in the wild. Carry wet wipes and toilet paper (one roll) for that.
Tip: Well organised companies set up poop tents at each campsite. ALWAYS REMEMBER, the rule of the poop tent is to be the first one in or don’t use it at all.
In the treks I have done, I have come across severe dehydration, cuts, bruises, sprains, and even a broken bone. It is always best to carry a first aid kit. Keep some painkillers, antiallergic pills, oral rehydration solutions, antiseptic creams, bandages for cuts and sprains, Dettol/Savlon, and a pair of scissors.
Note: Please make sure to consult your physician before packing in ANY medication. Also, while on the trek, DO NOT take ANY medication without informing your trek leader.
Total cost of the trekking equipment
What I have done here is to estimate the cost of the equipment mentioned above. This should give you a rough idea of what it will cost to buy trekking gear. All in all, you’ll need about Rs. 20,000 for the kit. It will cost less if you already have stuff, and more if you go for expensive options.
This list assumes you have none of the things required and, in some cases, estimates the cost of the article.
|Item||Price (in Rs) *|
|Travel Backpack Forclaz 60L||3299|
|Shoes (Quechua NH 100)||1000|
|Bottle X 2||800|
|Trekking poles X 2||1200|
|Pants (track pants)||1500|
*All prices and products mentioned here are from the merchant’s own website. The prices or the product may change with time. Please check with the merchant before placing the order.
Buy it or rent it?
This is a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, if you go for another trek and rent again, you end up paying more than if you’d bought the gear. If you buy it and never go trekking again, you just spent a lot of money on things you won’t use again. What to do?
You can rent things like backpacks, shoes, trekking poles, etc. There are sites and places that you can go to get the equipment. The choice will be to either rent it individually or rent it as a package, as some sites will offer. These packages include the things I mentioned earlier and can cost about Rs. 2,000 a day.
That would make it Rs. 10,000 for a 5-day trek (excluding the days before the trek and days after the trek is over). For something like the Goechala Trek, in Sikkim, the same thing would cost about Rs. 22,000. Of course, the less you rent the lower this cost would be. Your cost could even be as low as Rs. 5,000 for the duration of the whole trek.
The solution I can offer is this. Buy the things that you can use even when you are not on a trek, and for the rest, see if you can borrow it from a friend. If you can’t borrow it, then, and only then, rent it.
Buy it online or from the store?
The advantage of online is that you could make use of some promotions that can help bring costs down. It is also helps save time to place the orders online but, in my opinion, certain things on this list should be bought from the store. Things like jackets, clothing, shoes etc. need to be worn and checked before purchasing.
You wouldn’t want to buy the jacket and realise it’s too big or a size too small, would you? You’d also want to see if there is an alternative to what you want or something better or more up-to-date than what you have. For all these reasons make sure you buy the most critical gear from a store.
What you don’t need
The list of things here are meant for treks that are organised and supported by companies. What you won’t need on such a trek are things like:
- Sleeping bags
- Food supplies
- Bigger backpacks to accommodate all the extra gear
Things to consider before buying trekking equipment
The very first consideration you need to make is if you can afford to spend on the trekking equipment. If not then you’d be better off with the solution I gave above – mix up buy, borrow, and rent.
The second consideration is that of need vs want. You NEED trekking poles but you WANT the fancy ones. Or you WANT to buy gaiters but you DON’T NEED it. Make sure you are practical when shopping for trekking gear.
Remember what we spoke of with the metal water bottle vs a plastic one? Remember everything you take will have to be carried on your back. So it’s wise to keep the kit light and don’t buy and carry too many things. Yes, there are options to have a yak or mule carry your bag but don’t forget, that will be an extra charge.
In the end, the main thing to keep in mind while buying trekking equipment is whether you will need it again. This is a question that only time can answer (if it’s your first trek, there is a chance you may not like the activity), but if are certain you’ll go again, buy the gear. I was certain that I’d go back and didn’t regret buying any gear.