Having just returned from Nepal, I have once again had many questions from runners, hikers and enthusiasts on the equipment I used during the Everest Trail Race.
I would normally say, read ‘this’ post and send a link. However, over 7-years of going to Nepal and the Himalayas, I have constantly tweaked and changed equipment. In 2018 I made some significant changes. So, I have something to write about.
The Everest Trail Race is a 6-day multi-day running race. Runners aim to cover 160km over 6-stages with extremely varied terrain, huge altitude gain and descent and of course, they have altitude to deal with. They must carry all they need for the race. However, a tent is provided which they share, food is provided, and water is rationed and provided at specific checkpoints. The race is the ultimate fast packing exercise as runners obviously try to be as light as possible without compromising warmth and comfort. The race takes place in November, the prime trekking season in Nepal – days are usually sunny and warm and the nights are cold. At certain places on the route, nights can be very cold.
My equipment requirements are not too dissimilar to that of the runners as I to need to move over the trail as fast and light as possible. However, I also need to carry camera equipment. This is significant and adds KG’s instantly.
I have also learnt over the years that I do not like being cold.
In my first Nepal experience I went light (too light) and I was cold. A little extra weight with warmth and comfort is worth it, for me! But here in, this is where the challenge comes and actually, this is part of the fun of fastpacking and in particular, fastpacking in Nepal when the variables can be so great.
This is even more poignant now as I am planning to return to Nepal in a few weeks on a much longer and harder trek than the ETR and when temperatures will be considerably colder, especially at night.
One thing is for sure. You go trekking in Nepal and you will rarely change clothes and a shower/ wash will be a rarity. Accept it! Everyone will be the same so embrace this as part of the challenge. There are ways of dealing with this and I like to think of my clothing as day and night. During the day, I am wearing run clothing, and, in the evening, I am wearing more mountain specific clothing.
I am not the fastest on the trails, but I move considerably faster than nearly all the trekkers. So, I look more like a runner when trekking than a trekker. For example, trekkers will wear boots, trousers, and a shirt. I use run shoes, run tights and a run top.
It is also important to consider individual needs and individual strengths when looking at equipment and weight. For example, a 5ft woman weighing 50kg is going to have a very different set of abilities to a 6ft 85kg man. Keep this in mind!
My equipment list below is specific to me and my needs, but it does provide an excellent start point.
Disclaimer: No equipment or apparel was supplied by RAB, Osprey or Montane. They were all purchased items. The apparel by inov-8 was supplied and the Trail Talon 290 shoes were purchased by myself.
I have used many packs over the years. The runners tend to use the Ultimate Direction Fastpack which is generally a great option. Other variants come from Raidlight, Salomon and so on. Typically, a capacity of 20-30L would be required.
I need to use a larger pack as I carry more, especially with the cameras.
For 2018 I used the OSPREY EXOS 38 which really was excellent. It had great comfort, flexibility and many features that made it a pleasure to use.
My other favourite packs, and to be honest, when I return in December, I will either use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 or 55 depending on my equipment needs? Both these packs are minimalist, light and very comfortable.
WARMTH WHEN SLEEPING
I have already said I like to be warm and layering is absolutely key to regulating temperature. Especially at night.
I do not take the warmest and biggest sleeping bag. The reason being I like to have flexibility. Such I have an unusually mild night, I still want to use my sleeping bag and not be too warm. However, if it’s cold – really cold – how do I get warm? Well, I have three options:
- Sleeping bag on its own
- Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
- Merino base top and bottom, down pants, down jacket and sleeping bag
I also have down socks that I would wear over merino wool socks. So, as you can see, I regulate temperature in a very controlled way. In addition, the above I can also wear gloves, a hat and a neck roll. Just wearing a hat really helps retain heat.
Layering is key!
Sleeping bag is a RAB INFINITY 500
Merino top is a RAB 120 long sleeve
Merino Bottoms are a RAB 120 pant
PHD down socks
I take two down jackets. One thinner than the other, again offering flexibility. This year I upgraded to a warmer down jacket, the RAB NEUTRINO PROand it was such a great choice! It was so warm, comfy and with a two-way zip it allowed flexibility of movement. It also had a great hood and high collar.
The lighter jacket was a RAB MICROLIGHTwith no hood. This offers excellent warmth in the morning and evening when on the trails. It also is excellent in my sleeping bag on colder nights. It packs small and is lightweight.
RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY is a great mid-layer that works well in the dry or wet and is excellent when the warmth of down is not required.
I have used down pants previously but this year I used the RAB PROTON PANTS which are not down filled, a little heavier but more flexible for other uses and they are Primaloft. So, they can get wet and keep warm. Down cannot get wet!
HAT, GLOVES and ACCESSORIES
Hands and feet are so difficult to keep warm and for me, they are the areas I most struggle with. So, I have options:
RAB Merino liner glove
RAB Xenon Mitt (warm and waterproof)
RAB Windblock convertible gloves which allow me to use my camera
RAB Shadow Beanie (for day use)
RAB Beanie (for night use)
RAB neck tubes (usually have 2 or 3)
RAB hut slippers allow me to remove my run shoes and are also much warmer. I go a size bigger than needed so I can wear my down socks in them too.
My day hike/ run clothing is pretty conventional, and I have long been a fan of inov-8.
It is possible to wear shorts as day temperatures are usually very good, however, I prefer the flexibility of 3/4 tights as they also keep my knees warm.
I use the AT/C Merino Top, and should temperatures get high, I just roll the sleeves up. One great addition is that the sleeves have thumb holes, so, they also provide a great alternative to using gloves.
The AT/C soft-shell Pro Top is brilliant early morning or late afternoon when the warmth of a down jacket is not required. This jacket has been tweaked over the years and has some great features – high collar, good hood, two pockets and thumb loops to help keep hands warm.
Extreme Thermo Skull Hat keeps my head warm and the Extreme Thermo Mitts are excellent – much better than gloves.
Shoes are always a debatable point and very personal. I prefer to use a shoe with cushioning, a wide but not too wide toe box, adequate all-round grip and 8mm drop – the Trail Talon 290 is perfect for me and on the recent ETR were perfect every day!
My inov-8 run apparel is for the day. As soon as I finish the day’s run or trek. I immediately get changed into my RAB Merino base layers and put on my overprints, down jacket and put on a hat. This makes sure I don’t sit in damp clothing.
The priority is then to get the day’s clothing dry. A priority if you are not carrying an alternate set of clothing.
Extras add weight, but I do consider certain items to be essential.
- SPOT Tracker for me just makes sense and is a great security blanket.
- Mobile phone – get a Ncell sim when you land in Kathmandu. You can get a 30-day sim with 16gb of data for not much more than £10. Coverage on the trails now is pretty good!
- POLES – I use Black Diamond Z Poles, they are light, fold and are essential on the relentless climbs and descents.
- EARPHONES – handy at night when relaxing.
- EAR PLUGS
- HEAD TORCH and batteries
- WET WIPES
- MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
- BASIC TOILETRIES
- WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG
Based on what type of trek you are doing, where you are going and when you are going, the requirements will vary here. For example, I am returning to Nepal in December and I will need light crampons and an ice axe.
The simple thing with any extra is that it adds weight. So, always ask the question, ‘Do you really need it?’
Read about the Everest Trail Race HERE
Read about the 2017 edition of the race HERE
And now, what is next for me….
Well, Nepal captures my imagination like no other place. Last year after the ETR I returned and did the whole race on foot in the same timescale as the race itself. It was a wonderful experience.
So, this December, the plan is to fly into Lukla and then do the high passes with some serious additions visiting Base Camps and peaks:
- Gokyo RI
- Everest Base Camp
- Ama Dablam Base Camp
- Tabuche Peak
- Thamserku Base Camp
18th – Depart for LUKLA go straight to Namche
19th – Namche – Tengboche – Namche (acclimatisation)
20th – Namche – Thame – Lumde
21st – Lumde – Renjo La – Gokyo – Gokyo RI – Gokyo
22nd – Gokyo – Dragnag – Cho La – Dzongla
23rd – Dzongla – Lobuche – Gorakshep
24th – Gorakshep – EBC – Gorakshep – Lobuche
25th – Lobuche – Dingboche – Somare
26th – Somare – Ama Dablam Base Camp – Pangboche
27th – Pangboche – Tabuche Peak – Pangboche
28th – Pangboche – Namche – Monjo
29th – Monjo – Thamserku Base Camp – Monjo
30th – Monjo – Lukla
31st – Lukla – KTM
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