Equipment for Fastpacking in Nepal – A Guide

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.

Sherpas and Porters are able to carry huge loads and weight…

PACK

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:

  1. Sleeping bag on its own
  2. Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
  3. 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

JACKETS

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.

PANTS

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.

DAY CLOTHING

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!

TIPS

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

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
  • BLINDFOLD
  • HEAD TORCH and batteries
  • WET WIPES
  • MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
  • BASIC TOILETRIES
  • PEN
  • PASSPORT
  • WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

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

SCHEDULE DECEMBER:

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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Osprey DURO Running Pack Review

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Born in ’74’, the Californian brand of Osprey has long provided a great example of innovation in backpack design. For me, Osprey packs have personified quality, great build, longevity. They offer an ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ and they will always prefer to repair products rather than replace them. Currently when waste is commonplace, this is a great USP!

From adventure treks, holidays, commuting, cycling, skiing snowboarding and summiting mountains, Osprey can be seen around the world. For 2017, Osprey will launch DURO – a series of products aimed at runners.

 

Three packs, DURO 15, DURO 6 and DURO 1.5 are available in s/m and m/l with two colour options, electric black and silver squall.

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DURO SOLO BELT (here)

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and the DURO HANDHELD (here)

In addition, there will be 500ml and 250ml soft Flasks and a series of bladders that will work along the Osprey line of products.

We received the DURO 15, DURO 1.5 and the DURO HANDHELD in January and have been fortunate to test and try the products in multiple locations and scenarios. Day-to-day running in the UK, a 10-day training camp in Lanzarote and working and racing in Costa Rica at the multi-day The Coastal Challenge.

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REVIEW

 

Let’s be clear, launching any running pack in a saturated market is brave. There is no shortage of choice out there, so, any new product really does need to offer something new and different, or, it needs to offer what is available in other products but it needs to do it better!

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The DURO 15 is rich on features and comes in two sizes, S/M and M/L. On the front, the pack is classic ‘vest’ fitting with two bottle pockets occupying the left and right sides. Supplied are two 500ml soft flasks with straws that allow drinking on-the-go with no need to remove the bottles. On the left outer front is a zipper pocket that would take an iPhone 7 Plus (reference for size), cash, cards or other items. On the outside is a small open topped stretch pocket for snacks/ gels etc. The right-hand side has just the open topped stretch pocket. Fastening between the left and right sides comes from two straps with a unique fastening system that really works. Also, easy to open and close with gloves on.  There are six adjustment points for a snug fit.

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Unlike many vests, the DURO 15 has a waist belt which provides a zipper pocket on either side. These pockets are spacious and can hold substantial snacks or even essentials such as windproof, hat and gloves. I like this! For me, the waist belt provides added comfort and stops any swing or bounce from the rear.

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The rear of the pack is where all the storage comes and sitting closest to ones back is a large zippered pocket that holds a 2.5ltr bladder. Remove the bladder and you have more storage.

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The next pocket is also zippered and is small with two mesh pockets inside. This is designed for smaller items such as wallet, phone, keys, gps, camera etc. It’s not waterproof so a small dry bag would be required.

The third pocket also zippered and is the main storage area and you will have no problem adding a jacket, trousers, gloves, hat, base layer and so on. It’s roomy.

Storage doesn’t stop here. On the last zippered pocket is an open-topped stretch pocket with male/female buckles that provides a great place to add say a jacket that may be needed and then not needed. It’s not the type of pocket that can be accessed without removing the pack but it’s a great storage space and extremely flexible that adapts to the contents

Finally, on the rear right and left are two zipper pockets that can be accessed with a little dexterity without removing the pack. These are also a stretch fabric and they are very roomy.

On the outside rear is a loop for a light attachment and there are also two straps, left and right, that will allow you to pull the pack tighter and closer to your torso.

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Like I said, this pack is full of features. One could say it’s an Osprey trademark but all the features come with a weight penalty. One thing is for sure, this pack will last and last and you won’t be struggling to store things… a downside may be that you can’t find them after?

IN USE

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It fits like a glove. I absolutely love the feel of this pack against my body and the big difference for me is the waist belt. It just adds some additional comfort and security. It also adds two great pockets. The chest straps work a treat to get a comfortable and secure fit and the adjustment from the waist and two lower left and right side straps really allows me to get the pack close and snug. It’s a winner.

It’s possible to reach around to the rear of the pack and access the two lower zipper pockets. These pockets are ideal for food and items such as a lightweight jacket, gloves, hat, buff and so on.

The other pockets on the rear can only be accessed by removing the pack. If using a bladder, the feed pipe comes from the rear and neatly comes to the front and the mouth piece is held in place by a magnet.

This pack will take loads of kit and space is not a problem. Fully loaded, the pack is snug and secure and whilst running it’s possible to have the pack snug against the body with little or no bounce. Importantly, it’s possible to adjust how tight or how lose the pack is whilst running. This is important, as you remove contents or drink the contents of the bladder.

Padding in the pack is very good and it’s extremely comfortable against the body. In addition, bungee cords allow poles to be attached securely when not in use.

Quite simply, this is a great pack and the only downside is the weight in comparison to other brands and the reduced capacity of the two front soft flasks – it would be great if these pockets could hold 700-800ml flasks or bottles.

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Niandi on the 15L

“The 15 is a good pack for trekking, fast packing, hiking and long races such as UTMB. On first impressions, I thought it may work for a self-sufficient event or multi-stage event like MDS, sadly not, you’d need more volume – 20/25L version would be great! Also, it is not the lightest of packs but it is very durable and extremely well made, it will take years of abuse and use. Although this pack takes 500ml soft flasks, I am not convinced by the 500ml soft flasks as they are not as easy to fill as bottles and bottles can be used in camp after to hydrate. On a pack with this capacity, I would like to see 700-800ml bottles up at the front. Great chest fastening system like the 1.5ml and loads of adjustment = No bounce! I like the fact it comes in two sizes, I had the  S/M. The rear has loads of room and pockets and it would be perfect for a race like UTMB or an overnight mountain marathon. In Lanzarote, we did an overnight bivouac and I carried spare clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and food and it worked well. The addition of a waist belt also helps to secure the pack against ones back and reduce any movement, it also adds 2 pockets for ‘on-the-go’ essentials around the waste – these are roomy pockets. Like the 1.5, this pack also takes a bladder and it comes supplied with a 2.5L. It’s not the lightest pack when one compares it to the competition but it’s full of features and a pack I will use time and time again.”

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The DURO 1.5 echoes many of the features of its big brother but it’s a minimal and slimmed down version that is ideal for shorter races or races where mandatory kit requirements are minimal. The front of the pack is a copy of the DRURO 15 but and this is a big but, the large pockets only take 250ml soft flasks. It is possible to replace the soft flasks with hard bottles but be warned, not all bottles will fit. I had two OMM 500ml bottles which are narrow and they worked great. Two small open stretch pockets and one zipper pocket are the same as the Duro 15.

 

This pack has no waist belt and to clarify, it doesn’t need it as the overall contents and weight is considerably less than the DURO 15. The rear has two zipper pockets, the one closest to the back will hold a bladder – ideally 1.5ltr and if you don’t use a bladder, it is the main storage space with good capacity. The second zipper pocket is small and contains a key loop – it’s ideal for a camera, phone, wallet etc.

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Lower down the pack are two open stretch pockets that can be accessed whilst wearing the pack. These are relatively small. You could get gloves and hat in one side and a windproof on the other side. Or you would use them for food and snacks.

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Two pole attachments and two adjustment straps finish off the rear along with a web loop for a rear light attachment.

Like the DRURO 15 this pack fits well, is secure, comfortable and a pleasure to wear. Space is compromised but then again, it is a 1.5L pack. If you need more space, you’d use the DRURO 6 or DRURO 15.

It’s a pack that is ideal for fast and short races where aid stations would be regular and the requirement for mandatory kit is minimal. I think it would suit Skyrunning races, fell races, trail marathons or even ultras providing aid was regular – every 10km?

Niandi on the 1.5L

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“The 1.5 was a good fit, great adjustment and the fastening system is easy to use and fast. Great for multi-day events when one is not self-sufficient and when one only needs to carry a minimum. You can put extras in the back pocket like a rain jacket, space blanket or some extra snacks. You can use it with or without a bladder Osprey 2L or 1.5L both fit. I preferred the latter as the 2L was a tight squeeze. I like the magnetic system on the drinking tube – no unnecessary flapping. The pack front pockets only fit 250ml soft flasks, this is a huge drawback for me and any other runner in my opinion. The need for 500ml minimum is essential. As things stand, one would either need very regular checkpoints to refill bottles or one would be forced to supplement with a bladder – I don’t like using bladders! I also think rigid bottles are a better option. I managed to buy 2 x 600ml plastic drinking water bottles which were slim enough to slide into the front pockets and these sat quite smugly. There are 2 little stash pockets on the front for carrying snacks and 2 stash pockets on the back too for snacks or other essential items. The ones on the back are not that easy to access while you are running, especially if you are on technical terrain. The sac is not great in terms of easy accessibility and capacity for snacks and energy bars. The back pocket is zipped too so you’d need to take it off to refill the bladder or access kit. There is a nice little zipped pocket on the left front pocket for putting a page from a road book, tissues, mobile phone or cash/ cards.”

 You can view the DURO range HERE

Duro is a range of running packs designed to carry all you need for your preferred distance, including running waistpacks, hydration vest style packs and handheld solutions.

Product images ©osprey

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