Hiking in Nepal: Top tips, altitude sickness and buying hiking kit

Hiking in Nepal is by far one of the most life-changing and incredible experiences I have had so far on my travels. But before I went there were a few small things I had a lot of big questions about.

Let’s see if I can help you answer your pre-hiking questions from my Nepal adventure…

In this post I’ll cover:

  • Getting hold of hiking kit
  • Altitude Sickness for beginners
  • Plus a few of my top tips to help you plan your hiking trip efficiently!

Getting hold of Hiking Kit

Because we were travelling for 3 months in hot temperatures in India, we didn’t want to carry around all of our gear (in a 50L backpack). So one of my questions I had before we went to Nepal was…

Can I buy hiking gear in Kathmandu?

You’ll be glad to know that if you need it, Kathmandu has it! Sleeping bag rental, down jackets, fake stuff, legit stuff, fleece lined trousers, hiking poles and ponchos. They have it ALL. The ONE thing I would recommend bringing from your home country is your merino thermals and a good sleeping bag liner. I love my Mons Royale, Icebreaker and Kathmandu merinos. All three brands are mine and Mark’s favourites.

If you’re going to Everest Base Camp, you can read my Guide to the Everest Base Camp Hike here. Or if you’re interested in the Annapurna area, check out my day to day account of our 11 day trip on the Annapurna Circuit here. These will give you a good idea about what it’s like hiking in the two regions along with a few tips and hiking hacks.

The biggest question I personally had when preparing for hiking in Nepal was…

Do I need to take Diamox (altitude sickness) tablets?

Diamox tablets…

When I looked into hiking in Nepal, I cast off the idea of Diamox tablets immediately. I thought that if I was to get symptoms, I didn’t want to mask something that could be more serious by using a medication to make them disappear. Little did I know I was completely WRONG about what Diamox does as a doctor explained to me. It actually is a blood thinning medication which helps the body to acclimatise rather than masking any symptoms that could be a sign of something more serious.

However, I still decided I didn’t want to take the tablets as I have experienced various altitudes in Japan, Borneo, Bolivia and Chile in the past. That was MY personal choice. And you need to make yours. There is no right or wrong. On both our trips in Nepal there was a really mixed bag of people taking it versus people who weren’t. Consult your doctor and do what feels right for you. If you do take it, expect a few minor side effects like pins and needs in your hands (which most of my team mates experienced who took the Diamox!).

My other big question that accompanied the one about Diamox was…

What symtoms can I expect from being at altitude?

When we were hiking in Nepal, I definitely experienced symptoms of altitude sickness. I found that once I had experienced them on our first hike to the Annapurna Circuit, I didn’t feel so nervous about them on our second hike to Everest Base Camp. Shortness of breath and a faster heart beat are normal when 3000m and more above sea level, along with swollen feet and hands and mild headaches that usually subside in the morning. But every single human reacts differently! Make sure you constantly communicate with your mountain guide about your wellness and monitor your health.

Some additional tips for you if you’re heading out hiking in Nepal…

  • Tea houses

Camping isn’t really a thing. Tea houses are set up in small villages along the trails. You’ll eat and sleep in your tea house and most of the time you will order breakfast the night before. If you want more information on Tea Houses see A Guide to the Everest Base Camp Hike. You’ll get the idea!

  • Snacks

Bring snacks!

  • Cinnamon Buns though…

Look out for bakeries along the way on Annapurna Circuit which sell delicious cinnamon buns. And with all that calorie burning you’re doing, you definitely deserve one!

  • Guides, Porters and Sherpas…

…Are not one and the same thing! Stay respectful, and see number X of my post 9 Surprising Things I Learned Hiking in the Himalayas with Intrepid Travel.

  • Keep to the right

When going round religious stupas and prayer wheels, make sure you have the religious relics to your right at all times.

  • Altitude Awareness

If you want an idea of what hiking at altitude is like, Jon Krakauv’s accounts in Into Thin Air are pretty accurate. Although we didn’t ascend as high as he does, you’re sure to experience mild symptoms of what he describes in the book.

  • WiFi and Electricity

Usually comes at a cost. On rare occasions it is free, but as you ascend into remote high altitude villages don’t expect WiFi to work… even when you’ve paid for it!

…So download music…

Predownload your favourite music on Spotify before you go hiking in the Himalayas. It will keep you company when you’re travelling and even if you do get WIFI, it isn’t great so don’t rely on it!

…And Bring a Power bank!

  • Good broken in hiking boots

Last but not at all least, if your feet go to sh*t while you’re hiking, you’re screwed. Make sure you bring broken in hiking boots, don’t rely on buying these in Kathmandu, that would be a rookie error! I suggest checking out Salomon and Merrell or go take a look at this blog which is also really helpful if you want to buy new hiking boots.

More from my hikes in Nepal!

A Guide to the Everest Base Camp Hike

In the Presence of Giants: 11 days hiking the Annapurna Circuit

9 Surprising Things I Learned Hiking in the Himalayas with Intrepid Travel

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