Getting Ready for Everest Base Camp

So, after running to the lowest point on earth, I am gearing up to trek towards the highest mountain peak this weekend. That’s the thing about getting over a mid-life crisis (refer ‘A few Good Men’ blog) - when you are done with it, you are no longer wondering what you should do with your life. You just have a very long list of things to do and places to visit – with the realization that you now have only the next half of your life (hopefully) to do them!
The Everest Base Camp (EBC) was one of those things on my list. Actually, it will be my first serious trek ever and I am pretty excited about it. So excited that even though I leave only on Saturday, I packed my bags yesterday! There’s a pretty good reason for that though - that’s when I decided 'Damn! I have to tell the world about this!'
So, if you are a first timer too, here's what you can consider taking to EBC. Of course, I can only confirm after my trip how many of these things were useful. I decided to include costs and places from where I picked these things up (in India and priced in Indian rupees), so you know what to budget.
Before I get started on the list, let me confess that I had to repack several times. No matter what trek you have booked, the weight of all those things that you are going to pack is going to end up on your or some other human being’s shoulders - so the weight of your bag in the end is most important. I was aiming for 15 kgs! 
I started with the trekking bag – bought the Alpinist 55 from  Wildcraft for Rs. 4000 (Its actually priced at Rs.3995 but I didn’t get  my change back)! The size is just right for a medium sized person. It has 5 pockets and there is no way you are getting anything over 15 kilos in here, unless you stuff it with stones or iron ore!
My first aid and toilet kit - Most of these things I had, so it’s difficult to say how much they would cost but a quick stop at any pharmacy with a check list is enough to help you stock up: Diamox – for altitude, Vicks vapor rub, over the counter drugs for fever, headache, pain, allergy, anti-nausea, diarrhoea, eye-drops, nasal spray, Johnson and Johnson flexi band-aids (none of the others stick as well) in different shapes & sizes and Tiger Balm oil. SPF 50 sunscreen and a smaller one of SPF 100 sun block, chap-stick, a small mirror, tweezers, a small pair of scissors, moisturiser for dry skin (for face and body), nail file, two rubber bands for my pony tail, water based deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, multipurpose liquid soap (biodegradable would have been preferable but I couldn’t find one), baby wet wipes, toilet roll, anti bacterial hand wash, hand sanitizer, female hygiene products and a hand towel. Oh and on a whim I picked this cute kit from Wildcraft for Rs.495 to stuff all these things into.  
Quick drying towel – I bought a medium sized one from Decathalon for Rs.599.         
Head: I bought the sun hat & the balaclava (fleece hat) from Wildcraft for Rs.595 and Rs.395 respectively. I have also packed in two pairs of sunglasses with UV protection (in case I lose or end up sitting on one) and a cotton scarf (dewrag) – I already had these so no costs here.
Hands: I already had a pair of lightweight gloves and I picked one size larger fleece gloves to wear over these - from Wildcraft for Rs.345.
Feet: 2 pairs of thin, lightweight inner socks (I already had these) and 2 pairs of thick, warm wool hiking socks – bought from Decathalon for Rs.699 a pair (yup pretty expensive for a pair of socks I agree). For camp shoes (sneakers and/or sandals) – I considered getting a pair of crocs and then decided in favour of a pair of Catwalk regular sandals (for Rs.1295) with adjustable straps that I could slip into with socks on, and could also use in Kathmandu pre and post the trek.
Clothing - 1 pair lightweight trekking pants with zip off bottoms from Decathalon for Rs.799 – this is the only thing I wish I had bought two of. 2 pairs of hiking shorts, 2 pairs of leggings, 2 sets light weight base thermals – I already had these so I didn’t have to buy new ones. Short sleeve T-shirts – maybe an overkill at 4 sets but I may end up using all, 2 full sleeve light weight thermal tops, waterproof wind cheater and a cashmere sweater – all from my existing stock. I bought a light fleece jacket for Rs.599 and a waterproof, wind proof, fleece lining jacket with vents on the side that was the only thing I splurged on – cost Rs.3999 both from Decathalon. And, I got another full sleeve t-shirt custom made with 'INDIA' on it from - it was for Rs.1400  
Hiking boots (with spare laces) – So much has been said and written about these that I was really confused on this one. I had people telling me that I needed no special shoes at all and some telling me that I need to buy the lightest (and the more expensive) ones. Generally speaking trekking shoes can range from INR 2500 all the way to Rs.12,000 (maybe more). Almost all sports brands have a pair suitable for trekking. Remember though that trekking shoes are not necessarily usable for mountaineering or even walking in the snow. Whatever shoes you buy, they must be well broken-into by the time you go for your trek. In the end, I settled for a pair of Woodlands – they are water resistant, have some ankle support and are a pair I can use for any outdoor activity – just in case trekking turns out to me something that’s not quite my cup of tea! Cost just Rs.2100. 
Accessories & Sweet Nuthin’s: Headlamp with spare batteries from Decathalon for Rs.499 (to find my way to the loo in the night), one water bottle with a warmer (for the night) from Wildcraft and a Quechua camel back with 2 liters capacity DIASOZ 10 Racing (for the day) Rs.1,999 from Decathalon. Books to reading - I am taking The Perfect Mile and A Hermit in the Himalayas, plastic bags to keep things dry inside trek bag, a small notebook & 2 Pens, I-pod, phone, adapter & charger for trying to hook up with friends and family as and when I have connectivity.
I am also taking tea - the flavours I enjoy without milk including a few sachets of coca tea that I had got from Peru – apparently these are great to help acclimatise. Chocolates (I am taking at least 20 for two weeks so my children think this is the reason I signed up for the trek - to chomp on these guilt free) & salted dry fruits for snacking.   
Only for Kathmandu - Swimming costume, my running shoes (Vibram Five Fingers) and other running gear including my Garmin - just in case I get into the mood of running. All of these I already had so no costs, yaay!
What was recommended buying but I didn’t get - Heavyweight gloves or mittens with a waterproof shell outer and fleece / wool pants (I didn’t get them because these are somewhat seasonal and my trek is in May). Waterproof shell pants with breathable fabric – I couldn’t find any – may get them in Nepal. Daypack (approximately 2500 to 3000 cubic inches – my camel back has a couple of pockets so I felt that I may not need a daypack. Trekking poles, binoculars, ear plugs! I also didn’t get a Down Jacket and Sleeping Bag (rated zero degrees centigrade) because the trekking company I have booked with includes this in the package price.
What I’d like to get but haven’t got yet - A sports watch with altitude measure. A camera with extra batteries – it’s a complete tragedy that my fantastic Cannon G10 is in deep coma at the moment. I accidentally dropped it in Jordan that was it! The service centre won’t have it ready before my trip, so looks like my choices are borrowing my kid’s cheap camera or buying a new one for myself. I am leaning towards the first option so I can set a good example! 
Insurance for Indians going to EBC - This was one of the hardest things to figure out. Trekking needs a special insurance that will cover emergency helicopter evacuation. Incredibly, despite the number of Indians who trek and enjoy adventure sports – not a single Indian insurance company offers this. So the place to buy this from is Costs US$59 per person – they promise to send me back home - dead or alive!  
How much does the trek to EBC cost? The honest answer is ‘varied’ – there are many companies that offer this trek and the cost range for a 12 to 14 day trip can be as wide as US$800 to 900 all the way to US$2800-3000 per person, maybe more. Like in the case of many other travel packages – the price depends on the inclusions – where you are staying, single or twin room, Kathmandu-Lukkla flights, porterage, number of Sherpa guides etc. My research shows that though everything is pretty basic on the trekking route the difference is in what is being provided – example – private camps have some special facilities, more choice with meals. Not everyone includes sleeping bags, down jackets etc. in their cost. You need to add flight costs to Kathmandu and back and of course some spending money for once you are there. I am assuming that a budget of US$15-20 a day is very good if you dont plan to shop.

A couple of things that will cost you nothing and are likely to be handy on this trip are - a reasonable level of fitness and a positive attitude. Of all the other things that I am taking along, it’s going to be pretty interesting to see what I end up using and what I don’t. At the moment there is absolutely NO SCOPE to add any anything to my trek bag! Unless, of course I eat up all those chocolates before I go and that's not a bad idea at all! 

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