What you REALLY need to pack for an expedition climb.

We all get them every time we sign up for a guided trip, “The Packing List”. And after some experience you get the hang of things but if this is your first trip like this, then read on because I am going to show you what ACTUALLY needs to be in your duffel conpared to what many standard gear-lists will tell you.

Why? What’s the difference?

Well, it depends.

Some companies have learned to list necessities and are pretty spot on, others give you a novel, despite the weight limit that will be required. It helps to just know what you ACTUALLY need and why vs what is reccomended add-ons, what is available for rent, whats optional luxuries, and what’s not nessisary so you can budget gear purchases and pack appropriately.

Weight Limits:

First off, all international airlines have a weight limit on bags and any guided expedition that has available porters will give you a 15kg (33lb) weight limit as well to protect the porters. You would be surprised how heavy your stuff can be. It all adds up fast! So one key thing to remember while packing: WEIGH YOUR BAGS!!!

Sidenote, weight limits can vary:

Take climbing packing vs a trek for example: a trek, anywhere in the world, can easilly be packed to under 15kg. But if you are headed to climb a technical peak, you have A LOT of gear. You can’t always physically fit everything into 15kg, especially if You are on the mountain for 2 months! You may need a down suit, climbing gear, etc etc. All you need to know for now is in a climbing expedition there will be multiple duffels to carry your stuff, but they still can’t weigh more than 15kgs each.

What to ACTUALLY pack:

This list is gonna start out with you basics for a trek because even if you add technical climbing, you are still going to have the same basic trekking gear. This list is a base that works for any trek, anywhere in the world.

The obvious:

  • Your 70-90L duffel
  • A 25-35L day pack
  • Trekking poles (even if you think you dont need them you want them. Downhill at the end a long trek is brutal on the legs and knees)
  • Good, broken in, hiking shoes
  • Multiple pairs of hiking socks (rule of thumb. 1 pair for every 2 days)
  • Liner socks (only IF you feel like you need them… I never use them.)
  • 1 pair thick wool or ski socks (for sleeping/summit)
  • 0° sleeping bag (especially for high elevation camping)
  • Lightweight compactable Sleeping pad with R rating of 3 or higher (R rating is temperature compatibility)
  • Sunglasses (+glacier glasses if there is snow and going above 10,000′)
  • Water bottles (2, 32oz Nalgenes MINIMUM, bladders are useful too… Until they freeze)
  • Headlamp/extra batteries

Layers:

  • Underwear/bras (1 pair every day if trek is roughly a week or less, 1 pair for every 2 days if its longer. You can wash them and hang them to try on your backpack while hiking! Sounds wierd, is totally normal tho.)
  • 1 moisture wicking T-shirt
  • 1 pair trekking pants
  • 1 pair modest shorts (ONLY in hot regions and where cultrally appropriate. Examples: Kilimanjaro=ok, but Nepal=NO shorts!)
  • 1 long sleeve moisture-wicking layer
  • 1 long underwear top
  • 1 long underwear bottom
  • 1 fleece layer top
  • 1 fleece or sweatpant bottom
  • 1 puffy jacket
  • 1 winter coat with hood (down jacket is best if possible when climbing high, it can be rented in many areas of the world if your particular company requires it)
  • 1 rain shell or poncho

Sidenote, Why only 1 of each? You will wear the same thing every day. Sounds gross but saves space and weight. What I like to do is have one long sleeve as a hiking layer and then the long underwear and fleece become loungewear in camp. You can change out of your sweaty clothes and you are much warmer while hiking but you will be cold once you stop moving. On summit night I keep the long underwear on under my trekking pants combined with the winter coat and I am plenty warm.

For heads and hands:

  • Sun hat
  • Winter hat/beanie
  • Thin gloves
  • Waterproof Winter gloves
  • Balaclava or face mask (shield wind/dust)
  • 1-2 bandanas (multipurpose: snot catchers, face masking, sweat bands, wet cloths to cool hot heads, etc)

Accessories:

  • Gators (if theres snow)
  • Yak-traks or micro spikes (if minimal snow)
  • “Camp shoes” (comfy easy slip on and off)
  • Quickdry lightweight camp towel
  • Stuff sacks/dry bags to keep gear organized
  • 1 garbage bag (for stinky/dirty laundry! The plastic of the garbage bag will lock in odors so the rest of your stuff doesnt stink!)
  • Gallon sized ziploc for trash (food wrappers and TP. Pack it in, pack it out!)
  • Personal snacks and electrolyte gels or powder mixes (not optional, a MUST! Foreign food is hard on the stomach if you are new to it. Altitude kills your apetite. Having multiple snack favs to keep energy up makes a massive difference and electrolytes can help prevent altitude sickness!!!)
  • Toiletries: camp soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deoderant
  • Toilet paper (thank me later)
  • Ladies, feminine products (altitude screws with your cycle. Just be prepared)
  • Water purification tablets (backpack filters wont kill everything. Always boil water First THEN purify it)
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30+ minimum)
  • Lip balm with spf
  • Insect repellent with DEET (various infectious diseases in rural parts of The world. Protect yourself. Your “organic lemon bug spray” wont work on these bugs. Unless you have a severe allergy, suck it up, use the deet. Its better than Malaria)
  • Basic first aid kit (bandaids, blister kit, tweezers, is plenty. Guides have full med kits)
  • Wet wipes (when you cant shower for 3 weeks, these will make you feel better)
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Camera
  • Portable chargers/extra batteries (keep in sleeping bag at night or they will drain in the cold!

Important documents:

  • Passport
  • Travelers insurance paperwork
  • Visa paperwork
  • Immunization paperwork
  • Credit card for emergencies
  • Cash: depending on your trip depends on how much to bring. You will need to tip your guides, porters and cooks for each day of the trip. In Nepal you will be staying in teahouses where you can purchase snacks and bottled water. Suvenier shopping is in cash in most rural parts of the world. Cash economy. You are gonna need to look up what is appropriate for tips and math out the legnth of your stay and how much you expect to spend on suveniers and other things. I can’t tell you an exact number because everywhere is different. I pull out what I think will be too much just to be safe and I can put back whatever I dont spend when I get home.

Medications: (vary based on location)

  • Regular Percriptions
  • Diamox (for altitude)
  • Malarone (for Kilimanjaro, Africa in general, central America, and other at risk countries. This drug has least amount do side effects compared to other malaria meds)
  • An antibiotic (incase of travelers diarrhea. Specific drugs are required for specific regions)
  • Ibrpofen (your new best friend)
  • Pepto-bismol tablets (helps prevent travelers diarrhea. Take this first before it gets incapacitating then take antibiotic)
  • Dayquil/cough drops (cold air, bew germs, new people.. Your probably goning to get sick at some point)
  • Daily multivitamin (can help prevent sickness as well as provide nutrients that may be missing from eating trekking food.)

Luxury items: (really just optional comforts if you have room to fit them.

  • Journal
  • Card games
  • A Book
  • Earplugs (for sleeping… trust me.)

Climbing add-ons:

  • Mountaineering boots
  • Crampons
  • Harness
  • 5-6 slings
  • Jumar
  • 3-4 caribiners
  • Climbing helmet
  • Mountaineering axe
  • Snow pants
  • Down suit (if climbing in temps below 0°F)
  • Down mittens rated 0°
  • Warm waterproof Fingered gloves
  • Prussets

Climbing gear can be heavy so spread it out and dont pack it all in the same duffel. A lot of gear is provided for you such as tents, ropes and sometimes even backpacking stoves/fuel for high camps. Much of the gear can also be rented for a small fee. Check with your guide service for their “provided gear” list.

There you have it! It may look like a really long list but don’t forget I added in all those notes, and I promiae you can succeed in meeting that under 15kg weight limit with everything on this list (minus the climbing add ons of course). I take it from personal experience.

I am currently packing for Kilimanjaro which I leave for in just a couple days! I have noticed how similar my list is compared to Nepal but I am packing less now that I know what I used and didn’t use, what I wish I had more of (snacks, all the snacks!), and since I’m not planning in a technical climb, I get to leave all the heavy climbing gear home which makes meeting the weight limit much easier.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for trip reports from Tanzania!