Experiencing soft winter snow in the Himalayas is enthralling, no doubt. But winter in the Himalayas also means facing fiercely cold weather. The day time temperature will be around 8-13°C, whereas the temperature drops as low as -12°C at night. To be able to brave the winter cold and moreover, to enjoy it, you need to be well prepared. And for that, layering up is the mantra!
Having at least five warm layers is essential. Make that six if you are more prone to cold as I am. Here is what you need to carry for your winter trek to the Himalayas. The things I’ve put down below are in no particular order. Even the last point is as important and as mandatory as the first.
Here are the essentials for layering up perfectly
1. Thermal wear
Choose a long-sleeved high neck top and full length fitting trousers. You will need one pair of thermal inners. While layering, this will be the layer closest to your skin. Follow this up with a tshirt and then the rest of the layers.
Tip: Do not wear your thermals while trekking. Save them for the evenings and the night. Don’t let them get wet with sweat. They won’t dry up.
2. Two snug woollen sweaters
You will need at least two woollen sweaters. Make sure the sweaters are light and compact. Don’t carry very bulky sweaters. They occupy too much space. You can try a few combinations and see what suits you best. If you have two fleece jackets, you can carry two fleece jackets and one woollen sweater. If you have no woollen sweaters, you can carry one Down Jacket as a replacement.
Tip: I wouldn’t go for a Down Jacket because of the high cost. Two sweaters will do the job!
3. One light weight fleece jacket
Fleece jackets are a blessing for trekkers. Your fleece jacket will fold up neatly in your backpack and occupy very little space. The best thing about fleece is that unlike wool, it is not itchy. These incredibly lightweight jackets are inexpensive and warm. Carry one for your trek.
Tip: While packing a fleece jacket, to keep it as compact as possible, use a quick ranger roll.
4. One Hollow Fill jacket
In the Himalayas, wind chill plays a huge role in making you feel much colder than it actually is. So you will need a wind proof Hollow Fill jacket. Since this will be your outermost warm layer, it needs to be water resistant as well. Ideally, one with an adjustable hood that covers your head neck and ears will do the job.
Tip: Ensure this layer fits you to the T. Many people tend to wear oversized jackets. That lets cold air enter the jacket, leaving the jacket quite ineffective.
For your lowers
1. Trek pants: Carry two trek pants. They must dry-quickly in case they get wet when you slide in snow! You could carry dry-fit pants for this.
2. Tights/track pants: If you’re feeling cold while trekking, wear one pair of tights / right-fit track pants inside that can trap your body warmth.
Remember that you lose almost 60 per cent of your body heat from your head. It is extremely important to keep your head and ears covered. Without this, all your five layers are pretty useless!
So once evening sets in, perhaps at around 4 pm, put on all your warm layers, especially your balaclava.
We have reversible fleece balaclavas on our online store. Place an order for them here.
2. Waterproof Gloves
Carry synthetic gloves that are water-resistant. On your winter trek, you are likely to see snow. And when you see snow, you will surely want to touch it, maybe even start a snowball fight! So ensure your gloves are water-resistant. Don’t carry woollen gloves. Once they come in contact with water or snow, they are wet for the rest of the trek.
3. Woollen socks
You will need a good pair of woollen socks while sleeping. It will keep your feet cosy inside the sleeping bag. If you can’t find woollen socks, you can go for thick, long (shin-length) cotton sports socks.
Sunglasses are mandatory on winter treks. Without them, your trek leader could even turn you around. There is usually a lot of snow on winter treks. So without sunglasses, snow blindness is a huge possibility.
Winter sun is extremely harsh. In fact, it is worse than summer sun because in winter there is snow on the ground that reflects sunlight onto your face. So carrying a suncap is very important, especially one with a flap that covers your ears and neck as well. We have such caps custom-made for our trekkers. Order them here.
With all these layers, you’re set to go on a winter trek. Remember, it is going to be cold right from the base camp. So keep your layers ready right when you reach the base camp!
Write to me in the comments below if you have any doubts about layering!