If you’re setting out on a Himalayan adventure it’s something you’ll want to remember forever. Taking a few photos and video along the way will help keep the memories fresh once the ache in your legs has subsided.
But if, like me, you want to share your adventure with the rest of the world via social media, your own blog or with a slide show for family and friends when you get back home, then taking the right gear is really important.
There’s a plethora of devices, tools and gadgets designed to capture the moment from panoramic cameras to drones, from time-lapse sliders to macro-lenses.
Take the wrong gear and you could be left wondering what exactly the weird speck is in the middle of your preview screen. Take too little and your camera batteries could be dead by the end of day two, or take too much and you’ll huff and puff your way up every slope, weighed down like a Nepali pack-horse.
My packing list combines enough trekking clothing to keep warm and dry over a two-week adventure and enough digital gear to capture the moment, or several thousand of them.
Everything fits into two packs – a 40-litre backpack (for your clothing, food and water) and a 20-litre daypack (for all the electronics and items you’ll need as you walk).
If it’s all too much to carry, remember you can, and should employ the services of a local Sherpa/porter. It’s a great way to meet a local and learn about the region at the same time. I decided to carry the lot but did have a superb guide, Raju from Inter-Tours Nepal who organised our route, food and accommodation for us.
- 1 x DSLR camera (or one with multi-lens capability) – yes I know you’ll say it’s a huge lump of gear to take but the quality of image produced is second to none.
- Lenses of your choice – totally up to you. Remember the vastness of the mountains is difficult to behold when you’re sat at home. Think wide angle, even fish-eye to capture everything around. For the record I took a 10mm fish-eye, 12-24mm wide angle and a 24-70mm for recording video.
- 1 x GoPro Hero 4 Black – it’s absolutely nuts what this camera can do! From night-lapse to super slow-mo to 4K video to epic wide-angle snaps. If I had to downsize to just one capture device, this would be it.
- 1 x Joby tripod – you can fix this sucker to just about anything. Sturdy enough to support a DSLR, versatile enough to grip a tree branch and light enough to chuck in your backpack.
- 1 x Leatherman multi tool – my quintessential must-have! From wiring together split walking boots, to cutting back overgrown trees to tightening loose screws, I don’t go anywhere without one.
- 1 x Head torch – choose an LED type over the old fashioned bulb every time. Brighter, longer battery and bulb life and more compact. Go for a recognised brand like Black Diamond or Petzl, they’ve got better waterproofing and electronics inside which last longer.
- Spare batteries – I took 3 for the GoPro and 3 for my DSLR. If you’re going to shoot time-lapse of star-scape shots remember the processing time sucks a lot more juice. Keep them in an inner pocket when you’re heading outside – the additional warmth will extend battery life. Or you could carry one of these…
- Portable battery pack/car jump starter – Electricity is a hit and miss affair in Nepal. It’s best to assume there’ll be none during your trek so take along your own. Small enough to chuck in your backpack and forget about, these little beauties will charge everything you have from your camera to your phone, many times over. Weighing in at only 300 grams it’s a sure-fire way of keeping the power flowing when there’s none coming out of the wall.
- A few different memory cards – think of investing in a card with a larger capacity if you’re going to shoot timelapse sequences. Taking a few smaller cards rather than one big one is safer in case of failure, loss etc.
- A Hamburger egg timer – or something similar that rotates through 360° over roughly an hour. Perfect for attaching a GoPro to for a rotating time-lapse effect. Learn how to make one here.
- Handpresso coffee maker and ground coffee – I can’t do without a real espresso in the morning! Forget the freeze-dried crap that’s sold at teahouses, carry your own machine and enjoy the crema. A little bit of space for a whole lot of satisfaction.
TREKKING GEAR – for April – June and September – November. Outside of these months the weather is either too cold or too wet to comfortably trek.
- 3 x lightweight wicking tshirts – easy to wash and dry in an afternoon, don’t hold onto body odour and pack down to nothing.
- 2 x lightweight trekking shorts – choose ones with a belt, lots of pockets (easy to stash lens caps etc) and mesh lining.
- 2 x trekking pants – choose ones loose enough to throw over shorts so you can throw them on quickly if the weather takes a turn for the worse when you’re on the trail. Taped zips are an advantage to keep the water out of your pockets if you’re walking in the rain.
- 2 x cotton tshirts – slip into something comfy that feels like home at the end of the day. It’s a great relief for tired shoulders.
- 2 x long-sleeve tops – night-time at elevation gets cold so take ones with a thermal lining or made from Merino wool – a superb insulator.
- 1 x waterproof jacket – it’s worth spending the money on a good one. GoreTex and breathable materials really make a difference when it’s raining cats and dogs and you’re working hard to climb uphill. Keeps the rain out but lets the sweat out too!
- 1 x soft shell jacket OR Merino base layers – “there’s no such thing as cold, it’s impractically dressed” a friend of mine used to say. Layer-up to keep the frost from forming on your features!
- 1 x buff – a must-have accessory! Worn in a number of ways from head warmer to neck gaiter to dust screen. They wick away moisture, insulate, resist odours and act as a sunscreen.
- 3 x underwear + 3 x socks – cotton based are best, with polyester woven through to provide elastic and hygienic benefits. Wash a pair of each at the end of each day and they’ll be dry by the morning!
- 1 x walking boots – another item to spend decent money on. Go for ankle support, waterproof and a well-known brand ideally with Vibram soles. Tested over decades they offer grip, comfort and hard-wearing properties in equal measure.
- 1 x flip-flops – after spending the day strapped into the above it feels amazing to lounge around and let your feet breath again.
- 1 x lightweight towel – highly absorbent, weighs next to nothing and quick drying. Absolutely essential!
- Dry Bags – I love dry bags, there I’ve said it. They keep the rain out, compartmentalise your clothes and expel any excess air making packing a cinch.
- 1 x 40 litre backpack with internal 2 litre bladder (Nalgene or Camelbak)
- 1 x 20 litre Osprey daypack – I swear by this brand. Designed and tailored with infinite attention to detail and awesome accessories.
WISH I HAD TAKEN…
- Pack of cards – an essential for passing the time without internet, a good book or when staring at the mountains for more than three hours at a time becomes boring.
- DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ – yes it would have been a pain in the ass to carry but the shots I’d have got along the valleys, across serious drops and bridge sections would have been out of this world.
WISH I HADN’T TAKEN…
- Steripen – all the water you’ll get from the teahouses is either bottled or boiled and filtered making it perfectly suitable for drinking without additional treatment.
- Poncho – if you’re carrying a decent raincoat and backpack with waterproof over then why haul another item around with you?
DO I NEED?
- Solar panels – Nope. They take up too much space, take too long to charge additional batteries and need strong sunlight to work effectively. Rather pack a portable battery pack.
TOP 5 PHOTO OPPORTUNITES
- Just after leaving the start village of Phedi – the colours, the terraced rice paddocks, village life, the buffalo – it’s almost too much to comprehend. What to shoot first!?
- The first glimpse of the Himalayas proper – they’re always there in the background but for most of the day are shrouded in cloud. By the time you’ve set camp at the end of the day they should start peeking out ready for an evening photoshoot.
- One of the footbridges – stretching across the valley floor suspended high above the raging glacial torrent, the bridges make excellent subjects to shoot
- Early morning sunrays – like golden fingers these flickering rays of light refract through village smoke, off trickling streams and between the mountaintops. The only question is, how best will you capture them?
- Basecamp at sunrise/sunset – watching the golden hour at the start and end of the day as first/last light is cast onto the peaks of Annapurna I/II/South and Macchapurcha is one of the most incredible places and difficult places I’ve tried to photograph.