Having a good quality day pack and the correct type of main baggage for your porters to carry is really important.
How does porterage work? Why do you need a day pack?
Check out our advice to get the best out of your Nepal trekking experience…
For the purposes of illustration we’ll assume you’re undertaking a trek with the support of porterage. That is unless you want to carry absolutely everything yourself!
Baggage – Lets firstly consider how it works on trek.
You’ll be using a two bag system. Bag 1 is your main baggage. The stuff (spare clothing, overnight gear, toiletries etc) you don’t need with you during each days trek. This is carried by porters. The porters will be much faster walkers than you are (even with their loads) and the chances are you’ll see them in the mornings when you hand over your main baggage to them and then they are gone!
By the time you arrive at your next overnight stop your main baggage has arrived well ahead of you. So, let’s be clear here. Your main baggage doesn’t walk along side you, so don’t put things in there that you will likely need access to during the days trekking. Just imagine if it rains or snows (and it does both in the Himalayas…..and when it does….) and your waterproofs are in your main baggage. Yes, you’re going to be one soggy, cold trekker. Do you want to be without your camera all day?
As for your main baggage bag, a couple of things to note here.
Firstly, weight. On internal flights there are weight restrictions anyway. You are allowed 10kg of hold baggage and 5kg of carry on baggage for flights to and from mountain airstrips (e.g. Lukla, Jomsom, Juphal, Simikot etc). Usually you cannot pay for excess baggage. It’s just not allowed.
The weight that porters can carry is now thankfully strictly controlled. The maximum weight your main baggage can be for porterage is 12kg. Perhaps a little academic due to the internal flight weight restrictions. Then again, we’ve seen plenty of trekkers boarding the flights dressed like Michelin Man in an attempt to keep their weighed baggage down.
Bag 2 will be a Day Pack
Daypack – This is a small rucksack. If you’re already a regular hill walker you’ll probably have one already.
This you carry with you yourself, just as you do on your usual day walks into the great outdoors. So, you put in your day sack precisely the same as you would hopefully do normally. Extra clothing layers, gloves, head torch, waterproofs, water bottles, first aid kit, camera, trail snacks etc. If you are using medication and it needs to be taken during the day, make sure that’s in your day sack too. Simply put, you add to your day sack anything you may need during the time you are without your main baggage.
On the subject of day sacks, we’d suggest that a capacity of between 20l-35l is suffice.
A good quality day sack is desirable. Ideally it should have waist strapping and a chest strap too.
A day sack should rest just above the hips and should be strapped just above the hips accordingly. This is where the body is best suited to carry the additional weight of a day sack. The optimum load bearing position. A day sack that is drooping below the hips will probably feel a lot heavier than it actually is.
When putting on your day sack, firstly loosen the shoulder strapping so that is nice and loose. Now tighten and fasten the waist straps (just above the hips). Next, tighten the shoulder strapping so that it fits snuggly and isn’t loose and finally fasten the chest strap.
Waist straps and chest straps are not essential, but a waist strap is keeping the day sack firmly above the hips and both straps stop the day sack bouncing around whilst you are walking. The bouncing around can not only be annoying, it’s actually using some of your body’s energy reserves too.
Whether you choose a day sack that has smaller compartments or is just one compartment is entirely down to personal choice.
Either way most day sacks are not completely waterproof. So, don’t forget to bring a waterproof cover for your day sack (and have it in your day sack at all times). The waterproof cover needs to be one that is compatible (particularly size wise) with your day sack. Too big and it will fall off….too small….well, it just won’t fit.
Just like with boots a day sack needs to be both functional and comfortable at the same time. Makes sense really as you are carrying it for several hours each and every day. Just like feet, bodies come in all shapes and sizes, so try out a few different day sacks and find one that fits your body frame best. A day sack that fits your body properly and is subsequently worn properly should almost feel like you’re not carrying anything, or certainly not feel like you’re carrying as much as you actually are.
The shoulder straps should be padded and when worn with weight not feel like your shoulder blades are about to be ripped in half. Some days sacks are heavier than others, so it makes sense to avoid one that is already heavy, even when empty. Day sacks on display in a shop are of course all empty and so they will all feel ‘light as a feather’ when trying them on. If you can, add some realistic weight to the day sacks (the shop should be able to help you out here as they’ve got all the outdoor gear) to better determine what each one really feels like.
A good quality day sack should have some form of air clearance system (ACS). Sometimes this is referred to as active ventilation. Different manufactures use different terminology as well as different ways of providing this. Basically it’s part of the day sacks design to not have the entire day sack tight against your back and allow perspiration from your back to evaporate. Other wise you end up with ‘sweaty back’, which remains within your clothing and doesn’t feel nice at all.
In our next article on ‘what to bring’ we’ll be talking more about the need for clothing to have breathability and good wicking characteristics. But, if your day sack isn’t allowing such clothing to perform then it rather defeats the object. We’ve yet to find an ‘ACS’ that is 100% and that is most likely impossible anyway, but reducing ‘sweaty back’ as much as possible is highly desirable.
For your average Nepal Trek, this is what we suggest you consider having in your day sack with you. We do realise though that depending upon the weather on a particular day you might actually be already wearing some of these, so let’s assume a ‘typical day’ for the purpose of illustration.
- Warm/thermal gloves/mittens – waterproof
- Sun Hat
- Warm Hat
- Waterproof Jacket
- Waterproof Over Trousers
- Fleece Jumper/Jacket
- Sun Protection Cream (including total bloc for lips, nose etc)
- Head Torch & Spare Batteries
- Toilet Paper
- Anti-bacterial handwash/wipes
- 2 x 1l water bottles
- Camera (spare, charged batteries)
- Spare laces
- Gaiters (optional)
- Trekking poles (optional)
- Water purifying tablets (just in case)
- Waterproof day sack cover
- Packtowl (this is a small, fast drying, lightweight hand towel)
- First Aid Kit & any Medication you take during the day.
- Trail Snacks (you can purchase these along the way on the likes of most Annapurna, Everest & Langtang treks)
It sounds like a lot, but perhaps with the exception of a camera, all these items are relatively lightweight. In fact the heaviest individual item weights carried will be bottles full of water.
In our next article we’ll look at clothing and other items in more detail.
SEE OUR OTHER BLOGS ABOUT PREPARING FOR A NEPAL TREK
PART ONE- GETTING FIT
PART TWO- CHOOSING HIKING BOOTS