Bringing the right gear and clothing is a critical factor in making your backcountry ski/splitboarding trip in the Himalaya a positive success. What works in one mountain range of the world, won’t always work everywhere else.
Himalaya backcountry ski touring list
Crampons (check that they fit your ski boots properly and if you aren’t sure how to do this please ask us), Harness Set (Two Locking Carabiners, Rappel Device, Ascender (Jumar), Two perlon slings 7mm diameter, 1.25m long), Mountaineering Axe or Whippet Pole, Ski Helmet.
It can get quite cool at night at 5000 meters, while being relatively warm in the lower valleys on approach to peaks and passes. It’s a good idea to have a warm bag, be it synthetic or down. Down really is preferred in the long run for the Himalaya, as very rarely is the risk of your bag getting soaked (down doesn’t work when wet) an issue. Down also compresses smaller, and is lighter weight. We prefer a bag that is at least rated to 0 degrees, because it is always easier to cool down than it is to warm up.
+Inflatable Sleeping Pad
Bringing an inflatable sleeping pad is a nice addition to our double foam mattresses. You’ll appreciate having one and it will add warmth to your nights sleep. They aren’t necessary, but these days most everyone uses one as they are so comfortable and really help to make your trip. Therm-a-rest or an equivalent brand is best as you’ll get many years of life out of it.
~Sleeping bag liner
A nice addition but not totally necessary. Oil from your skin actually gets into the down of your bag over time, reducing its loft. A liner prevents this, and can add warmth to an older bag or one that is borderline not warm enough.
We like a pack in the 35-45 liter size for 6000-6500 meter mountaineering, leaning towards the larger size if you carry extra camera gear. A well fitting hip belt transfers the load from your shoulders to your hips, and this is appreciated for longer days. Bring your gear with you to the shop, and toss it in and have a walk around to get a “feel” for how the pack rides. It shouldn’t cause any painful spots on your hip bones or shoulders. Ask a shop attendant to adjust it properly for you, and spend some time wearing around with weight in it before purchasing.
The best ski boots aren’t cheap, and are well worth the investment if you are considering backcountry skiing a lot. Ski boots with a walk/ski mode and a rubber sole are required for our trips.
You can get used to any ski. I recommend a ski that is light in weight, shorter in length than the longest ski that you ski, and that also performs well in variable snow conditions (breakable crust, wind affected, sastrugi). Minimum 95cms under foot.
There are a lot on the market with most being acceptable. Bring a fresh to newer pair of skins to avoid malfunctions.
+Trekking Shoes/ Lightweight trekking boots
You’ll need a pair of shoes/boots to wear around town, on the trail, and when you aren’t ascending up and down the mountain. Get a pair that are comfortable. Ask us for recommendations of current models. Good ankle support is critical for those that are prone to ankle problems.
You’ll need a pair of flip flops/sandals/thongs to change into in the lodges, teahouses, around camp, and when you want to give your feet a break. Bring a pair. We can recommend a few brands.
Good socks are as important as boots, and you’ll need three to four pairs. We use a lighter wool trekking sock for down low, and a slightly thicker sock for mountaineering up high. The days of a liner sock and heavier sock are pretty much gone with the new form-fitting cut of trekking/mountaineering boots, but some still choose this option (we don’t). Take home message: bring one pair of heavier trekking socks and three pairs of lighter weight trekking socks.
You’ll appreciate the warmth of one at higher altitude, and while on your climb. Down or synthetic will suffice. If you plan to climb at higher altitude, or “run” cold.
+Rain jacket (Shell jacket)
A good rain jacket will be useful for windy days, the odd rain shower, or for an extra layer on chilly days (they do contain your body heat, so they are good over an insulating layer). Do invest in a good one that has a waterproof rating.
+Soft shell pants/Rain pants
You’ll need a good pair of breathable windproof/weatherproof pants to put on for summit day, and for when it gets windy. We really prefer the newer style soft shell fabric, and there are several brands that we can recommend. A pair of cheap rain pants will do the job, but better to have good soft shells that really make the experience more pleasant.
There are several weights in base layers, including silk-weight, lightweight, mid-weight, and expedition weight. For trekking, we like to have one lightweight bottom, two lightweight tops, one mid-weight top, and one expedition weight top. It’s nice to have the lightweight top to change into when you get to camp, and the heavier top layers are great to thermo-regulate while on the trail. We’ll discuss how to layer for climbing days once you arrive, but do come with these items.
Throwing these on (or fully changing into them) over your trekking pants in the mornings and evenings around camp really makes things pleasant. Fleece or down models work well. This completes your layering system, with three tops (light-weight,mid-weight,expedition weight), and two bottoms (lightweight, fleece/ synthetic down pants).
We recommend a trekking shirt with a collar for the sun (can be folded up), and that is of synthetic material. Some trekkers use a synthetic t-shirt, along with a buff or bandana (see below).
An important part of your kit, you’ll wear these for most of your trip. Invest in a good pair that is lightweight, breathable, and quick drying. Pants that have a built-in belt fit better under your pack hip belt and under a climbing harness.
Bring 3 to 4 pairs, you’ll have the chance to do some clothes washing on the trip.
Nice for the evenings and early mornings, and can be good for windy summits and passes.
Bring one pair with 100% UV protection and wraparound style (to protect your eyes from the suns reflection from snow). Make sure they are dark enough to keep your eyes comfortable on the brightest day. If you have an extra cheapo pair, bring those as well in case you break or lose your first pair.
Gloves will be useful for windy/cold summits, epecially if you tend to “run” cold. Do bring a pair of liner gloves and windproof mid-weight gloves. You can leave the ski gloves at home, unless your trek involves a 6000 meter peak or technical pass. Glove types and recommendations:
* You can pick up a pair liner gloves in Leh, Manali, Uttarkashi, or Kathmandu for next to nothing. Don’t go out and buy liner gloves at home when you can save a lot buy purchasing them here. Liner gloves aren’t built to last, usually you’ll get one trek or expedition out of them. We recommend these particular gloves because they are durable and built to last. They aren’t your average liner glove.
A good pair with a leather palm are indispensable and what you will probably use the most in your three sets of gloves.
You need a pair of these. A pair of ski gloves will work but best to get a pair that work well with your liner gloves. When it’s windy at 6000 meters its best to not expose bare hands to the elements.
+Water Bottle / Hydration bladder
Most guides will recommend 3 liters of water a day, and we know that every “body” is unique, so we encourage you to bring what you need. For water containers, we use Camelbaks, Nalgenes, and just plain old water bottles from the corner market. The main point is that you drink each day, so do have a plan for how you will carry your water. Many prefer to bring a water bottle and a thermos, in this way they can have hot drinks or water throughout the day, or just fill their thermos with cool water for the hot days. It’s a good idea to bring drink mix powder as well for your daily needs, as you will need the extra boosts of salts and sugars in your hydration plan. The more you drink, the better days you will have. It’s better to drink a little every hour as opposed to drinking in the morning and evenings. Your body absorbs fluid better with this practice. The absolute best (and worst tasting) hydration powder are Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS). Typically used for rehydrating after a bout of diarrhea, ORS is the ticket to maintaining the best hydration even on the longest trek and climb days. ORS is readily available in India and Nepal over the counter (and far more affordable).
It’s a grand idea to bring a wide mouth bottle for the inconvenient need to answer the call of nature at night (translation: urinate). A plastic peanut or pickle jar works great and is far less expensive than a Nalgene. Do bring one, you’ll appreciate it.
+Head lamp/torch and extra set of batteries
Bring a good headlamp for your trek. It should be bright enough to use on the trail if we have a day that is longer than usual, an early start for a pass or climb, or for reading in your tent. Our dining tents are lit with solar power, so they’re a good place to save battery life on your headlamp. You’ll want to bring your headlamp with you on the trail for a “just in case” situation.
It helps to have a towel along for drying your feet after washing them at the end of the day, for bathing next to the river on hot afternoon days at camp, and for washing your face in the morning to start the day. We provide warm water for all these “activities”.
Bring sunblock lotion for your body, and a “faces” type sunblock for your face and lips. It’s good to have a lip balm as well, Banana Boat and Coppertone make great ones. You’re better off bringing this from home. We prefer the “stick” varieties to the lotion types for your face. They stay on longer and are more effective than the lotions. UV rays at high altitude are two times as strong as those at sea level, the more sunblock you can bring the better.
Bring a moisturizer for dry skin after several days in the mountains. Even if you don’t normally use one, you will on treks and climbs. It’s dryer and harsher at high altitude.
You want to have a good sun hat with you, preferably one that is light in color as it’s far cooler temperature wise than a dark-colored one. We use a sun hat with a bandana underneath to absorb sweat and to hang down and block the sun on your neck.
A bandana has one thousand different uses (if not more). Bring one to cover your neck and ears in “sheikh” style. Also great to wet at river crossings and cool off your head. You can buy these in Asia, and they will be a little less expensive.
A what? A buff is a neck gaiter that is made of very thin fabric. We don’t go into the mountains anymore without one. They protect your skin from sun and wind. You can find them now in Leh, Manali, and Kathmandu.
We carry a full medicine / first aid kit. Bring any personal medication that you need, and let your guide know so they can assist if there could be an emergency.
We purify our own water morning and evening for you. If you think you’ll drink more water than you’d prefer to carry in a day, then bring water purification tablets to purify mid day bottles filled in a stream. You’ll be able to top off your water bottles at our water filter station in the mornings and evenings, but will need to “fend for yourself” while we are on the trail if you need extra water. Purification tablets are relatively inexpensive and lightweight to carry.
You’ll want to have a camera to document your trip. Be sure to bring enough memory cards to shoot as many photos as you please (how many times have we heard people say, “wow, I never take photos but this place is beautiful!”). Bring enough memory cards and an extra battery for your camera. You’ll be able to charge our camera several times during the trek on our solar unit.
Bring a book with you. You’ll appreciate it and can swap it out with others on the trip, while also using our compact library that we bring (which contains literature pertinent to the particular trek area).
An excellent addition to your mountaineering kit. Keep the snow out, keep your legs warmer, and protect your pants (and lessen the chance of a crampon snag on your pants).
Bring snacks for in-between meals, and for longer climb days. You’ll appreciate having a snack even if you normally don’t snack between meals. You will eat a lot more on trip, putting salt on food, using more sugar in tea and coffee. Your body burns a lot of fuel in the mountains, keeping warm, ascending and descending, carrying your pack. If you normally don’t eat salt and sugar on your foods at home, we’ll encourage you to while on trek. You’ll acclimatize better when you are more hydrated. It’s nice to bring a snack to share with the group as well that comes from your area of the world (or just one of your favorites). Do bring snack bars, and some drink powder for your water bottles and/or water bladder.
Good quality ones for strong UV light at altitude (ask us)
+Avalanche Beacon, Avalanche Shovel, Avalanche Probe
Three antenna beacon, aluminium shovel, aluminium probe (ask us)
Himalaya ski touring gear list
Himalaya Alpine Guides, LLC