Packing Checklist for Bhutan Trekking

When it comes to trekking, there is a fine balance to strike between being prepared and keeping it light. Luckily, we have compiled a comprehensive packing list for you to make sure you have everything you need for a successful and unforgettable trek in Bhutan! Note, that this packing list is oriented towards longer high elevation treks and on the shorter treks that stay below 4000m you may not need as much cold weather gear. You can download the complete packing list here:

Packing List Bhutan Trekking
If you prefer a word document click here

During the trek your gear will be divided between what you carry in a day pack and what the horsemen carry up the mountain for you in a duffel bag. Note: We will provide the duffel bag and you can leave any extra luggage in the hotel. Every morning the horsemen will take your duffel and carry it up to your next camp, meaning is you need to pack a daypack with everything you need for the day of trekking as you will not have access to the gear that the horsemen are carrying until you arrive at camp that evening. To make it easier for yourself while  trekking you should keep your daypack as light as possible, only carrying what you will actually need while hiking such as snacks, camera, headlamp, poncho, extra layers, sun protection and water bottles. You should plan on keeping your valuables, passport and any prescriptions in your day pack.

Trekking Horses
Trekking Horses

Another thing to consider while packing is the conservative nature of Bhutanese culture. Particularly if you are doing any cultural tours, you’ll want to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and legs as this will allow you admittance into Bhutan’s temples, monasteries and other religious sites. Hats and shoes are also to be removed before entering, though socks are allowed.

Bhutanese People In Traditional Garb Outside National Memorial Chorten
Bhutanese People In Traditional Garb Outside National Memorial Chorten

On the Trail
Here are some items you will want to keep easily accessible while you are on the trail. Weather conditions can change fast so even if it’s warm and sunny in the morning bring some warm layers and a poncho that covers yourself and day pack in case of rain or snow.

  • Extra layers, gloves, wind breaker and poncho
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip Balm with Sunscreen
  • Broad brimmed hat or bandana (for sun protection)
  • Iodine Water Tablets (personal preference)
  • Water Bottles or Camel Back
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Favorite Snacks
  • Waterproof bags to protect electronics or paperwork
  • Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
  • Umbrella (works great in a light rain or to protect from the sun)
  • Duct tape or moleskin for blisters
  • Toilet Paper
  • Trekking Poles (optional)
  • Thermos (optional for hot beverages)

Layering – Base, Middle and Outer Layers
Weather conditions do vary throughout the year so it’s important to keep that in mind in preparing for your trip. If you are going in March, April or October you can probably expect pretty good weather and might even find yourself trekking in a t-shirt at the lower elevations. However as you gain elevation it gets progressively colder so it’s best to come prepared and bring a few extra layers just in case. Layering your clothing lets you easily regulate your body temperature by adding or removing layers or simply unzipping.

The Base Layer – is the first layer of clothing you should put on in the cold and should help your body maintain a steady temperature by providing extra insulation and wicking away perspiration. Look for fabrics like Capilene or Merino Wool as cotton materials will absorb moisture and defeat the purpose of the base layer.

  • Moisture wicking long sleeve tee-shirts (2)
  • Moisture wicking tee-shirts (1)
  • Long underwear pants (2)
  • Underwear (5 to 7)

Middle Layers – A middle layer serves as your insulating layer and the best option is for a thick down jacket or fleece. Find a jacket that is easy to zip and unzip so you can regulate temperature without having to go to the trouble to remove your jacket all the time.

  • Heavy Fleece or Down Jacket
  • Long sleeve shirts (2)
  • Sweatshirt (optional)
  • Fleece Pants
  • Trekking Pants (2)
  • Shorts (optional)

Shell or Outer Layer – The outer layer protects you from elements. The best material is Gortex which is both breathable and waterproof. A nylon jacket or a plastic poncho is a cheaper alternative but the downside is that these materials trap moisture so your body might have a more difficult time regulating temperature.

  • Gortex or Waterproof Jacket with hood
  • Rain Poncho that covers your day pack.
  • Waterproof Pants

Hats, Gloves and Gaiters

Hats – When its warm a bandana or wide brimmed hat is important to protect you from the sun and when it’s cold you should have a Balaclava or wool hat that covers your ears.

Gloves – Its best to apply the principle of layering here as well and bring a lightweight glove and a heavier wool or down mitten that you put over it when it’s extremely cold.

Gaiters – While its highly unlikely you will be walking through snow it does happen. Gaiters are great also as means to stay clean as they can protect you from dust on the trail.

  •  Wide brimmed hat
  • Wool hat (Should cover ears)or Balaclava
  • Lightweight Gloves
  • Insulated Wool or Down Mittens
  • Gaiters (optional)

Footwear: Shoes and Socks
Hiking Shoes – The best option is to bring a pair of broken in hiking boots as well as a lighter weight shoe that you can wear in the evening after trekking. Your choice for footwear depends a bit on your personal preference. The downside of tennis shoes is they don’t provide any ankle support and they are not as warm as hiking shoes. Having comfortable shoes is extremely important and the most common mistake people make is getting boots which are too small. Ideally, your hiking boot should have extra room for socks but not be so loose fitting that your heel slips while you are walking. If you start to get a blister or your feet are uncomfortable its best to stop and take care of the situation before it becomes a real problem. I suggest trying a lightweight sock-liner in addition to a heavier sock or alternatively two pairs of cotton sock to minimize friction. If this does not solve the problem place some duct tape or moleskin over the area where a potential blister might develop.

Socks –  The best option is a combination wool sock and lightweight sock liner made of a material like Capilene. Cotton socks will works as well but you should make sure that you bring a fresh pair for everyday. My personal rule it to bring enough underwear and socks that I can change them everyday even if I wear the same pants the entire time.

  • Hiking boots with ankle support
  • Camp shoes or Tennis Shoes
  • Plastic bag to carry spare shoes
  • Hiking socks (10)
  • Sock Liners (optional)

Sleeping Bag
We provide sleeping mats and pillows, but you have to supply your own sleeping bag. Your best bet is to bring your own sleeping bag but if needed you can also rent sleeping bags in Paro for a rate of 7 USD per bag per day.

  • Sleeping bag rated to about 0° f
  • Sleeping bag liner (optional)
  • Sleeping bag stuff sack

Duffel Bags and Day Packs
During the day most of your gear will be carried in a duffel bag by horsemen. You should bring your own day pack along with a waterproof cover or make sure you have a poncho that you can wear that covers your day pack. In addition, bring several waterproof bags of various sizes that you can put your passport and paperwork into as well as electronic items.

  • Duffel Bag for Carrying Your Gear (we provide this for the trek)
  • Day Pack for Carrying what you need on the trail
  • Small Lock(s) for duffel bag and day pack
  • Waterproof cover for daypack
  • Drybags in several sizes
  • Stuff sacks for dirty clothes/shoes

First Aid Kit and Toiletries
Our team brings along a basic first aid kit but we recommend you also carry the following;

  • Advil or Ibuprofen
  • Diamox (for altitude sickness)
  • Personal Prescriptions
  • Medical Tape (for preventing treating blisters)
  • Antibiotics (Cipro for travelers’ diarrhea)
  • Diaper Rash Cream (Can treat rashes or chaffing)
  • Cough Drops (For cold high altitude air)
  • Vitamin C and/or Multivitamin
  • Basic toiletries (Soap, Deodorant…)
  • Wet wipes
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Face lotion
  • Hair brush
  • Hair ties
  • Hand warmers
  • Ear plugs for sleeping

Paperwork and Money
You should bring enough money to buy snacks and beverages along the way or anything else you want to shop for, as well as for tips for your guide (70-80 USD), cook (70-80 USD), helper (50 USD), and horseman (40 USD) for a total of 230-250 USD. These are general guidelines for tips and may vary depending on the length of the trek. The tipping amounts are per your preference and should be given on the last day of trekking.

  • Passport
  •  Money

Other Items

  • Portable Solar Charger
  • Journal, Pen and paper
View of Jumolhari through prayer flags
View of Jumolhari through prayer flags

Flickr Image Credit
Ian Cochrane
Ian Cochrane
Richard Mortel