Hiking in the Himalayas of Nepal has always been a dream of mine. It’s not hard to see why: just Google “Himalayas” and feast your eyes on the endless series of photos depicting stunning jagged-edged mountains. I could practically taste the crisp mountain air through my computer screen.
While most people aiming to hike in Nepal head straight for Everest, I was open to exploring any part of the range and one hike kept cropping up in my research: the trek to Annapurna Base Camp, also called the ABC trek. The hike was exactly what I wanted. The trail weaves through rice paddies, passes through villages and hugs the side of valleys before spilling out to a 360-degree view of awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains.
My husband and I visited Nepal last October and we enjoyed every second of our eight-day trek. Each day was accompanied by jaw-dropping views of mountains and valleys as well as eye-opening encounters with locals at the villages along the way. I came home raving about the special slice of heaven we’d witnessed and continue to recommend that everyone takes a trip. If you go, here’s what you need to bring:
The first part of the trail goes through well-established villages and you end up hiking on granite staircases that go up and down the hillside. The hard rock beneath your feet translates to zero give, meaning you should bring footwear that offer a lot of support. I prefer hiking shoes over hiking boots, so I went with these New Balance 669v2 Walking Shoe. They’re lightweight and provided enough support to get me through the long days of pounding that my feet and legs endured.
As important as proper hiking shoes are, after a long day of trekking, there is nothing better than taking your shoes off. My husband and I averaged nine miles a day, so when we finally reached our nightly destination, my aching feet practically sang as I slid them into a comfortable pair of sandals. I love these Sanuk Women’s Yoga Spree Flip Flops because the soles make you feel as if you are walking on a yoga mat. It’s cold in the evenings, so you might end up wearing socks with sandals, but don’t worry — no one on the mountain is going to judge you.
My husband and I have done several multi-day hikes, so we know that we don’t need to bring too many clothes with us as we mostly end up wearing the same thing each day and changing into the same thing each night. Our hike in Nepal was part of a longer trip, so we repurposed the 75L backpacks we’d brought as luggage for the trek. This was definitely overkill, though, as we definitely didn’t end up needing all of the space. I recommend these smaller backpacks, which provides the support and room for everything you’ll need to bring without being overkill.
Each night along the way, we found shelter in one of the many tea houses that dot the trail. Most of the time that translated into a bed with sheets and a blanket, but I did notice some hikers who ended up sleeping atop tables and on benches in the dining room areas when rooms filled up (better than braving the frigid temperatures outside). Luckily, my husband and I always secured a bed for the night and so always had a blanket. Even so, we were happy that we’d rented these North Face Furnace sleeping bags for the hike. Temperatures can drop to below freezing and some of the nights on the trail we slept inside our sleeping bags and draped the blanket over top. We didn’t use our sleeping bags every night, but they sure were worth it for the nights that we did!
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this hike is a cold one. Even in October, which is peak season for its good weather, you can’t escape the fact that you’re hiking at high altitude. I generally run a little colder, so I started nearly every day of day hiking in my Patagonia Women’s Down Sweater Jacket. After about an hour or so, I would eventually warm up and shed the layer, but that isn’t a problem as it easily packs down.
If you’re like me, you hike for the views and the best mementos you end up with are the photos. With that in mind, I wanted a camera that produced quality photos but wasn’t heavy or bulky. I mean, I had to carry it for the entire 75-mile trip, after all. This Sony a6400 mirrorless camera fit the bill. Each day, I stopped to take so many photos that I ended up carrying the camera around my neck for the majority of the time we spent hiking, so it’s a good thing I went with a light choice!
As much as hiking helps you disconnect, I don’t want to be left in a situation where I ran out of battery for my camera or phone (which for me, doubles as a camera). This Anker portable charger holds enough juice to charge most iPhones about seven times. Though there are outlets at the teahouses, they often come with a fee and the sockets don’t work very well. Having this external battery on the trail added weight to my pack, but it was weight well-spent for the peace of mind it came with.
Though they sell beer at all of the tea houses along the trail, my husband and I didn’t drink any alcohol until we reached Annapurna Base Camp, and we packed a local spirit for the occasion. We didn’t know what we’d get when we broke the seal, but Old Durbar Black Chimney Whiskey ended up being a tasty surprise to accompany the sweeping views. (We bought a smaller sized bottle in Pokhara, Nepal.) The most common beverage I ordered throughout my eight-day trek was milk tea (we were stopping at teahouses, after all). Instead of steeping tea in hot water, they steep it in boiled milk and the results are delicious. After having a finger of the Nepalese whiskey neat, we mixed the Old Durbar whiskey into our milk tea and were not disappointed.
Hiking the ABC trek is pretty cush, since it means sleeping indoors and buying hot meals and beer along the multi-day trek. The price for food, however, gets more expensive the further up the mountain you go. I’d read about this ahead of time, and so packed a Snickers bar for each day I’d be hiking. This ended up being the best decision. Not only did the sugary snack provide a jolt of energy, it also acted as a reward earned for the miles I covered.
It goes without saying that staying hydrated throughout the hike is important and water safety in Nepal isn’t something that should be taken lightly. I traveled with a LifeStraw Universal Water Filter, which fit neatly into my Nalgene. Water can be filled at any village along the trail, and it worked perfectly for the hike and in towns I visited throughout Nepal. It’s pretty nifty for traveling anywhere. Plus, I love knowing I’m one less person buying bottled water. Save the planet!