If you’ve read either of my past two posts about my recent trip to Kerala, you’ll know that I spent four days of it hiking through India’s Western Ghats. Whilst the weather can be more temperamental at altitude, I had chosen to take my trip during the peak of the region’s dry season. I was open to the fact that we’d probably experience a few showers, but what I wasn’t expecting was four days of torrential rain – the result of a category 3 cyclone that was travelling towards the western coast of India not far from where we were trekking.
Considering that I hadn’t really planned for rain, and that I’d expected the weather to be a lot warmer than it actually turned out to be, I’m honestly surprised that I managed to pack so well. My waterproof jacket (which was only supposed to keep me dry in the event of a downpour (“a sudden and unexpected heavy fall of rain”)) successfully managed to keep me dry for the entirety of our four-day trek. My hiking boots were as comfortable as my favourite pair of slippers, and negated the need any of those plasters I’d packed. My layers kept me warm enough, whilst still being lightweight and packable. My camera and electronics were kept dry throughout. And everything I needed fitted comfortably inside my 20-litre backpack.
For this reason, I thought I’d share my packing list with you – the clothing and equipment that helped to make my four-day hike comfortable, and hassle-free.
I invested in this specifically for my trip because – whilst I had waterproof jackets/coats already – I wanted one that was going to be lightweight, breathable and packable, and therefore suitable for hiking in a potentially hot and humid environment. The peaked hood kept my face dry and the long length at the back meant that the jacket didn’t buckle up under my backpack when I walked. It also packs down to pretty much nothing, dries quickly, and doesn’t make you sweat.
Yep, I do love my Rab hiking gear! This one is another super lightweight and breathable tee that packs down to pretty much nothing.
When the weather heats up and you want the breeze to be able to circulate around your arm pits, a lightweight vest top is definitely the way to go. It will also prevent those t-shirt-shaped tan lines, if you’re lucky enough to see some sunshine on your trek. I love this vest top by Salomon because it’s super lightweight and rolls up small enough to clasp in the palm of your hand. It’s also ridiculously quick-drying, and is made from a fine enough material to keep you cool, yet still retains it’s shape perfectly.
This fleece has looked after me so well over the years. It’s really lightweight and packs down quite small, but it still manages to keep me warm when the temperature drops. Ok, so it’s not really gonna cut it in freezing temperatures, but for those times when you need a bit of extra warmth to keep the chill at bay, this fleece will do you proud.
I’ve had mine for quite a while now (another testament to its quality) so the version I have actually has a hood and thumb holes, which I love. So there’s no way I’m parting with it unless it actually falls apart! Even then, I may ask the boyfriend to exercise his skills with the needle and thread before I declare it dead and buried and look for a replacement.
Smartwool Hike Medium Crew Socks. Although I didn’t have any for this trip, quick-drying hiking socks were something that all of us on the trek swore we’d look into purchasing as soon as we got home. The reason: although your hiking boots may keep your feet dry, the water can (and does) run down your legs and soaks into your socks. So, no matter how waterproof your hiking boots are, your socks will undoubtedly still get wet if it rains. And, as we all discovered, even if you hang your socks up in front of the open fire and leave them there all night long, by morning they will still feel distinctly damp due to the high moisture content in the air.
But hiking socks need to be comfortable as well, and be thick enough to offer sufficient protection for your feet whilst hiking. Finding a balance is tough. However, after trawling through countless reviews I think I’ve finally decided that these Smartwool socks should fit the bill perfectly! I’ll update this post once I’ve tried them for myself.
Apart from protecting your legs against scratches and scrapes on the trail, the main reason you’ll want to pack some full-length walking trousers or leggings is to deter the leeches. Leeches are obviously looking for flesh, so the harder it is to find that, the better. Whilst you will more than likely be provided with leech socks if you’re part of an organised trek (as I was), the more layers of protection you can wear, the better.
It’s debatable as to whether loose-fitting walking trousers or skin-hugging leggings are better (I find leggings easier to hike in and, in my opinion the fewer creases there are for leeches to hide in, the better), so I’d recommend just wearing whatever you feel most comfortable in. I love North Face leggings as they seem to fit my petite frame really well, as well as being lightweight, quick-drying, and keeping their shape when washed.
If you fancy something a little brighter that will get you noticed on the hiking trail, I also love my Sweaty Betty Power Leggings.
I did think twice about packing hiking boots in favour of walking shoes, because I anticipated that the temperature was going to be a lot more hot and humid than it actually was. I think I was expecting the climate to be similar to that which I experienced on the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek in Myanmar.
But looking back now, I definitely don’t regret my decision to bring them. They offer much better ankle support for rambling over rocky terrain, as well as far better protection from leeches. The hiking boots I own (and which have fared me very well for four years, including six months through Peru and Bolivia) are my Keen Bryce boots. I love these because they actually look remotely stylish (unlike the majority of hiking boots I browsed; an important factor if you plan to wear them on all manor of occasions, not just on the hiking trails), they’re super lightweight (giving you a bounce in your step on even the most difficult of hiking trails), and they have (up until our final trek along the water-logged trails of the Periyar National Park) kept my feet completely dry, regardless of the changeable weather conditions I’ve exposed them to.
All hiking boots only have a finite lifespan and I honestly think mine have done really well considering how well they’ve been used since I first purchased them back in 2013.
Update August 2019: The Keen Bryce boots are no longer available on Keen or Amazon websites, but their replacement – the Keen Westward hiking boots – look really similar AND are waterproof! I actually own two pairs now!
This is an absolute essential if you’re hiking adventure includes an overnight stay, whether that be in a local homestay with basic facilities, or in a tent. Chances are you’ll be in a pretty remote location with a limited electricity supply (if any at all). For obvious reasons the bathrooms at campsites (if you have a bathroom; our second campsite merely included a crudely constructed cubicle enclosing a hole in the ground) are located away from the area in which the tents are pitched. Likewise, the toilets at homestay are almost always located in a structure that is situated away from the main living quarters. Finding your way here in the dark will require your own light source.
And, believe me, you really don’t want to be attempting to wrestle with a handheld torch whilst attempting to use the facilities, because you’ll need both hands free to undo zips/buttons, pull down trousers, hitch up skirts, and remove toilet tissue from pockets.
The head torch I currently use is this one, which I purchased from Cotswold Outdoor in their sale. The beam has several different light settings and you can alter the angle of it, so that, should you be talking to your fellow trekking group members across the camp fire, you won’t blind them, but you’ll still be able to see them.
Always carry a spare set of batteries or you may well find yourself left in the dark (literally!).
As I recently discovered, this stuff is not only useful to ward off mosquitoes and other biting insects, but it also works to repel leeches. Some people prefer natural repellents over those with deet in them (our guide, Rejanish had made his own concoction using citronella and eucalyptus), but whatever your preference, don’t head off on a trek in India without some. It could – in extreme, but possible circumstances – save your life.
Anyone who travels on a regular basis, and especially those of you who travel long-term, will understand and appreciate the virtues of microfibre travel towels. They may not be as absorbent, and as nice to use, but these factors are significantly outweighed by their benefits. They pack down incredibly small, weigh almost nothing, and dry about 100 times faster than a standard towel like you use back home.
Yes, most hotels in developed countries will provide you with towels (and a lot of hostels do these days as well), but it’s not something you can rely upon in more remote, lesser-travelled areas, and in countries whose standards do not match those of the western world.
Also, if you’re trekking (whether that be independently or on an organised tour), you will most certainly not be staying anywhere where towels are provided to you. By the very nature of the fact that you are indeed trekking, you will also likely not be stationed at the same location more than once. You will therefore need a towel that will dry incredibly quickly after use, and will not take up much room in your backpack.
I have a microfibre travel towel that I purchased from DRYU (they make a good selection of dry bags as well). Their travel towels come in a selection of vibrant colours, and each one is supplied with its very own waterproof pouch, in which to carry it. Plus, there’s 50% off at the moment (correct February 2018) so you can bag yourself one for just £12.49!
As I can reliably inform you from my own personal experience on trips through southern Thailand and Kerala, India, you can never be sure that it will not rain, even in the middle of a country’s dry season. Therefore you’ll need to be prepared for rain, regardless of the usual whether patterns for the country you’re visiting.
And if you travel with electronics (and let’s face it, who doesn’t these days?), you’ll want to keep them protected. I brought my DSLR camera, spare battery and 18-135mm lens with me on my hike through India’s Western Ghats, as well as my mobile phone, portable battery pack, and charging lead. I would have been absolutely devastated if I’d lost any of these to water damage (as well as very poor).
Waterproof backpack covers are reasonably inexpensive items when you consider what it may cost you if you travelled without one. They come in a variety of different sizes, so you can purchase one that precisely fits the capacity of the pack you’re travelling with. I used this one to protect my 20-litre Osprey Tempest backpack.
I’ve hiked with a variety of different day packs, but I can honestly say that my current 20-litre Osprey Tempest is the most comfortable I’ve ever worn.
Although Osprey packs are not cheap, they are a very worthwhile investment in my opinion. Not only do you rarely notice you have any weight on your back, but I also love their technical specifications (every need or eventuality has been thought of when they were designed), and the fact that they have a variety of different pockets and compartments.
Not only are refillable water bottles better for the environment, but those with filters can also be used in places where the tap water would not otherwise be safe to drink. They filter out something like 99.99% of harmful chemicals and bacteria, meaning that you can fill your water bottle up anywhere in the world and not have to worry about getting ill.
Because you’ll want to count all those steps you’re doing, floors you’re climbing, and calories you’re burning. I’ve had my Fitbit Charge 2 for over a year now, and – despite thinking it may just be a fad when I initially purchased it – I have since used it all the time, and it even motivated me to take up running last year.
So, there you have it: my personal recommendations for your perfect trekking packing list. Whilst this is what I packed for my 4-day trek through the Kerala region in India, it will also work for any other kind of trek in a comparable climate and environment. Let me know what you think!
Are there any other items of clothing or equipment you would add to my list? I love discovering new and innovative products so let me know in the comments below 🙂
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