What should I take for the Annapurna Circuit? Especially given that I hiked it during wintertime, that question took me quite some time to tackle. I searched the web, forums, weather charts, asked friends, … and prepared myself as best as I could. But I couldn’t conceive what -25°C means – the worst case scenario for the night. Well, I still can’t as luckily it never got that cold, but for future hikers I want to provide you with my packlist and review.
Backpack: I love my Gregory backpack. When I first bought one, I searched for hours, testing every available backpack but never being happy. My shoulders are quite sensitive and the straps need to be at a specific position otherwise they will cause easily pain. Once I tried on the Gregory Deva I was instantly in love – it’s a perfect fit for me so that even though rather heavy I can carry it easily. But I encourage you to spend time in an outfitter trying on the backpacks (with weight!) to find the one that fits you best.
Sleeping bag: I already had a good one, but was uncertain if -6°C comfort zone would be warm enough. Instead of buying an expensive, warmer sleeping bag, I opted for buying a warm inlay which claims to add up to 15°C additional warmth (Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme). I couldn’t test it as inside the guesthouse it never got colder than around -5°C at night. It was for sure colder outside but the guesthouses keep some of the cold out and also you are sleeping on “elevated” beds (i.e. not on mattresses only), hence there is less cold from the ground. I used the inlay as my pillow and was always warm enough in my sleeping bag (not talking about the pain of getting out at night to use the toilets!). Also, there were always warm blankets at the guesthouses and other hikers who had less warm sleeping bags were quite happy using both blankets and their sleeping bags. Not to mention the guides and porters who don’t even carry a sleeping bag but entirely rely on the blankets. If I were to buy a new sleeping bag, I would go for an ultralight one though. The more I hike, the more I have the need for ultralight gear. It would have been great to know that from the start (and not having to buy new things now as I prepare for much longer hikes). So keep an eye out for really lightweight gear, often it’s not even much more expensive and you will be much more flexible.
Hiking sticks: one of my most needed items! Some parts of the trail were icy or steep with difficult terrain. The hiking sticks were perfect to keep the balance even with a heavy backpack. Not to mention the days of hiking down and up and down and up again. Very bad for my knees, even with hiking sticks so you better not try without 🙂
Insulation skirt: I bought a CRAFT Insulation skirt as I always have a cold butt 🙂 I couldn’t have been happier with it! I wore it in the morning when it was still very cold and could just unzip it and remove it when I got warm enough. It was also perfect in the evenings at the guesthouse, on top my thermal pants. During a break it was great to sit on too.
Meindl Hiking Boots: I have them for years now and they are very good boots. The trail is mainly easy to walk but for some parts I was happy to have sturdy boots. As I have always cold feet, I bought extra warm inlays. It didn’t seem to work out for me on the very cold nights of hiking though. The heat packs I used (you simply stick them under your toes) worked at least better though I had still one foot frozen after crossing the Thorong La Pass.
Gloves: like my feet, my hands also get cold easily. I bought very thick mittens which were supposed to keep your hands warm up to -29°C! Well, again for me this didn’t work out. They were too thick to wear them often and when I really needed them on the Thorong La Pass, Ice Lake and Tilicho Lake, I found that they didn’t keep my hands warm enough. Luckily again I carried the heat packs which provided a few hours of warmth for my hands.
Guide books: I didn’t like the Annapurnaguide Cicerone at all and donated it to my guide. I was extremeley happy though with the NATT trail guides from Andrées de Ruiter and Prem Rai, very detailed description and a lot of information on detours and things to visit on the trail. I printed it very small and burnt the paper I didn’t need anylonger during the hike.
Kindle & iPod: luxury items but used VERY often. In many nights it was simply too cold to stay too long in the dining room so I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and read a lot of books thanks to my kindle. Beware though, one of the fellow hikers had her Kindle broken because of the condensation. My iPod is just what I need when I think I cannot hike on (steep parts or altitude). I simply put on some good music and try to walk steadily. It’s the best energizer you can find!
Small backpack: I have a very lightweight small backpack I used as stuff bag and it was very useful for the side trips to Ice Lake and the hike up to Tilicho Lake for example.
Wet wipes & hand sanitizer: As it was extremely cold, it was sometimes unbearable for me to wash my hands in the freezing cold water (not forgetting that sometimes water was completely frozen anyway). I was happy to be carrying some wet wipes and hand sanitizer, especially for putting in my contact lenses.
Medical equipment: I wanted to be prepared for severe altitude sickness as sleeping in that high elevation includes some serious risks. I was adviced by a doctor (and friend) who was especially trained for this and took both Dexamethason and Ciprofloxacin along with a description of when and how to take it with me. You ALWAYS have to go down (or be carried down) if you develop severe altitude sickness symptoms – as quickly as possible even when taking these pills. I am not a doctor and not trained to give any advice on this, so please inform yourself about the risks and symptoms. The best preparation is to spend enough time acclimatizing and follow the rule “walk high, sleep low”. My side trips to Ice Lake and Tilicho Lake were the best way to get acclimatized and it worked well for me (and my fellow hikers I met on the trail).
Water treatment: you need to bring some kind of water treatment, either a filter or some kind of pills (e.g. iodine or chlorine). There are “safe water treatment stations” along the way but they were already closed in december, plus there are not enough of them. Some guesthouses offer boiled or filtered water but you have to pay the price for it. There are plenty of water streams along the way (either water supply wells in almost every town or streams along the way). On the other side of Thorong La Pass I only hiked with 1l of water and just resupplied once my bottle was empty. It worked out fine for me although I usually drink a lot.
Items I didn’t really need:
As there was no snow, I didn’t need my spikes nor my gaitors. I even had that exceptional weather that I only had 3 hours of rain once during the whole 3 weeks of hiking. But this was extremely rare weather conditions and you should always be prepared for both snow and lots of rain on the Annapurna Circuit or Base Camp.
I should have skipped my thermos flask though (nice to have but unnecessary for most days except Thorong La crossing when the water was frozen in our bottles while hiking), as well as my padlock (not needed at the guesthouses). Next time I wouldn’t take the bivouac either as there are really a lot of guesthouses on the way. It’s still a good precaution if you can carry all the weight and don’t need to cut down on weight.
Weight: I was fine when my guide carried my sleeping bag. Once we seperated I was in trouble a few days and feeling very weak. One of the greatest persons I met on the trail (thank you so much Mirke!) took some stuff and left it at the hotel in Pokhara for me so I was fine again finishing my trek to the Annapurna Base Camp.
|Gear Annapurna Circuit December / January|
|Weight carried||Weight worn|
|in gramm||in gramm|
|Backpack Gregory Deva 60l||1900|
|Sleeping Bag Highlight Autumn (-6°C Comfort Zone)||1290|
|Warm inlay (up to -15°C additional heat )||363|
|Hiking sticks – Leki||590|
|Waterproof bag for electronics & passport etc||23|
|Clothes & Shoes||3722|
|Hiking boots Meindl||1530|
|Extra-warm insole (unnecessary)||100|
|Snowline Chainsen Light Spikes (not used)||240|
|Plastic sandals (good for toilets, showers etc)||180|
|Gaitors (not used)||230|
|2 pairs of warm socks||65||65|
|1 pair of very warm sock||90|
|Warm skirt (Primaloft)||234|
|1 pair of hiking trousers||391|
|1 pair of rain trousers||263|
|1 pair of long thermal trousers||163|
|1 thermal shirt long||150|
|1 functional shirt||69|
|1 long shirt to sleep in||191|
|1 down jacket||587|
|1 rain jacket||661|
|1 warm hat||78|
|1 pair of very thick gloves (-29°C)||260|
|1 pair of light gloves|
|passport pictures (for permit)||10|
|passport & copy (for permit)||80|
|Certificates of vaccination||14|
|Money (Euro, Dollar, Rupees)||50|
|2 Credit cards||11|
|Belt pouch (for passport, money etc)||49|
|Kindle + charger||350|
|Camera + 2nd battery + charger + SD-cards + pouch||671|
|Annapurnaguide Cicerone + printed NATT guides||400|
|TIMS & ACAP Permit||20|
|Smartphone + charger||176|
|iPod + charger + headphones||27|
|Headlight + extra batteries (given to a fellow hiker)||124|
|Glasses + Sunglasses + Pouch||187|
|Pen & small notebook||9|
|Sigg bottle + pouch||228|
|padlock for guesthouses (not needed)||66|
|Emergency whistle & thermometer||10|
|heat packs for hands & feet||159|
|Wax for hiking boots||30|
|Small all-purpose washing lotion + soap sheets||119|
|Toothbrush, -paste, dental floss||132|
|2 hair clips||4|
|small buff as handkerchief|
|small DEET (not needed – not many insects at that time of the year!)|
|Ibu, Paracetamol, Immodium, Perenterol|
|Dexamethason, Ciprofloxacin (prescription only in Germany but useful in case of severe altitude sickness)|
|Tape & patches|
|Micropur forte + Antichlor|
|Eye drops & lozenges|
|2 trash bags||30|
|very small lightweight backpack (as stuff bag & for side trips)||61|
Please take into account that even though I was PREPARED for the snow (e.g. spikes, gaitors,…), I couldn’t test my specific gear as there was exceptionally no snow at all during my hike.