Firstly let’s talk about Porters. Most people trekking in tour groups, or treks organised by tour operators will be offered a Porter and I see quite a few people’s faces screw up when asked if they want one. Now the one thing I need to ask you is if you are not training for some marathon trekking expedition, why wouldn’t you use a Porter? Firstly, it is giving somebody a job that otherwise may not be able to feed their family more than a bowl of rice that week, and secondly isn’t it your holiday? So why are you putting yourself through hell!
Being a trekking guide myself for many years, I have witnessed many trekkers exhausting themselves halfway and begging me or someone else’s Porter to carry their bag for the rest of the way, believe me we may seem ok with it but we really don’t want to carry your pack and our own up a mountain. I notice even people that make it all the way with their heavy packs, may think they’ve proven something, but when asked how they enjoyed the spectacular views, you can almost guarantee they were too busy pushing themselves to the limit to stop and smell the roses, what a waste of a plane ticket to the Himalaya, why not trek up your local neighbourhood hill instead and save a couple of thousand. Also, if you are about to trek in changing climates, requiring both warm and cold weather gear when beginning in a hotter setting and gradually getting up to high altitudes where jackets, beanies, scarfs and other heavy gear is required then a Porter is really helpful to carry those bulky items until you actually need them. These sorts of climates are found often in Nepal, where the low lands are quite warm in peak trekking season, but you still need that one off thick casing of warm gear whilst trekking up to some summit to watch the sunrise in the bitter cold of the early morning, that’s a lot of extra weight to put yourself through for one day.
A suggestion for a carry bag to give to your Porter is a good heavy duty bin liner, they generally have their own packs and stuffing your spare backpack in them can be a waste of space or simply awkward, plus a bin liner is more water proof than your bag and dry clothes on a cold night are a pretty comforting thing. As far as carrying water goes and your day pack, I tend to lean towards the Camel Bak. This little invention is fantastic for any trekking climate due to its insulated water bladder. Instead of having bottles hanging from the back of your pack or needing to stop every time for a drink, the Camel Bak is a snug back pack, usually light weight, having plenty of room to carry items that need to be accessed frequently during the day. Generally housing a 2litre bladder (recommended carry weight per day of water) and has a tube that runs from this, hooking over your shoulder and finishing in a mouth piece that can be locked off to stop leakage, and easily taken up to sip while you walk, without missing a beat.
A few things I would have with you always in your pack is: sunscreen lotion (repellent in hot climates), water purification tablets (if clean water is not obtainable) snacks (sugar lollies to suck on) high energy bars, medical kit (give your Porter your medical kit if they are with you), your camera and an emergency poncho or spare bin liner, why you ask? Well if it’s not for you then it’s for your pack, there is nothing worse than having a wet pack, its heavier, everything inside is soggy and your camera may suffer from a heavy down poor even if your pack does come with its own cover, these things tend to falter in heavy or tropical rain. I have been known to use an umbrella also in tropical climates, wrapping my bag in a poncho, and rather than getting chafe in wet clothes or sweating in a rain jacket, I find an umbrella a lot lighter! It may sound funny, but it’s actually quite practical. Remember you can access pretty much anything from your porter along the way, but really try to have everything you need on you so they don’t have to constantly unravel just for you.
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