Nepal EBC trek, trekkers sitting with dog by stupa in mist

15 things you need to know before doing the Everest Base Camp trek

Feb 14, 2024
Reading time: 22 minutes

We've got some invaluable insights and advice for anyone preparing for the Everest Base Camp trek. From saving hundreds of dollars to lengthening the life of your gadgets' batteries, here are 15 things you need to know before doing the EBC trek.

1. Buy (or rent) some trek gear in Kathmandu

Your Everest Base Camp packing list includes some bulky and some expensive items, like a winter sleeping bag, winter jacket, trekking boots and trekking poles.

If you're not a regular high-altitude trekker, then it's unlikely you'll have all of the necessary gear. And while some items cannot be bought at the last minute or rented (like trekking boots, as you need to wear these in), many can.

Trekking gear for EBC trek on floor

You need lots of specialised gear to safely trek to Everest Base Camp

Brendan, our head videographer, tackled the EBC trek with a helicopter return in 2022 and he reports:

You can easily save hundreds of dollars sourcing some items in Nepal. I spent over $1,000 in London on gear. Quite a few of these items I could have rented or bought in Kathmandu for a fraction of the price.
Man holding video camera and waving at camera on EBC trek, Nepal

Here's Brendan on the trek!

Some of the items you can rent or buy in Kathmandu are:

  • Winter jacket.
  • Trekking pants (trousers).
  • Winter sleeping bag.
  • Thermal sleeping bag inner.
  • Hot water bottle.
  • Winter gloves.
  • Trekking poles.
  • Gaiters.
  • Crampons.
  • Backpack with built-in hydration pack.
  • Backpack rain cover.
  • Poncho or rain jacket.
Nepal EBC trek group pic Tengboche

Bought or rented gear? Who cares so long as you're comfortable and warm!

There are many shops selling and renting excellent-quality trekking gear in Kathmandu at a fraction of the price you'd spend in other countries.

2. REALLY wear in your trekking boots

Everyone knows that you should never do a big trek in brand new trekking boots (or at least we hope everyone knows!). But there's a difference between taking your boots for a spin on a day hike and then taking them on a really big, multiday trek. Just because they were comfortable for that day hike doesn't mean you've tested them out and broken them in sufficiently.

For instance, did that day hike involve lots of steep climbing, and some long, steep descents? Your foot is impacted differently on each.

Breaking in your hiking boots should be a key part of your EBC trek prep. Overlook it at your peril!

If you have a relatively short time to break in new boots, like two to three months, we recommend that you buy ones made from synthetic fabric. Only buy leather boots if you're going to have plenty of months to break them in.

Please also note that you'll need waterproof or water-resistant trekking boots for hiking to Everest Base Camp. Not only are you going to trek through some snow, you could also have to walk through rain and mud.

Muddy trekking boots on EBC trek in teahouse room

Let you boots take a beating on the trek – but not your feet!

You can learn more about this and the anatomy of a good boot for high-altitude trekking in The best hiking boots for trekking in the Himalayas.

When you get your new trekking boots, start by just wearing them around the house. That way you can introduce your feet to them bit by bit. Then do short walks, gradually working your way up to long hikes.

Ideally, you should do at least one multiday trek in your boots before heading to do the EBC trek.

 

 

3. Plan buffer days on either side of the trek

This is a really important piece of advice, so please do take it seriously!

It's very important to not book your international flights too close to the start or end of your EBC trek in case your local flights get delayed or postponed.

Lukla Airport Building Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal, EBC trek

Lukla Airport is the gateway to the EBC trek

Flights in and out of Lukla Airport, where the EBC trek starts, are famously unreliable and prone to delay. This is because the airport only has one short runway tucked against the side of a massive mountain and it's too dangerous to navigate it in inclement weather.

Weather conditions in the Himalayas are very changeable and so flights are frequently postponed until conditions clear.

Moreover, if you're planning to catch a helicopter ride back from Everest Base Camp, you need to consider that the pilot won't be able to fly you out in bad weather. So you could be stuck in Gorakshep (the village closest to base camp) for a night or two extra if there's bad weather.

Picture of a rescue helicopter over big clouds, Gorakshep, EBC trek, Nepal

A helicopter over the EBC trek village of Gorakshep

The last thing you want is to miss your trek start date because your flight into Lukla is delayed, or miss your international connection out of Kathmandu because you're still stuck in Gorakshep or Lukla. For this reason, we recommend adding a couple of buffer days to both the start and end of your EBC trek.

4. Pack these meds for just in case

While your trek guide should have a first aid kit (and all reputable tour operators will ensure they do) that contains things like backup oxygen and bandages, you can't and shouldn't rely on that for all contingencies.

Medical first aid injection EBC trek, Nepal

You should only trek with an experienced tour guide who is trained in wilderness first aid

It's better to pack your own little first aid kit that you keep on your person when trekking (versus in your duffel bag, which is usually transported by a porter, who will usually go on ahead of you). We recommend that this kit contain:

  • Plasters, blister plasters, hypodermic needle and zinc oxide tape for addressing hot spots and blisters.
  • Anti-diarrhoea and anti-constipation meds (because you'll be dining in various establishments and eating foods that are unfamiliar to your system).
  • Anti-bacterial meds in case you develop an upset stomach (which isn't uncommon on the EBC trek – see point #10).
  • Medicinal throat lozenges (and lots of them, because if you develop a sore throat, you'll get through them quickly).
Large trekking group walking on EBC trek up barren valley

Brendan felt the lack of a personal first aid kit acutely, saying:

Plan extensively for emergencies or unforeseen problems. However big or small they might seem. I got blisters on Day 1! And I also came down with a pretty nasty cold on the third day. I didn’t have plasters, nor any medicine besides basic painkillers. I never normally get sick. But really, anything can happen in the mountains! 

Thankfully Brendan was able to pinch plasters off a friend and also visit a pharmacy in Namche Bazaar to buy cold medicine. But the smaller villages nearer to base camp won't have, and your trekking buddies might not have spares of what you need.

Male hiker putting plaster on toe on hike, first aid kit

Always deal with a hot spot before it can become a blister

Consider packing altitude meds

One of the very best things you can do for yourself before heading to Nepal is to visit your GP and discuss your high-altitude trekking plans. Knowing your medical history, they'll be in the best position to offer advice and possibly also prescribe high-altitude meds (like Diamox) to help you adjust better to the high elevation.

Top tip for those with a period: bring your pads or tampons as high altitude can trigger an unexpected period.

5. Respect the altitude

So this one piece of advice is more detailed than the rest. And it's also one of the more important ones!

Many trekkers unfortunately develop Altitude sickness on the Everest Base Camp trek and thus have to turn back without reaching base camp. Usually this is because they tried to push themselves to climb too high, too quickly.

In short, they didn't fully respect the altitude.

Ama Dablam and trekkers on ECB trek trail

Photo from our client Ross as he heads towards Mt Ama Dablam (on the right)

So how can you respect the altitude and have a successful EBC trek? The top ways are:

  • Go at your own pace and take rests when you need them.
  • Include a rest day (or two) on the ascent.
  • End each day's trek with a short acclimatisation hike.
  • Communicate openly with your trek guide about how you feel.

Go at your own pace and take rests when you need them

It might seem too obvious to state, but seriously ... don't try to impress anyone on the EBC trek. Don't compete with anyone else in your trek group. And don't worry what others think of you. This is your own personal challenge, and the pace you set is between you, your body and your trek guide.

Brendan offers this feedback from his group trek:

My group would sometimes vote to refuse breaks occasionally or take a short lunch to reach camp early and ‘keep up a good pace’. But in hindsight this was so stupid.Take it slow and soak up the scenery … Not just to protect against altitude sickness, but also to appreciate your surroundings. It’s not a race, and being in nature is what this trek is all about.
EBC trek, Ama Dablam, man photographing

If you truly hate to admit needing another rest, pretend you want another pic 😉

Also, don't go in with expectations about how you should feel, or should manage. This is unnecessary mental baggage. As Brendan says:

Hiking at altitude is just a different kettle of fish. I am quite a fit and active person ... but no amount of fitness prepares you for thin air at 5,000 m.
River and trekkers high on EBC trek route

Trekking in a group is wonderful, but you must take things at your pace

Take a rest day (or two) on the ascent

It’s advisable to schedule at least one acclimatisation day during the upward climb on the EBC trek. If you're doing the Three Passes route, or returning via Gokyo Lakes, you might want to make that at least two rest days.

It's harder to acclimatise when you're taxing your body with lots of physical activity. So the best way to acclimatise to an increased elevation is to rest lots, and even sleep if necessary.

Namche Bazaar and Thamserku mountain in Solukhumbu district, Nepal

Namche Bazaar and Thamserku mountain

When you trek to Everest Base Camp with Follow Alice, we include a rest day in the town of Namche Bazaar, no matter which route you're following. This is because the day you climb up to Namche Bazaar involves a big jump in elevation to almost 3,500 m.

Namche Bazaar is the main trading hub in the Khumbu region, so there's plenty to see and do here. And the town is also at the confluence of two valleys, positioning you to do some great day hikes to neighbouring villages or pretty lookout sites if it turns out your body doesn't actually require a restful rest day.

Dingboche village in Everest base camp trekking route, Himalaya mountains range in Nepal, EBC trek

The village of Dingboche, which is 4,410 m above seal level

End each day's trek with a short acclimatisation hike

Even if you’re feeling trashed at the end of the day's trek, we encourage you to drop off your daypack and take just a short walk at the end of each day where you climb even higher and then return back down to sleep. This is because it's a very effective acclimatisation strategy to 'hike high, sleep low'. Having introduced your body to just a little more elevation before going to bed will help your body to sleep and acclimatise better.

Communicate openly with your trek guide about how you feel

Your EBC trek guide is trained in detecting the symptoms of altitude sickness and knowing how to respond. Only by being completely transparent with how you feel can he assess the severity of your symptoms and advise you accordingly.

Marco and EBC trek guide selfie

Think of guide as your closest confidant for the duration of the trek

Don't try to be a hero, or have a stiff upper lip when you're feeling rotten. Not on the EBC trek. Here, it's imperative that you rely on your guide's experience and insights to make good judgements calls that will keep you safe and also give the best chance of making it to base camp.

Two final tips for respecting the altitude

Two final tips for respecting the altitude:

  • Don't drink alcohol or smoke – they tax your body too much.
  • Drink lots of water, as it helps to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Stefano, Oldo and Hiram on lunch break low don on EBC trek, Nepal

Avoid alcohol when acclimatising to a higher elevation

7. Buy travel insurance for hiking up to 6,000 m

Everest Base Camp is well above 5,000 m in elevation. Given the inherent dangers associated with such high altitude, it's imperative that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for hiking up to this altitude. Usually policies have an option for "hiking up to 6,000 m", and that's what you want to pick.

Helicopter evacuations are incredibly expensive, and so it's vital that your policy covers you for hiking to this elevation, otherwise your insurance provider may not cover the cost.

The helicopter over Amazing Gokyo lake in mountains, EBC trek

A rescue helicopter over Gokyo Lakes near Everest Base Camp

Beyond this special cover for hiking up to 6,000 m, we recommend ensuring your policy also cover you for all of the following:

  • Delayed, cancelled or interrupted travel.
  • Medical insurance.
  • Lost or damaged luggage.

Delayed travel covers things outside of your control like a traffic jam preventing you from reaching the airport on time, a mechanical issue with your plane (or helicopter), or severe weather preventing the plane from reaching its destination (or even taking off in the first place!). Given bad weather is a part of the Himalaya vibe, this is an essential aspect to cover.

Trip cancellation covers having to abort your trip beforehand for reasons such as injury, illness, severe weather, or a natural disaster or terrorist attack at your destination.

Trip interruption covers the costs involved when you have to abort your trip post departure, for any of the same reasons listed for trip cancellation.

Large trekking group walking on EBC trek up barren valley

Travel insurance on a big multiday trek like EBC is absolutely vital

We can recommend World Nomads as a reputable travel insurance company you might like to research. They offer coverage for more than 150 adventure activities, including high-altitude trekking.

8. Don't miss these side activities along the way

There are some excursions or places you can visit on your rest day or in the afternoon after reaching your destination for the night. While it can be tempting to just flop down and not get back up till the next day's trek (and nobody would judge you for it!), we highly recommend making the effort to visit a few special places.

trekker walking to the hotel everest view in everest trek region in Nepal

One of the heavenly views on the way to Hotel Everest View!

Some of the top 'sides' to enjoy on the EBC trek route are:

  • Drinks at Hotel Everest View.
  • Khumjung and Khunde villages.
  • The Sherpa Museum in Namche Bazaar.
  • Tengboche Monastery. 
  • "Italian Pyramid" near Lobuche.

Drinks at Hotel Everest View

Note that acclimatisation or so-called rest days don't have to be 'restful'. If your body is killing it with the altitude, then there's plenty of great activities both within the town and beyond for you to do!

Ours. Hotel Everest View EBC Nepal

The final steps before some relaxation at the famous hotel

One of the best ones is a roundtrip hike to Hotel Everest View, the world's highest hotel at nearly 4,000 m (13,000 ft)! In fact, we really encourage anyone who's up to it to not miss out on this great day hike.

Having coffee and cake at Hotel Everest View while looking out towards the Himalayan peaks is simply sublime.

Moreover, the day hike can help you to acclimatise, because you hike up to reach the hotel, then descend back to Namche Bazaar. This action follows the well-known acclimatisation strategy of 'climb high, sleep low'.

Hotel Everest View, website's picture

Hotel Everest View sits nestled among the Himalayas

When it comes to the beauty of the trek, Brendan says:

It's even more beautiful than you can imagine. Nepal is what I call ‘stupid beautiful’. 

He adds:

It’s so striking and gorgeous that it is almost a joke. I kept walking around just shaking my head at how beautiful it all was ... I was in disbelief. 

Khumjung and Kunde villages

Khumjung (3,790 m) is a pretty valley town with drystone walls dividing the land into dozens of small fields. Many consider it the prettiest of all the Sherpa villages! The village is also home to the first school started by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust.

monastery in the village of Khumjung, in which stored a Yeti scalp

Khumjung Monastery is a highlight of any visit to the village

Kunde is the next village up the valley, and also very pretty and worth a visit.

Monastery in village of Kunde, near EBC trek route, Nepal

Monastery in Kunde

Given that Namche Bazaar is at 3,440 m, hiking to Khumjung and Kunde and back on your rest day is an excellent way of helping to acclimatise your body, as it falls within the 'hike high, sleep low' strategy we mentioned under point #5.

The Sherpa Museum in Namche Bazaar

The Sherpa are the famous inhabitants of the Solokhumbu region near Mt Everest. They migrated here from Tibet, and have cultural-ethnographic ties with modern-day Tibetans, such as also being Tibetan Buddhists.

While we encourage you to learn about the local culture from your trek guides and porters, another great way to learn about the local people and their history and customs is visiting the Sherpa Museum in Namche Bazaar during your rest day there.

Sherpa ladies carrying potatoes to Namche Bazaar on EBC trek route

Sherpa ladies transporting potatoes to the market in Namche Bazar

Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche has the biggest monastery in the region, and it's a working monastery, so you should meet some monks while visiting. And yes, the monastery is very welcoming of visitors!

A wintry Tengboche Monastery, EBC trek

A wintry Tengboche Monastery

The large gateway to the monastery is highly impressive, with a mythical creature on a pedestal standing guard to each side. The gompa’s exterior is covered in colourful and ornate decorations and religious symbolism, but nothing can beat the exuberant display of colour on the inside.

Italian Pyramid near Lobuche

If you arrive early enough in Lobuche, or decide to have a rest day in that region, please do yourself a favour and visit the high altitude research station known colloquially as the Pyramid. Or even organise to have that be your overnight stop (the amenities there are actually the best at this altitude!).

View of the EVK2CNR laboratory, the Italian Pyramid research centre, near Lobuche, Everest Base Camp trek, Nepal

View of the research station in its truly isolated spot

This research station was set up by the Nepali and Italian Governments as a multidisciplinary observatory and research station. The staff research and monitor various things, from the height of Everest and other peaks to earthquakes, glaciers and more.

You can learn more in our post What's the deal with the "Italian Pyramid" on the Everest Base Camp trek?

9. Pack sweat-wicking hiking tops and zip-off trousers

While most of the EBC trek is indeed very cold, the first couple of days take place in temperate forest. On sunny days, you can get quite warm, and shorts are preferable to pants (trousers).

Yet as we've mentioned, the weather in the Himalayas is very changeable, and the temperature can plummet when you enter the trees or the sun starts sinking.

Consequently, zip-off trousers that convert into shorts are invaluable on the EBC trek. In fact, Brendan credits them as the single most useful piece of gear he packed!

Hiker legs in light outdoor zip-off trousers and comfortable leather trekking boots on rocky peak

Zip-off trousers like these are invaluable on the early days of the trek

In addition to zip-off trousers, please be sure to only wear sweat-wicking hiking tops, as these are made with quick-dry material. If you take a rest, or the temperature dips, a damp top made from an absorbent fabric like cotton will leave you chilly and in danger of getting cold, even sick.

Brendan reports:

I made the mistake of wearing a cotton T-shirt on one of the days to mix it up. And I was soaking wet the entire day.

As you may have noticed, we're sharing quite a few personal insights from Brendan, our head videographer. You can watch his video diary of the EBC trek here ...

 

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10. Avoid meat and bring your own fruit

We really encourage you to avoid eating any meat at higher altitudes on the EBC trek. All of it is brought in from elsewhere in Nepal and then transported by yak or on foot along the trail. So the meat can become compromised.

Donkey transporting goods on EBC trek route. Nepal

All the food cooked at teahouses is transported along the same trek route you walk

We suggest that you avoid ordering any meat dishes after a couple of days on the trek as all meat must be carried along the same trail as you to reach your plate.

Note too that there's a total lack of fruit for the entire duration of your EBC trek. As well as minimal fresh veggies.

Teahouse meals food chips and rice EBC trek

Teahouse meals tend to be quite stodgy on the EBC trek

Brendan advises packing some dried, canned and fresh fruit for the EBC trek. Obviously you need to stay within the weight allowance for your duffel bag to ensure you don't overload your porter, but try to make space for some fruit, knowing that your later self will thank you big time!

Brendan suggests you try to make space in your duffel bag for:

Maybe pack a bag of dates, a tin or two of canned fruit, a couple of cartons of fruit juice, and some hardy fruit like tangerines. Some people in my group brought a big bag of dried fruit, and it was heavenly! 
Nepal teahouse trekkers food EBC

It's important to fuel up at every meal to manage the day's trek

 

 

11. Consider packing a solar charger

Electricity can understandably be unreliable high up on the EBC trek route. For this reason, you might like to bring a solar charger that you strap onto your backpack during the day.

Solar charger on backpack

A solar charger can be a nice-to-have on the EBC trek

Moreover, don't expect power sockets in your bedroom. The charging sockets are often placed together in the communal area or at the front desk. This means a solar charger that can go to your room with you can be very useful when you're really tired and would prefer not to be tethered to a plug socket in the communal area. Or waiting for one to become available.

Moreover, note that you're sometimes charged a small fee for charging your device.

The one exception is if you stay at the lodge at Ev-K2-CNR, aka the Italian Pyramid. Here you actually have electrical outlets in the bedroom!

EBC bedroom with plug points at the Pyramid, Ev-k2-CNR

The Pyramid bedrooms are the exception to the rule when it comes to electrical outlets

12. Pack wet wipes ... plenty of wet wipes

Your ability to stay clean and smell daisy fresh varies drastically along the EBC trek route. Lower down, near the start, you can expect running water, showers, and western-style toilers. But amenities diminish and disappear the higher you climb.

When you climb above roughly 4,000 m, you should no longer expect showers, nor even running water, as the water in pipes just freezes overnight. Toilets also become long drops.

EBC trek, outhouse toilet bathroom

The higher you climb, the more rudimentary the ablutions

We recommend that you have a pack of sanitising wet wipes in your backpack at all times for after going to the loo. And then also have a bigger bag in your duffel bag that you can dip into upon reaching your accommodation in lieu of a shower.

Understand that everyone trekking to EBC is in a similarly smelly boat as you. Nobody smells delightful. But wet wipes can go a long way to helping you feel a smidge cleaner and more human.

Oh, and a powerful deodorant doesn't hurt either!

13. Protect your skin, lips and eyes

It’s important that you protect your eyes and skin on the EBC trek. That’s not something everyone thinks of when heading on a cold trek into the Himalayas.

Stefano, Hiram and Oldo on bridge on EBC trek, Nepal

Don't underestimate the impact of the cold wind on the EBC trek

Please know that the sun’s rays have less atmosphere to pass through at high altitude and so are that much more damaging to our eyes and skin. In fact, every kilometre upwards you travel upwards exposes you to up to 10% more UV rays. And you climb well above 5,000 m on the EBC trek!

With this in mind, we advise you head to the EBC trek armed with:

  • A broad-brim sunhat (to protect the back of your neck).
  • Polarised sunglasses (the glare off the snow can be intense on sunny days).
  • Quality sunscreen that's easy to reapply.
  • High-SPF lip balm.

Note that on the first day or two of the trek you could well spend most of the day trekking in just shorts and a shirt. So the back of your neck as well as your arms and legs will need protecting from the sun too.

Everest Base Camp Trek in Dudhkoshi valley near Manjo, Nepal with trekkers, stone buildings and colorful Buddhist praying flags.

A sunny day in the Dudh Khosi Valley near the start of the EBC trek

Finally, you might want to pack aloe vera lotion or some similar soothing aftersun care for just in case.

14. Tuck electronics and your drinking bottle into your sleeping bag

Teahouse bedrooms aren’t heated, and things can get very cold at night at the higher elevations.

In fact, you can expect to wake up to frosted windows and water bottles that are frozen solid.

So if you'd like to have some drinking water during the night or when you first wake up, put your drinking bottle into your sleeping bag with you.

Ours. teahouse bedroom EBC trek Nepal

Teahouse bedrooms aren't insulated and get icy

Further to this, did you know that cold drains the batteries in electronics faster? By putting your cellphone and other devices inside your sleeping bag with you, you’ll keep the batteries full for longer.

As mentioned, some EBC trek lodges – not all – ask you to pay a small sum to charge your electronics. So you don't want to have to do it more often than necessary.

Teahouse in Monju, EBC trek, Nepal

A teahouse in Monju village on the EBC trek

15. Learn a few basic Nepali phrases before the trek

Just a few words and phrases spoken in Nepali goes a long way to break the ice with locals and your trek team. It shows you have the attitude of a respectful visitor who is keen to make the effort and get to know about local customs and ways.

Thanking those who serve you or your mountain crew in their own language is a small action that offers great dividends.

You can break down barriers and develop an instant connection (even a small one) with locals when they see that you are trying. It can really enhance your trip and generate a few nice smiles along the way! 

We suggest you watch a short YouTube video like Nepali Language - Basic Sentences so that you can learn the proper pronunciation of the phrases you're memorising.

Ang Gelu with Stefano, Hiram and Oldo, EBC trek, griup selfie, Nepal

Our clients Hiram, Oldo and Stefano with their lead guide Ang Gelu

A final note …

Don’t be nervous to join the EBC trek as a solo traveller! At Follow Alice, we love to bring people together by arranging awesome adventure trips!