Smiling couple early on EBC trek route, prayer flags, Nepal

Nepal trekking 101: How to dress for a high-altitude trek in the Himalayas

Jun 7, 2024
Reading time: 7 minutes

Unless you've done a high-altitude trek before, it's likely you won't have all of the clothing you need to keep warm, comfortable and safe on such an adventure. That's where we come in. Read on for a head-to-toe list of what to pack for a trek in Nepal.

Nepal is a country of contrasts, where you can experience different climates and terrains in a single day. This is especially true if you're in the north of the country among the peaks and valleys of the Himalayas.

Lone trekker seen from a distance on EBC trek trail high up in barren landscape looking towards snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Nepal (1)

Never underestimate the changeability of the weather in the Himalayas

So whether you're trekking to Everest Base Camp in the east or tackling the Annapurna Circuit in the west, you need to be ready clobber-wise for anything.

The aim of this post is to introduce you to the clothing you will need to bring. If, however, you're at the stage where you'd like a more in-depth discussion about any of the particular items, please read Your complete Everest Base Camp packing list or Your complete Annapurna Circuit packing list.

The secret is in the layers

The key to dressing for a trek in Nepal is to layer your clothing. This way you can easily and swiftly adapt to any changes in weather and temperature.

Couple standing by stupa with Ama Dablam behind them, EBc trek, Nepal

There can be warm days on a Himalayan trek too!

We find it helpful to think of your high-altitude trekking clothing as falling into three layers:

  1. Base layer
  2. Mid layer
  3. Outer layer

1. Base layer

This is the layer that touches your skin and keeps you dry and comfortable. It includes your inner socks and underwear.

Your base layer should fit snugly while not being too tight. You want to insulate your body while not constricting your movements.

Your base layer clothing should be made of materials that wick away sweat and moisture to help keep you dry. Some good options are merino wool, polyester and a synthetic blend.

Annapurna Crcuit route trekkers


Please avoid cotton shirts like the plague, as they stay wet and will chill you the moment you stop moving.

A typical base layer packing list

A typical base layer consists of the following items:

  • Synthetic underwear.
  • Shorts and sports tops for any warm weather.
  • Long-sleeved thermal shirts and thermal long johns or leggings for colder days.
  • Thin socks or sock liners.
  • Thin or inner gloves.
  • Synthetic buff (which can be pulled over your nose to keep out dust).

Pro tip #1: Be sure to have at least two of everything that forms your base layer, as you should never start the day in something that's damp.

Pro tip #2: Shorts and trousers with pockets are super useful! Zip-up pockets are even better!

2. Mid layer

This is your next layer and its aim is to provide further warmth and insulation.

Your mid-layer items should be made of materials that trap heat, such as fleece and down. You can have more than one mid layer, such as a fleece jacket and a down jacket that goes over that.

Pro tip #3: Don't skip the fleece jacket and head straight to the down jacket. Down doesn't do well if it gets wet, so don't ever have it against your skin.

Smiling and hugging woman friends on sunny day on EBC trek, early on, Nepal


A typical mid layer packing list

A typical mid layer for a Nepal trek consists of the following:

  • Trekking pants (ones with zips that can become shorts are ideal).
  • Long-sleeved sports tops.
  • A fleece jacket.
  • A down jacket (for the higher altitudes).
  • At least two pairs of regular hiking socks.
  • At least two pairs of thermal hiking socks.

Pro tip #4: Trekking pants with zips that let you convert them into shorts are invaluable, as they let you transition between temperature fluctuations far more easily.

Please note that it's always better to be slightly cold than too warm when trekking in higher altitudes, so don't hesitate to take off layers if you feel too hot. That said, it's important not to catch a chill. Don't judge your body's needs based on what others around you are wearing. Please keep adding or stripping off layers as you hike, however much of a nuisance this might feel in the moment.

3. Outer layer

This is the layer that protects you from the sun, wind, rain, ice and snow.

Male trekker on Annapurna Circuit trail in rain and mist

Our client Hala was nicely prepared when he met with rain on the Annapurna Circuit

Your outer layer items should be made of materials that are waterproof (or near to it) and windproof. For your trekking boots, this means leather or a synthetic fabric like Gore-Tex. For clothing, this might mean nylon or a synthetic blend.

Note that your outer layer should fit well over your mid layer, which means it should be neither baggy nor tight and restrictive.

Selfie of smiling group on EBC trek high up in show, Follow Alice trek guide in branded beanie, Nepal


A typical outer layer packing list

A typical outer layer consists of the following items:

  • Waterproof or water-resistant trekking boots. *
  • A rain jacket (with vents).
  • Waterproof over pants (that can be pulled over your boots). an ankle zip For example, you can wear a rain jacket and pants as your outer layer.
  • Gaiters (these help to keep your boots and lower legs dry).
  • Polarised, wrap-around sunglasses with high UVA and UVB protection (like sports sunglasses).
  • A broad-brim sunhat or sports cap for lower altitudes (ensure it sits comfortably along with your sunglasses).
  • A balaclava or a warm snood and beanie for higher altitudes.
  • Waterproof thermal gloves or mittens (they should fit snugly over your inner gloves).

* What goes on your feet on a trek needs just as much attention as what goes on the rest of you. Remember that frostbite starts with your extremities, so quality trekking boots are absolutely essential on a Nepal trek. You can learn more in The best hiking boots for trekking in Nepal.

Couple on ECB trek in sunglasses on a sunny day, Ama Dablam in background, Nepal


Pro tip #5: Ensure every layer you add to your outfit sits snugly but not too tightly over the layer beneath it. This means trying out the whole ensemble at home before heading to Nepal.

Donโ€™t forget downtime clothes

It's vitally important that you don't overlook the clothing you will wear at the end of the day as well as to bed. This is when you need to be especially warm, as you won't be working out anymore and also the temperature will plummet!

Nepal teahouse trekkers food EBC

You need dry and warm clothes to put on when the day's trekking is done

A typical downtime outfit

A typical outfit for resting at camp or a teahouse consists of the following:

  • Sneakers (you will need to give your boots time to air and dry).
  • Thermal socks.
  • Thermal long-sleeved vest.
  • A long-sleeved fleece or similar.
  • Thermal long johns.
  • Comfortable sweatpants.
  • Gloves.
  • A beanie or balaclava (not the one you trekked in, as that will be sweaty).
Group pic of trekkers with snowy mountains including Ama Dablam behind them, Everest Base Camp trek, Nepal

One of our finely attired 2023 Nepal trek groups ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Final dressing tips

Here are our final pieces of advice regarding how to dress for a trek in Nepal ...

  • You should check the weather forecast just before heading off on your trek and make any necessary adjustments to your luggage.
  • Work through the packing list provided by your tour operator very methodically. Do this well ahead of your trek dates so that there's time to buy missing items or arrange to borrow or rent them. Many items can be rented very affordably in Kathmandu.
  • Air your clothes as soon as you arrive at your accommodation at day's end. You want to give them as much time as possible to dry.
Hiking boots and sock drying on EBC trek in Nepal with Ama Dablam in background

It's vital to open up and air your boots as much as possible between trekking

We hope this post has given you some useful information on how to dress for a trek in Nepal. If you'd just like a simple packing list that you can use for shopping or as a checklist, then please download our free packing list below.



Happy trekking!