What’s the most important thing when planning a difficult high altitude trek? Having successfully trekked to Everest Base Camp, Roopkund Trek, and Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, I feel the first thing one should work on is the physical fitness. There should be a gap of at least a month between your fitness routine and the first day of the trek. You might even need more days depending upon the trek.

The second most important and often ignored part of a high altitude trek is the clothes and adventure gears which you will be wearing and carrying. I am a budget traveler at heart, but when it comes to trekking on high altitude mountains, I do not compromise with the quality of the adventure gears. Both fitness routine and choice of adventure gears can make or break your trip. I have seen people suffer due to the lack of something as small as a monkey cap or even gloves, which might seem unimportant to some while packing.

The moment I decide on a trek, I start buying or washing my existing adventure gears. I learned this while preparing for the Everest Base Camp trek which was an ambitious trek through high altitude villages of Nepal. I search online, read travel blogs, ask trekkers who have experienced a particular trek and so on. My preparation for the epic Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in China was no different.

Once I had the list of things ready after reading up many blogs online, I segregated the list into what I already have and what I need to buy. Turned out, most of my adventure gears had withered away or were in bad shape as I was embarking upon a high altitude trek after a long time.

Midway during my training, I showed up at the Columbia Sportswear store at Mall Of India, Noida and picked up all the essentials I needed to make the journey a successful one. I had already heard good things about Columbia from my wildlife photographer friends. It turned out to be the right choice. In fact, throughout the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, I noticed many pilgrims and trekkers geared up in Columbia, be it the NRI stranger girl from Singapore, whom I offered water or the head of Madhuban Foods who accompanied me. I knew at that moment that I made the right choice.

DOWN JACKET – SAVED ME FROM RAIN AND COLD:

The Bugaboo Interchange Jacket by Columbia Sportswear was the best I have used thus far. The Columbia Interchange System is a genius concept. The down jacket has a shell as well as a liner which allowed me to wear both together or one at a time, depending upon the weather condition and location. The jacket also has wide and deep pockets which were very useful for me as I could easily keep some snacks, fruits, water bottles, and even DSLR lenses handy.  The Phoenix blue color added pizzazz and vitality to the entire look.      

What I also loved about the jacket was that it is waterproof. This helped me on both the days of parikrama around Mount Kailash, when we were exposed to the elements throughout the day. The unpredictable weather in the parikrama region changes drastically within minutes and I was caught unaware by the rains on 2 occasions. Both the times, I was in open fields, without any shelter. The jacket ensured that I was dry at least until waist length and the attached hood kept my head protected from the rain.

Also, the thermal reflective technology of the jacket kept me warm on even the highest pass of the yatra. The Dolma-La Pass, at the height of 18,600 feet is always covered in thick snow, making it the coldest point in the entire journey. 

The jacket reflects back the heat generated by the body during trekking and brisk walking. What’s more? It aids the escape of moisture and excess heat, making me feel fresh at all times. A much-appreciated upgrade from my previous trekking gear.

LEATHER FREE TREEKING SHOES HELPED ME NAVIGATE THROUGH SNOW, ROCKS & WATER:

I use cruelty-free products only. I had been successful in getting rid of leather from my life except for trekking shoes. No wonder, I was delighted when I picked up the leather free trekking shoes from the Columbia store. The shoes served me well during the entire Kailash Mansarovar Yatra including the tough parikrama days on rough terrains. I trekked on loose rocks, snow, small water streams and uneven paths with steep climbs and steep declines. The mid- ankle waterproof shoes performed well on all terrains and made the journey quite comfortable.

TRAIL ELITE 55L BACKPACK: PERFECT SUPPORT FOR THE YATRA

The Trail Elite 55l backpack back by Columbia was very useful during the trek. I refused to carry the duffle bag provided by the organizers and chose to keep the Columbia backpack with me. I found it more easy to use thanks to the multiple access points which allowed me to open the bag from the middle as well. This feature was very useful during security checks, and there were many! The contents of our bags were inspected several times in Nepal and China. This could have been a nightmare if I had to take out each and everything from the bag. Instead, all I had to do was open the zip at the middle of the bag and show the contents of my bag to the authorities.

The many pockets also helped me compartmentalize. I could easily store soil clothes, socks, medicines, electronics, and even wet clothes, on some occasions in different pockets. This helped in easy and quick access to anything I wanted. On my other trips, when I carried this backpack, I was also able to keep my laptop separately in the laptop pouch inside the bag.

The backpack has a waterproof rain cover which is a much-desired feature. It did rain during on the parikrama day and the contents of my bag remain dry even as I continued trekking without any extra cover for the bag.

The aluminum frame on the back of the bag keeps it away from my body even as I walk. The air ventilation between my body and the bag is a wonderful innovation which I had not experienced in my previous bags. The comfortable Techlite EVA foam which came with a bonus mesh layer facilitated breathability and ensured strength. The Backdraft Tensioned Back Panel and Techlite Shoulder Straps also helped me in distributing the weight of the bag, making it feel much lighter than it was. 

THE TREKKING OUTFITS BY COLUMBIA HELPED ME REMAIN FRESH AND SWEAT FREE:

The first time I had worn T-shirts and trousers by Columbia was during the Tiger safari in the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. Despite the extreme heat of June in Rajasthan, Columbia’s gear helped me stay fresh thanks to the brilliant Omni Wick technology. What this technology does is that it wicks the moisture by moving the sweat away from the body. Thanks to the quick evaporation, I was not sweaty despite exposing myself to the sun for hours. Another feature which I liked about Columbia’s Tuk Mountain shirt was that it is UV protected. Yes, you heard that right! The shirts have (UPF 30-50) sun protection technology in place, safeguarding you from the harmful UV rays.

What’s more? I hand washed my Columbia shirts and pants in the stop in Mansarovar and Taklakot aka Purang. It dried within a few hours. It is a great feature because, on long trips like this one, it helps in doing the laundry by yourself.

BASE LAYER

The base layer by Columbia is the best thermal wear I have used so far. It is so warm that at places, I didn’t even feel the need to wear extra sweaters which are bulky and disrupts bodily movements. It can be worn inside the shirt.

About Author:

Abhinav Singh is a Delhi based travel writer/blogger/photographer and V Logger. He has done high altitude treks in India, Nepal and China. Abhinav has traveled to 10 countries and 250 destinations in India since 2008. He has been listed as Top Travel Blogger from India around 20 times by reputed companies. His articles and photographs have been published in BBC, National Geographic Traveler India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, Outlook Traveler Guidebooks, Mint, Railbandhu, DNA , Times of India and many others. He shares his articles, pictures and videos about his travels on social media and blog. You can follow his work here.

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