My toes were so numb at one point that I cried with pain, a porter helped me in changing my wet socks!
Chadar trek is not easy. I landed in Leh on 12th of January, acclimatized my body, got my checkups done and I thought that I am well prepared for the trek. But how much is considered a good preparation? A question always lingers in your mind still – have you packed enough? Do you need any extra layers for the trek? Will a particular piece of cloth help in sustaining you from the extremity of cold in such a demanding trek. To be honest, there is no piece of clothing that will help in keeping you warm in such an extreme weather condition, but there are certainly a few things that you can do to feel less cold.
Below, are the packing essentials that you need to take in your Chadar trek. I will also link the brands and products I carried on this trek. This list is a complete list and gives the minutest details of all the things that I carried. Read on below 🙂
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Let’s first start with where you will keep all the below mentioned things. It is essential to have a good backpack that gives comfort in walking and is also durable. I personally have a 90L backpack since I travel a lot for a longer duration, however, I would suggest you have at least 60L backpack since winter clothes take a lot of space. With this regard, I would suggest you have a look at this –
Once you will reach the campsite, you will need a day pack to carry your essential small things around the camp while exploring. The daypack should be such that, it does not take much space in your rucksack and is also spacious enough. I think the below one is perfect for this –
Neck and Above
Headcover – Woollen Cap
In cold, especially in the places with extreme weather conditions, the first place from where our body leaves the heat is through the head (as told by our guide as well). Thus, it is of utmost importance that you always cover your head and ears.
You can easily buy woollen caps from Leh and shopping from Leh is pretty cheap and nice, however, I will ask you to buy a fleece cap as well to wear underneath it. Why?
During snowfall, the snow gets accumulated on woollen clothes easily, a fleece will help in refraining the cold and wetness from the snow to reach our skin/head.
UV Protection Sun Glasses
In high altitudes, the rays of the sun get severe and once you will step in the sun, you will realise that it is impossible to walk freely without your sunglasses in such a harsh heat. Having a good pair of sunglasses is a must. In fact, we were asked to get two in case we fall and break our glasses. So you see, instead of one we were asked to get two of them showing that how important these are.
The winds in Chadar are harsh. You would have to cover your face and neck regions at all times. Have a good piece of Balaclava to keep yourself protected from the wind as well as from snowfall.
I Recommend: This recommendation will also solve your cap problem
For your neck, have mufflers to wrap around it. You can buy good clothing from Leh itself, although, I will still give a few recommendations below –
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I was in five layers, which is essential and also a necessity in a trek like Chadar. There are several items of clothing that you need to wear, step-by-step to keep yourself warm. If you follow the layers that I wore, you will not face any trouble during Chadar.
This should be your base layer and have a good quality thermal to wear for this one. Thermals trap your body heat and keep you warm. Plus, they are so thin that while buying you might think they will not be that productive but they indeed are. My personal favourite is merino wool thermals, they are so thin that – 1. they do not take much space in your bag, 2. they don’t make you look like a fat ass, and 3. their ability to keep you warm is exceptional. you can also buy the product from Decathlon as they have a perfect range of merino wool products for both men and women. Linking one of the Amazon product below for you to see –
Over your thermals, wear a warmer or a sweater. This will act as a double layer warmer to prevent cold from entering the body.
Fleece is a great way to protect you from cold. I personally love Decathlon products to this regard. For a woman especially, there are several funky colours that Decathlon offers. they are so lightweight and easy to fold that they do not take much space inside the backpack and offers perfect protection from the cold.
Have a good warm down jacket that is water resistant as well as withstands negative temperatures. This helps in further trapping of the heat. The jackets and lowers made for skiing purposes are the best; I am linking a product that I was able to find with this regard –
Wind Cheater Jacket
In Chadar, the temperature goes to its minimum when winds are blowing. To avoid winds to pierce your skin, it is essential to wind cheat it with the help of a good jacket. You can purchase it from Decathlon again. I am also linking from the Kosha brand which I was also wearing –
It is essential to layer on your hands as well. You can wear woollen gloves underneath the snow proof gloves. If you wear woollen gloves only, the snow might get accumulated on the gloves which won’t help your case during the cold.
Lower body will act as your grip and the strength and wearing the right shoes/clothes is essential. There might be chances when your feet and legs might get drenched and you might have to walk through water. In this case, it gets essential to have the right layers and also an extra pair of bottoms so that you can change into the dry one if your lowers get wet.
Merino Wool Fleece
This will act as your base layer, wherein it will trap your body heat. You can buy the merino wool fleece from Decathlon stories. I am also attaching a link from Amazon if you want to save the trouble of going to the store.
Over the merino wool fleece, wear a warmer that will help in acting as the second layer, giving you two layers of protection.
Water Proof/Wind Cheater Pants
In Chadar, it is essential that you wear waterproof pants. Your lowers are very prone to getting wet as you might have to walk through water streams, and if you fall (which you definitely will), your legs will get wet for sure. I bought for myself from Leh itself as they were very durable also cheap (although I looked like a giant elephant in it). You can also buy Kosha’s brand that I am linking below which also specializes in trekking clothes
We did 99% of our trek in gumboots only. For Chadar, you do not need good sole underneath the shoes but long boots (preferably till knees) so that the water does not wet your socks and shoes. You can buy the gumboots from Leh itself. We got a good pair of gumboots for INR 400/-.
Despite not using much of our gumboots, we still took our shoes along. This was because once we reached the campsites, we used to remove our gumboots and wear trekking shoes instead for several reasons – 1. gumboots can bruise your feet due to excessive use, so once you reach the campsites remove them, and 2. while exploring the campsites, you might hike on the muddy patches and rocks for which you need to have good shoes to get proper grip.
Have at least 6 pairs of socks. In Chadar, despite your feet not going inside the water, you will realise that your socks have become wet. This is because of the accumulated moisture inside your gumboots. Thus, it becomes essential to change them every single day. I also bought two pairs of merino socks as they are very warm and always used to layer my feet with two pairs while hiking and in 3 pairs after reaching the campsite.
You can buy merino socks from the link below –
Whatever gadget you are carrying, be it a GoPro or a DSLR, carrying extra batteries is a must! In colder regions, the strength of batteries drains quickly comparatively. I carried 32 extra batteries with me for my DSLR since I shoot a lot.
For your phones and for your GoPro, having a power bank is essential. You will be trekking for five days without any socket or electricity and if you clicking through phone, do have 2 power banks with you.
I know, I know, you won’t forget your cameras if anything else. But, as a gentle reminder, do charge your GoPro and DSLR while packing. 🙂
In Chadar, you won’t get the luxury of using washrooms. There are dry washrooms placed in the campsites, wherein the luxury of having toilet seats and running tap is unavailable. It is essential to carry tissue paper or tissue rolls to maintain your hygiene.
Including this in the list here as it is one of the most obvious things to take, however in the last minute we all forget. At least I do. Guilty as charged
In high altitudes, you are prone to extreme sunrays and your skin can get harmed easily. Do carry good sunscreen and apply it at least twice a day!
Moisturizer is so essential in Chadar. You will be so much prone to skin dryness that it will be your best friend in such days.
Tip: Your creams, paste, etc will freeze as well like all the other things. A simple solution to this will be to place them inside your sleeping bags. The heat of the sleeping bags and your body will bring them back to its normal form.
Well, not everytime you will be able to wash your hands before eating 🙂
I discovered this piece of magic during my Chadar trek only and they work wonders. They come in several packs for several body parts and release heat for 8 hours. All you have to do is place underneath your clothing and voila! Of curse, do not place it directly to your skin. These are available easily in Leh, as well as when you will start the trek.
Now, microspikes do take away the fun of walking on the ice, however, if you are not able to walk at all and have the fear of slipping endlessly, microspikes will help in increasing your walking speed. They are not crampons that have big spikes underneath it, but they are like a small brother of crampons and provide good stability. I used it during the last day of my trek 🙂
A trekking pole is not mandatory, I did not use it during my Chadar trek but most of the trekkers were using it for increased stability.
Raincover and Poncho
In Chadar, there are next to none chances for rain. If the weather gets bad, it will snow directly, however, it is always good to be prepared for the worse. Prevention is better than cure anyway 🙂
Make sure you have a rain cover for your backpack and a rainproof jacket or poncho for yourself.
You will not be able to shower in Chadar so carrying a huge towel will not make sense. Pack a towel which is light and small ones for your daily activities.
The headlight is essential on such treks as during the night while setting up your sleeping bags and camp you won’t be able to hold the torchlight throughout. Headlight makes the tasks very simple.
Hope you have a wonderful Chadar trek and this guides help you with your packing list. Let me know in the comments below if you have any additional advice to offer 🙂