Packing for a foreign trip is never easy, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you happen to be. There is always something that you're likely to forget and always something that seems to get in the way of a "good packing job".
The first time that you head to a foreign country is the toughest- you don't know what to expect. You aren't sure what you should be packing and you aren't sure what things in the other country will be like. You pack everything and anything because you just aren't sure! After you're a bit more experienced and have made more than one foreign travel trips, you'll get better at the packing part of it all - you'll finally learn that packing the least amount you possibly can is the best way to go.
Of course, there is no possible way that I can just throw a list your way that you should print out and go by when you take your next trip to France, item by item. We're all different types of people with different types of needs with different types of items that we own and use. On top of that, our trips might be for different purposes - you may be heading on a business trip to London and need to bring suits for meetings all day long and I may be heading to Sweden for the time of my life - no dressy clothes needed. What I can do is offer a generic list that will include most items that most people will use while in a foreign country - from there, you make your own list and add the things and items you use on a daily basis that might not apply to me.
Making A List Checking It 100 Times
It'd be nice if we only had to check it twice. First of all, make sure that you do make a list - it's one of the most important things you can do before packing. I know too many people who just go about the day and stuff things into a suitcase before they leave - so not the way to go! You'll end up forgetting too many things.
Make the list a few weeks in advance (or longer) before the actual trip - you'll be much happier this way. I often find that when I pack and make a list at the last second, I'm walking around the house and saying to myself "H-e-l-l-o how could you forget this?!" Making sure that you pack each and every little thing that you need is pertinent - heading to a foreign country can (and often does) mean higher prices for the things that may cost very little in a local grocery store at home. On top of that, who wants to spend the day at a grocery store in Stockholm trying to decipher the price on a tube of toothpaste that you forgot? Not me.
Even though you need to make sure that you bring everything along with you, you also need to make sure that you don't bring the things that you just won't be using. Another extremely important thing that you need to do is find out how much luggage you can bring along on the trip - don't think (if you've never travelled before) that you can bring along 5 suitcases weighing any amount you want them to weigh, you can't. You're restricted. The amount of luggage and carry-on's that you're allowed to bring is different for each airline - make sure you check this before you pack and leave. Not only might you be limited the amount of luggage, but you might be limited to how much it weighs - make sure you find this out. If you are limited, you'll need to make sure you pack carefully - yet making sure you don't forget things.
- Walking Boots - these are the most important items when considering your trekking gear. Boots must give good ankle support and have a sole flexible enough to meet the anticipated walking conditions. A sole fitted with a three-quarter length shank is not necessary unless you intend to tackle extensive snow and glacial terrain. Ensure that your boots are well walked-in beforehand, and don't forget to bring spare laces and some waterproofing application such as Dubbin.
- Jacket - unless you have a very tight budges it is worthwhile investing in a top range Gortex jacket. This will serve your needs in the Himalaya, and be an invaluable asset on any outdoortrip you undertake when you return.
- Down Vest - recommended for those chilly mornings. If you already have a full down jacket then there is no harm in bringing it along, although the temperatures on your trek are seldom likely to call for its use, unless you really feel the cold.
- Wool Shirt or Pullover - a thick woollen shirt is worth its weight in gold. This is an item that does not cost the earth but can contribute greatly to your total wellbeing. As an alternative, raw wool pullovers can be purchased locally in Kathmandu.
- Breeches - a pair of woollen walking breeches is ideal. Ex-army woollen pants are another option. Pile trousers provide a satisfactory alternative, or even track suit bottoms if you are not likely to be going above 3500 metres. A lighter pair of reinforced cotton ex-army pants is also a useful item. Jeans are totally unsuitable in wet conditions.
- Over-Trousers - a strong nylon pair is indispensable in wet weather.
- Shorts - ideal for most trekking, although they should not be worn in villages, monasteries or other places were they may cause offence to the locals.
- Shirts - t-shirts are OK, but include some cotton shirts with collar and sleeves to give much-needed protection in the sun. Ex-army shirts with plenty of pockets are ideal.
- Thermal Underwear - both the vest and bottoms can make a significant difference to comfort. A double layered vest is especially recommended, particularly if you are unsure of the adequacy of your sleeping bag. Also inlcude a normal guality of regular underwear for the trek.
- Gloves & Balaclava - both items can be purchased locally. A balaclava is particularly important as considerable body heat is lost through the head.
- Socks - a sufficient supply of thick and thin pairs should be taken. Use cotton inner socks and woollen outer socks when on the trail.
- Sandshoes - for campsites and days when you have blisters.
- Sunhat - absolutely essential.
- Tracksuit - a bit of luxury for sitting in the mess tent in the evening
- Snow Gaiters - recommended, especially during the early part of the season when there is likely to be snow on the passes.
- Snow Goggles/Sunglasses - good quality snow or ski goggles are necessary to combat the side glare on the snow. Even if you are not actually walking on snow, the side glare from snow on the ridges can make goggles necessary. For non-snow conditions sunglasses are adequate.
- Holdall - a strong duffel bag or holdall is necessary for carrying your gear on the packhorses. The bag should be large enough to contain all your personal gear.
- Stuff Bags - to protect your clothes from elements you should bring a few stuff bags, as most holdalls are not totally waterproof. Strong plastic bags are an ideal alternative.
- Backpack - internal frame backpacks are ideal for longer walks. Ensure that the sack is large enough to carry your toilet gear, camera, waterproof jacket and sweater, as the packhorses may not be at hand during a sudden change of weather. It is not recommended to bring a large backpack as a means of packing gear onto horses, as the condition of the backpack will deteriorate rapidly after a few weeks of rough treatment by over-zealous horse handlers.
- Water Bottle - an aluminium or ex-army make is recommended, although plastic bottles can be purchased locally.
- Swiss Army Knife - the pride of any shepherd's possessions, and always useful for peeling fruit and opening tins; one with a small screwdriver is invaluable for carrying out camera repairs.
- Torch (Flashlight) & Candles - available in Kathmandu, but don't forget spare batteries and bulbs.
- Umbrella - for the rain, and shielding yourself from the sun; also handy when making discrete calls of nature. Available locally.
- Miscellaneous - toiletries, toilet paper, waterproof matches, sun block, towel, laundry soap, sewing kit, safety pins, and length of cord, and some small plastic bags to carry toilet paper and litter until you can dispose of it properly.
- Optional Extras - altimeter, compass, binoculars, notebook and pens.