Essential Gear for Everest Base Camp
This spring I’ll be at Everest Base Camp for a month as theexpedition journalist for Expedition Hanesbrands, a team led by Jamie Clarke, a Canadianmountaineer who will attempt his second summit of the world’s highestmountain. (You can follow the expedition at climbwithus.com and at Outside Online.) I’m staying close to Base Camp, but even so, theweather at 17,500 feet can get pretty nasty. To prepare for all thatwind, snow, and high-altitude UV, I’m not packing light–the list belowisn’t even half of what I'll bring. I’ve tested this gear in Santa Fe, where the mountains topout at roughly 12,000 feet. Here’s to hoping all of this gear works just aswell 5,500 feet higher.
Rab Photon Pants: “You MUST BRING down pants,” said one friend fresh from climbingin Nepal. But I ultimately chose a pair of PrimaLoft pants with a PertexMicrolight outer layer. These lightweight pants, which are as soft as down anddry a little faster, can be layered with an expedition-weight base layer and,with their tough Pertex Microlight coating, will stay free of rips and snags.These are men’s pants, but they come in a variety of sizes. ($170; rab.uk.com)
Feathered Friends Volant Down Pant: Another good choice. These pants have full side zips, a baffle construction, and your choice of eVent or Epic exterior fabric. ($245 to $349; featheredfriends.com)
Wenger Swiss Army Knife EvoGrip 18: Almost the exact replica of the Swiss Army Knife my grandfather gave me. But this one has an ergonomic grip with a rough,sandpapery, rubber finish so I won’t accidentally fling it into a crevasse inthe Khumbu Icefall. My favorite of the 11 implements: the double-cut wood saw.($61; wengerna.com)
Sierra Designs’ Waterproof/Breathable Down Bootie: I’ve worn these almost every daysince October to protect my feet from my concrete office floor. I can’t imaginelife without them. ($70; sierradesigns.com)
UGG Ultra Tall Boots: I started wearing UGG boots in high school (a choice that had more to do with climate than my ability to prognosticate fashion trends). I justpurchased my second pair for Base Camp. With a 100-percent sheepskin interiorand lugged soles, these boots kept my feet toasty in months of below-zeroMinnesota weather, and I hope they do the same for my toes at Base Camp. ($225;uggaustralia.com)
OR Women’s Gripper Gloves: These Windstopper gloves, designed for doing cold-weatherchores, will keep me warm on the trek in while still allowing my fingers tofunction. The big loop on the cuff will make them a lot easier to pull on if myfingers start going numb. ($49; outdoorresearch.com)
SteriPEN Adventurer Opti: After filling my wide-mouthed Nalgene with water from the Santa Fe River, I held this small, high-voltage, multi-tool-sized device in thebottle for about a minute until the green light lit up, indicating that I haddestroyed whatever viruses, bacteria, and protozoa were living in the water. Idrank the water and still feel good, which indicates the short-wave, germicidalUV light worked its miracle. ($100; steripen.com)
Cyclone Buff: This triple-layered tube, designed to wear at least five ways around your neck and head, has melted my misery more than once on local peaks this pastwinter. The trick is its soft, fleecy inner layer, a Windstopper membrane inthe middle, and a durable outer layer coated with a water-repellent treatment.($39; buffusa.com)
Exped DownMat 9 Pump: Considering that heat loss to theground can be up to three times greater than heat loss to the air, this 9-cm,goose-down-filled mat (which also comes in a 7-cm version) is a good investment. And lest you think that the down might clump and leave you exposed in essential areas, Exped inserted foam barriers to keep the feathers in place. The mat isn’t self-inflating, but the pump is low-profile, easy to use, and doesn’t requireexpending extra breath. All this can be stuffed into a 15×7-inch sack. ($179; exped.com)
REI Expedition -20 Bag: Mountaineers tell me that their worst gear-related horror stories come from declining to bring a warm enough sleeping bag. The Expedition -20 has 800-fill goose down on top, 700-fill goose down on the bottom, a wrap-around draft collar to seal in heat, and is enclosed in a waterproof, breathable shell, which will allow my body heat to escape in the unlikely event that I get too hot. There’s also a double-zipper system that will allow further temperature regulation. ($399; rei.com)
LOWA Khumbu GTX Mid TC W’s: I spend a lot of time testing hiking boots and trail-running shoes. LOWA boots are consistently comfortable right out of the box. The company makes more than 12 backpacking boots for women. Of those, I went with a pair that’s pretty light (2.6 lb.) but still has protective rubber caps on the heel and toe, a beefy Vibram outsole, and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining that not only keeps myfeet dry but also helps prevent hot spots. ($245; lowaboots.com)
LEKI Cressida Aergon Women’s Trekking Poles: I’m a recent, but diehard, convert to trekking poles for three reasons: They give you a better upper-body workout, they savewear and tear on your knees, and they secure your footing. These have a smallerwomen’s grip and are made out of super-lightweight, aircraft-grade aluminum. ($119; leki.com)
Lowepro ProRunner 350 AW, Lowepro Versapack 200 AW: I need to bring a portable office, which will include a MacBook, my DSLR, and about a dozen Moleskine notebooks and pens. I’m either going to pack it all into the ProRunner 350 AW backpack ($300;lowepro.com), which has an integrated sleeve for my laptop, plenty of cushy space for my camera, and extra room for cables, thumb drives, and batteries; or I’ll roll up the smaller Versapack ($130; lowepro.com), in my duffle for the trek in, then take it out at Base Camp to use as a day pack for my DSLR.
Eagle Creek ES Cargo Duffel: For the flight to Nepal, I’ll try to cram all this gear into the 8,100-cubic-inch duffel. This extremely durable bag is made from 1000 Denier Cordura, has a removable padded shoulder strap, and, most importantly, has top externalcompression straps to stabilize my oversize load. ($95; eaglecreek.com)