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Packing List: 5-Day Documentary Trip in Nepal

by , December 10, 2015

Whether he’s climbing in the Himalayas or blogging in LA, Chris Brinlee Jr. is an adventurer and storyteller who can’t stay put for more than a few weeks at a time. Follow his adventures on Instagram: @chrisbrinleejr.

Chris Brinlee Jr.

I’m writing this from a cheap and dirty hotel room ($3, just how I like it) in Syabrubesi, Nepal. I just finished trekking up into the Langtang Valley to document the earthquake’s survivors, in one of the areas that was hit the hardest, as part of Cotopaxi’s Adventure for Good Grant.

Langtang Nepal

Chris Brinlee Jr

Travel to the area is relatively simple by Nepalese standards: You can either take a 500 Rupee ($5) local bus, which takes about nine hours – or a 1,000 Rs ($10) Jeep which only takes six. The last time I was here I took the bus, but this time around I opted for the Jeep instead. Thanks to the fuel crisis, the local buses have been exceptionally crowded – and I’ve already suffered through them enough.

Nepal

Chris Brinlee Jr

Like most popular trekking areas in Nepal, the trail to Kyanjin Gompa (the last stop in the Langtang Valley) has several villages along the way that offer cheap food and accommodation for tourists and locals alike. As such, it’s not necessary to carry a full backcountry camping kit.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Chris Brinlee Jr

That being said, this area was extremely damaged from the earthquake; there wasn’t much information about which villages were still intact (most were not) – so I kind of gambled by not carrying a tarp or tent. Best case scenario: I would find homestays along the way. Worst case: I would squat in tea houses that weren’t completely destroyed – or sleep under the stars if weather allowed. I ended up with the best of both worlds when a family of yak herders invited me to camp at their homestead.

Chris Brinlee

Chris Brinlee

When it comes to my kit, I’m not really into that whole hipster-camping thing. The locations I travel to are almost always rugged and remote; I often have to hike in. For those reasons, my kit has to have a good balance of functionality, light weight, and durability. That usually ends up being high-performance backpacking gear and technical outdoor clothing – in case the weather turns sour. So without further ado, here’s the gear I carried into Langtang.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Carry

For this trip, I required technical packs that could stand up to backcountry abuse.

Cotopaxi Nepal 65L

This technical backcountry pack is pretty feature-rich. At more than four pounds, it will make ultralight backpackers cringe – but it’s capable of hauling a pretty heavy load. That’s important when you’re lugging around camera and computer gear – in addition to everything else needed for a mountain endeavor. It does have strippable parts though, for when you are trying to shed ounces. Ditch the rain fly (they never work – line your pack with a trash compactor bag instead) and the internal daypack to save some weight. Best part about this pack: purchasing it does some good in the world.

Cotopaxi Nepal 65L

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Summit Pack

What this 30L rolltop daypack lacks in pockets and features, it makes up for everywhere else. It’s light (16 oz), packable – and because it’s made from a Cuben Fiber/Dyneema blend, it’s virtually indestructible and nearly waterproof too. I use it when in transit, or doing side trips. Last month, I climbed a 20,000’ Himalayan peak with it too.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Summit Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks

They may not look like much, but these stuff sacks – which come in a variety of sizes – are incredibly versatile. Made from lightweight, durable, and waterproof Cuben Fiber – I use them for everything from organizing toiletries, to cables and hard drives, to clothes.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks 2

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Cuben Fiber Stuff Sacks

GoPro Casey (Soft Bag)

GoPro has this really handy semi-hard case that’s great for transporting your cameras and accessories – but it’s not so great when you’re traveling light. Inside that case though is this handy little bag. It features a mesh, zippered divider pocket which provides easy access to batteries, cards, cords, and mounts.

GoPro Casey

Shoes & Apparel

Temperatures on this trip ranged from 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day at lower elevations, all the way down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit at night, so my clothing system had to be super versatile. Fortunately there was no chance of snow this early in the year, so I was still able to travel pretty light – while being prepared for whatever conditions the mountains presented.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Chris Brinlee Jr

adidas Outdoor Terrex Scope

adidas Outdoor has been killing the technical footwear game since coming back onto the market; the Scope is proof. These mountain approach shoes feature super-grippy Stealth rubber soles (borrowed from Five Ten, which the company owns) with an aggressive tread pattern that provides enough traction on trails, but doesn’t get in the way when scrambling over rocks. The uppers are made from a super-burly 420-denier nylon weave for abrasion resistance. I’ve been dragging them all over the Himalayas – and Kenya – for the last two months and they’re still going strong.

adidas Outdoor Terrex Scope

Chris Brinlee Jr.

Kora Shola Crew

Kora is a new brand of ethically-sourced yak wool base layers. Yak wool is warmer, lighter, and softer than merino – making it an ideal material for temperature regulation in cold climates. The Shola 230 Crew’s cut is very athletic and it feels great next to skin. I’d usually wear this while sleeping, because I don’t like touching the inner nylon of my sleeping bag.

Kora Shola Crew

Mountain Hardwear Fleece Pants

These base layer bottoms are part of MHW’s latest collaboration with The Swiss Machine, Ueli Steck. They’re made from fleece with additional insulation zones for extra warmth. The pants have a zippered thigh pocket, and full side zips so you can remove them without taking off your boots. I’ve been using them for climbing, sleeping, and venturing out into the cold at night. Get ‘em Spring ‘16.

Mountain Hardwear Fleece Pants

Chris Brinlee Jr

adidas Outdoor Skyclimb Top and Vest

Don’t underestimate the usefulness (and style) of a vest! This top and vest combo provides a really versatile layering system for active pursuits. The top has a thin layer of Polartec Alpha insulation in the chest; the vest features a stretchy breathable material on the back. They work together to provide different levels of warmth depending on how active you are or how cold it is.

adidas Outdoor Skyclimb Top

Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket

This lightweight (12 oz) synthetic jacket is incredibly warm, thanks to its use of Polartec Alpha, which mimics the structural qualities of down – creating an insulation that is lightweight and packable, but maintains its insulative properties when wet. Though the Pacaya is a super techie jacket, its styling is understated so you don’t look out of place when not on a mountain slope.

Cotopaxi Pacaya Jacket

Cotopaxi Tikal Rain Jacket

The quickest way to hypothermia (and eventually death) is by being wet – even if it’s not that cold. The easiest way to stay dry is by investing in a good rain jacket, like this one from Cotopaxi. The Tikal uses a waterproof-breathable 2.5-layer design – making it much lighter and more packable than shells made from 3-layer GoreTex. Zippered pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, and pit vents are all standard features – but its understated style and color make it acceptable around town.

Cotopaxi Tikal Rain Jacket

Westcomb Recon Cargo Pants

These softshell pants are made from schoeller-dynamic which is lightweight, dexterous, and water-resistant but breathable, while remaining extremely durable and abrasion resistant. They feature a built-in belt, felt-lined handwarmer pockets, and a thigh pocket. Their stretchy fabric offers tons of mobility and at only 14 oz they won’t slow you down — yet they’re tough enough to tackle the most rugged alpine environments. Their minimalist style works great in the mountains and looks great in town.

Westcomb Recon Cargo Pants

Icebreaker Sphere T-Shirt & Strike 5” Shorts

This summer, Icebreaker NZ came out with a new fabric called CoolLite. It is exactly as the name implies. Both the shirt and shorts use the lightweight fabric, which breathes exceptionally well – like synthetics, but they have the same feel as merino wool. I wore these while trekking when it got super hot.

Icebreaker Sphere T-Shirt & Strike 5” Shorts

Socks: SmartWool PHD Outdoor Light Mini

SmartWool PHD Outdoor Light Mini

Underwear: pullWool Briefs

For the last year, I’ve been wearing two different sets of prototype pullWool briefs. When I left for this trip though, I grabbed the old set and within a couple of weeks my balls broke through (these briefs have been through a lot.) Fortunately, I found a department store when I was in Kenya earlier this month – but I forgot my wallet, so my friend Solana bought me two new pairs of bamboo fiber briefs for 450 shillings ($4.50.) I don’t know what brand they are, but they work.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Warm Hat: Alps & Meters Classic Pom Hat

This is the nicest beanie I’ve ever owned. In fact, I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a “nice beanie,” but there is and this is it. The Classic Pom Hat is made from water-resistant wool, has a secret zippered security pocket, and is reversible for high visibility. It’s super warm. And it looks super cool. I love this hat.

Alps & Meters Classic Pom Hat

Safari Hat

Solana got this one for me at that department store in Kenya too. How could I go on a safari without a safari hat? That’s right. I couldn’t.

Safari hat

Chris Brinlee Jr

Camera & Computer Gear

Sony A7S + Sony 16-35mm f/4

Sony loaned this to me for review after I lost my 5D Mk II in Vietnam. It is a low-light beast, which makes it perfect for documentary photography. Bonus – it recharges from USB. Check out my full review on IndefinitelyWild.

Sony A7S and Sony 16-35mm f/4

GoPro Hero4 Silver & Black + 3-Way

It’s no secret how powerful and versatile these tiny cameras are. And that’s why they go with me everywhere. The 3-Way is most definitely my favorite GoPro accessory. It’s a selfie stick on steroids. The 3-way positionable arm gets the stick out of the shot; its handle floats. Unscrew the bottom cap and flip it around for an instant tripod, which is perfect for shooting timelapses or your non-selfie self.

Pro tip: if you’re not getting wet, ditch the waterproof housing for The Frame. It’s easier to use and offers better sound quality when recording.

GoPro Hero4 Silver & Black + 3-Way

Lenovo Yoga 3

I bought this computer as a cheap replacement after losing my Surface Pro 3 in Vietnam. And I’m regretting it daily.

Lenovo Yoga 3

LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB

This USB 3.0 drive can survive having a car driven over it. It’s drop-resistant. Water-resistant. All of those are good things when you’re lugging hundreds of gigabytes of invaluable data through the most rugged environments. Just don’t lose them in Vietnam…

LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB

Kyocera DuraForce

I kind of hate this for a smartphone (filled with AT&T bloatware, terrible Android skin, camera is lacking), but I kind of love it as an electronic device. It’s super rugged. Scratchproof. Dustproof. Waterproof. That means I can listen to music in the shower without worrying about it getting wet. It’s global ready too, just make sure that it’s unlocked.

Kyocera DuraForce

Joby GorillaPod SLR

Joby GorillaPod SLR

Peak Design CapturePro

This quick-release plate is super handy for carrying your camera when it’s not in use, but you still need fast access.

Peak Design Capture

Goal Zero Venture 30 Kit

All of that electronic shit needs recharging. That’s where the Venture 30 comes into play. It can charge up to five GoPro batteries before running out of juice; the Nomad 7 solar panel will recharge it with half a day of good light. It’s rated IPX6 too, so you don’t have to worry about getting it dirty or wet.

Goal Zero Venture 30 Kit

Trekking Gear

When you don’t have to camp out and cook, you don’t have to carry much.

Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a warmer sleeping bag that only weighs two pounds. The Phantom 15 is stuffed with 800-fill Q-Shield water-resistant down, while a great internal baffle design keeps heat from escaping. It’s even got a little pocket inside for keeping your phone or batteries warm. Of course, temperature ratings are subjective – but I slept in this thing at high camp, 18,000’, before summiting Lobuche East.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

Trekking poles help you hike faster, farther, and safer – so I always use ‘em, especially when carrying a heavy load. These carbon fiber, cork-handled poles are the best ones you can buy. Period. I’ve beat them up all over the world; they’re still going strong. Probably the single best outdoor gear purchase I’ve ever made.

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

Head Lamp: Petzl Tikka R+

A headlamp is absolutely necessary for keeping hands free while accomplishing tasks in the dark, whether it’s at camp or getting an alpine start. Most headlamps have different beam settings which are useful dependent upon the environment and task at hand. The 185 max-lumen Petzl Tikka R+ is smart enough to automatically distinguish them, however. Just read the manual before setting out with it.

Petzl Tikka R+

Map – Don’t leave home without one

Chris Brinlee Jr

Essentials

These items come with me everywhere, whether I’m in transit, around town, or on an adventure.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Suunto Ambit3 Peak + HR

I always travel with a watch, it’s invaluable for keeping track of my life. The Ambit3 Peak helps me keep track of my elevation and route, incoming storms, and the time at home too. If I’m feeling extra nerdy, I’ll strap on the heartrate monitor to get those vital metrics.

Suunto Ambit3 Peak + HR

Revo Lukee Dark Tortoise/Terra Crystal

These sunglasses were a gift from Jimmy Chin. They’ve got the best lenses available of any sunglasses, anywhere – and the frames border biker cool and hip old school.

Revo Lukee Dark Tortoise/Terra Crystal

SOG Aegis Mini

My friend Wes is the editor over at IndefinitelyWild; he believes that you should carry a knife almost everywhere. I took his advice to heart and got this one by SOG. Its slim profile, low pocket clip, and assisted opening mechanism make it perfect for EDC. But mainly I open letters and make bacon.

SOG Aegis Mini

Earbuds: Skullcandy Ink’d 2

Skullcandy Ink’d 2

Travel

This is more gear that I never leave home without.

LifeStraw Go

Access to clean drinking water is crucial for our survival; access is especially relevant when traveling in developing nations. Instead of buying bottled water everywhere (which is expensive and bad for the environment), I carry the LifeStraw Go. While it’s not the lightest personal filtration system out there, I’ve never used one that’s more convenient. Its built-in particulate filter removes something like 99.99% of all waterborne pathogens, so you can be sure the water you’re drinking is safe.

LifeStraw Go

First Aid Kit

A lot of people buy a preset first aid kit and call it a day. Those kits are convenient, but they are pretty generic too – resulting in a lot of wasted space and weight. I put together a little custom kit instead, using a small HMG stuff sack as a container. My kit has bandaids, Moleskin, athletic tape, anti-diarrheal, disinfectant wipes, a few larger bandages, crazy glue, and a shitload of ibuprofen. I’m no trained medic; if that stuff won’t fix me, I’m gonna go see a doc.

Chris Brinlee Jr

Man Shit

With great beard comes great responsibility, is what my uncle once said. A cheap pocket comb, some Fisticuffs Wax, and Beardbrand Oil keep mine neat.

Pocket comb, Fisticuffs Wax and Beardbrand Oil

Chris Brinlee Jr

Hand Sanitizer

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick abroad sucks even more. You can’t always find soap and water after you shit, so carry Purell. I keep a little pump bottle on me all the time, then buy a bigger one whenever I need to refill.

Purell

Kimera Koffee

There’s nothing better than kicking off a day in the Himalayas with some high-altitude, nootropic-infused Kimera Koffee. I drink mine out of this custom Snow Peak single-wall titanium mug – and brew it with a lightweight coffee helix by Soto Outdoors.

Kimera Koffee

Kimera Koffee

Thanks for letting me share my kit!

Chris Brinlee Jr

  • StraightForward

    I enjoyed this

    • Chris Brinlee Jr

      Glad to hear it!

  • https://www.whitleytravels.com Whitley Travels

    Love it!

    • Chris Brinlee Jr

      Thanks!

  • Nick

    A really great utilitarian kit. Liked seeing stuff that isn’t glamorous or “cutting edge” but speaks to the nature of the places you’re going and the work you’re doing. Also really appreciated you showing stuff you carry but don’t like (the Lenovo), and discussing gear failure (the underwear). Even good gear has a lifetime if you’re using it to it’s limits everyday. Thanks for sharing.

  • John

    I had the pleasure of living in Nepal for two-years. I found the Nepalese, especially those in the rural areas to be the friendliest and most generous people I’ve met. I did quite a bit of traveling while there and carried similar items to what you listed. I added my own utensils – knife, fork, spoon and small bowl. I also had a ready supply of trail mix and powered gatorade and koolaid to mix with the water to help camouflage the iodine taste from the water purification tablets I used. To further help purification, I also used one of those small UV light purifiers. I enjoyed reading about your trip, brought back some great memories.

    • http://www.intrepidbags.com/ Intrepid Bags

      Those UV light purifiers never worked for me. Plus they break. Glad they did the trick for you. Every person I ever traveled with who used them ended up with the runs. I used something similar to the lifestraw (seychelle water filters) and never once had an issue from the water while trekking.

      • John

        I think the other down side to the UV light purifiers is they go through AA batteries pretty quick. After looking back through my notes, I see we used something like Aquamira Technologies Water Treatment Drops. We used these straight into our water bottles. Then we would use the UV light purifiers – like double insurance for purification. During our trip we were very careful what we ate – never any meat and mostly fried rice and vegatables and then a daily cup of onion soup which we were told would help us adjusting to the higher altitudes.

  • Pablo

    Great kit and great travel! !

  • http://www.intrepidbags.com/ Intrepid Bags

    I lived in Nepal for 2 years as well, just returned a couple months ago, and the major item I see missing from that travel pack is tissue paper! It’s always funny to observe the life changing experience of a foreigner who uses a Nepali toilet in an emergency situation and forgets to bring their own tissue paper. When they come out, the look in their eyes is priceless as the reevaluate every life-decision that led them to this point.

    The other item I take everywhere with me when I trek in Nepal is now a bag of protein powder. Once you get in the more remote locations, protein is hard to come by, and it helps keep the body and muscles fueled a bit better than endless Dal Bhat rice and lentils. 😉

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