A Complete Annapurna Circuit Packing List: Everything You Need to BringPublished on 06/19/2023 · 11 min readEmbarking on the epic Annapurna Circuit trek? Our complete packing list has you covered. Don't miss a thing—be well prepared for an unforgettable adventure!
Early morning mountain views on the Annapurna Circuit. Photo by Ireland Johnson
There’s nothing quite like the Annapurna Circuit. It’s awe-inspiring, breathtaking and jaw-dropping. The sheer insanity of the mountain range home to many of the world’s tallest mountains is indescribable.
I set out to backpack Asia for a year at the start of November 2022 with Nepal as my first stop. From some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen to enjoying the amazing hospitality of the Nepali people, trekking the Annapurna Circuit has easily been the highlight of my travels.
Preparing for a 12–18 day trek like this one is daunting, and finding balance between barebone, lightweight essentials and the so-called “luxury” items that might make your trip more enjoyable can be tricky. If you miss the mark on your packing list, it could mean freezing your way up the La Thorong Pass from leaving that extra base layer behind, getting crippling back pain from carrying too much, or having to turn back and give up on completing the circuit all together.
That’s why I’ve put together my ultimate Annapurna packing list, including exactly what you need to bring from shoes to a sleeping bag and my best packing and adventure tips for the circuit.
Annapurna Circuit: Before You Go
Organize Logistics and Paperwork Before the Trailhead
As of April of 2023, the Nepali government mandates that all international trekkers must have a licensed guide to hike most routes in Nepal—including the Annapurna Circuit. This is a big change; when I hiked the route in November of 2022, I did so without a guide or porter. Make sure you plan ahead.
You’ll also need both the TIMS and ACAP permits, which can be obtained at the Nepal Tourism office in either Kathmandu or Pokhara. Some guiding services might do this for you, but the cheapest way is to apply yourself, in person. To obtain the permits, you are required to have travelers insurance—there’s lots of great options online that cover evacuation and medical emergencies.
Note the Weather and Season
Prime time to hike the circuit is between the months of September and November, as well as March to April. It is possible to complete the trek outside of these windows, especially during the shoulder seasons, if you are willing to brave the possible snow storm and pelting rain.
The trek itself takes you through a wide variety of terrains. Expect to travel in climates akin to a muggy rainforest, dry desert, or snowy mountain top. One day you’ll be dripping sweat and the next suffering from freezing fingers. You have to be prepared for it all.
Pack Light and Only Essentials
Whether you’ve decided to hire a porter or carry your gear yourself, everyone’s spine involved will be grateful if you leave your laptop, chessboard, and favorite coffee mug behind.
Carry Enough Cash
Cash is king in Nepal, so make sure you have enough cash to last you the entire circuit. There is no ATM anywhere on the trek. Budget for night stays, food, water and anything else you might need along the way. There’s an apple orchard on the trail with all sorts of delicious apple-related snacks, drinks, and desserts that are absolutely worth the extra couple dollars. For reference, I spent about $12–18 USD per day on the trek, which included breakfast, dinner, lodging, snacks and water. I brought about $350 USD with me and had plenty left over. I shared a room with a friend and opted to go without a guide (no longer permitted).
Annapurna Circuit: Ultimate Packing List
The Big Ticket Gear
If you are enlisting the aid of a porter, you’ll need a reliable daypack for all your hiking necessities—including delicious hiking snacks, lots of water, extra layers, gloves, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and whatever else you might need. Your porter will carry the rest.
I’d recommend a daypack with a capacity of 30–40 liters and ample padding on the back and shoulder straps. It should also have waist, chest, and underarm straps to get the best and most comfortable fit. I recommend the Osprey Tempest 30 (Men’s Version: Osprey Talon 33).
If you’ve decided to carry everything yourself, you’ll need a backpacking bag capable of carrying everything that would be in a day pack, but also all your clothes, extra layers, and sleeping bag. I took the Gregory Deva 60 (Men’s Version: Gregory Baltoro 65) which I absolutely love, still use to date, and has been perfect for backpacking and lugging all of my rock climbing gear around Asia.
Having done the Annapurna Circuit with a larger backpack, I’d recommend something a little smaller, with a capacity of 40–50L. This will give you plenty of space for all your essentials, minimize weight, and make the trek more enjoyable. The Osprey Aura AG 50 (women’s) and Osprey Atmos AG 50 would be great options. This series by Osprey is optimized for comfort, ventilation, organization, durability and also comes in a 65L capacity.
- Pro Tip: Backpack rain covers are a must! Many larger capacity bags come with them, but many outfitters also sell rain covers separately.
The Annapurna Circuit is a teahouse trek—meaning no need for a tent or sleeping pad. Most guesthouse rooms come equipped with a bed, blanket, and pillow. However, the blanket provided is hardly warm enough, especially at higher elevations, and sheets/blankets are not always washed between guests. As such, a sleeping bag is a must.
I, supposedly, rented a -15C sleeping bag in Pokhara for about $10 USD for a full 18 days. As you start to become familiar with the larger cities of Nepal, like Kathmandu and Pokhara, you’ll find that you can’t walk down any of the main streets without seeing at least four outdoor shops. Most of these shops, and places you can rent from, host counterfeit items that pale in comparison to the quality and durability of brands like Rab, The North Face, Thermarest, and others back home. My $10 sleeping bag did the job, but those last two nights before the pass were sleepless and frigid.
I’d recommend purchasing a sleeping bag at home and bringing it along with you—a bag with a temperature rating of at least 20F/-6C. If you tend to run cold like me, you’d be more comfortable with a 15F/-10C bag. The Women’s Rab Neutrino 400 (Men’s Version) is my number one-recommended bag for trekking adventures where weight and warmth are your top two priorities.
- Pro Tip: If you decide to rent a sleeping bag, consider getting a sleeping bag liner.
Surprisingly, cellular service is far better than you might imagine when you are deep in the Himalayas. Beyond picking up a local SIM card before hitting the trail, I’d also recommend having a backup communication device for emergencies that isn’t dependent on 3G or LTE. While I never needed to use it on the trail, the Garmin InReach Mini gave me peace of mind that if there was an emergency, I’d be able to call for help no matter where I was.
Clothing and Shoes
Clothing to Keep You Warm and Dry
This is the time where synthetic material shines. When packing for the circuit, remember to avoid cotton and look for quick-drying and lightweight materials. This is not only handy for keeping you dry while it’s raining, if you’re sweating, or both, but also when you need to wash your clothes.
- 1 Set of Thermal Tops and Bottoms: These are great for sleeping and hiking where it’s colder. I really love the Smartwool Classic Thermal Merino Baselayers (Men’s/Women’s)
- 3 Pairs of Hiking Pants: I would bring two pairs of lightweight hiking pants and a third pair that is lined with a thicker, water-resistant material to provide more warmth and rain protection. I wore three pairs of pants (leggings, lightweight pair, fleece lined pair) while climbing the pass. I took the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Ankle Pants, which are crazy lightweight and fast drying. The Men’s version is the Basin Trek series.
- 3 Tops: Cotton kills! Synthetic and moisture-wicking shirts are the move.
- 1 Sun Shirt or Lightweight Long Sleeve: The sun can be pretty brutal on the circuit, and investing in a high-quality sun hoodie or shirt saves you the hassle of needing to reapply sunscreen every two hours. I have one from Outdoor Research, and I’ve worn it in every country I’ve been to: hiking, climbing, and adventuring in general.
- 1 Technical Midlayer Fleece: You’ll want to be wearing this once it gets cold. It also makes for a great layer while sleeping too. One of my favorites is the Outdoor Research Women’s Vigor Quarter Zip/Outdoor Research Men’s Vigor Full Zip Hoodie.
- 1 Insulated Jacket: The second piece of your layering system, and more commonly known as your “down jacket”. Paired with your technical fleece, you are setting yourself up to be warm while hiking. Cotopaxi is one of the leaders in sustainable apparel production, making their Men’s and Women’s Fuego Down Hooded Jacket amongst my favorites.
- 1 Shell Jacket: Essential for trapping heat and staying dry. GORE-TEX is a great material to keep an eye out for, but there are lots more that offer water and windproofing. I am a fan of the Outdoor Research Microgravity Shell Jacket.
- 5 Pairs of Underwear, 3 Socks, 2 Bras: For socks, wool is the best; Smartwool and Darn Tough are my favorite brands.
Reliable Hiking Boots or Trail Runners
This is the sink or swim component of your trip. Will you enjoy the circuit, or will you be looking forward to the day it’s over?
Comfort is key. Wear a pair of hiking boots that are well broken in or trail runners with ample traction. For non-technical treks and adventures like the Annapurna circuit, I prefer trail runners. I find them to be lighter weight and often more comfortable. At the end of the day, both are great. If you’re curious, check out this article by another Curated Expert that dials into the differences between hiking boots and trail runners a little more.
I really like the Salewa Mountain Trainer GORE-TEX Shoe series, which come in both a hiking boot and trail runner format. Keen’s Targhee II Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots (Men’s Version can be found here) are the first pair I ever bought for myself—and I only have good things to say about them.
Sandals or Non-Hiking Shoes
For when you finish hiking for the day or want to take a shower. I recommend a lightweight, but durable sandal or flip flop.
Accessories that Make a Difference
- Headlamp: I have the Black Diamond Spot 400 and it hasn’t let me down yet! Pro Tip: pack extra batteries.
- Hiking Poles: Take the pressure off your knees, especially helpful when coming down the pass. Trekking poles are great to have for all your hikes, both domestic and international—but they are easy to rent in Nepal.
- Portable Charger: As you get higher up the pass, lodging becomes more basic, and electricity is a luxury. You won’t always have access to an outlet to charge your devices.
- Sun Hat
- First Aid Kit: I always recommend that folks purchase a basic kit and then add extra. Most of my adventure friends have this medical kit. Pro Tip: Most kits you get in store or online are great starter packs but I would customize your kit and add cold medication, rehydration salts, blister care, and multiple of your basic painkillers.
- Gloves: When I head back to the Himalayas to venture on another trek, I’ll make sure to have a warm pair. Frostbite is best when avoided. These are a great basic pair at a great price. Pro Tip: If you frequently suffer from cold fingers, try out a pair of mittens.
- Travel Towel: Lightweight and fast drying.
- Buff: Some areas of the circuit are on a dusty road; having extra face protection can prevent dirt from ending up in your mouth. I have about six of the BlackStrap Facemasks, which I use for both hiking and skiing.
- Water Bottles: I traveled with a single 32oz water bottle and made frequent water refill stops.
- Water Filter: There are clean water stations periodically throughout the trek and there’s always running water in every town along the way. There is absolutely no reason to buy bottled water. I used the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter on my trip.
- Microspikes: Depending on the season, microspikes (although called crampons nearly everywhere in Nepal) offer extra security on icy slopes. You are able to purchase them in Nepal, but you’ll find higher-quality ones at home.
- Laundry Soap: Sea to Summit makes some laundry sheets that are perfect for travel and don’t need to be put in your liquid bag.
- Pro Tip: Do not depart the trailhead in Besisahar without first buying a roll of toilet paper to bring with you. You’ll also find that many guest houses advertise hot showers. A “hot shower” in Nepal is not the same as a hot shower in America. At temperatures well below freezing, taking a cold shower is daunting. Bring some body wipes along to stretch the time between proper showers.
Get Hiking With a Real Expert
The Annapurna Circuit is a huge undertaking, but it is one you’ll remember for the rest of your life. If you need help picking out the best gear and refining your backpacking trip for your next Himalayan adventure, reach out to me or one of our other Camping & Hiking Experts here on Curated. We’d be happy to help!