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Tips on planning and packing for a trek

Trekking in Nepal can be done in small, semiorganized groups or with a trekking company that will do everything for you except move your legs. Any Nepal travel guidebook will provide details, details, details for either way you want to go. Read Stephen Bezruchka's "Trekking in Nepal," the best for background and thorough trekking advice.

I vote for small, semiorganized treks. Talk with a few porters and hire one who has an easy manner and speaks English. Expect the unplanned. Get to know the people of Nepal.

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First place on the Top 10 trekker list: Appropriate footwear.

*0If you buy new hiking boots before you go, avoid shoes with lots of volume. Somehow the idea that bigger is better has a stranglehold on the boot industry when it ought to be lean, tough and waterproof or water resistant. Break the shoes in before you go.

On the Annapurna trek, you'll be trekking through the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), which is a laudable government effort to control use and protect the area. It also means you have to be buy a trekking permit in Kathmandu for usually around $35. Between some villages the paths are arranged stones. Most often the trail is dirt and loose rocks, and sometimes well-ordered rock steps.

Remember that for years villagers have trod this trail in sneakers, plastic flip-flips, even barefoot. The point is individual comfort, and if you have a sturdy pair of walking shoes already that are easy on your feet, forget new hiking boots.

*Don't wear thick socks. Sock manufacturers like the idea of thickness and wicking, both of which "choked" my feet until I switched to plain old socks, and walking was a dream. No blisters all the way. Your experience may differ because feet are different. I marveled at the rhythmic walk of one of the porters, a kind of springy, loose up and down gait that eased the effort.

*A good sleeping bag is like an old friend. Buy carefully. After a long day on the trail, comfy warmness is no joke; you want to crawl in and like it in there; not too hot, not too cold. My bag (not a down bag) was labeled as good to "minus 5 degrees" and was great, except for the zipper, which was forever clogged by catching the strip of fabric near the teeth. Take a head lamp to read at night and a supply of batteries because the lamp goes weak fast.

*Lots of people take little bottles of liquid iodine to purify water in their bottles. It works. I didn't use this method, but rather used the filtered water that nearly every lodge provides. I also bought a few plastic bottles on the trail filled with spring water, a practice frowned on by ACAP as the empty bottles have to be carried out. I apologize, but I was careful. When it comes to toilet paper, take a roll (or baby wipes) along and expect non-Western standards.

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*Don't take a lot of clothes, but do take a warm jacket and a sweater. On the trail women are not supposed to wear shorts out of respect to Nepali customs. Many women wear long, loose skirts. Take light pants, a couple of shirts, T-shirts, and laundry soap to wash. Less is more on the trek for you or the porter.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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