Those Who Dare.....
Valleys of Pakistan
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You need your own Tent if you are not trekking with a local agent or an adventure company. A good camping-goods shop should be able to advise you on what to buy, but make sure that it is double walled and able to withstand strong winds. Though expensive, domed tents are ideal, as they are light, sturdy and easy to erect.
Remember that your tent is your home for the duration of the trek. You may find that, on a long trek, a large tent is a worthwhile luxury, not only for privacy but also to provide a place for protecting gear from weather and theft. Ones that open at both ends have good ventilation and are relatively cool at low altitudes. We recommend North Face tents; Wild Country tents have a bad reputation for faulty zips and poles, which apparently are not covered by the guarantee.
A silver groundsheet under your tent protects the tent floor, adds insulation and reduces condensation. Buy one the exact size of your tent floor. You can also use it to sit on when eating.
Backpackers need a rucksack large enough to carry all their equipment and clothing, but those using porters need only a
Day pack in which to carry a camera, a water bottle, lunch and the odd item of clothing. Even day packs should have moisture-absorbing sections against the back to avoid prickly heat rash. . A 25-litre rucksack is sufficient , and an internal frame provides the most comfort. Do not spend a fortune on a large rucksack to be used by porters or loaded onto ponies. Porters have their own means of carrying equipment and often handle brand-new rucksacks with less care than their owners would like.
Porters need a carry-all such as a large army sausage bag or a canvas sack, one for each 25 kilogrames of load. You can buy these in the bazaar in Pakistan. Most expeditions use large hard-plastic barrels, which are excellent, especially for keeping food from becoming crushed or wet. These are usually available in all major cities of Pakistan.
Plastic stuff bags
are useful to protect your clothing, as most rucksacks and holdalls are not waterproof. These can be bought in camping shops, but strong, clear-plastic freezer bags with plastic twist ties (not paper and wire) are cheaper and allow you to see what is in each. Take various sizes, as they are always useful. Include a few strong 35- and 60-litre garbage bags for lining your rucksack for double protection.
should be light and warm, but the crucial factor is warmth. To be safe you should have a four-season sleeping bag rated to at least -10°C, with a hood and drawstring. Buy a bag with a full-length zipper so you can open it out and throw it half over you on warm nights at lower altitudes. Down bags are the warmest, lightest and least bulky, but be careful to keep them dry and air them in the sun at every opportunity. Bags filled with Quallofil are advertised as being nearly as warm as down and still 85 percent effective when wet (we have not tried one and do not know if this is true). Quallofil is about half the price of down, but twice as heavy.
A cotton sleeping-bag liner
not only eliminates the nightmare of trying to keep your sleeping bag clean but can also be used as a clean sheet in cheap hotels.
A space blanket
is fantastic for providing extra insulation or driving out a deep chill. As an emergency blanket for someone who has had an accident, it can be a life saver.
Insulating foam mat
A good insulating foam mat can make all the difference between a night of misery or of rest, especially when sleeping on snow. For those who prefer a little extra comfort, a Thennorest self-inflating air mat is well worth the investment. We prefer full-length mats, as with shorter mats your feet hang over the end and get cold.
For a pillow, use your jacket in your sleeping bag cover or buy an air pillow at a camping shop.
A ten-litre soft plastic water container, available in camping shops, is invaluable. It rolls up when not in use but needs careful packing inside something else to protect against punctures. The best container hangs up and has a tap about five centimetres above the bottom. In Pakistan your water supply is -often a clouded river or irrigation channel. Fill the container as soon as you arrive in camp, and any sediment will have settled in about an hour, leaving clear water for cooking and washing hands.
is necessary, as severe deforestation has led to a chronic shortage of wood in the Northern Areas. Trees in the valleys are all owned by the villagers and are reserved for building. Wood for fuel—also owned by the villagers—is collected off the ground. Government regulations stipulate that you must provide one stove for every eight porters. For small groups the best option is probably a good kerosene primus stove, as kerosene is available in almost all villages. Keep your stove clean and in good repair. Soak the cup washer on the end of the pump stick in oil to soften it before use. If it dries out, it will crack and you will not be able to pump up the pressure.
Most trekkers in Europe and America use small gas stoves, but canisters of camp gas (Gaz) are not available in Pakistan, and you are not supposed to carry them with you by air. If you are lucky, you may be able to buy some from departing expeditions, but do not count on it. In Islamabad, Expedition Pakistan may have some Gaz for sale; in Gilgit, try Dad Ali Shah's Hunza Handicrafts beside the Park Hotel.
Expedition Pakistan also sells single-burner gas cookers with a three-kilogramme container of liquid gas. For larger groups, we recommend two-burner gas stoves with large gas 'bombs' weighing 25 kilogrammes (one porter load). These are cleaner and less wasteful than kerosene—easy to use . Stoves and gas are available in every city of Pakistan. You leave a refundable deposit of about US$40 for the 'bomb' and pay about US$3 for the gas; refills are available in Gilgit, Skardu and Chitral. You need an adaptor available in Rawalpindi for European stoves, or you can buy Pakistani cookers at the same place for about US$10.
for large expeditions, 25-litre jerry cans, are available in Skardu, Gilgit and Chitral. For small groups, tubular aluminum one-liter containers are best. Small leak-proof containers are available in Pakistan, or you can find some second hand in Gilgit or Skardu.
A funnel and filter
is necessary, as kerosene in Pakistan is often contaminated with bits that can block the jets of your stove. Balls of cotton wool make a good filter. You can buy plastic funnels in any village in Pakistan.
A pressure cooker
is invaluable, available in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for about US$15. At higher altitudes, water boils at lower temperatures (at 3,000 metres, 90°C; at 4,000 metres, 86.6^; at 5,000 metres, 83.3°C; at 6,000 metres, 79.9°C) so you need a pressure cooker to cook even dehydrated packet foods that require water at 100°C to rehydrate them (a good pressure cooker should boil water at 100°C at 5,000 metres).
Cooking pots (called degchi)
Buy a couple of cheap, light-weight Cooking pots (called degchi) with lids at
Plate, spoon, fork and mug
For each person, get one aluminum plate, spoon, fork and mug. Chinese enamel mugs with lids are the best if you can find them in Gilgit bazaar—a half-liter mug doubles as a bowl for cereal or porridge.
You will also need a tin opener
Swiss army knife
is an invaluable tool.
A small aluminum washing bowl, available in the bazaar, is invaluable for laundry, washing up, cleaning lentils, holding water and shoveling snow.
We fill a half-liter plastic flask with good detergent from home.
Pot scourers and washing-up sponges
make life easier when washing up. The sponges are also useful for wiping condensation off tents before folding them up in the morning.
A drying cloth
prevents pots and plates getting dirty again while packed.
A one-liter plastic or aluminum water bottle per person is usually enough, but it is wise to have a spare bottle or two for the occasional days when no water at all is available and to store water in when in camp. Be sure that your water bottles are distinguishable from your fuel containers.
Cooking oil bottle
For a cooking oil bottle, a half-litre plastic flask is good. If you are using only imported dehydrated food, you will not need oil, but frying up onions and potatoes before you add the dehydrated mix and water makes a tastier meal.
Empty film canisters
are good for carrying spices.
Details of a recommended medical kit are laid out in the medical kit section .
Each person must carry a torch, also a small head torch is much easier to use than a hand-held torch when you need two hands for cooking, arranging your tent, writing your diary or even reading.
A simple spring balance—available in Gilgit, Skardu or Chitral—is useful for checking load weights and preventing arguments among the porters.
Thin nylon cord
serves as washing line or guy ropes and for making repairs. String is always useful.
A money pouch
either hung around the neck or worn around the waist, reduces worries while traveling. We prefer a small waist purse, as a money belt worn inside can cause prickly heat rash in summer.
One or two telescopic ski poles are invaluable when crossing rivers, glaciers and screes, and to take the strain off the knees when climbing and descending.
A small umbrella is sometimes useful on very hot days at low altitudes.
A fishing rod
is handy, as the mountain streams are filled with unsuspecting trout. Remember to buy your fishing permit in Gilgit, Skardu or Chitral.
Good batteries of all sizes are available in all cities of Pakistan. Most batteries contain mercury, which, if it gets into the water supply, can kill any animals or humans that drink there. Carry all of your used batteries out and dispose of them as safely as you can.
are useful for mending zippers. If your tent zipper no longer closes, gently squeeze the sides of the slider to tighten its grip on the zipper teeth.
A sewing kit
is needed on the trait, but in trie towns tailors will mend anything very cheaply and well.
Take safety pins to keep your washing from blowing off the line.
really do work. Carry ordinary matches for most days and save the waterproof ones for emergencies.
A compass and altimeter
are important. It is fun to know how much altitude you have gained each day. Altimeters work by atmospheric pressure, though, so daily changes in pressure cause variations of hundreds of meters in the reading, meaning that you cannot measure your absolute altitude unless you can adjust your altimeter daily to a known height.
Do not take crampons, ice-axes, rope, harnesses or karabiners unless you know how to use them.
is good for attracting the attention of others when they get far ahead.
Take a trowel for burying faces. (Bum or carry out your rubbish; leave your campsites as you would wish to find them
available in Pakistan, is needed to cover your supplies in camp when it rains. It also doubles as a kitchen shelter and shelter for porters.