How We Trekked To Everest Base Camp On A Budget
When we decided to attempt to trek to Everest Base Camp on a budget we had lots of questions from what we needed to take, to, did we need a guide?
We scoured the internet and found lots of articles but many of them contradicted one another or didn’t really give clear answers.
So having successfully completed our trek (yay) we wanted to share what we learnt along the way.
Remember we are not telling people how to do it or making recommendations but this is more a sharing of our experiences so that you may be able to make your own mind up.
It’s a personal thing, so what works for one person may not work for another
There’s three of us my wife Sue, daughter Annabel who was 11 at the time and myself.
The most important thing we kept in mind was that however budget conscious we wanted to be, safety was always at the top of our list as we can’t put a price on our lives.
The Scenery Of The High Himalaya Is Stunning
When We Trekked
There are two main seasons to trek to Everest Base Camp, March-April-May and September-October-November and December
We wanted to start our trek by the 20th March so that we could be on the main trail before it got too busy.
Due to snow conditions up high we delayed our start from Kathmandu until the 27th March which was fine.
We experienced great weather with lovely blue skies but any sort of weather can be experienced at any time.
Everest Climbing expeditions will be on the way up to Everest Base Camp during April and base camp will be a collection of tents on the Khumbu glacier.
At other times the base camp is just a collection of rocks to mark the spot.
The Beautiful Amadablam
What Route We Trekked
The main route to Everest Base Camp is from the airstrip at Lukla which follows a well-trodden trail all the way to base camp.
As we wanted to trek to Everest Base Camp on a budget we decided to trek from a village called Salleri in the foothills and then back to Salleri.
Not only was it better for our budget but it adds on approx 4-5 days and crosses four 3,000 meter passes which may be hard work but got us trail fit and acclimatised for when we got to higher altitude.
Yes, it extended the trek by about 9 days and meant returning the same way but it was worth it.
Even paying out for more nights accommodation and food it was still much cheaper than paying for the flight into Lukla.
We left Kathmandu in a shared jeep for an 11-hour drive to Salleri where we started the trek from.
The first few days found us alone on the trail as not many other trekkers walk this trail but once we met with the main trail just past Lukla the story changed and there were plenty of other trekkers.
The big downside to using the trail from Salleri is the fact that lots of donkey trains use the trail so it can be very muddy and messy if you know what I mean.
The Trail From Salleri Is Very Muddy Because Of The Number Of Donkey’s Using It
Organised Or Non Organised
So we knew we wanted to organise and plan the trek on our own as much as we could.
It’s part of the way we have learnt to travel.
Wherever we can do things independently we will, it’s very satisfying and we can be flexible, which means it’s somewhat easier.
We did contact a couple of companies just to find out what the cost of the trip we wanted to do might cost but that made us more determined to put it together ourselves.
But if you have limited time and want the convenience of things being planned for you, then organised is the way to go.
11 Hours In This Jeep, With Nine People Is Not The Most Comfortable Journey
Guide Or No Guide
Once we decided we wanted to organise the trek ourselves the next choice was, did we want to hire a guide or porter for the trek?
You can hire guides who will obviously guide you but not usually carry much in the way of bags for you or you can hire a porter who won’t usually give you the info that a guide will but will carry all your gear for you and you can also hire a kind of hybrid between the two who will guide to a certain extent and also carry some gear.
At the time ( March 2017 ) a guide would have cost us $20 US a day and a porter approx $15 US a day.
We knew that the trek we were planning would maybe last about 30 days so if you do the maths you know that is quite a bit of money to hire a guide etc.
We also had researched the route and were pretty confident that we didn’t want to have a guide or porter.
For us it was part of the challenge to guide ourselves and carry our own gear.
Now the other important thing to bear in mind is the dangers of altitude and how a guide can help you.
We had trekked in the Nepal Himalaya before and I had been on a mountaineering expedition to Mount Mera at over 6,000 meters several years previous.
So we had experience of altitude and the dangers involved and what to look out for in each other to minimise the risk to us.
If this had been our first time to the area and no knowledge of how altitude could affect us then we would have definitely hired a guide at the very least.
Having such a flexible plan allowed us to make changes and enjoy the trek as much as we could.
Amazing Views And A Reminder Of All The Climbers And Sherpas Who Have Lost Their Lives In The Himalaya
You will need a TIMS permit and a Sagmartha park permit to trek to Everest Base Camp.
Both of these can be obtained from the National Tourism Office in Kathmandu
They are easy and quite quick to obtain from the office but make sure you have separate passport photos and passports with you as well as details of your trek dates and route.
You’ll also need to take along your travel insurance details to obtain the permits.
The National Tourism Office In Kathmandu
Our TIMS And Sagmartha Park Permits
What Is Accommodation Like
Accommodation along the trek is plentiful in the form of trekking lodges or teahouses as they used to be called.
Every village and hamlet will have several lodges.
We had no trouble getting a room, except it got a bit more difficult as we got closer to Everest Base Camp as the number of lodges gets less and the trekking groups get priority as they have booked ahead.
Sometimes rooms weren’t large enough for all three of us so we would need two rooms but we could usually negotiate with the owner on the cost.
On the whole, the lodges are very inexpensive unless you decide to stay in a very upmarket one.
In fact, we stayed in at least two lodges that were completely free if you eat your meals there.
Most lodges expect you to eat there and to be honest, that’s what suited us as the last thing you want to do is go looking for somewhere else to eat after a long days hike.
On arriving in a village we would look around several lodges to get the best price and meal options as well as check out how clean the rooms and bedding were.
Rooms usually consist of two or three simple beds with blankets and pillows but we slept inside our sleeping bags.
On the whole, cleanliness is good but it’s best to check them out as we did see a few less desirable places.
As you get nearer base camp conditions do decrease so don’t expect luxury.
Bathrooms are shared and will usually consist of a toilet and a big butt of water to flush the toilet with.
There may be sinks with cold water but more often than not there’ll only be a water tap outside somewhere you can use.
Sometimes they will have shower facilities which usually means they will, for a price heat some water for you to take into a small closed area outside to wash.
One Of Our Typical Lodge Rooms
Typical Lodge Dining Room With Yak Dung Burner
What Is The Food Like
Food at lodges is simple, which is best for when you are trekking.
We never had any tummy troubles all the time we were in Nepal as this is just about keeping it simple and not eating too much.
Lodges will have a menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner items which you can usually order at any time.
The usual process is to order dinner when you get to your lodge and tell them what time you would like it and they will do their best to keep to that time but this is Nepal so it’s Nepalese time.
Most lodges have very similar menus.
Fried Rice, Fried Noodles, Daal Bhat, Curries, soups as well as Western options.
We kept it simple and took advice to not have any meat (think how far it needs to be carried up the trail ).
Mostly we stuck to Daal Bhat, Fried rice etc
You order your breakfast at dinner time and tell them what time you would like it in the morning.
You can pretty much order anything off the menu for breakfast so fried rice is also available.
There are the usual breakfast items
Nepalese breakfast, eggs, toast, pancakes, fried potatoes etc
The other thing we found good was that we could order a big flask of hot water and fill our water bottles up in the evening ready for the trek the next day.
The thing to remember with food is to keep it simple and stick to the staples, rice, noodles etc.
However much you fancy the yak steak or chicken curry, go for something simpler and save your appetite for when you get back to Kathmandu.
You’ll snack while trekking but there are little shops selling an assortment of biscuits and chocolate.
You’ll pay more the higher you go but sometimes it feels worth it to have a bit of sugar.
A Great Trekkers Breakfast
What We Took
We decided to walk with the bags we normally travel with.
They are backpacks and were fine for the job.
My bag is a travel bag and not really meant for long walking days but it has a really good harness and was comfortable for the whole trek.
As you can see we like our Osprey bags. They are well made, durable and very comfy with good harness systems.
Everything we needed had to fit in these bags as we didn’t have porters to carry gear for us.
I carried an Osprey Farpoint 80 litre backpack
Sue carried an Osprey Sirrus 36 litre Backpack
Annabel carried an Osprey Tempest 30 litre backpack
We can’t stress enough how important boots are.
We saw people trekking in everyday shoes and trainers but we always wear good trekking boots into the mountains.
Waterproof and Goretex (or other branded waterproof linings) are what we go for as you never know what the weather has in store for you.
It can get very cold, wet and even snow on the trail so waterproof is the king.
Boots with a good tread too, as the higher you go the more rocky and uneven the trail becomes so it’s easy to turn an ankle.
Make sure that boots are well worn in and comfortable otherwise blisters are going to be a problem.
We were limited to boots we could purchase as we had to buy them in Thailand and they didn’t have the choice that some other places would have.
Katmandu has lots of shops selling boots but they will be knock offs and while this is OK for some gear, boots should be good quality so even though they carry a label they aren’t the real deal and may just fall apart on the trail.
I went for the Salomon X Ultra Trek GTX
Sue chose the Salomon Authentic LTR GTX womens boot
Annabel also chose the Salomon Authentic LTR GTX womens boot
So as we travel full time we don’t have a whole lot of room for specific trekking clothing so we needed to buy some of our stuff in Kathmandu.
There are literally hundreds of shops in the Thamel district that sell trekking and mountaineering clothing and gear but all of it is fake big-name brands unless you go to the actual branded stores in town like North Face, Mountain Hard Ware etc and pay big bucks for your gear.
As I said before the fake clothing is fine unless it’s important like boots or an outer waterproof jacket etc.
The cheaper shops will even have Gortex labels on stuff but remember it’s not going to be Gortex at all and won’t be waterproof.
We had read and heard lots about Shona’s, a shop in Thamel owned by a British ex-climber (Andy) and his Nepalese wife Shona that everyone online seemed to be recommending.
We found their shop right in the centre of Thamel.
It’s a very small shop that is packed with gear from floor to ceiling.
Andy is very helpful and if you tell him your trekking plan and budget he’ll give you loads of advice on what to go for and what not to go for.
We told him we were on a budget and not interested in spending loads on big name gear and stuff we didn’t really need.
So we got what we needed from their shop along with a ton of advice at no extra cost.
Thamel, The Old Quarter Of Kathmandu Where You’ll Find Tons Of Gear Shops
Clothing We Carried With Us
Most we bought from Shona’s and the other items we already had.
1 x Base layer long johns each
2 x base layer long sleeved shirts each (one to walk in and one to sleep in)
1 x Trekking wicking T-shirt each (that’s right one each for the whole trip)
1 x Long sleeved Microfleece each
1x Pair of trekking trousers with zip-off legs for me
2 x Pairs of women’s leggings for Sue and Annabel
2 x Pairs of thick trekking socks each
2 x Pairs of thin liner socks each
1 x Micro down jackets each
1 x Waterproof jacket each ( we bought one for Annabel from Shona’s as it was their own brand and made by them)
1 x Pair water resistant trousers
1 x Warm hat each
1 x Pair of liner gloves each
1 x Pair of mid-weight gloves each
1 x Pair of wraparound sunglasses each ( important on snow )
1 x Buff each (very useful to keep dust out of your lungs and keep the sun off of your face and nose )
1x Sun hat ( we had some sort of hat each to keep the powerful sun off our heads )
That’s Mount Everest In The Far Distance From Namche Bazaar
Apart from the clothing, there are other items that we had with us on our trek that we definitely needed.
We only carried what was absolutely necessary.
Again some items we had already and some we bought in Kathmandu.
Items We Carried With Us
1 x Sleeping bag each ( lodges may have blankets etc but up high you will definitely need sleeping bags, we hired two 4 season and 1 three-season bags from Shona’s at a reasonable rate.
1 x Head torch with spare batteries ( handy for nighttime visits to the bathroom and reading in poorly lit lodges )
1 x small torch with extra batteries
1 x Medical kit ( a very simple kit with plasters etc )
1 x Water bottles each ( you can buy authentic or fake Nalgene bottles in Kathmandu )
Wet wipes for daily use to keep clean ( it’s possible to buy buckets of hot water to wash in some lodges but more difficult the higher you go )
Toilet paper ( you can buy it at lodges on the trek but it gets more expensive the higher you go )
1 x Map of the area
2 x Inexpensive writing pads and pens for journaling the trip
1 x Small packet of washing powder for washing out clothing on the trail
1 x Trekking Permits ( you can arrange these in Kathmandu before the trek )
1 x Sony Mirrorless Camera
1 x GoPro
1 x Samsung smartphone
1 x Camera tripod (small )
Sunblock ( the sun is very powerful up high )
Lip protection ( protection from the sun and wind )
An umbrella to keep the sun off lower on the trail
Reaching Everest Base Camp