Chadar Trek is one of the most thrilling (read chilling) treks in Ladakh region and the single most popular trek of winters. The beguiling beauty of Zanskar River is hard to resist!
Penguin walking on a frozen sheet of ice over Zanskar River is definitely exhilarating but what further adds to this adventure is the extreme temperatures that are at -15 to -20 degrees during the day and plummet down to as much as - 30 degrees Celsius in the night.
Since the Chadar trek is quite unique in its offerings, the key to preparation for this trek lies in knowing exactly what to pack. Unlike other Himalayan treks where you ascend and descend, here you walk flat on the frozen sheet. Your biggest challenge, here, is to fight the teeth chattering cold which can only be combated if you are fully prepared for it.
Here, let us tell you have that we’ve learnt about what to pack for Chadar from our years of experience on the trail:
Shoes are the most important equipment of any trek, especially Chadar Trek.
- Trekking shoes: Your trekking shoes should have three important things; high-rise ankle, waterproofing, and insulation on the outside.
- Gum Boots: You will need gumboots to wade through water. You can get a pair from Leh. Make sure it is one size large to escape the shoe bite. We do not provide Gum Boots, so please carry your own Gum Boots or buy the same in Leh.
- Crocs or open-toe slippers: You will need these in your campsite so that you can roam around easily without wetting your socks.
Many people make a mistake of over-packing. They only realize this when they are panting lugging their heavy backpack on the trail.
Pack light. Pack smart.
Avoid carrying sweaters as they consume too much space. Rather stick with fleece jackets. They take up less space and provide better insulation. Here is all you’ll need for your 9 day adventure on the frozen river!
- Synthetic Trek pants - 2
- Windcheater - 1
- Body Thermals (upper & lower) - 2 pair
- Warm pants- 2
- Full sleeves collar T-shirts - 2
- Down jacket
- Fleece jacket- 1
- Merino Trekking Socks - 2-3 pairs
- Undergarments - 4 pairs
- Rain coat or poncho
Do not forget to pack with you:
- Woolen Gloves + Synthetic Waterproof gloves (Both are necessary)
- Woolen Cap that covers the ears
- Woolen Socks for sleeping in the night
- Woolen stole or balaclava to wrap around the neck.
The trick to stay protected from biting cold on Chadar Trek is in layers of clothing. Multiple layers of clothing trap air in between the layers and provide insulation from the cold.
While walking in the day, thermal insulators will absorb the sweat losing its thermal property and getting heavy. Therefore, it is better to add moisture-wicking polypropylene based inners as the base layer. Wear a fleece over it.
When you reach the camp, add two more layers of fleece and a down jacket. The uppermost layer should be capable of keeping rain, snow, and wind out. If you still feel cold, add one more layer beneath. That ought to save you from the chill.
Pack small bottles of toiletries which are just enough for a week. It will save you lot of space and unnecessary weight.
- Lip balm
- Cold cream
- Small toothpaste
- Toilet Roll
- UV Protection Sunglasses to protect you from snow blindness
- Head Torch
- Rucksack (50-60 L)
- Medicine kit
- Hot Water Bag
- Hot Water Bottle
- Insulated water bottle or thermos flask
- Trail Munchies
- Ziplock bags or poly bags to compartmentalize wet, dry, and dirty stuff
Important DO’s & DONT’s
- Don’t carry jeans with you. It is of no use in Leh
- Do not carry/use trekking poles, microspikes, crampons, etc.
- Do not carry any plastic water bottle
- Don’t carry sodas, alcohol, or packets of chips etc.
- Carry a daypack if you decide to offload your rucksack. Keep important stuff handy in your day pack.
- Your load should be between 8-10 kgs.
Now that you know what to pack learn more about How to combat challenges faced on Chadar Trek.
This article was originally written by Dhaarna Kukreja on 23-10-2018.
It was edited and updated by Neeti Singhal on 08-11-2023.