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India/Pakistan and UK
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Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
India/Pakistan and UK on 05/03/2013 21:49:52 MDT Print View

I'm going on a trip for a while, and I'm planning on doing some backpacking in Pakistan (and/or northern India, depending on Pakistani visa situation). After that, I'll be hiking and possibly backpacking in northern England, and/or possibly Scotland. All backpacking will be a week or less in duration, and I'll also be doing some day-hiking. Pakistan/India will be from late May to late July, and UK will be late July to mid-August.

I'm finding it hard to come up with a packing list. Practical info on Pakistan is very hard to find. Even India prep is difficult, as it seems most people go with trekking companies and leave gear choices to them.

I don't actually have a list to post, but I do have a few gear questions.

Stoves: I have both alcohol and canister stoves. I'm thinking canisters probably aren't an option, especially for Pakistan? I saw on another BPL thread that they are available in big cities in India, but what about in the north (Spiti, Kashmir, Ladakh)? Pakistan? What about the availability of alcohol? Should I be buying another stove (multifuel)? I'm not willing to use wood as fuel.

Water: I have a steripen that I'm thinking of bringing to treat all water, even in towns. Are the CR123 batteries that the Steripen uses easy to find, or should I bring a bunch with me?

Sleeping: I'm planning to take a Marmot Women's Helium 15* bag. Will this be warm enough? (I have a 0* bag too). I sleep VERY cold. Would like to take a Thermarest pad, but I'm concerned about punctures. Would a CCF pad be more sensible? (Shudder)

Tent - I just picked up a Fly Creek and plan to take it. Will this do? Shangri La 1 was former choice.

Food - I dehydrated a ton of food a year ago for road trip last autumn/winter. I still have what I (and the mice that took up residence in my car) didn't eat. Should I bring some? (Food, not mice.) Would an Ursack be useful for keeping rodents out of food? Does anyone know if yak cheese is available in northern India or Pakistan?

Some stuff I'm not planning to bring but considered -
rain pants

Should I be bringing any of these?

And finally, do permethrin-treated clothes repel midges at all?

Thanks for any help.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: India/Pakistan and UK on 05/03/2013 22:30:03 MDT Print View

The last time I was in Pakistan was in 1997 with the military and I was in India last year with work. Since I wasn't backpacking, you can take this with a grain of salt.

No idea about canisters but finding alcohol in Pakistan is somewhat complicated. To my knowledge, non muslims can buy spirits with a permit. If you get the required permit, do they carry Everclear? Dunno. I spent most of my time in towns between Islamabad and Lahore. No big box hardware stores that I saw but plenty of mom and pop shops. You may get lucky but you may spend a lot of time trying to find denatured alcohol. If it were me, I'd bring the multi fuel stove.

As far as CR123 batteries go, you'd probably have some luck in Islamabad but I'd bring them. If you are only going to be there for a week then two sets should get you through.

The absolute very sickest I've ever been was when I had dysentery in Pakistan. I was out of commission for about a month. I keep in touch with many of the other guys and we all agree that our plumbing hasn't been 100% since. I'm fairly brave. I eat street food in third world countries fairly regularly including cockroaches in Cambodia but Pakistan and India's parasites scare the buhjesus out of me. Don't trust bottled water sold on the street. Sterilize everything. This is a part of the world where you will want to be super vigilant. I'd bring chlorine dioxide tablets or drops as well.

Malaria is a real problem. Take the pills but realize that there are several strains that the pills won't protect you from. Second to sanitizing your water, I'd recommend protection from the bugs to be the next highest priority. If you've never taken the malaria pills before, well...... um..... they can be fun. Not that big of a deal but without being crass, they can [mildly] affect your digestive system. Either way, you'll want a mosquito net. I'd make my shelter choice based on that alone.

Where I was in Pakistan, temps hit 120* before lunch and we were done for the day. I would have been fine with nothing more than a poncho liner. Up north you'll experience something else and I can't speak for that area. Kind of like asking "How's the temperature in America?"

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: India/Pakistan and UK on 05/04/2013 15:45:28 MDT Print View

Permethrin does not actually "repel" anything. It's simply a neurotoxin that kills insects on contact. It is toxic to midges so should provide coverage.

Definitely bring chlorine tabs as a backup for water treatment. Too many water borne diseases to risk any kind of gear failure by not diversifying water treatment...especially since you may be fuel limited for boiling water.

Can't speak for India/Pakistan or UK though, especially without more details (do you plan on hiking at elevation or staying in valley bottoms and such).

Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
Thanks on 05/05/2013 00:06:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info. I guess I should consider malaria tablets. I did take them for about a month once, but I stopped, and I didn't bother on any trips after that. I'd kind of rather focus on not getting bitten, but I'll have to look at the current malaria risks. The stomach problems are off-putting, as well as the fact they do nothing for other mosquito-borne illnesses. Thanks for the reminders of hygiene vigilance - I know other people who have never been the same after dysentery. Will bring backup water treatment - good idea.

I'll look at other threads for multi-fuel stoves. Hoped never to need one, but it might make the most sense, particularly in Pakistan.

As for where I go, it depends on what happens with the Pakistan visa. I'll have a total of eight weeks, and I expect to split it about half and half between India and Pakistan if possible. I'll be going through any lowlands (Delhi, Lahore, Islamabad) as fast as I can, as average highs are well over 100* in June & July. In northern India, the town of Leh is about 11,500 ft. If I go there, a week-long trek I'd like to do starts at about 11,500 and crosses various passes, including three of about 17,000 ft. Camping would range from 11,000 to 15,000 ft, even in the valleys. Other areas I might hike in India are about the same or lower. In Pakistan, I think it will be rather hot in the valleys, which includes most/all of the communities along the highway. I should be higher up when hiking & backpacking. The hikes around Nanga Parbat would be up to about 13,000 ft, and another 4-5 day would start at around 9000 ft and cross a pass over 15,000 ft. Ditto just about all the other hikes. I don't think I'd be camping below 9000 feet. I just cannot find out what the average lows are for various elevations in that area. I was in the Sierras at 11,500 feet last October and it was just down to about freezing - can I expect the same in the Himalayas in June and July? Warmer? Colder? Windy? Stormy? Rainy? Wherever I do go will either be visited before the monsoon (starts late June) or be out of the monsoon path, so I'm hoping rain will be minimal. Just finding it hard to find real numbers and stats.

Thanks for the advice so far. I figured it was a pretty long shot asking.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Himalayan temps on 05/05/2013 06:10:07 MDT Print View

During my time in Nepal in the himalaya I literally froze at my 15* bag. But honestly, I'm not sure a warmer bag would have done anything. It really didn't get THAT cold out, my chill was internal. It was altitude, lack of appetite, etc. By the time we got to 17k for our highest night of sleep, I just didn't. My brother and I spooned all night and we both just shivered away...but as I said, I seriously doubt a warmer bag would have changed that.

I would also +1 on the multi fuel. I've spent quite a bit of time off the beaten path in some crazy countries and it was very nice to be able to burn whatever...including dried dung ;) But I think kerosene is probably the easiest to get.

Also +another on multiple water purification devices/systems. Don't rely on being able to find C123s...just take a ton. They're small......

Good luck, sounds like a great adventure!!

Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
Re: Himalayan temps on 05/06/2013 22:53:56 MDT Print View

Thanks Jennifer. Good point about altitude affecting temps, and food. I have a very hard time eating (and drinking) at elevation. Maybe I'll go with the 0* bag, or add a second 1 lb. GoLite bag...

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: Himalayan temps on 05/07/2013 02:04:00 MDT Print View

A warmer bag won't help at altitude if you aren't eating and drinking. Bags do not "generate" heat, they just keep the heat you make from disappearing. If you don't eat and drink, your body's metabolism shuts down and produces less heat. So no matter what you'll likely still be cold.

I used to be a 'cold' sleeper until I started forcing fatty foods into me at dinner time and changed a few other nocturnal habits. Now I burn up at night all the time as long as I have a decent sleeping pad. The bag is almost inconsequential (almost ;).

So it may not be worth the extra weight penalty if you can't keep your body fueled at altitude.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
RE: India/Pakistan and UK on 05/07/2013 09:37:03 MDT Print View

Before travel in less developed countries, especially in the tropics, go to a travel clinic and update immunizations for the place you're going. They should also instruct you on other health issues. Don't count on clothing/tent/mosquito netting to prevent malaria, yes use those but also take malaria meds in a malarial region.

Peptobismol is your friend.

Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
Food/stove? on 05/08/2013 22:53:12 MDT Print View

Thanks, Dustin and Walter.

I do try to force myself to eat in the evening, which seems to take about 3-4 hours to "work". Do you have any suggestions on fatty foods? Maybe I'll lug around a couple jars of PB. Can't remember if they are available in India. Squashed shortbread cookies?

Jennifer, what kind of multifuel stove do/did you use that was able to burn dung? I think it is easier to find cow dung than wood as fuel in many parts of India... I'm not thrilled about forking out for another stove, but having something that would burn kerosene makes sense - probably Whisperlite international?

Walter, immodium is probably my friend too. :-(

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Yeah dung!! on 05/09/2013 06:35:52 MDT Print View

We actually had to make our own...piling up some rocks with the dung patty inside. After you asked that question I wondered if I could use my caldera cone now...

If you have to burn dung then you are cooking over an open fire, not a stove, so don't worry about that. They are nice dried patties and burn surprisingly well. I think as far as liquid fuel goes, kerosene was the most readily available fuel for us throughout northern Nepal. I would imagine Pakistan and India would be similar...

+1 on pepto, but don't use the Imodium unless you absolutely have to (ie on a bus or something). Your body really needs to get rid of whatever microbes you ingest, so as nasty as it is, take the time and let your body purge for a bit...paying careful attention to hydration.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
The art of BM in Pakistan on 05/09/2013 08:04:48 MDT Print View

+1 on Pepto

When I'm traveling to exotic locations, I carry the pepto tablets and take one every evening even if I'm asymptomatic.

I find that the travel clinic will usually write me a prescription for Ciprofloxacin for most countries. It's not as effective in some countries and there is another medication they will prescribe (name escapes me at the moment.)

At the first loose BM, I start taking the medication. The immodium is a danged if you do or don't scenario. In some cases it has worked well for me but in others it has created gut wrenching cramps. During my most recent trip to Cambodia, I rolled the dice and used them when I became symptomatic and they worked like a champ with my other medication. If I start cramping then I just discontinue and ride it out.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Food/stove? on 05/09/2013 17:50:02 MDT Print View

Since you're in india or nearby, get some Ghee butter. Basically the same as popcorn/clarified butter. Pretty much pure fat that you can store at room temp for months. Add that to dinner to boost the calorie intake. Alternatively oils work well, I carry olive oil here in the states for the same purpose.

For nighttime food I find peanut and chocolate to work surprisingly well. There's a good carb/fat ratio that provides about 6-8hrs of fuel for body warmth. The carbs work quick for those first 4 hours and then the fats kick in to last the rest of the night (and usually the coldest part). I'll usually wake up an hour or two before dawn at which point a bite of snickers or some peanut M&Ms and I'm guaranteed back to sleep until daylight (although I can usually fall back asleep without any extra food too).

Joel Benford
(Morte66) - M

Locale: Surrey flatlands, England
Re: India/Pakistan and UK on 05/12/2013 06:59:29 MDT Print View

On the UK bit, which seems kind of trivial compared to India/Pakistan...

I'm pleased to confirm you can drink English tap water, and Scotland may have the best tap water in the world (they're very serious about it, it can be mixed with good whisky). Out of town, well, Britain is more crowded than the USA so there's more chance of something upstream from you.

Your sleeping bag would be fine.

Have a little care for wind -- it's less extreme than the US (no hurricanes or tornados) but less predictable (we're an island). It's also harder to avoid by site selection because (a) we don't really have a meaningful "tree line" and (b) many paths in England are public rights of way over somebody's farm/forest/golf course etc, so "move to a sheltered spot" is sometimes impractical. Scotland has more access, it's different law there.

I would absolutely bring rain pants, or poncho + chaps, or whatever. In Scotland they sometimes have *uphill* rain. Besides, bringing rain gear almost ensures nice sunny weather.

nian zhang
(thotwielder) - F
northern England and Scotland on 05/13/2013 07:19:12 MDT Print View

Not sure about India and Pakistan. But for UK, I see you considering not bring rain pant. It's maybe hard to understand for US people, but it can be raining 8 out of 10 days in those area and in those months. And some of them can be 24 hours continuous rain. When your legs are wet, rain will get into your boots and if you wear waterproof boots... Believe me because I had that nightmare.

And the wind, not sure where exactly you will go but be warned, in UK especially in Scotland, where only several hundred meter can be tree line. If you camp somewhere like several hundred meters, be prepared of wind of 100 mph. I have been caught two times at around 900 meter and had two of my tents destroyed. One of them is a Big Agnes fly creek...beaten by the wind like a helpless child in the storm.. And you will find no dry places to pitch your tent since it may has been raining for couple of days... So my advice is never camp in the mountains although it's only several hundred meters high. If you have to, camp somewhere at the foot of the mountain. BTW, Marmot has a testing center in Aviemore Cairngorm national park(scotland) and it's only about 300 meters above sea level...

If I were you going to some places uncertain of weather/activity rain jacket and pant would be the first two things to pack, which can be a life saver.

Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
Rain pants it is on 05/14/2013 23:20:27 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info, everyone.

I guess I'll throw the rain pants in. (grumble) I've been to the UK before, but it's been a while, and I think I blocked out just how bad the rain can be. It'll mean lugging the rain pants around for a couple of months before I get to England, but that's probably better than buying a new pair.

I'll see if I can get a prescription for Ciprofloxacin. Thanks for the recommendation. I wouldn't have thought of taking Pepto every evening, but I'll keep it in mind. While I mostly have a "cast iron" stomach, I have had some pretty nasty stomach issues when traveling. As for Immodium, I've only used it once, but it saved my butt (ha ha) on a 12 hour overnight bus trip.

Not good to know your Fly Creek was destroyed in the wind, Nian. I have a Hilleberg but I just cannot justify carrying that around for 11 weeks. I have considered it, but I think I'll just go with the Fly Creek. I still can't quite figure out the weather to expect in the Himalayas, but maybe I'll find some good testing conditions for the tent. The nice thing about the UK part of the trip is that I'll be visiting friends, so I can work my hiking around the weather a bit more (and have a roof if it is horrible).

Chocolate and PB before bed - sounds good to me. Last year, I tried dumping some olive oil in my evening meals. Chocolate sounds better.

Thanks again for the ideas.

nian zhang
(thotwielder) - F
big agnes fly creek in scotland on 05/15/2013 02:37:41 MDT Print View

My big Agnes was actually deformed (poles). We (my mate and me) had to sit in the tent and use our back to hold the tent. We didn't sleep at all that night.It's our first time wild camping in UK. We are international students here. And we learnt the lesson. But I would still carry a light tent if I were you. Just plan well and always find some place lower and sheltered from wind (we now are very experienced at that :)).

Not sure how you will camp in UK. But wild camping is not well very received in England and Wales. Scotland is OK. Generally you won't find too many places to wild camp except national parks. In Scotland, there are more options because it's less populated. We did a 5 day wild camping on Isle of Skye, amazingly beautiful.

nian zhang
(thotwielder) - F
double posted on 05/15/2013 02:37:41 MDT Print View

something went wrong, double posted.

Edited by thotwielder on 05/15/2013 02:39:28 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: India/Pakistan and UK on 05/15/2013 06:31:33 MDT Print View

Hi Susan,

I was perusing Flat Cat Gear's website and I noticed that they have a alcohol stove designed to burn Isopropyl Alcohol without all the soot. While I never had to buy any while I was in Pakistan, I suspect that it should be relatively easy to find. Looks like Jon calls it a fair weather stove as it needs some convincing in colder weather and >9000' feet; this may not fit your needs but I thought I'd throw it out there.