Asia What's in my suitcase?

What to pack for Bhutan: a hiking and biking trip

February 14, 2017
Beautiful views hiking in Bhutan.

In this ‘What’s in my suitcase’ section, I’ll be sharing what I’ve packed in my bags to go away, and once I’m back, I’ll update the post with what I wished I’d taken and what I could have done without.

I’m a big believer in packing and travelling light.

I’m also a big believer in public transport, mixing it up with the locals wherever possible.

Which means I sure as hell don’t want to be lugging a heavy suitcase through crowded subways and busy bus stations.

Problem is, as an adventure traveller, you need to take all kinds of different gear, from sleeping bags and self-inflating mats to hiking boots and bike helmets.

And despite being a lover of fashion, practicality and functionality reign supreme. It can be a fine line between looking like a budget backpacker and taking just the right gear to look casually smart!

So, what’s in my suitcase for a 2-week hiking and biking trip to Bhutan in November, staying in a mixture of hotels, homestays, and camping?

It’s starting to get chilly at this time of year – down as low as zero degrees celsius at night in Paro and much colder up in the mountains – so the emphasis is on being warm!  And unlike other guided trips where most of the gear is provided, this time we have to take it all ourselves (except a tent).

Here’s my comprehensive list of what to pack for Bhutan:

What I packed for my 2 week hiking and biking trip to Bhutan.

What to pack for Bhutan: here’s what I packed for my 2-week hiking and biking adventure in Bhutan.

For the hiking:

  • my well-worn in Salomon hiking boots
  • trekking pants (I’ve had the same North Face ones for years)
  • 1 pair of corded warm jeans
  • 4 short-sleeve shirts (wickable material: 1 for cycling, 1 Icebreaker, 2 Greenest Ts from Kusaga Athletic)
  • 2 Icebreaker sweaters
  • 1 Icebreaker sleeveless wind vest
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 down jacket (700 loft from the North Face)
  • thermal pants and top for sleeping in
  • fleece beanie and neck warmer
  • peaked fleece cap for sun protection during the day
  • waterproof pants & jacket
  • 3 pairs of thick socks
  • 2 pairs of gloves – fleece & waterproof
  • cotton bandana
  • gaitors
  • walking poles
  • water bottle
Wearing 5 layers hiking in the Himalayas in Bhutan.

Wearing 5 layers hiking in the Himalayas in Bhutan. The hiking poles were a godsend for trekking the rocky landscape.

For the biking add:

  • Sneakers
  • Padded bike pants – short (and long ones to go over the top if it’s cold)
  • My lush & spongy bike seat (not the gel ones you tie over a bike seat)

For camping:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Thermal sleeping bag liner
  • Self-inflating mat
  • Towel

Other clothes – for the plane, sightseeing & a day in Bangkok:

  • Jeans
  • 1 shorts
  • 3 tops
  • 1 cashmere jumper
  • cotton scarf (for visiting monasteries, temples)
  • Swimming cossie (never leave home without it)
Sightseeing in Thimpu near the street markets

Sightseeing in Thimpu near the street markets – it was pretty warm in the middle of the day.

Other stuff:

  • Daypack for hiking
  • Headlamp and normal torch
  • Motion sickness tablets (the roads are pretty windy in Bhutan and people often mistake motion sickness for altitude sickness)
  • Altitude sickness medication

At the last minute, I popped in a pair of black cord jeans that I’ve had for a million years and a couple of extra tops for our overnight stay in Bangkok and the trip home.

Plus we bought some North Face duffel bags for the actual trek, so we could leave our regular suitcase at the hotel with all our non-trekking gear.

Post-trip learnings – what I would have done differently

What really upset me about my luggage for this trip was that we had SO MUCH STUFF! So much equipment and technical gear that all added up to well over 40 kgs of luggage in three suitcases. Wow. I felt so overloaded.

The good news is we used every bit of it on our trip except for the wet weather gear, something we had to be prepared for but luckily didn’t need. We didn’t feel like we’d taken any useless baggage. At some stages of our trek, I was wearing five layers – wickable t-shirt, Icebreaker sweater, Icebreaker vest, fleece top and wind jacket.

Normally the things you add in at the last minute are superfluous but I was so grateful for my black cord pants. They’re so comfortable and I wore them heaps, mostly sightseeing in the dzongs and monasteries and for the long, slow car rides.

We loved the North Face duffel bags, they were a great investment and I highly recommend them. So much so that we’ve gone back and bought them in a smaller size.

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