Our essential packing list for a girls only trip to Ladakh: What we took and what we used – Part 2

Saudade (n.): A nostalgic longing to be near again to something or someone that is distant; “the love that remains”

There’s no better word to describe what we are feeling. We are back from an amazing trip to Ladakh and utterly homesick for a place that is not home!

With the mantra of “Pack Light, Pack Right” in mind, in our previous blog, we had drawn up a definitive packing list for the trip. Now that we are back, as promised in that blog, we are writing this to revisit and rate our packing list. Let’s start with a quick recap of the trip itself:

– Ours was an uncomplicated first time tourist’s itinerary; intended to explore Ladakh at a leisurely pace and avoiding any arduous activities like trekking, biking, hiking or cycling

– We covered Leh city and its neighbouring sights, Nubra valley (overnight stay), Pangong Tso (overnight stay) and the Alchi-Likir route on a day trip
– The trip spanned 10 days starting second week of July; temperatures at the time varied between 7 degrees to 32 degrees

Here are the major hits and misses of our packing list. We have also rated each item on the packing list on a scale of 0-5 depending on its usefulness for our itinerary.

HITS:

Clothes

  • Jacket: The three-in-one jacket (North Face Triclimate) with an outer waterproof shell and a removable insulated inner layer proved to be very versatile and perfect for Ladakh’s climate. Wore both layers separately or zipped them together, depending on the weather.
  • Windcheater: If carrying a regular jacket/pullover, a windcheater that fits snugly and can be worn over the jacket is a must; especially if you are visiting any of the lakes.
  • Slip-on sneakers: We were, oh so thankful, for them! They especially came to our rescue in the evenings when wandering the streets of Leh and at the camps, after a full day of wearing laced up sneakers.
  • Full sleeved knits, cottons and stoles (mostly solids and in stock colours), provided us multiple options to mix and match items.
  • Headband: True life saver to protect from the biting wind. Do not go without a means to cover your head & ears

Luggage

  • Backpack: A special mention for the Deuter Aircontact 55lit, which we loved both for its utility and ease of carrying. It has adjustable and padded hip straps, which transfer weight from the shoulders to the back and hips, making it comfortable to carry even when it’s packed to capacity. It can be accessed from the front as well as the top, has spacious bottom and top compartments as well as side pockets, which makes organising things super easy. Note: It comes with a rain cover but we carried a separate transport cover, primarily to protect it from the brutal handling at airports (The backpack came back in perfect condition J).
  • Day Backpack: A good daypack is essential. We used ours to carry food, extra woollens and stoles, chargers and gadgets, windcheaters on day trips.
  • Packing Cubes: Super useful to keep clothes un-creased and in place

Toiletries

  • High SPF (50 at least) sunscreen, especially if you are prone to sun burns

Essentials

  • Sunglasses with good UV protection
  • Thermos & sipper: It’s very important to keep hydrated at this altitude.
  • Flash light: We camped for a couple of days at Pangong Tso and Nubra Valley. The brilliant beam of the Led Lenser was very comforting in the dark and fun to play with under the starry night sky.

Photography Equipment

  • Nikon D90 DSLR: The scenery deserved the DSLR and its complete kit; glad we didn’t go with a point and shoot camera.
  • Tripod and mini tripod: If you have any ambitions of getting good steady shots of Ladakh’s stunning landscape, the brilliant night sky or even yourselves, a good tripod is a must.
  • Nikkor 18- 135 f4-5.6: This was our stock lens for most pictures and it proved to be very versatile for indoor wide angle shots as well as landscape photography.
  • 50mm f1.4: The prime lens worked really well for street photography and close ups.
  • Camera Remote: Essential for shooting the night sky (and selfies J)
  • Selfie stick! Not big selfie takers, this was the first time we used one but can’t say it didn’t come in handy.

MISSES

Clothes

  • We had too many knits and not enough cottons; in hindsight I would have traded one knit for two light cotton tops
  • We carried baseball caps. Should have picked wide brim sun hats instead so that the back of the neck, side of face and neck would have been also protected
  • Not carrying quick drying clothes or costumes which made a plan to dip into the Panamik hot springs impossible
  • Thermals are not really needed for this weather; even the camps are fairly well equipped with blankets

Toiletries

  • Toilet paper: We didn’t find any need for the extra rolls, as advised by many other posts. They were provided even at the camps; so, unless you intend to try very budget accommodation, trek or visit very remote locations, you may skip them.

Essentials

  • Pepper spray and safety alarm: Ladakh felt quite safe. It still felt good to have them on us, though.
  • Multiple copies of IDs (including notarized ones): Being Indian nationals, we didn’t get asked once for ID proofs on any of the trips we took. But, it’s anyway good to have an original/ a copy on you, but no need to go overboard as some other sources suggest.

Photography Equipment

  • A GoPro would have been great on this trip
  • And maybe a great pair of binoculars to star gaze

Food

  • The camps and guest houses have come a long way in terms of food. And all along the way, there is Maggi! Didn’t end up using much from our food rations, especially the pre-mix tea packets! There is pretty good tea to be found at most places in Ladakh.

Our scores against each item on our list is updated in the table below.

ItemsUsefulness ScoreComments
Luggage
Rucksack (Deuter)5Detailed review above
Backpack/Suitcase/ Hybrid5Wheeled Deuter Helion
Day Backpack5Detailed review above
Transport Cover5
Camera bag5
Packing Cubes5
Clothes
Thermals (Upper & Lower)1
Leggings/ Jeggings5
Jeans5
Full sleeve tees5
Half sleeve tees0Don’t help with layering when cooler and it’s just too sunny to wear just half sleeves
Knits/ Light Sweaters5
Jacket with outer windcheater shell5
Night Wear5
Woollen Headband5Very useful in windy conditions and at high altitude passes
Woollen Beanie3Limited use since it doesn’t offer any sun protection; a headband with a cap is a better bet
Cap5Used everyday. Hat would have been better
Woollen Gloves5
Woollen Socks5
Regular Socks5
Stole/ Muffler5
Protective Arm Sleeve0Needed only if cycling or biking
Travel Towel0All camps and hotels do provide towels; but it’s good to have one anyway
Photography
DSLR with memory card5
Telephoto Lens5
Prime Lens5
Tripod/ Mini Tripod5
Selfie Stick5
Camera Remote5
Travel Essentials
Flashlight with spare batteries5
Safety Alarm0
Pepper Spray0
Pocket Knife0
Sunglasses5
Photo ID – Original, Copies0
Photo ID – Attested Copy0
Garbage/Plastic Bags – Wet Clothes/ Trash0
Books/ Kindle5
Thermos5
Car Charger/ Adaptor0
Portable Umbrella1Used only once
Portable Blue Tooth Speaker2Didn’t end up using much; our cab drivers had good playlists on 🙂
Footwear
Keds5
Slip On Sneakers5
Flip Flops5
Toiletries
Sunscreen – SPF 505
Body Lotion5
Face Cream5
Foot Cream/ Vaseline5
Lip Balm – SPF5
Shampoo & Conditioner5
Shower Gel5
Face Wash5
Toilet Paper0
Toothbrush5
Toothpaste5
Mouthwash5
Wet Wipes5
Dry Face Tissues5
Sanitizer5
Deodorant5
Soap Strips0
Cotton Wipes5
Food/ Misc.
Dried Fruit2
Premix tea2
Granola Bars3
Chocolate/ Books to distribute5
Medicines5

 

Khardungla

A few other sundry thoughts:

  • Some flexibility with respect to the itinerary and places to stay will take you a long way in Ladakh. Accommodations are cheaper if negotiated on the spot, rather than booked in advance through portals/ agencies. Also, finding co-travellers to share cab rides for road trips is fairly easy if you are a little flexible with dates of travel. A small tip: don’t bother checking with multiple agents for shared cabs; they all work in unison and you will only cause confusion by asking at multiple places.
  • Turn to the locals for advice on everything; even safe places to eat while on the road.
  • Acclimatise, Acclimatise, Acclimatise especially if flying directly to Leh.
  • Rentals for bikes and limited gear (helmets, gum boots, guards etc.) can be found easily in the main Leh market. For other gear, you are unlikely to find any options to rent. So it’s best to carry most of what you need with you.

Our idea before this trip was to travel as light as possible and yet be well equipped. The combined weight of two check-in bags was 26.5 kgs, well within permissible limits. And despite that, we felt there was scope to optimise some more. Also, thanks to the awesome gear from Bragpacker, we were able to really save on our pre-trip shopping for this budget trip without compromising on the quality of gear that we carried.

We hope you found our two blogs useful; do feel free to post your comments and queries here.

Happy travels!

 

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