Visa and Permits
Because Sikkim shares its borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, all foreigners entering Sikkim have to apply for Inner Line Permit (ILP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) for security reasons. Permits can be applied at Indian Missions, Sikkim Tourism offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, District Magistrate Office of Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Rangpo, or online at: https://sikkimpts.azurewebsites.net/ilp/index. A 30-day permit can be issued on the spot with the relevant documents: photocopies of passport and Indian visa and two passport photos. Foreign tourists are permitted to stay in Sikkim for 30 days. However, the permit can be extended for another 30 days at Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) in Gangtok or the FRO in North, West and South Districts.
Foreigners who want to trek in Sikkim’s interior regions need to apply for the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by the Tourism and Civil Aviation. However, only travellers in a group of two or more can apply for the PAP through a registered travel agency in Sikkim. Certain areas located in the international border areas like Nathula and Gurudongmar are closed to foreigners. Domestic tourists require permits to visit these areas. Permits can be applied via registered travel agents.
Easy: A beginner’s trek that includes 3 to 6 hours of walking, covering 4 to 12km a day with some steep ascents and descents, and altitude reaching up to 3,800m. Previous Himalayan trekking experience is not required but you should be physically fit.
Moderate: For experienced trekkers who seek a higher level of physical challenge. Treks of up to 12km a day, averaging 5 to 12 hours of walking, and a 1000-m elevation gain over steep, rugged terrain, exposed areas and altitude exceeding 4000m. Expect to scramble over rocks and boulders and traverse a series of moraines. You will camp at an altitude of over 4000m.
Difficult: Although a non-technical climb, this trek is physically demanding and caters to experienced Himalayan trekkers. You trek over steep, rugged terrain at elevation gains over 1000m. Daily hikes averaging 8 to 10 hours, usually for more than 10 days, and you camp at an altitude over 5000m. The high altitude and long days make the trek strenuous.
Your choice of gear can either make or break your trip. In the Himalayas, weather conditions can change in a flash. The volatile climate at high altitude means you can experience drastic temperature drop, heavy downpour or even snowfall in a single day.
Having the right gear is about being as comfortable as you can be while enjoying the outdoors. As the Scandinavians say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
The gear listed here are suitable for all Sikkim Peak’s trekking itineraries, with the exception of Sikkim Expedition Trek which requires more technical gear.
Layering is the key as it allows you to slip layers on and off and regulate comfort based on weather changes and activity level. The 3 basics: base layer (closest to your skin) works to wick (move) sweat off your skin to keep you from becoming chilled or risk hypothermia. Mid-layer works as an insulation to retain body heat. Outer layer (shell) protects you from rain and wind.
1. Base layer & underwear:
Quick-drying shirt and underwear; synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, or merino wool wick and dissipate sweat well so you’ll stay comfortable. Polyester is cheaper and more durable whilst wool is warmer and odor-resistant.
Polyester fleece or down jackets; Polyester comes in lightweight, mid-weight and heavyweight fabrics. It breathes well, stays warm even when damp and dries fast. Down offers more warmth for its weight, compresses for easy packing but can be pricey and loses insulation when damp.
3. Outer shell:
Lightweight waterproof/breathable jackets repel water while allowing vapour to escape as you work up a sweat. Gore-Tex, eVent, NeoShell, OutDry, H2No are some of the waterproof/breathable fabrics used by outdoor brands. PVC ponchos aren’t suitable for long, strenuous treks as you’ll be drenched in your own sweat and risk catching a cold.
4. Hiking pants:
Quick-drying pants. Go for synthetics like nylon or polyester or splurge on Cordura pants which are pricier but highly breathable, durable, and comes with a soft, cotton-like finish. Most hiking pants come with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to repel light rain and snow.
Gloves; a lightweight or fleece liner glove and waterproof rain gloves to layer over the liners when needed. Opt for materials like polyester, merino wool, Polartec Fleece or PrimaLoft liner.
A hat, wool beanie or Buff; At high altitude, the sun’s intensity will lead to sunburn. Some hats come with neck covers to protect the back of our necks. When the temperature dips, we lose most heat through our head so a warm beanie or Buff (a multifunctional headwear that can be used as a hat, balaclava, headband) is a godsend.
Sunglasses Opt for 100% UV sunglasses designed to protect your eyes from the intense light at high altitudes and sunlight reflecting off snow.
Hiking boots & sandals for campsite; for multi-day trips, look for boots that are sturdy, stable and provide support for rugged terrains. Nylon/synthetic mesh or split/full-grain leather uppers offer flexibility and breathability. Gore-Tex-lined shoes keep your feet dry and less blister-prone. Vibram or Contagrip outsoles ensure superb trail traction on rocky and wet terrain. Synthetic fibres or wool socks keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Waterproof gaiters can come in handy when it rains or snow or the trail turns muddy.
On the Trek, bring:
7. Trekking poles
Trekking poles are indispensable for long treks and the precipitous Himalayan terrains. They protect your joints and give you better endurance and stability.
8. Drinking water
On a two- to four-hour hike, we’ll need an average of two litres of water. Our body loses about one litre of water an hour from sweat when we exercise moderately. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headache, nausea or even a heatstroke. Instead of water bottles which take up valuable pack space, use a 2 to 3-liter hydration reservoir.
High-calorie granola bars, nuts or dried fruits to stave off hunger pangs and provide the extra energy boost for tackling sheer slopes.
10. First-Aid kit
Pre-assembled kits are available at outdoor gear shops. But you can pack your own and seal it in a waterproof casing or a large Ziploc bag. Do include basic, over-the-counter pills like antacids and painkillers, bandages (various sizes), gauze pads and disinfectant ointment.
On some treks, we start the day before sunrise so a headlamp comes in handy. Or when you need to move around the campsite at night. Bring extra batteries.
Since our treks are supported, you only need to carry a daypack with a capacity ranging from 11 to 20 litres to carry extra layer/rain jacket, snacks, water and camera. Look for packs with side pockets for water bottles or a hydration sleeve for your removable reservoir. Smaller packs (less than 20 litres) usually don’t come with rain covers attached. Buy a separate rain cover or pack a large enough garbage bag to keep your pack dry during a sudden downpour.
*In Gangtok, Sikkim, there are a few outdoor gear shops that carry outer jackets, mid-layers and base layers, hiking boots, trekking poles, sleeping bags, headlamps, and etc, from reputable brands like The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Gore-Tex, Craghoppers and Salomon. For more info, message us.
**For more Gear Talk articles, check out our Blog and Video updates.
1. What kind of fitness level is required to participate in a Himalayan trek?
Your level of fitness should be sufficient to carry a light backpack (10kg and less) and hike for several hours a day. Training can include regular hiking on hills or mountain, strength workout, running, swimming and cycling. See Trek Grading for details.
2. What are the pre-trip preparations?
Aside from a valid Indian visa, you are advised to buy travel insurance to protect yourself against unforeseen events that can occur prior to or whilst on your trek. If possible, sign up for insurance that covers adventure activities and emergency medical evacuation. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends routine vaccinations for international travellers to India.
3. What should I bring on the trip?
Once you sign up for our trek, you will be given a detailed list of clothing and gear required for the trip. In general, you need warm clothes and rainwear, sleeping bag (temperature rating: 0 degree Celsius and below), sleeping liner, trekking poles, daypack, hydration bladder or water bottles, headlamp, First Aid kit, trail snacks and personal medication.
4. How do I avoid altitude sickness?
Pre-trip, consult your physician for a medical examination to ensure you are fit to travel and undergo a Himalayan trek. During the trek, ascend slowly and gradually to let your body condition to the altitude gains. Keep hydrated, well-nourished and get enough sleep. Please inform your guide if you have any pre-existing medical condition.
5. What happens if I fall sick during the trek?
Although we have designed our itinerary to ensure proper acclimatization and rest days, some trekkers may suffer from altitude sickness, outdoor-related injuries or specific medical conditions. Our support staff will provide the necessary First Aid and evacuate the patient to a lower altitude based on the patient’s condition.
6. What are the weather conditions during the trek?
Trekking seasons in Sikkim generally fall between mid-March and Mid-June (Spring to early Summer), and mid-September to early December (Autumn to early Winter).
Average temperature for trekking season: Day time:13°C-18°C; Night time: 3°C-5°C; temperature can dip below 0 degree Celsius on high-altitude campsites like Lamune (4,950m).
7. Do I have to carry my own backpacks?
Our porters and pack animal (yaks) will transport all the camping gear, food, provisions and baggage. Whatever you don’t need for the trek can be stored in our base camp. It is best not to bring any valuables (jewelry) on your trek. We will not be responsible for any loss incurred.
8. Where do we sleep during the trek?
We will sleep in tents or trekker's huts (if available) Sleeping tents are on a twin-sharing basis. Prior arrangement is needed if you prefer a solo tent. We provide basic sleeping pads. We will also erect dining, kitchen and toilet tents on campsites.
9. Are the treks family-friendly? What is the minimum age for kids who wish to join the treks?
Three of our popular treks: Phoktey Dara, Dzongri and Darjeeling Sandakphu Trek, are suitable for children with good fitness level, aged 12 and above. However, younger children can be considered on a case-by-case basis. Do connect with us for further queries.