If you are making that dream trip to Leh Ladakh, you would want to be fully prepared so that nothing comes between you and a memorable vacation.
Being a cold desert, Ladakh experiences extreme fluctuations of temperature between day and nights and sometimes within the same day itself. Summer days tend to warm with temperatures ranging between 33-40 degree centigrade but nightime temperatures even in summer can dip to less single digit numbers. Winter temperatures remain consistently below zero so you need to be padded up at all times to avoid being bitten by the cold winds.
Ladakh is probably the one of the very few regions in the world where you are as likely to get sunburnt as there are chance of suffering from frostbite even in summer, such is the kind of variation in temperature. The sun could be shining bright one moment and as as a cloud shadow passes over you might suddenly start experiencing cold wind chills as temperatures dip all of a sudden.
While winter packing will require a lot more thermals as well as down jackets to be packed along with insulated socks, summer packing will involve more of multiple layers of clothes. The choice of clothes also differs according to the kind of trip to take and activities you plan to do. If you plan to bike to Leh for instance you need to pack in a lot more of outer wear, down wind proof jacket is a must especially if you are crossing high passes like Khardung La, sturdy shoes, preferably gum boots and warm socks so that you can change quickly in case your feet get wet while crossing a water puddle, but if you are planning to fly down to Leh in summer, cotton clothes in plenty and couple of light jackets should be enough. Even a car trip does not require too many outer wears to be thrown in. Again if you plan to camp during the night at Pangong Tse then you need warm woolens from head to toe as well as sleeping bag to keep you cozy during the night but if you plan to stay in hotel rooms throughout your journey then of course you will not be requiring a sleeping bag. The idea is of course to protect your self from the weather and keep yourself comfortable at all times.
A thumb rule while travelling to Leh Ladakh, is to clothe yourself in layers. Not only does layered clothing help you beat the cold better, it is also perfect as you will often witness the play of light and shade. You may feel perfectly warm under the sun and then may experience plummeting temperatures as soon as you step into the shade. With layered clothing, the advantage also is that you can keep adding layers as you gain altitude and the temperature dips. Here is a handy checklist of clothes to carry, to ensure you are kept comfortable:
- Heavy or light woolens depending on the time of the year. October to February necessitate very heavy woolens while June to Aug is typically pleasant when you can even do with cotton clothes with a light jacket during the evenings. The remaining months typically need regular woolens. The important thing to remember when visiting Leh Ladakh is that daily variations in temperature can be phenomenal so keeping woolens handy, even when it isn’t technically winters, is advisable.
- Thermals are a must have when travelling to Leh Ladakh in the winter months. They help you fight the cold like little else, keeping you snug.
- Full sleeves T shirts as they help you both against the harsh sun and as one of the layers of clothing when it gets cold.
- A handy jacket in all seasons.
- Warm woolen socks and mufflers to insulate your self from the cold.
- Woolen gloves and snow gloves to beat the cold.
- Woolen caps for those cold days….and nights. A Balaclava can especially come in handy for those chilly nights.
- Sun hats as the mid day sun can be pretty strong. For the same reason carrying a high SPF Sunblock lotion is a must.
- Sunglasses, to protect your eyes from the reflections from the snow.
- Gum boots especially if you are biking as you may need to cross water crossings.
- Raincoats and Umbrellas if you happen to run into rain or snow showers. While on the subject, remember to carry some plastic bags to carry wet clothes.
- A warm sleeping bag in case you are going to be camping.
- Shoes that provide you good grip on the road, a pair of boots for walking through mountain roads
No matter what the season, remember to carry fuss free clothes. For example in summer carrying a cotton shirt that is wrinkle free will ensure that you can wash it, put it to dry and re-wear it without any hassle. While you certainly need to look good for all those photo ops, comfort is of utmost priority. Selecting your clothing and footwear from the comfort perspective, will ensure that you are fully geared for that adventure trip that has been on your bucket list for a while now!