What to pack for Spiti

by JB

Travelling through Spiti twice, I met with some of the most bipolar and transient weather I have ever experienced before. Days used to be very hot with strong relentless sun and gusty winds and extremely cold as the light faded. Weather forecasts went for a toss as we got a blizzard when the predictions were of a bright sunny day, and a rainstorm when the forecasts said clear. On my first road trip to Spiti, I was not prepared for the transitional weather and ended up carrying a lot of things which I did not/could not use. The second time, I did not repeat this mistake. On my second road trip, I knew exactly what each place along the circuit demanded and planned accordingly. Even then, some of the planning fell through the crack as the weather got extremely undependable.

If you are planning a road trip to Spiti, it is important to pack strategically and dress as the weather demands. It is also best to travel light. The road conditions demand that the vehicle you are travelling in is not overburdened. Also, you would have to pack and unpack every day since you would be moving out to a new location every morning, and packing light and intelligently would save you a lot of effort.

Here is an anecdotal list of what I wore to Spiti. Note that I went in September (the best time to visit Spiti) and hence my packing list would only be suitable if you are travelling around that time. If you are planning a visit in the months between October and May, you may have to carry clothes that are appropriate for the snow or very cold weather.

Day 1 – Comfortable travelling clothes + light layer

Day one is the day when you move from your base location. If you are travelling from Delhi, this is the day that you start for an overnight journey for Kalka or Chandigarh. On our first day, we took a train from Delhi to Chandigarh.. If you are following the same route, then I would recommend you to wear very comfortable clothes that can take you from Delhi to Chandigarh and beyond with ease.
On day one, I paired an oversized t-shirt with joggers and carried a light jacket with me for the road.

Day 2 – Light inner layer + light outer layer

If you are doing the Spiti circuit via Shimla, your first halt on the trip would be Narkanda. The weather in Narkanda is pleasant with slightly chillier evenings. Hence, layering is key. On both my times in Narkanda, I wore a dress with a jacket on top and warm leather boots. This combination worked quite well for me. However, if you do not have an affinity towards cold, I would recommend that you steer clear of dresses and stick to your jeans and a t-shirt with a warm jacket on top. You could also keep woollen hats and scarves as the evenings can get quite cold.

Day 3 – Light inner layer + warm outer layer

The next leg of the journey means entering Kinnaur. On this day travellers either stay in Sangla or go a little ahead and halt in Chitkul. We chose Chitkul. The weather here is again transient with warm to hot days and chilly evenings.
For Chitkul, I chose a light tiered dress and a warm jacket and paired it with the same boots. If you are not used to cold temperatures then I would recommend that you stay away from dresses as the mercury can dip quite a bit in Chitkul. For the evening, I opted for a woollen overcoat and thick leggings.

Day 4 – Medium warm inner layer + warm outer layer

On day three, travellers usually move towards Nako, the last destination in Kinnaur via Kalpa. In terms of weather, you may come across warm days with strong chilly winds and very cold evenings. On day 3, I did not want to be adventurous and took the trusted jeans and tshirt route. I paired a black jeans with a full sleeved cotton t-shirt and a woollen moto jacket on top. This combination worked well for me till I reached Nako. After reaching Nako, I discarded the moto jacket and put on a thick woollen overcoat.

Day 5 – Warm inner layer + warm outer layer

On day five, we moved to Mud – a village in Pin Valley National Park. On the way we covered Gue, Tabo and Dhankar Monastery. This is one of the most transient stretches of the Spiti circuit. At some places it is very hot and at some places it can get quite cold. Hence, layering is the only solution
The first time, I paired a long flowy dress with a jacket on top; and the second time, I paired a knit top with a thick jacket. I admit that the first combination was not the best, but I ended up getting some really great pictures.

Day 6 – Light inner layer + light outer layer

On day six, we moved to Kaza. Kaza is in a lower altitude than Mud and Nako and hence it is comparatively warmer here. It is also the commercial capital of the Spiti valley and the only place you can get wifi. After moving from Mud to Kaza we covered Langza, Hikkim, Komic and Key Monastery. These places could get a little chilly with harsh sun and hence layering is again the only solution.
While travelling from Mud to Kaza early in the morning, I wore a thick woollen sweater with a pair of skinny jeans and boots.
After reaching Kaza, I discarded the sweater and wore a woollen jacket over a cotton t-shirt.

Day 7 – Thick inner layer + thick outer layer

On our first roadtrip to Spiti, we moved from Kaza to Kibber via Chicham on the sixth day. This stretch is again very transient with harsh sun but very cold winds. On this day, I paired a warm fuzzy off the shoulder sweater with a warm jacket on top. This combination worked well for me till I reached Kibber. After reaching Kibber, I changed to the same overcoat that I have been wearing throughout the trip.

Day 8 – Thick inner layer + very thick outer layer + warm caps + woollen scarf

This day is the coldest as we would be moving to a very high altitude today. We moved from Kibber to Chandratal via Kunzum La which is a very high mountain pass. On this day, it is very essential to keep warm beanies or scarves to cover your head or wear a jacket with a hood. I paired a warm sweater with a pair of warm skinny jeans and a thick windproof jacket with an attached hood. You can also keep gloves with you if you want to keep yourself warm for the hike to Chandratal and back.

Day 9 – Thick inner layer + very thick outer layer

This is again a very cold day because you would have to leave Chandratal before sunrise if you plan to reach Manali on time. On this day again, I advise you to wear in layers and keep a thick inner layer and a very thick outer layer which you can discard after you reach Manali.
On this day, I wore an oversized jumper as my inner layer and paired it with the same thick hoody jacket from the day before.

Day 10 – Comfortable travelling clothes + light layer

This is the last day of the trip and the day you move to your base location from Manali. You would either have to take a bus from Manali, like we did, or take the cab back to Delhi. On this day, I would recommend you to wear comfortable travelling clothes that can keep you cozy and a light jacket for when the AC gets too strong. You can discard this layer when you reach Delhi. For this day, I paired a light full sleeved t-shirt with oversized cotton trousers and a light jacket.

With this, I come to the end of 10 days of ‘What I wore in Spiti’. Let me know if this was helpful. Also, reach out to me if you need any help with what to pack before you leave for Spiti. I would be more than happy to help.

Best
JB

Leave a Comment