What clothes to pack is probably one of the most critical questions when going on a trip to Ladakh, or going on a trip to anywhere for that matter. The good part is that when it comes to Ladakh, one thing that you know for sure is that you need to pack woolen and winter clothing, no matter which time of the year you are travelling in. Tricky part however is that temperatures in Ladakh fluctuate and sometimes to extreme. Nights can be extremely cold whereas days during summer can be pleasantly warm. Standing in the sun would make you look for shade and the moment you are in shade, it would make you want to step in the sun again. It is a place where you are likely to get sun burnt even in winter and get frostbite even in summer. Winters are a different story altogether at a whole another level when temperatures remain subzero throughout and you will have to remain in your Eskimo suit. Hence packing the right type of clothes for Ladakh trip can be a little troublesome, especially if you are travelling on a motorcycle.
Most of the tourism in Ladakh happens in the months of from June till September, when both the highways remain open. Weather during this time is pleasant enough and while nights will remain to be quite cold, it is very rare that you will experience extreme temperatures. The kind of clothes you carry at this time will be a lot different than what you will if you are travelling from October to May. A lot also depends on how you are travelling and what kind of activities do you intend on indulging in.
Summer: If you are planning a trip to Ladakh in summer, then the trick is to pack clothes that can be worn in layers, meaning rather than carrying 2 heavy woolens, carry 4 lighter ones with plenty of cotton clothes. As I mentioned above, temperatures in Ladakh fluctuate and remaining in heavy woolens at all times will be quite difficult during summer. Advantage with layered clothing is that you can just keep putting on more clothes if you are feeling cold and lose some clothes in case you start to feel warm. Carry multiple layers in form of cotton T-Shirts, thermals, light woolens and wind proof jackets and you will be just fine.
Winter: A winter trip to Ladakh will have you facing sub zero temperatures so prepare accordingly. Lot of thermals, heavy woolens, wind proof jackets, waterproof shoes, insulated socks, woolen monkey cap, and sunglasses are a must. It is not only the night but days too will remain extremely cold so you must keep yourself warm and comfortable at all times.
Below are a few clothing and packing tips that may come in handy.
- From November to March, you must pack heavy woolens and prepare for extreme temperatures. Thermals are a must for these months.
- Regular Woolens with heavy jackets will suffice for the months of October, April and May. Carry thermals as well if you can.
- June till August sees pleasant weather when you can get away with light woolens and windproof jackets.
- If you are riding a motorcycle, a heavy windproof down jacket is a must. My advice is (in case you do not have one already) buy one from Manali. If you have good negotiation skills, you can easily get a good deal over there and from my own personal experience, those jackets are quite good and will last for a few years.
- If you are catching a flight to Leh in summer, plenty of cotton clothes and a couple of light jackets is all that you need unless you intend on hiring a motorcycle in Leh, in which case you will again have to carry a down jacket.
- If you are driving to Leh in your own car in Summer, do not worry about carrying too many woolens or warm clothes. Keep the heater in your car on, carry plenty of cotton clothes, couple of light woolens, a windproof jacket and it should be enough.
- If you intend to go camping on your own, you will need woolens or warm thermals and a really good sleeping bag for the night. If you are however staying at a camp site, then you do not have to bother carrying anything extra just for camping because all the camp sites provide good enough beds and blankets to keep you comfortable at night.
- Always keep your woolens or Jackets handy. Even if you are going out for a walk in afternoon, carry your jacket along even if you do not feel like wearing it.
- Carry full sleeve T-shirts if you can because they will also help you fight the sun when you do not have your jacket on in the sun. As I mentioned, Sun is quite harsh in Ladakh and getting serious tan or even sunburn is quite easy.
- Carry warm woolens socks. Carry a few pairs if you are riding a motorcycle so that you have enough socks to change in case the ones you are wearing get wet at water crossings.
- Carry woolen gloves in summer and snow gloves if you are travelling in winter.
- A muffler will come in real handy so it is better to carry one.
- Carry a Monkey cap or Balaclava. It is a must if travelling in Winter. In summer, it can be helpful when you are taking that evening stroll and want to sit around the bonfire at night.
- Carry a regular cap or Sun hat for day to protect your face against sun.
- Sunglasses and it is a must again for winters. The glare of the sun on snow can be quite harsh for eyes.
- Good, sturdy, warm boots and they must be waterproof if you are riding a motorcycle.
- Carry a sun block lotion with highest SPF
- In winters, carry both a light pair of gloves and a heavy thicker one. That way, you can put on the lighter ones first and then the heavy ones to ensure that your hands remain warm. For summer, carry a thick windproof one if you are riding a motorcycle. If you are in a Car or catching a flight, a nice pair of woolen gloves will do.
- Do not even think about carrying shorts, mini-skirts, sleeveless clothes or even high heels for that matter.
- Do not carry tight clothes as well. You will be putting on layers of clothes in both summer and winter and tight clothes will becomes a big problem if you have several layers of them on you.
- If you can, carry gum boots if you are riding a motorcycle.
To summarize it all,
If you are travelling in summer, pack a lot of full sleeve cottons, couple of thermals, a few light woolens, few pairs of woolen socks, monkey cap, regular cap, sunglasses, woolens gloves, 1 light jacket and as a backup, keep a heavy windproof jacket as well. If you are riding a motorcycle, the heavy windproof jacket becomes a must and it wouldn’t hurt to carry 2 pairs of waterproof shoes.
If you are travelling in winter carry lots of thermals, several heavy woolens, 2 pairs of gloves, Woolen Monkey caps, sunglasses, several pairs of woolen socks, warm waterproof shoes, mufflers and a heavy jacket.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer. If you feel I missed adding a couple of must haves in the article above, please feel free to suggest while commenting.