lightening the load for porters

himalayas porter nepalPorters: we’d have a much tougher time getting up those hills without them! They play such an important role in the success of trekking operations in many mountainous regions, including of course the mighty Himalayas, so Intrepid and The Intrepid Foundation are very proud to support the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP) Porters’ Clothing Bank (PCB).

The PCB was established in 2009 to provide ill-prepared porters with improved clothing, suitable for treks in a mountain environment, and KEEP has no doubt that supporters of the PCB have helped save hundreds of porters from extreme cold, frostbite, amputation and even death. PCB’s latest report tells that nearly 1000 porters, representing different trekking companies as well as individual porters, have benefited from the PCB. Aside from helping porters with clothing items, the KEEP’s PCB assists with education and awareness amongst porters, the tourism industry and with trekkers. So what can travellers do? Here are some tips from KEEP’s Porters Code, to guide you…

– Hire a porter in Nepal. This is a good way to directly help rural communities. A porter’s salary from one trek can sustain their families and benefit their local community for several months. A porter is someone who carries your equipment for a trek. Some porters do minimal guiding. It is culturally acceptable in Nepal to hire a porter and it is a normal business relationship.

– Select strong and experienced porters for high, remote treks. Make sure your porter is also provided sufficient food, clothing, equipment, a sleeping mat and a tent.

– Pay a fair salary. Salaries vary according to the location you are trekking in – check with KEEP’s Porters’ Clothing Bank for current porter wages. A porter/guide who speaks English typically earns more. Don’t bargain too hard, remember that a little extra money for these dedicated locals goes a long way.

– Pick up a load yourself! Have a go by carrying a load and it won’t take long for you to realise what a tremendous job your porter is doing. Don’t overload your porter. Maximum load is 30-35 kg (66-77 pound).

– Treat porters to tea or meals. Offering meals and snacks is a nice gesture. Ensure your porter gets proper food and water throughout the trek because you depend on them.

– Spend time with your porter. There is much to be learned from these physically hard working men and women. Spending time in direct contact with them encourages good performance on their part and enhances your own experience of the trail.

– Make sure your porter has insurance. Trekking companies should have a blanket policy covering all staff, but unfortunately not all of them do – make sure you check. Independent trekkers can get insurance for their porter – find out more from KEEP’s Porters’ Clothing Bank.

– Take care of sick porters. Your porter deserves the same standard of treatment, care and rescue that you expect for yourself. Make sure that sick porters are sent down the mountain with someone who speaks their language and who understands the problem. Porters should never be sent down alone.

– Tip your porter well if they have done a good job. Tips can vary, check with your trekking company or KEEP’s Porters’ Clothing Bank for recommendations. Tips are normally paid at the end of the trek. Give the tip directly to your porter and make sure they know it is because they did a good job. If you have any spare equipment at the end of your trek, it can make a real difference to your porter’s standard of living if you give it to them.

– Have a meal before you go. Take your porter/guide for a meal or tea before you start your trek. Find out about him/her and get an idea about whether you will get along. Remember you will be spending the next few weeks together!

– Use a responsible travel company, like Intrepid, who will take care of most of the above!

– Please donate. You can give any spare clothes or shoes at the end of your trek to KEEP’s Porters’ Clothing Bank. It can make a real difference to your porter’s standard of living.

– Report all instances of neglect or abuse to KEEP’s Porters’ Clothing Bank.

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
All donations to KEEP will be directed to the Porters’ Clothing Bank and be matched* dollar for dollar, pound for pound, or euro for euro by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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I trekked in Nepal in 1985 for 2 months with another friend and we hired 2 young porters to go with us. They took us to within 25 miles of the Tibetan border and we stayed with people they knew or family. It was a life alternating trip. I guess I am surprised to read that the circumstances for porters has not changed in 26 years. We treated our porters like family and made sure they had down jackets and boots for crossing the passes. They took care of us when we had altitude sickness. Thanks for starting KEEP project. Porters should be respected and treated with adminration.

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