The answer: Not too much.
You can buy amazing, cheap, and culturally appropriate clothes once you arrive. But here is a rough packing list for a visit to Nepal in the fall/spring.
A note on colors. Nepal is a colorful country, but also a dirty country. I would take something colorful or dark enough colors that won't show much dirt/dust because Nepal is insanely dusty and washing your clothes in a bucket will never get them completely clean. I work a lot of red, blue, dark green, etc with maybe some lighter accents. I also brought some tan/grey but it ended up so dirty.
|There is my long skirt - awesome! and my raincoat, hat and fleece.|
A medium weight heavy skirt. This was super helpful to wear around, culturally appropriate and completely practical from the villages to the city. Plus it is HOT in Nepal so this in breathable and comfortable. I honestly wore this more in the rural village than any other clothes. You will see women in rural areas mostly in skirts. Great for squatting down and not being revealing, etc.
2-3 Short Sleeve shirts/tops. Cover your shoulders- please. Bring 3/4 length if you want. But again it is hot. and keep colors in mind. These shirt should be longer, since if you are wearing them with pants and leggings you should be covering your bottom.
2 pairs of good thick black leggings. One pair was athletic and the other was cotton. They were insanely valuable. I wore them almost every day. Much better than jeans, and they go really well with the local style of Kurtas (long tunic shirts). Also the athletic pair are all I wore while trekking.
1 pair of jeans (maybe). I wore jeans because I was there for so long, so if I wanted to look nice for dinner our in Kathmandu they were great. Otherwise I would have never wore them (and I barely wore them). I never took them out of Kathmandu. But if you like wearing jeans you can bring them as alternate bottoms to leggings. But leggings were better. Unless you want to wear them "out" in the city or are a huge jeans fan then go for it.
1-2 t-shirts. For trekking or sleeping. I trekked with 1 t-shirt and just wore that every day or a kurta. Cleanliness isn't that important on the path. Just be dirty
1 lightweight vest. This was PERFECT for trekking, and any villages where during the day it might be hot but could get cold. I lived in this.
1 Fleece. Needed for nights if you are trekking. It gets cold up there.
1 Raincoat. Especially if you come in monsoon season. Trust me, be ready.
1 hat. If you are going trekking.
Sturdy Sandals. That's all I wore. Think chocos, birkenstocks, tevas, etc. Also you have to take your shoes off everytime you go inside anyway.
Good socks. Not cotton. Wool. Or something similar. If you are trekking that is essential. 100% essential.
|My trekking outfit. Good socks, t-shirt, leggings, and vest. Worn every day.|
|The ever essential vest. Seriously lived in this. Probably my favorite thing I packed.|
What you don't need:
Shorts: don't wear them, its inappropriate. It offends Nepali people, and you look disrespectful.
Tank tops: See above. Unless you are wearing a sweater
Sun dresses: again above
Hiking boots: you can buy them there for way cheap. unless you're super attached to a pair
"Hippie"pants/clothes: Those ridiculous hippie pants and outfits people around south Asia are wearing are ridiculous. A nepali person wouldn't be caught dead in them. If you wear them you looks. Plain. Stupid. You don't look insightful, integrated, and ready to mediate with buddhists. So Stop.
What you should buy. Go into a shop and get them to make you an entire custom tailored Kurta. Thats the loose pants and a top with a matching scarf. Hell get 5. I own 7 full kurtas. They cost about $15-20 (less if you speak nepali.. haha) And they will make them in 2 days or less. Not to mention they are INSANELY comfortable. Plus culturally appropriate. You can also just wear the top with leggings to switch it up which I also often did.
|My fancy Kurta. And you can see the ones that my friends bought and that other people wore.|
|Kurta top with leggings and a lightweight sweater. Also my Didi is wearing a regular Kurta here.|