Hire a porter! The best means of helping a porter is to hire one. Hundreds of thousands of families in Nepal depend upon portering as their main source of income. We also recommend hiring porters through a registered trekking company, as it is difficult for individual trekkers to provide their porters with insurance and rescue facilities.
Ensuring the safe treatment of your porters is a team effort. It requires attention and concern from you as well as your trekking company contacts. Unfortunately, there is no legal incentive for trekking companies to treat their porters properly – so don’t assume that they will be taken care of.
We recommend the IPPG guidelines for porter treatment:
- Adequate clothing must be provided to porters for their protection in bad weather and at altitude. This means a waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, long underwear, suitable footwear (leather boots in snow), socks, hat, gloves and sunglasses.
- Above the tree line, porters must have access to shelter – either a room in a lodge or a tent (mess tents are not good enough), a sleeping bag and a blanket. They should also be provided with food and warm drinks or cooking equipment and fuel.
- Porters should be provided with the same standard of medical care as you would expect for yourself, including medical and rescue insurance.
- Porters must not be paid off because of illness or injury without the group leader and/or trekkers assessing their condition carefully. Sirdars must let their trek leader and trekkers know if they are paying off a sick porter. Failure to do this has resulted in many unnecessary deaths. Sick porters should be sent down with someone who speaks their language and understands the illness along with a letter describing their complaint. Sufficient funds should be provided to cover the cost of their rescue and treatment. They should never be sent down alone.
- No porter should be asked to carry a load that is too heavy for their physical abilities. Weight limits should be adjusted for altitude, trail, and weather conditions. Good judgment and careful attention is needed to make this decision. If you are going to a remote area, select strong and experienced porters!
Talk openly with your trekking company about porter treatment standards. Place yourself in a porters’ shoes (or sandals), and make sure they are being properly provided for. Some appropriate questions may be:
- Where will the porters sleep?
- Will they be provided with adequate clothing?
- Are they provided with adequate rescue and medical insurance?
- Are they provided with food? If not, are they paid enough to ensure proper nutrition on thetrail?
- How much weight will they be required to carry?
Providing for your porters costs money – so don’t be stingy. A few dollars per day can make a great difference in the facility available to your porters. Make sure your porters will be taken care of before you leave on your trek, and if your company cannot provide what you ask, find another company.
Also, when it comes time to tip your porter (generally around 20% of their wage), be sure to tip them directly. Unneeded clothing and equipment makes a nice addition to your tip as well.
Overall, set an example for other trekkers to follow. Treat your porters well, and spend time with them. Get the addresses of your porters after the trek and send them photographs – they will appreciate the gesture more than you can imagine.
Lastly, try picking up a load yourself during your trek – it won’t take long to see how amazing these men and women truly are.
Also, save an afternoon to stop by the Porters’ Progress, Nepal offices in Kathmandu and Lukla! We’d love to see you, and the tea is on us.
Bhagwati Bahal, Thamel. (Near Hotel Centrepoint)
Our Lukla office is located directly across from the Khumbu Lodge in Lukla – right on the main trekking route to Everest Base Camp. You can’t miss it.