One of my favorite weekend activities is to spend a Friday or Saturday night camping at Hattiban with a group of friends. Hattiban is a forested area located in the hills to the southwest of the valley, above Pharping. The Himalayan Height Resort is located up there and provides nice accommodation and a restaurant. But for those who want more of a nature experience, there are some nice spots to go camping outside of the resort grounds. The camping area is unaffiliated with the resort and there are no fees, making this a perfect weekend option for those on a budget.
Hattiban is one of the great outdoor activity destinations in the Kathmandu Valley, and has wonderful views of the Himalaya on a clear day. You can spend a day hiking to Champa Devi at 2278 meters (roughly 3 hours to reach the top from the camping area), rock climbing on the natural cliffs to the south side of the Hattiban Forest hillside, mountain biking on the trails running through the forest (Hattiban is home to many of the downhill and XC mountain bike races), or visiting some of the nearby monasteries and temples in Pharping and Dakshinkali.
One night of camping will give you enough time to enjoy some of these activities, but if you are interested in a longer stay, there is plenty to keep you occupied for two nights as well.
Here’s a guide to help make camping at Hattiban as fun (and environmentally friendly) as possible.
How to get to Hattiban
Follow directions for Himalayan Height Resort (also sometimes called Hattiban Forest Resort). It’s possible to take public transport from Kathmandu to Pharping and then walk about 30 minutes uphill from there, but it is more convenient to hire a taxi or some other private vehicle, especially when you have camping equipment.
Go past the entrance to the resort and continue for about 300 meters on the jeep track to get to the main camping area, to the left. This spot has some fire pits already constructed, making it easier to prepare meals.
What to bring
You’ll need to take all your own camping equipment. Check the weather forecast before leaving the city so that you are prepared for any cold temperatures or rain, and remember that it’s colder at night at Hattiban than in Kathmandu, as it’s higher.
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need for camping at Hattiban:
- Tent – make sure you know how to set it up properly before the trip!
- Sleeping mat
- Sleeping bag
- Personal items – clothing, toiletries, etc.
- Flashlight or headlamp
- First aid kit
- Lighter or matches for starting a fire
- Water – you should plan to bring all of the drinking water you need since there is no water source outside of the resort
- Small trowel or digging tool (for digging toilet holes)
Food and cooking
One of the best parts about camping is sitting around a fire with your friends and cooking a campfire dinner. First you’ll need to collect wood (only take dead wood that you pick up from the ground, do not cut any wood from trees) to start a fire. Make sure that your fire stays inside the fire pit, and to clear away any brush or flammable ground cover, making a one-meter circle around your fire. During the dry season, it is highly recommended that you do not light any fires at all. Always have water with you to put out the fire, in case it gets out of control. Before going to sleep, ensure the fire is completely out.
One of my favorite campfire meals is a simple dinner of roasted vegetables and stick bread. Cut vegetables like onions, carrots, capsicum, squash, eggplant, and potatoes into pieces about 1cm cubed. Season them with some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Wrap each serving of vegetables in aluminum foil (you may want to double-layer it in case it tears) and place them in the coals around the fire. Rotate them periodically so that all sides get cooked. It will probably take about half an hour to cook, but you can check the vegetables now and then.
While your veggies cook, you can also prepare some stick bread. This is a very simple type of bread that doesn’t require any yeast and is very fast to make. For about 6 servings, you’ll need roughly 500g self-rising flour (or use regular flour and add 2tsp of baking powder), 1/4 tsp of salt, 1 tsp rosemary or basil (optional), 3 tbs olive oil, and 300-500 mL water. Mix the dry ingredients together and then the oil and water slowly, until the dough binds together smoothly but still keeps a stiff form. Find some long, sturdy sticks, and shave the bark from the end where you will cook the bread. Form a small ball from the dough and roll it into a long coil. Wrap the coil around the end of your stick, and hold and rotate it over the hot embers from the fire until it’s cooked.
Leave no trace
One of the most important principles that you should always follow when camping or doing any other activities outdoors is ‘Leave no trace’. This means that you should leave your campsite in the same condition as you found it, if not cleaner. Bring a bag to pack all of your trash, and make sure your campfire is fully extinguished before you go to sleep or leave your campsite. Don’t cut branches from live trees. When going to the toilet, dig a hole at least 15cm deep and completely bury your poo (you should also pack out any used toilet paper in your trash bag). Have some respect for the environment so that future campers can also enjoy a weekend trip to Hattiban too!