Whether to hire a porter or not is entirely a personal choice.

While some prefer to challenge themselves by carrying their own load, others may opt to walk unencumbered by the supplies they need to take along on a longer trek. Whichever option you prefer, it is an important choice that will have a great impact on your experience.

Please be assured, however, that there is no awkwardness in hiring a porter. Porters are much more accustomed to walking at high altitudes with a load on their backs than you may be. And a very important factor to consider is that by hiring a porter you give someone a much-needed job.

Porters work for locals all the time, under conditions that are much harsher than those of the trekking trade. We ensure that our porters are paid properly and are otherwise provided for, including food and equipment. Almost all of us have worked as porters before, and we know from first-hand experience about every detail that makes a porter's job bearable.

Another factor to take into account is the company that porters and guides provide on a trek. They know the local customs, speak the local language, and sing the local songs, while respecting your desire for quiet and solitude along the trail.

The non-profit organization Porters’ Progress (www.portersprogress.org) was established in 2000 to help protect the interests and livelihood of porters. It serves as a job distribution center, and offers a lending program for equipment and clothes. Classes in English, health, hygiene and altitude sickness prevention are being held at its office in Lukla. Unfortunately many of these services don’t reach the local porters who have to abide by the rules of the local economy as well as the rigidity of the Nepali cast system.

As a traveler to the remote areas of Nepal you can act responsibly by insisting on fair treatment of your porters. Discuss this with your guide during the planning process. Any used clothing and equipment you wish to donate after your trip will be accepted with gratitude because it will help someone who would never have access to such items and whose livelihood depends on it.

And, of course, tip your porters after the successful completion of your trip, typically 1 day wage for every 4 days of work. Remember, they work hard for you, their working season is limited, and most of them have families that depend on their support. They are porters because they have no alternatives. You will never be ridiculed for being too generous!