WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO MONGOLIA
Visiting Mongolia offers a somewhat unique opportunity to travel through approximately three thousand different weather systems…
We exaggerate… but only slightly. It is a rather large country with a gloriously continental (read: extreme) climate; ranging from chilly perma-frost on the Siberian border in the North, to bone-dry & burnt desert across the Southern Gobi.
As such, packing for a trip to Mongolia is a little like planning a weekend to the Cotswolds in April - No-one has the foggiest what to put in their suitcase.
To help streamline the process, we offer our guidance on what might be a good idea to throw into your backpack before heading to the land of gers, wild horses, seemingly endless grassy plains, and genuinely endless carbohydrates.
Cold weather clothing - if you are travelling during the shoulder seasons where weather is particularly unpredictable it’s a good idea to ensure you have some version of the following:
Warm hiking trousers
A thermal jumper
Merino base-layers (which are often conveniently anti-bacteria). We love the classic Icebreaker range - minimally smelly even after many (many) days without a shower…
A snood - useful for both frolicking around in the cold, or driving through clouds and clouds of dust
A hat - in case the temperature drops in the ger ove night, a hat is the number one tool to keep you toasty
The warmest socks you own (we got a little emotional after having to ditch our affectionately named ‘breakfast socks’ - one too many trips to the laundrette left them… miniature)
Waterproof trousers - like these over-trousers, relatively in-offensive (not quite cool, but cooler than some) by the North Face
Sliders to wear in the evening - or slip on shoes that you don’t need to remove your socks to wear. Mmm warm toes.
If you are doing a tour, it is very likely that the hostel/tour operator/or guest-house that you have booked through will have some of the larger kit you may need available to borrow. Note - if they charge you a rental price, you’re being ‘had’. Either way, its worth checking the following:
If you are borrowing sleeping bags, it is sensible to check that these are able to keep you warm down to -5 deg c. A tog that goes down to 0 is probably JUST about fine so long as you have base-layers to sleep in.
We would suggest also packing a light sleeping bag, one that is easy to compress and stash at the bottom of your bag. That way you can borrow a sleeping bag from the tour folks AND have your own to double up if required. We travelled with Doite super light-weight sleeping bags which were good for packing. You can find similar below.
As with sleeping bags, most guest-houses will have mats available to rent. These are likely to be basic 10mm foam insulation mats (so not designed for comfort).
If sleeping directly on the ground is not your cup of tea, there are a couple of great space-saving travel-mat options. Steph travelled with this X-Lounger air-bed and she never failed to look smug & cosy when we ended up under canvas.
OTHER PACKING ESSENTIALS
Wet wipes - Essential if you’re spending longer than 2 days out of town
Loo roll - Essential if… you’re human
Anti-bacterial hand gel - Washing hands seems to be a low level priority
Sleeping-bag liner - In case some ger-beds or guest-houses are a little too ‘rustic’ for you. There are premium options, but we both used these mountain warehouse versions and they worked just fine
High factor suncream - Horse riding for more than an hour is a fast track to a burnt nose / forehead / sunglass tan-line combo)
Vodka - Fun to share with your tour group (if you have one) or a great ice-ice-breaker with any nomads you get to stay with
Gifts for the nomad children - One of our group made about twenty origami swans with various nomad children throughout Mongolia, it was a wonderful way to ingratiate ourselves. We also gave play-dough & colouring pencils.
Playing cards - Hours of evening entertainment
In-seat entertainment - Travelling through Mongolia for any length of time involves a WILD amount of driving. Make sure to bring something to keep you occupied on long journeys for when you get tired of staring out at flat, endless desert...
A decent camera or go-pro - The more resilient the kit the better - we managed to wreck out little Panasonic when it got sand-blasted during a storm)
Sunglasses - That you don’t mind getting a little scratched if dropped from a horse, worn in a sandstorm, launched around and/or stepped on when all of your stuff goes flying in the 4x4
Towel & soap - On the exciting & unlikely occasion that you come across a public shower block in any of the towns
If you are planning on doing some horse riding then appropriate clothing should be something you consider very seriously if you’re planning on spending any significant time on a horse (i.e. longer than 2 hours).
Trousers that aren’t jeans
Boots with a slight heel (walking boots will usually do
Riding gloves will be a welcome addition if you end up out in poor weather - Riding gloves like these are relatively inexpensive & have extra grip to give you a little more confidence.
A wind-breaker (anorak / small jack-in-a-pack)
If you’re riding for longer than an afternoon, some kind of lubricant gel can help with potential saddle sores or chaffing - we have it on good advice that athlete’s foot spray works quite well for this (?)
For a full guide on Horse Riding in Mongolia, have a little look at our briefing here.
It has to be said that the weather in Mongolia will keep you on your toes and its always best to be over prepared rather than under. The worst night we had was when we were too cold to sleep and had to wake every 2 hours to keep the stove burning. Not wildly restful!
We hope the above has given you some starting points to prepare for one hell of an adventure.
Not enough info? Check out the rest of our posts on Mongolia below or drop us a message if you still have any questions. We’ll help where we can.