Saturday, 12 August 2017

Mongolia Packing List & Advice


A year ago I embarked on a two week trip to Mongolia. This post has been sitting in my drafts for almost 8 months now and I thought it was fitting to post it now.

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Before my trip to Mongolia, I wrote a packing list of what I was bringing. I thought it was best to write another packing list for those who are going to Mongolia and to prevent you from making the same mistakes that I did. I went in August which was the tail end of summer therefore my list and advice is only relevant to the warmer months in Mongolia. During my two week stay in Mongolia, temperatures ranged from 10 - 25 degrees C.

This is not an extensive packing list as I have not included all basic items such as shirts, shorts, socks, etc.

Clothing

  • Underwear - bring underwear for more days than your tour. There is no running water and cleaning your underwear on the trip is unlikely. That is unless you don't mind wearing your underwear for more than one day, to each their own.
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Sports bra/s - I am not large chested, however I was told that they are a life saver for the bumpy off-roading
  • Pants / Trousers - especially if going horse riding and also for the cool mornings / evenings
  • Hiking boots / joggers - any sturdy shoes really. I don't think hiking boots are a necessity. I brought semi-casual combat boots and they were an okay choice.

Accessories

  • Sleeping bag - I think this is crucial! Your tour operator will supply you with sleeping bags most likely, however, they will have been used by countless people before who went days without showering. And who knows when the sleeping bags were last washed properly. Even between your tour members, you will inadvertently end up rotating your sleeping bag as they all get bundled up and randomly distributed at the ger. A little bit gross. If you don't have a sleeping bag, I would strongly to see if any family or friends have one. My sleeping bag ended up being my "home" and it was comforting to know it was only mine as everything ended up being shared on the trip. Even my lip balm! Luckily I brought an extra lip balm as some people were using mine. In the end it grossed me out too much and I just gave that one away for communal use.
  • Bandanna - offroading = dust / dirt / sand. I used it extensively when I was in the van as they had open windows. When I washed it halfway through the trip, the water was brown. Yuck, I would have breathed that in.
  • Hat - coming from Australia, I always advocate for people to wear hats.
  • Sunglasses
  • Car charger - the van may be able to charge your electronics via the cigarette lighter outlet, however do not rely on this. The first van's outlet didn't work.
  • Mosquito net (if you are scared of bugs) - if I could go back in time, I would have definitely purchased a mosquito net to place over my bed. I am terrified of bugs and there were quite a few nights where bugs and spiders were all over the ger walls. Brrrrrrrrrrrr. I ended up getting my tour mates to kill them for me, but I knew there were still many more around. There was one night where there were so many spiders and I literally curled up in my sleeping bag all night and too scared to turn over and face the ger wall. At one point in the middle of the night, it was so warm and I needed to take off my jumper and pants however I was too worried to unzip my sleeping bag and ended up stripping in my zipped up bag. It was very difficult.
  • Wet wipes - they were the best alternative when showers were not an option
  • Tissues / toilet paper - always useful and best to carry it with you at all times!
  • Own utensils / mug - this is probably the grossest part of the experience. I am not the biggest clean freak, but knowing that plates / cutlery were not cleaned properly (except with some water and wiped down with a tea towel that probably never got cleaned) was slightly ... uncomfortable to accept. I think I would have had greater piece of mind if I had brought my own cutlery, mug and plate. That being said I did not get food poisoning at all!


Food

I'll be honest, the food in Mongolia is not great. It largely comes down to the fact that supermarkets have limited supplies, it will need to be quickly cooked by the tour guide and transported in the van without refrigeration. If you are not a fussy person then probably ignore this section. But below is what I did and what I would do differently if I had the chance.
  • Buy fruit at the supermarket - firstly it's healthy, especially since the rest of your diet won't be. Secondly, it won't melt in the van.
  • Don't buy too much chocolate - although chocolate feels like a treat, it isn't very glamorous when you end up licking it off from the wrapper as it has melted in the van.
  • Instant oatmeal / porridge (pre purchased in Ulanbaatar) - breakfast usually consisted of bread and jam / butter / nutella. If anything was left over, you would eat it the next morning ergo a lot of dry / stale bread. In hindsight, I should have brought instant porridge and made it with the hot water.
  • Museli bars
  • Hot sauce / condiment - food wasn't always great and having a condiment like hot sauce a) makes bland food taste better and b) it masks the taste of any food that doesn't taste good

Technology

  • Don't bring a laptop, chances are you won't use it and the chances of it breaking are quite high - I brought it and although I used it back in Ulanbaatar to edit photos, I really could have done without it. I ended up stressing a little about my laptop breaking as luggage was constantly jostled, thrown on the ground, etc
  • Bring spare camera batteries- you will not have a chance to charge your electronics. And, on the odd chance that there are powerpoints they will all be occupied
  • Powerbank - life saver! I used it to charge my camera
  • Camera of course!
  • Don't bother bringing a power adaptor, all places have a wonderful multiplug powerboard which is great! That being said, if you are a little worried you will be caught out then bring one just in case.

Luggage

  • Do not bring a suitcase unless you are happy to roll your suitcase over dirt / sand / grass.
  • Pack light, the vehicle does not necessarily have a lot of space and luggage will be packed in snuggly along with the food and other supplies.

Entertainment

  • MP3 Player / Ipod - Chances are that you will be in a vehicle for an extended period of time and it does get a little boring
  • Books / Audiobooks - I brought my Kindle which was a lifesaver! I read probably 5 novels over my 12 day trip during the downtime. I also had one audiobook loaded onto my phone for the car rides. I can't read on a moving vehicle (trains are the exception) as I get motion sickness. In hindsight, I should have loaded more audiobooks!

And most importantly, you definitely need to go with an open mind! Go with the flow because things won't go to plan and that is okay! You will most likely get to know people very intimately, moreso than the average person. You will be living and breathing the same air in a smallish enclosure for an extended period of time!

By the way, that camel from the photo is from camel hair handmade by a family in rural Mongolia. So cute!

If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email at dignifiable[at]gmail.com.

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