This guest post is brought to you by Lauren Fitzpatrick.Traveling through rural Mongolia is a great opportunity to ditch your daily routine. Forget checking e-mails, reading the paper, or watching TV. Regular showers become a distant memory, along with paved roads, toilets and makeup. This is great news for the female traveler because it makes packing a whole lot easier. If you can’t fit it into a carry-on bag, chances are you don’t need it.
Mongolian summer days can be hot in the sun but cool in the shade, while the nighttime can get downright cold. The golden rule of travel packing definitely applies: layer, layer, layer. You want clothes you can pile on and peel off as you’re charging across the countryside on a horse, or hiking desert dunes on a camel. Play it safe and dress modestly. You might see some cleavage and tight jeans in Ulaanbataar, but on the steppes and in the Gobi it is out of place.
After two weeks traveling through Central Mongolia, I had a pretty firm idea of what I considered essential (wet wipes) and what I wished I’d left behind (big bottle of shower gel). This packing list can apply to a trip of more than two weeks, based on the idea that you’ll hand wash clothes as you go. If you can’t, well – embrace the dirt. It’s much easier (and more fun) than complaining about it.
1 pair of jeans: If you’re planning on horseback riding. If not, any long pants will do.
1 pair of lightweight Capri pants (travel-friendly, not fashion-forward): More conservative than shorts but still conducive to the hot afternoon sun.
Sarong: Multi-purpose. Wrap it around clothes to form a pillow, or hang it from the beams of your ger for an instant changing room.
2 layering tank tops
3 short-sleeved shirts: for daytime
3 long-sleeved shirts: for night-time layering
1 sweatshirt or fleece: for evenings
Sports bra: Not just for animal-riding, but for the unbelievably bumpy car rides.
2 regular bras
5 pairs of underwear
4 pairs of socks
Pajamas: You’ll probably share your ger with others. Plus, you’ll need them to stay warm at night.
Rainproof jacket: For those unexpected summer showers or whipping winds.
Bathing suit: Relish the opportunity to get wet in rivers, lakes and hot springs.
1 cotton skirt (knee-length or longer): Optional, but useful for getting dressed with a modicum of privacy. Also good for feeling girly in Ulaanbataar.
Athletic shoes: Unless you’re a heavy-duty hiker, you can get away with a decent rubber-soled walking shoe.
Flip flops: Good for kicking around the ger or in an Ulaanbataar hostel. Watch for cow/goat/yak/camel/sheep/horse dung if you wear them outside.
Wet wipes: For your hands, face, feet, or armpits, at all times of the day. Buy them at Mongolian grocery stores.
Facial cleansing pads: Great when you don’t have running water and your face needs something more heavy-duty than a wet wipe.
Small shampoo/conditioner: You won’t be washing your hair often.
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Towel: A hand towel or a small travel towel will do for those infrequent washings.
Painkillers: Those car rides can bring on some wicked headaches.
Rash cream: For your butt. Yes, your butt. Mongolian saddles are not kind.
Tampons: As many as you think you’ll require. They are hard to come by while on the road.
Toilet paper: Keep a roll in your bag and some squares in your pocket at all times.
*Don’t rely on access to electricity outside of Ulaanbataar. Some ger camps do turn on a generator in the evening. Occasionally there might be a power point in your ger, so grab whatever chance you can to charge up your electronics.
iPod: Listening to music is sometimes the only available activity during those looooong hours driving across the road-free Mongolian landscape.
Camera: Whatever your preference, but make sure you have a sturdy case.
Chargers and adapters: Like most of Asia, Mongolia uses a plug with two round pins.
Headlamp & extra batteries: Bring one. Seriously. When you have to walk through a herd of goats to get to the squat toilet in the dark, you want a headlamp. (Read the post: If Only I’d Brought My Flashlight)
Deck of cards: There is a lot of down time in the evenings.
Book: Ideally an old-fashioned paperback, one that doesn’t need charging.
Portable mosquito net: I didn’t know these existed until a Dutch girl pulled one out in a particularly spider-infested ger. It was awesome. I was jealous.
Sleeping bag: Many tour companies will provide sleeping bags, but if unidentifiable stains and smells creep you out, bring your own.
Sleep Sack: Packs lighter than a sleeping bag and provides a barrier between you and that mysterious brown blotch on your borrowed sleeping bag.
Lighter: It’s much easier to start a dung fire with a lighter than with a bent candle. You can buy one at the State Department Store in Ulaanbataar.
Ziploc bag & laundry detergent: Instant washing machine. Just add water.
Snacks and water: Stock up on some travel snacks before you leave the big city.
Sunglasses and/or hat: Mongolia averages over 250 sunny days a year.
Earplugs: For snoring ger-mates and keeping bugs out of your ears while you sleep.
Make comfort and adaptability your main priority when packing for a Mongolian adventure. No one is going to care if you wear the same shirt three days in a row, but they will care if you collapse under the weight of your overpacked bag. Once you arrive, you’ll be too focused on the day-to-day to care about whether or not you should have brought an extra pair of shoes.
A final note – The Mongolian language is hard to grasp. Ask a Mongolian how to properly say ‘thank you’ (bayarlalaa), practice the phrase, and use it!
Do you have any more packing tips for Mongolia?
About the author: Indiana native Lauren Fitzpatrick never got a proper job. Instead, she got working holiday visas for Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, and Korea. She has held over 30 jobs, including carny, English teacher and movie extra. Lauren blogs at Lateral Movements, and you can follow her on facebook or twitter @LateralMovement.
Photo 2 credit. Photo 1 by guest author.