Gearing Up For Mongolia, Part 1

After awhile one starts to get a feeling for what little comforts make a big difference when one is traveling, especially when it’s a somewhat “adventurous” destination like Mongolia. The basic accomodation in the countryside is at ger camps, where visitors stay in the same kind of gers that the Mongols use. I love them! There’s something very special about the interior space that they create.

On the other hand, they generally don’t have electricity or running water. The toilet can be some dozens of yards away. There is usually a sink stand that has a small container with a faucet attached above the sink. This is for washing and should never be considered drinkable. Water is precious and the responsible visitor doesn’t use it carelessly.

What I decided to do was see how I could refine what I carry, make a hot drink in the morning and do a mop down and underwear/sock wash in the ger. The last two have ended up rating high on the “little comforts” scale over time. The other part is getting a good night’s sleep no matter where I am.

I haven’t really tweaked my travel gear for awhile and, while thinking through the upcoming trip, I realized that:

1. My MacBook Pro is a total pain to get in and out of the daypack I’ve used for years. Transit between points is always the bottleneck and the easier it is, the better and less tiring, especially with the reality of airport security. Time for a change. After poking around and remembering something someone posted on Facebook, I ended up on the Timbuk2 site, where I found (on sale!) a sturdy messsenger bag that has a padded pocket for the laptop, a back piece with  a top and bottom slit that allows it to be securely slid onto the pull-out handle of a roll-on and at least as much capacity as the pack, but oriented horizontally instead of vertically, which means less rooting around at the bottom for whatever it is I’m looking for. This is the Commute Messenger, made from 67% hemp and 33% PET (recycled soda bottles). It’s 16″ wide, 10.8 ” high and 6″ deep. You can also do a one from Column A, one from Column B and design your own bag. They are made in San Francisco.bag1bag22. I bought a travel purse some years ago which is smaller than the one I carry at home, has steel cable in the shoulder strap to foil cut and snatch thieves and lots of places to put things. Almost too many. Plus it barely fit in the pack. Remember, we’re limited to two carry-ons, a roll-on and a purse. In the past, I’ve stuffed the purse into the pack to get through security and onto the plane and it’s worked, but once again has become increasingly irritating. REI makes something they call a “Boarding Bag”, an “organizer for stress-free travel”. It looked big enough that I could hike around UB without needing to take the daypack. And it fits into one side of the messenger bag. One Nikon camera with the 28-300 lens fits right into it and there’s a side pocket for a small water bottle, plus room for a sketchbook, not to mention the usual wallet, sunscreen, kleenex, etc.


So I’m feeling good about the actual travel part. For staying in the gers:

3. The options are usually a thermos of hot water brought in the evening or having bottled water available. If there’s no hot water or electricity, I’m still kind of stuck unless it’s cold enough to light the wood stove and heat water on that (and I think I’ll see what I can find locally in the way of a small metal pan), but with one or the other I can now use one of these really cool snap together bowls to dip a washcloth in, heat water with this immersion heater that came with an international adaptor plug, or do a serious wash up of me or my clothes with this collapsible “kitchen sink”. All from REI.

bowlsFozzils Bowlz- 10″x9″ polypropolene


Immersion heater with adaptor

kitchen-sinkThe “sink” holds over  2 gallons of water, is 14″ x 5″ and fits into a pouch that is 5″ in diameter. It will be interesting to see what the herder women think of it.

I still haven’t decided whether to take a regular coffee mug or get something insulated. I’ll be taking packets of Coffee King, which is coffee, creamer and sweetener together and it perfectly drinkable. It’s available in grocery stores in UB. I’ll also take some tea from home.

4. Sleeping comfort is critical to me. I’m going to take my Thermarest pad, since the hotel and ger beds are extremely, uh, firm and my down sleeping bag. There are sheets and blankets on the ger beds, but the weather can be cold at any time of year. I find that my rectagular bag ( I HATE mummy bags) makes a great comforter if needed.

Next installment will be on the art supplies that I plan to take.

All this travel prep has tired someone out:

Alex, the amazing boneless cat
Alex, the amazing boneless cat

Visit the AFC site here

3 thoughts on “Gearing Up For Mongolia, Part 1

  1. I had a cat named Boneless.
    You have better photos of the Timbuk2 bag than they do on their web site.


  2. Careful with the immersion heater. Trial it at home in your intended bowl/cup.

    I had one in Britain that looked just like it, and got hot enough to melt granite, I swear. I’d have burned down the house with it, if it hadn’t collapsed in a windstorm first.

    Of course, that was in 1986, so things may have changed.


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