Mongolia Packing Essentials (+ Packing Mistakes Everyone Makes)

Packing for Mongolia can be a challenge. First, you never quite know what the weather is going to have in store for you. Rain? Probably. Hail? There’s a good chance. Dust? Definitely. Sunshine? Yep, that too.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned since living in Mongolia, it would be it’s better to be safe, than sorry. Because, when you’re sorry out here, you are really, really sorry. And cold. And wet. And usually a bit hungry.

Mongolia can drain your energy, mentally and physically, quickly. The roads are rough, the diet can get old quickly, and nothing ever goes as planned. Ever. If I make it seem like everything is going to plan, trust me, it’s not. I’ve just learned to adapt after years of living here.

However, that’s what makes traveling here to so special. You never quite know what adventure you’re going to get into. But I do promise it will be exciting, it will push you, and it will teach you more about yourself than you may have bargained for. Mongolia changes you like that. Which is exactly what happened to me.

I was nowhere near prepared for my first trip here. I had barely wild camped in my life. I didn’t have the right gear. And, coming from America, I tried to control everything, especially when it came to time.

Thankfully, Mongolia quickly taught me I have no control, and to just go with the flow. Because it was in those quiet moments when I had the most magical experiences. When I just stopped, looked around me, and realized I was exactly where I was meant to be, that everything started to fall into place. A tough lesson to learn at 32.

All this leads me to the greatest advice I can give anyone planning to travel to Mongolia. Be prepared, but be present. You will be uncomfortable, and you’ll question why you’re even there and what you’ve gotten into, but I promise it will be worth it. As they say, trust the process!

So, now that you know how my relationship with Mongolia began, let’s jump into yours, and everything you need to pack to have the best experience possible. No matter what Mongolia throws your way.

The Biggest Packing Mistake Everyone Makes

When it comes down to it, you need to be prepared for everything in Mongolia.

Traveling in June, July, or August (the best time to visit), means there could be rain, hail, wind, dust, and even snow. Yes, snow.

Whatever the weather decides to throw your way will depend on the region you’re traveling in. Expect the Gobi to be scorching hot in July and August, and the area around Lake Khuvsgul to be slight chillier at night at that same time of year.

However, that isn’t an invitation to pack everything you own for your tour of Mongolia. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Hear me out.

Choosing which gear to pack is going to be vitally important.

Durable, quality-made, weather-ready pieces that can handle a range of conditions are always ideal. I’m not saying you need to go out and spend a fortune on buying the best, most expensive technical pieces of outdoor apparel, gadget, and gear. What I am saying is that you should invest in pieces that will last you a lifetime, not just one trip. You’ll be glad you did. I always am.

While you probably don’t need that $400 -10C Mammut sleeping bag I rely on to get my through Mongolia’s four seasons, you are going to want a sleeping bag with down insulation and a good temperature rating.

And those waterproof boots you’ve had for years with a hole in the toe? Yeah, those aren’t going to work out for you either. Do yourself a favor and invest in a pair of waterproof Danner boots, Blundstones that are better for riding horses and camels in, or something even sturdier if you plan to do some trekking.

After you’ve got your packing essentials sorted, you need something to pack them in. This is hands down the biggest packing mistake everyone makes.

I repeat – this is the biggest mistake almost every traveler makes!

Most travelers pack everything they need into an oversized roller suitcase. This quickly becomes a huge burden when you’re traveling across Mongolia! Wheels break because there’s no way you can roll that thing over the steppe, it never fits easily into the vehicle you’re traveling in, and accommodations in Mongolia are modest in size, at best. Instead, choose something 60 liters or smaller that you can easily carry on your back. Here are the duffel bags and hiking bags I recommend traveling with instead.

I’ve also learned the hard way to do my research before setting out on an adventure here. This blog can help with a lot of that, but I also still rely on travel books like Lonely Planet Mongolia to help me navigate where to stay and other things to know when I’m exploring a new part of the country. Not to mention I always love having a physical book with me to dive into when I have a free second.

What I Wear Most in Mongolia

With limited space to fit gear for every type of weather and adventure, it’s crucial you choose what to pack wisely.

Please don’t go out and buy the most expensive, over the top pieces you find online. These are often more show than show-up. Research brands that are made for active, outdoors people, and purchase from them.

Brands like Mountain Hardwear, Osprey, Carhartt, Danner boots, Dovetail workwear, Fjallraven, The North Face, Garphyttan, Fieldsheer, and Smartwool make the apparel I wear and rely on the most.

For gadgets, Leatherman Multi-tools and Gerber Gear never fail me. Grayl makes my favorite water filter and BioLite my most trusted headlamp.

If you want to shop local when you’re in Ulaanbaatar, the Flames store always has great gear in traditional Mongolian styles. Flames custom makes their pieces, so you can get something really unique to take back home with you after your trip.

Compressible Puffer Jacket

Compressible puffer jackets are a traveler’s best friend in Mongolia.

They pack down small, doubling as a great pillow on the road, and they’ll save your butt when temperatures drop at night. I never leave Ulaanbaatar without at least one packed.

Look for one that’s water-resistant, has zipper pockets, and I personally like one that has a hood.

These are some of my favorite puffer jackets.

Ultra-Lite Rain Jacket and Rain Pants

The price of rain gear can be as low as $20 for a set up to $100 or more per piece. It’s hard to say if you need to spend $100+ dollars on something you may only wear a few days, my advice is to read reviews and do your research so you know how your gear will hold up in tough weather. It really sucks to be cold and wet during an adventure, so be sure to plan accordingly.

If you plan on doing any horse riding in Mongolia, go for gear that doesn’t make a lot of sound. This might sound nearly impossible, and it kind of is, but the swishing sound can really freak out these semi-wild horses. Read this post on horse riding in Mongolia for tips on how to navigate that.

Comfortable Boots

When you’re looking for boots to wear in Mongolia, look for boots that are waterproof (or will dry quickly), not overly heavy and bulky, and will be comfortable to wear for long periods. Chances are you’ll be spending most of your days and time outside. Meaning you also can’t be too precious about getting them dirty. In fact, the easier the boots you choose to wear during your trip are to clean, the better.

It’s hard to find a shoe that covers every occasion in Mongolia, but below are some of the shoes I’ve really grown to love and wear most over the years. I don’t recommend these boots for horse or camel riding, but they will work in a pinch. See those recommendations in the next section.

Pro tip – wear and get to know your boots before you come to Mongolia! Days here are long and it sucks to get a blister half way through a trip when you still have a lot of walking to do.

Shower and Outdoor Sandals

One thing most people forget to pack when they travel to Mongolia are shower and outdoor sandals. These are crucial to any trip! Be sure they’re good to use in water and won’t be too slippery if wearing them when wet.

Outdoor sandals can be used at yurt camps, where showers are shared, or if you’re bathing in a river. Chances are you’ll be doing both during your trip. Especially if you’re on one of my tours!

Choose a pair that will double as a great pair of slippers at night and give your feet a break after a long day.

Horse Riding Boots and Gear

If you plan to do any horse or camel riding, you need a shoe with a sleek and slim low profile, and flat soles. This is for your safety, so your foot doesn’t get caught in the stirrup. This will also help when walking through areas with animal poop. Poop can’t get stuck in flat soles!

After that, a few other essentials for a horse riding trip will include half chaps, a riding helmet, and proper riding pants. You can ride in jeans, but keep in mind these will be harder to move in and will be extremely uncomfortable if you get wet. However, if this is what you’re used to riding in, by all means ride away!

You can also browse my full list of essentials to pack for any horse riding trip on Amazon.

Essential Gear to Pack

This is the good stuff. The stuff that will take your trip from bearable to comfortable. From surviving to thriving.

I’ve tried to keep the items on this essential gear list as lightweight, easy to pack, and budget friendly as possible. Hopefully each of these items won’t just be lifesavers in Mongolia, but they’ll also come in handy for other far-flung adventures around the world.

Power Banks and Solar Chargers

Long drives, off-grid camping, and a general lack of electricity everywhere you turn. There are plenty of reasons to bring a power bank to Mongolia. Choose one that allows for plenty of power, has a USB-C charger for faster charging, and is light enough to carry with you easily.

Pair your power bank with a solar charger to maximize your charging capabilities when you’re on the road.

Rechargeable Headlamp

A low profile, lightweight, rechargeable headlamp is key to any adventure, especially in Mongolia. Trust me when I say you’ll find this piece of gear endlessly useful. Especially when nature calls in the middle of the night. Which, after a few bowls of airag, it certainly will.

Portable Water Purifier

You’re going to need clean, filtered drinking water when you’re in Mongolia. I don’t recommend drinking water out of the taps in Ulaanbaatar, but it is safe to have drinks served with ice and when you order water in a restaurant, it will be in a bottle.

When it comes to a portable water purifier, you have two choices, one that uses gravity or pressure to purify the water (like the Grayl) or one that purifies as you drink (like the Lifestraw Camelback hydration bladder). My preferred style is to have a purifier that works with gravity or pressure which makes it easier to brush my teeth or use the water to cook with.

Whichever style you choose, these are much better alternatives than using water purifying tablets or boiling water for three minutes. Filters like this can also help remove sediment and taste better. (I think tablets make water taste like chemicals.)

Look for a water filter that removes bacteria and viruses, as well as microplastics.

Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Pad

Even if you plan to stay in yurt camps during your travels to Mongolia, a sleeping bag is always something I recommend bringing with you. For instance, even when I’m at a yurt camp, I still sleep in my own sleeping bag. Simply put, I don’t always trust how clean the sheets are.

Plus, nights in Mongolia are cold and the blankets and bedding provided in many of the yurt camps often aren’t enough for me to stay warm.

If you plan to do a homestay with a nomadic family you will definitely need a sleeping bag, and you’ll be happy you have a sleeping pad. You could end up sleeping on the floor. Not to mention Mongolian beds are notoriously hard. Even when I’m sleeping on a bed inside a family yurt, I still blow up and use my sleeping pad.

Sleeping bags with down instead of synthetic fill will pack down smaller, if space is already an issue when packing. I sleep in a three-season bag, even in summer, since you never quite know what temperatures will be in the countryside.

Other Sleep Stuff to Pack

After a long day of traveling and adventuring in Mongolia, you’re going to be exhausted. And nothing beats falling asleep in a yurt. But, sometimes jetlag, noisy roommates, and other things out of your control will prevent you from getting the best sleep possible. That’s why I always travel with each of the items below.


Never underestimate the power of a good pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses that don’t easily fall off your head. That protect your eyes not just from sun, but from sand, dirt, and wind, and with UVA, UVB, and UVC protection. Sunglasses that you can wear all day, sit on without breaking, and that you won’t be too heartbroken if they do.

Look for a pair with rubber ear grips and shock-absorbing nose pads, these sunglasses won’t slip and slide off your face as easily. Even when you’re bouncing up and down in a furgon racing across the steppe.

Fast-Drying Towel and Toiletries

A towel is often one of the most overlooked things when packing for a trip to Mongolia. You’ll need a towel at yurt camps, when you’re staying with a nomadic family, and especially if you plan on doing any camping.

Opt for a towel that dries quickly and packs easily. Micro-fiber and other towels of that style are endlessly useful, but be sure to get a size that’s big enough to wrap around your body.

For toiletries, including soaps and shampoos, make sure you choose something biodegradable that you can use if showering outside. If you do need to shower outside, always shower downstream from where the locals get their water and try to use your products over solid ground where the ground can act as a filter before the water goes back into the water source. Water is a sacred resource, be sure to treat it with respect.

Sunscreen, Lip Balm, and Moisturizer

Mongolia’s air is extremely dry. Besides sunscreen, if you have dry skin, you’re going to want to pack extra moisturizer and, of course, lip balm. Don’t forget lip balm with sunscreen, the sun sneaks up on you here.

At night, even if I’m unable to shower, I wash my face with clean water and face wash, no matter what. Worst case scenario is I wipe my face with a wet wipe and that has to do. That’s because it’s extremely dusty and once I saw how much dirt I was wiping off my face at the end of the day, it’s become a habit.

Books on Mongolia to Help You Prepare for Your Trip

Mongolia is a once in a lifetime adventure that takes planning and preparation to do right. You can’t just show up here and expect to see, do, and cross everything off your bucket list. I recommend these two books to help you plan and understand the history of this lesser traveled country.

See my full list of the best books about Mongolia →

Important Things to Know When Packing for Mongolia

Just a few more important things to know before you can confidently pack for your trip to Mongolia.


If there’s any chance that you will need a medication of any kind during your trip, get it before you leave your home country. I cannot stress that enough.

If you’ll be carrying any sort of prescription medication that may raise questions in the airport, plan to get a doctor’s note before you leave.

My fellow lady travelers, if there is the slightest chance of starting your period in Mongolia bring tampons and anything else you might need with you.

Digestion Help: Charcoal Pills or Pepto Bismol

You’re eating with nomads. Gnawing down on some dried and fried mystery meat (don’t worry, it’s mutton) when your tummy starts to feel a rumble.

Fast forward a few hours and it feels like your insides are about to fall out of your butt. This is where charcoal pills come in. They’ll quickly help absorb bacteria, toxins, and everything else your stomach isn’t used to. Think of it like a magnet for all that internal bad stuff.

I personally prefer taking charcoal pills over Pepto Bismol, but sometimes you need to bring in the big guns. No one wants a funny stomach when they’re going to be sitting and bumping around in a car all day.


I love when travelers bring gifts for the nomadic herders they’ll be spending time with. I don’t however love when travelers bring impractical gifts for the nomadic herders they’ll be spending time with.

Gifts I recommend giving are candies and chocolates, tea, multi-tools and knives, cigarettes, coloring books, picture books, games, clothing, and jewelry.

Gifts I do not recommend giving are alcohol, toys that require batteries, and sticker books with many small pieces that will turn into litter.

For more background on Mongolia’s gift giving culture, read my Gift Ideas For When You’re Visiting A Mongolian Ger (Home) guide →

Forgot Something? Here's Where You Can Buy Outdoor Gear in Ulaanbaatar

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll forget something. It happens. Luckily there are a few well-stocked places where you can find just about anything. Keep in mind whatever you buy may not be the best quality, but it will at least get you through your trip.

For the best camping gear and clothing shopping in Ulaanbaatar, I recommend checking out:

Hey there! This post contains affiliate links that help pay the bills so I can keep giving you free Mongolia travel advice. This means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Thank you for reading and supporting Meanwhile in Mongolia!

Author: Breanna Wilson

Hi! Sain uu! I’m Breanna, an American travel writer and adventurer living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for more than 5 years. I’ve written for and been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Forbes, and the New York Times, among others. Read more of my Mongolia travel articles here.

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