The following is the Secret Compass recommended kit list for the 2020 expedition to Siberia. Some items are essential so please read carefully and direct any questions to Secret Compass. Suggested products and technologies are included at the end of the kit list. These items are a guide only – you do not need to purchase these exact products although we have mentioned tried and trusted brands.
Secret Compass have arranged team member discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Although you will be provided with traditional Nenets jackets and boots for the majority of the expedition, you will need your own extreme cold weather clothing (see advice below) for travelling in and to wear during the festival. Please see the bottom of this kit list for extensive clothing advice and contact Secret Compass with any questions.
Baggage and sleeping
- RUCKSACK/SOFT DUFFEL BAG: 120 litres maximum for storing your personal equipment during the migration. Essential kit such as sleeping bags and boots will be kept with you at all times.
- LOCKABLE BAG (optional): A small bag may be left in Yar Sale with clothes for the festival/travel.
- SLEEPING BAG: Rated to at least a ‘comfort’ of -40C and in a waterproof stuff sack.
- WATERPROOF WALLET: For your passport and money.
- 1 x INSULATED TROUSERS: Chest-high/Bib-style insulted trousers with drop seat – see ‘Insulated trousers’ section below.
- 2 x THERMAL BASE LAYER: Top and bottoms – synthetic or merino wool. NO COTTON!
- 1 x MID LAYER (optional): Fleece or equivalent, layers are key in maintaining a comfortable temperature on the tundra. Reindeer hair is incredibly hard to remove from fleece items so don’t bring new or hired fleeces.
- 1 x DOWN JACKET: Expedition quality – please see your detailed kit information below.
- 1 x LIGHTWEIGHT WATERPROOF SHELL: To protect your down jacket from getting wet which would greatly reduce its insulation properties.
- 2 x HIKING SOCKS: Warm and comfortable, consider wool.
- 1 x WARM BOOTS: Insulated boots with a sturdy sole and good grip. Make sure they fit well with your socks and are comfortable. Baffin or Sorel type.
- WARM HAT
- BALACLAVA: Raised above the nose and mouth to stop it freezing from the moisture in your breath.
- INNER GLOVES
- WATER-PROOF OUTER GLOVES: With reinforced palm if possible.
- 2x UNDERWEAR (optional): Lycra sports shorts don’t chafe and dry quickly.
- WATER BOTTLE: Insulated water bottle – or normal water bottle in insulated sleeve. We will provide thermoses for the team on travel days.
- SNACKS: Snack bars, trail mix or similar to supplement and for long days on migration. Items containing prunes or fibre are recommended.
Health and Hygiene
- WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH & TOOTHPASTE (optional): Ensure it breaks down small. You do not need a large travel washbag – sealable freezer bags or a small dry bag work well.
- LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION: This is essential as chapped lips are painful.
- FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM
- SANITARY PRODUCTS (optional): Bring a supply of perfumed nappy sacks as there will be nowhere to dispose of used items until you return to Yar Sale.
Small first aid kit
- ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: It may be useful to find out the generic/chemical name for the medication in case you need to source more in country. Please also check whether your particular medication is legal in your destination.
- HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES
- SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
- SKI GOGGLES
- KNIFE: For eating and camp chores (around 10cm). Remember: DO NOT pack in hand luggage.
- CHEMICAL HANDWARMER: Enough for one per day whilst on expedition. Not the type which need boiling to re-activate.
These will be worn next to your skin and perform 2 main functions; insulating you and wicking moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and warm. Synthetic baselayers tend to be thinner and cheaper, good at wicking moisture but they don’t offer as much warmth as wool. A more detailed comparison can be found here.
Icebreaker merino wool. Merino is softer than ‘traditional’ wool and naturally anti-microbial (meaning it won’t start to smell!). They offer different ‘weights’ of clothing – this is basically how thick and therefore how warm the layers are. The bigger the number, the more wool is used in each metre of fabric.
Another brand offering merino wool baselayers is Smartwool – these are thinner and lighter than the Icebreaker equivalent but they do excellent socks (make sure they fit with your boots – if your socks are too thick your boots will feel tight and you’ll restrict blood flow).
If you are not a fan of wool next to your skin, try the Helly Hansen Warm series – this combines their synthetic wicking layer ‘lifa’ with a merino outer coating for the best of both. This may smell a bit more over time in comparison to the pure merino options but with everyone in the same boat no one will comment. Also consider Rab MeCo (merino and polyester blend) or silk (SilkBody).
Mid layers for both top and bottom will be essential. These can be a second, thicker layer of merino wool or a fleece layer.
Many brands (including Rab, North Face and Marmot) use Powerstretch in their products. The result is a stretchy, fairly close-fitting fleece that is great for layering. The close-knit outer surface means it slides easily when putting extra layers on top whilst in its own right it helps to cut wind and keeps you warmer than a traditional fleece of the same weight.
Normal fleece can also be used as a mid-layer but look for at least 200weight (not a ‘microfleece’). A 260gm or 300gm merino layer is another option for a mid-layer, just make sure it’s not too tight on top of your baselayer.
A down jacket is essential. A normal ski or casual down jacket simply won’t be warm enough, especially whilst travelling when activity levels are low. You need to be comfortable at -40°C which means it will need to be an expedition quality down jacket – check the label carefully for the down quantity. This is literally how many kg of down feathers are in your jacket and the down fill (the quality of the down, the higher the better as this will dictate how much the down ‘lofts’ and traps air – therefore heat). Standard is around 700/800 and 900 or even 1000 is available at a premium, though keep in mind USA and European measurements sometimes vary.
Invest in a dry bag to protect your down jacket when you’re not wearing it – if it gets wet the down will clump and lose the insulating properties. If you dislike using animal products or are allergic to down, synthetic options are available but much harder to come by, much heavier and don’t pack as small.
The Annapurna jacket (Cho Oyu is the ladies equivalent) from Mountain Equipment has been a staple of polar travel for years – make sure you can fit your other layers underneath it without restricting the loft of the down jacket. It is designed with a low cut back to protect you whilst sitting and walking.
Rab offer a selection of down jackets, avoid anything ‘microlight’ and go straight for the expedition offerings like the Batura, Andes or Neutrino Plus.
If you want a jacket that is perfect for you – PHD offer a custom-build jacket. You can choose your down fill (900 fill is available), body and arm length, zip type, hood etc. Great if you envisage yourself using the jacket again and struggle to fit a standard offering.
For super warm insulated trousers check out the Fitzroy or Prophet from Mountain Equipment. These are bib-style insulated trousers with reinforcements at the ankle and bottom.
For cheaper options you can look at insulated, water resistant salopettes – these need to be a bib-style, chest high design and big enough to wear both your base layers and mid layers beneath them without the fabric pulling tight across your leg (this can lead to a condition called polar thigh which is very unpleasant). Insulation in this layer is essential so avoid only waterproof ‘shells’. Side zips or a drop seat make bathroom trips easier as you don’t have to battle all of your layers. For the ladies, it may also be worth checking out a shewee.
As with everything else, these boots must keep you warm at temperatures as low as -40°C. Hiking boots or ski boots are not suitable. The key to these boots keeping you warm is not having them tight fitting. Please be aware that if you have poor circulation and often have cold feet then it’s worth investing in boots that suggest a -70-100 rating as they often over compensate how warm they actually are.
Baffin offer a range of boots designed for polar environments. The removable liner boot is great if your boots get damp as they’ll dry faster than all-in-one options.
Sorel also make boots which are a staple on polar expeditions and for arctic travel. Watch out for their ‘fashion’ boots! These may look nice but lack insulation and good grip. Instead go for a model like the Glacier.
Salomon Toundra Mid WP. These boots can keep you warm down to -40°C using Aerogels insulation. Ice grip and a waterproof lining plus a comfy heel foam make these a light weight but lower cut option.
This needs to be rated to a comfort of -40°C. If you normally ‘sleep cold’ or are a slim lady using a men’s sleeping bag you may need a warmer bag than this (women-specific bags are slightly shorter and narrower so there is less ‘dead space’ around you inside the bag). Invest in a waterproof stuff sack to protect your bag and keep it dry. For travelling, please purchase a compression system if it doesn’t originally come with one (compression dry bags from Sea to Summit are ideal).
Alpkit make several expedition standard sleeping bags including the Arctic Dream 1400 which is a great value down-filled sleeping bag.
Rab will be more easily available and do a huge range of ‘5 season’ expedition bags – look for the Expedition 1400 for a comfort rating of -40°C.
The North Face is another brand to investigate – the Summit Series Inferno -40 bag would be suitable and has a really handy central zip.
If you have any questions about suitable expedition equipment or would like advice on hiring or purchasing products, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Expedition team members are eligible for discounts through our partners Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Expedition Kit Hire and Outdoor Hire, more details and discount codes will be found in your MySC team member area on booking.