Hiking and Camping in Siberia – Tips For Beginners

Una BaufalaAsia, Destinations, Russia, Travel Tips and Guides Comments

Hiking on Olkhon island - lake Baikal

When going to hike along Circum Baikal Railway and on Olkhon island we packed more or less the same things and brought with us more or less the same equipment like when hiking Annapurna circuit in Nepal (see our full packing and equipment list for hiking in Nepal).

There was only one difference, though – we planned to camp this time. So, that means we needed to pack other camping camping gear, too, not only sleeping bags. And we needed to think about food as well. Because we were planning to be away from cities, towns and villages. And thus – away from shops, restaurants and cafes. Our Russian friend was a great help here. Not only he helped us to pack our bags better but also he gave us some great tips about hiking and camping in Siberia.

Now, after some time spent together with him in Siberia, we are ready to share this knowledge with you. Here it’s important to mention, that before traveling to Russia we had camped only few times in our life and just for one night at a time.

To read about where we went and how to go on a similar trip in Siberia yourself, read our article about hiking along Circum Baikal Railway and on Olkhon island.

Camping in Siberia

First morning on Olkhon island

Hiking and camping equipment

Our friend lent us one of his tents, as we didn’t have one of our own. Because we usually don’t camp while traveling. But as it looks that might change in future. He lent us tent produced by a company called Normal, popular brand in Russia. Our tent was similar to this two person tent. It’s light weight, but narrow. Anyway, if I need to carry tent myself, I will choose lighter tent over heavier and bigger without a second though.

Tents produced by Normal (Russian company) are designed for Russian weather and for camping in Siberia. Not like those made in Europe or America, as our friend was saying. He himself was using similar class tent from Marmot. And, though, there were no serious problems with that tent, it was colder inside the tent during the night. On the same nights Kaspars in our tent was using his sleeping bag only as a blanket, because it was very warm for him.

What’s important here – the closer the inner tent is to outer layer, the colder it will be inside the tent. Especially if at the same time there is quite a big gap between earth and outer layer.

So when camping in Siberia you will need a tent which has more space between inner and outer tent. Even though summer days in Siberia can be really hot, it is not something unusual that nights are cool. Especially if you stay near water like we did when camping near Baikal lake and later near river Berd, during our rafting trip.

Una and her sleeping bag in Nepal

Most probably you will need a warm sleeping bag, too. As I already mentioned, even in summer nights in Siberia can be cold. During the summer there are nights when temperature drops to meager +5 C. We had fake North Face cocoon down sleeping bags, which we bought in Nepal. Quite big in size and warmer than any others we had used before. They suited us very well. We didn’t freeze, but there were a couple of nights when we felt the chill.

Don’t forget to bring with you insulated sleeping mat. And not the thinnest one! Yes, it would be smaller and a little bit lighter, but it is not worth the trouble. Better take one that is thicker. You will feel more comfortable and most important – warmer.

If you are exploring Siberia by car or boat, you can take self-inflating pad with you for even higher level of comfort.

Cooking outdoors. As we were planning to cook all the time ourselves we took with us – food, camping stove and petrol for it. As well as 1 pot (1,5l is good for 4 persons), food containers, some cutlery. Our friend had a Kovea stove and a refillable petrol canister. Instead of bowls we packed Tupperware boxes with lids. Boxes we used for eating soups and porridge, but lids – as cutting boards and “plates” for bread and sweets. Each of us had one spoon. And there was one knife between all of us.

Hiking on Olkhon island

Hiking on Olkhon island (or taking photos, haha)

Kaspars, Eugene (our friend) and Caroline (friend of Eugene and now our friend too, haha) had 55 l backpacks. I had 40 l pack. Caroline’s pack wasn’t full. Guys had fuller and heavier packs, as they were carrying tents and more food than we were.

Usually we travel with smaller backpacks. Kaspars has 25 liter pack, I – 30 liter pack. These two backpacks were too small for such an adventure, so Eugene, our friend, lent us the packs as well. Kaspars got a fake Deuter backpack bought in Thailand, I – Freetime pack. But any 40 – 100 l backpack with hard back (or frame) and hip belt will do. Why hard back / frame and hip belt are so important? Hip belt keeps your backpack on your hips, so there is less pressure on your shoulders. And hard back / frame keeps your backpack in shape and thus it’s easier to carry it.

I advise you to carry as little as possible and not take 70 – 100 l pack. I doubt if you will be comfortable with such a heavy load! Plan your trip so that you can restock and wash your clothes after some time. If it is not possible, then take more food (like you need), but don’t take more clothes. You can wash your clothes in the river or lake. The same applies for your body. You can go on without having real shower for quite a long time, but definitely you can’t hike without food!

Eugene and I were using hiking poles. In my opinion, it is easier if one has them. It’s easier to walk uphill and downhill, to keep your balance on uneven path.

First evening on Olkhon island

First evening on Olkhon island, lake Baikal

Hiking and camping accessories

Here is a list of few items which we found especially useful during our hiking and camping trip in Siberia:

Head lamp – easier to use than a regular torchlight.

Rain cover for backpack – a must have!

Solar phone charger – because there is no electricity in the woods, haha. To save your phone’s battery you can turn airplane mode on while you are not using it.

Rope – useful on various occasions. For example, tying something together and drying clothes.

Power bank – for charging phones, e-readers and tablets.

Waterproof bags – for documents, cameras, phones.

Ziplock bags – for food and toiletries.

Wide brim hat or baseball cap – protection against hot sun.

Sunscreen SPF 30 or 50 and sunglasses – sun can be strong out there. And while hiking you will be outside whole day not just for an hour or two.

Fast dry towel – for those days when you can have a shower. For those special occasions, ha!

Instant hand sanitizer gel, wet wipes, toilet paper, tissues, soap and other toiletries – personal hygiene.

Una and Kaspars hiking on Olkhon island

Olkhon island. That’s lake Baikal behind us.

Food – Camping in Siberia

First things first – water. When you are hiking on Olkhon island or just near lake Baikal, you will have plenty of free drinking water as you can drink water from the lake. Sometimes we drank it straight from the lake, other times we boiled it, and we were perfectly fine. If you aren’t sure about it’s purity, you can always boil it before drinking.

When we were rafting on river Berd, we took water from the river and always boiled it. If you have doubts, you always can use water purification tablets.

So, what we usually ate? For breakfast we had instant oatmeal or muesli with peanuts and dates, cookies or / and other sweets, like, halva, Hematogen, candy bars and coffee, tea or chicory coffee.

For lunch and dinner – rice or buckwheat porridge / soup with spice & soup mixes (instant soups). How to make what we were making? You boil water first. Then you add rice or buckwheat. When it becomes soft you add spice & soup mix, that you like. Few more minutes and your porridge-like soup is ready.

Together with it we usually ate bread with meat spread and / or cheese spread and some fresh veggies. From vegetables mostly we had – raw beetroot (delicious, actually), cucumbers and carrots. For desert we had oatmeal cookies, pryaniki (Russian tea spice cookies) or / and other sweets, like, halva, Hematogen, candy bars. Again, we drank coffee, tea or chicory coffee. Sometimes we added condensed milk to our coffee.

From fruits we had only apples. Though, they are pretty heavy and take up quite a lot of space, it’s nice to have some fruits time after time. And apples turned out to be the ones that are better for carrying around in your backpack.

Dinner on Olkhon island

Our meals looked like this. While we were eating we spoke about nothing but… food! Ok, not only about food … :)

Clothing and footwear

Weather in Siberia can change really quickly. It can be sunny and hot during the day. But if you are, for example, hiking near lake Baikal you will feel cool air coming from the lake nevertheless.

Lake Baikal stays frozen for quite a long time. Until May, in fact. Thus it’s understandable, why approaching bank of the lake you feel almost like entering a fridge, haha.

When we were rafting on river Berd, not far from Novosibirsk, we experienced crazy weather changes. One moment it was hot and sunny. Then we felt wind. After some time the sky turned an ominous black! Few more minutes and downpour started…

It’s Siberian summer, as our Russian friend said. It’s OK. And it is good to be prepared.

So, let’s take a look in my backpack!

I wore long sleeve T-shirt or a regular T-shirt, jeans (you can wear hiking pants or any other pants), wide brim hat and hiking boots. I packed shorts, a couple of spare T-shirts, thermal pants and long sleeve T-shirt, lightweight leggings, fleece hoodie, rain jacket, underwear, three pairs of socks, woolen socks, lightweight Nevica Skuff, fleece skuff and fleece hat. And I wore every single piece of it! This is Siberian summer!

So… I advise you to take more than one pants, one T-shirt and long sleeve. Otherwise if you soak through, you won’t be able to change.

But if you feel like that you can go also with really few items of clothing. Like Kaspars did. In the same conditions he used only one pair of pants, one long sleeve, one t-shirt,…

Caroline hiking on Olkhon island

That’s it! Meet you somewhere in Siberia?

We really enjoyed our time in Russia, especially the time we spent near lake Baikal. And we are eager to return to this part of the world one day.

If you have any questions about traveling in Siberia or in Russia in general, contact us!

Author: Una Baufala

Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.

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