A few months ago we kidnapped Dave Fry and subjected him to 3 days of watching Dora the Explorer in an attempt to get him to spill the beans on what the best threads and camping gear is for the Ice Run. Unfortunately, he bloody loves Dora so after he finished 20 seasons back to back, we bought him some medium strength beer, a packet of cheese and onion crisps, loosened the thumbscrews (he brought his own for some reason...) and he got to talking.
“As with some of the other bits, you can navigate the endlessly bleak world of Russian customer service and pick it up in Irkutsk, this is mainly for the outer layers, and who doesn’t want to look like Russian hunter… so hot right now. The bits it’s worth spending on are boots, sleeping bags, mats and tents. These things keep you alive and intact and if they’re not good for you it makes your life a bit shit.”
Here is my kit list for the Ice Run. I found after the first one, it made a lot of sense to buy a fair bit of the outer layers in Russia. They’re cheap, and really effective. The main big ticket items I recommend splashing some cash on are boots, sleeping bag, mat, and tent. They aren’t cheap, although potentially renting the tent and bag could save some cash. These items are the biggest contributor to comfort, and potentially safety. I also recommend a gas stove, that use the high efficiency (sadly disposable) canisters. They will heat water up the quickest, so you can get food into you asap.
- Down sleeping bag -40 rating or 4 seasons. If you plan on sleeping and not just perpetually shivering this is something you absolutely need. Cheap it ain’t but vital yes.This is one of the biggest factors of a good night sleep. It is also a big ticket item, expect roughly $600US spend, you’ll be glad of it when you have it.
- Thermal sleeping bag liner (NOT COTTON)
- Down/technical sleeping mat. This is almost a luxury item. Sleeping mats are a 100% must have, but if you can find a duck/goose down impregnated one, that will add an extra level of comfort to a sleep.
- Arctic tent, MUST BE WINDPROOF. Tents with snow dams are a good idea. Easy to put up tents that have the fly attached already are a better idea. Pop up “festival tents” are not.
- Layers. 3 or 4 full sets. Merino or technical fabric. NOT COTTON. Cotton will freeze sweat on skin, resulting in burns and frostbite etc.
- Potentially a ‘pilot suit’ eg. I/O Merinos pilot suit. Really good base layer, all over coverage will protect from any wind leaks.
- Socks - 4 pairs, often worn at the same time. Bamboo socks are great
- Balaclava - Must have. I recommend the Klim Glacier or equivalent. Really good product that will wick sweat away while keeping you warm
- Gloves, inner and outer. Make sure you have good inner gloves that give good dexterity, and really good outer gloves that have really really good insulation. Your hands get cold first, and cold hands are no fun. It’s probably not a bad shout to have a pair of work gloves, that combine good dexterity with cold weather proofing. They will be your friend during a break down or camp setup.
- Boots - -40deg, waterproof boots. You CAN buy boots in Russia, they do cater for extreme cold weather, BUT I have Baffin boots and I wouldn’t swap them for anything. The Russian copies are adequate, if you want comfort buy your boots early, Amazon have good deals on Baffins and their equivalent. MUST HAVE REMOVABLE LINERS
- Bamboo/Merino underpants. Good for heat control, and wicking sweat away. Don’t laugh, but anything that can cut down on the horrific odour you will find yourself generating is worth it. Also, again, NO COTTON.
- Wooly hat/beanie. For working around camp etc, you’ll need some good headware that isn’t your balaclava.
- Work Gloves. These will be handy for setting up tents, cooking, eating, drinking, and packing up, when your thick riding gloves aren’t practical
- Yoga Mat, foil lined on one side at least. This was a super handy gear ‘hack’. You can use the mat as boot insole material, just cut out the shape of your boot inners. You can also use leftover mat as padding/insulation for the seats, which are…. Agricultural?
- Sun glasses - Polarised. There is a lot of glare when the sun is out, these will help reduce fatigue, and keep you looking sharp.