Maggie has been working on the Mongol Derby since it began in 2009. This means she’s seen her fair share of under-prepared riders, here are her tips on what to wear on the Derby:
Helmets are compulsory, a decent lightweight one is essential. I would recommend trying LAS (an Italian brand), Troxel , Tipperary and Zilco for starters. A few folk have worn good quality cycling helmets too – just get something that’s going to protect your bonce and be comfortable. You'll be wearing it for many hours.
A good BUFF is a great idea too, wear it around your neck, over your face for great all round protection from sun, sand , wind and rain. (Here's a great 'How To' video from Jules, BUFF head honcho and Derby Veteran.)
A good hi-tech lightweight top is essential. Something that breathes, keeps you warm, cool, dry and comfortable – you'll be living in it day and night. Merino wool is your best bet for this, there are hundreds of brands out there now.
Ladies; a good, comfortable sports bra is essential. You'll need this even on the drive into town from the airport, so you certainly will need it on the steppe.
You’ll need something waterproof but lightweight and windproof for on top. It’s worth looking at the whole sportswear market for this part of the body protection, as riding wear is usually a decade behind other sports and adventure kit.
Some may want a body protector, if you do, make sure you really try it out. It’s not a 10 minute cross country course, you are potentially in it for 10 days in all weathers. I would definitely not recommend the “air jacket” types, you are almost guaranteed to hit the deck at some point in time, and your steed will definitely get scared off by the airbag.
A fisherman’s/photographer’s waistcoat, with lots of pockets on your front, is a great top layer, keeping all your essentials within easy reach when mounted.
Undies are always the most essential bit to get right. Pants need to be seamless (seriously – no seams), breathable, lightly padded, boxer cut – there are a number of equestrian brands worth looking at. Or again, you could go out of the equestrian arena into the cycling camp - cycling shorts or tri- shorts. Buy lots of different ones and start trying now. Many of the riding tights on the market also have padding and in fact are designed to wear “commando” so you may want to give that a go too.
Which brings me to the Jods – leave the leather seaters at home. Endurance tights were designed for the job, being lightweight, cool, warm and easily dried, seamless and just plain comfy. Good brands to look for Tahooka , Irideon and Kerrits – they are all fantastic with handy pockets etc. Performance Equestrian have their own make; Perfeq, and they are made to measure and design, which is great for those of you who feel the need for colour co-ordination or patterns. Many also incorporate a bit of compression which will also help with your circulation, lactic acid build up and recovery. Just ask any ex-rider about “Mongol Derby Cankles”, you’ll get the idea. A few folks have worn their much loved wrangler and fair play to them , but they are heavy and horrid once wet and with a distinct lack of tumble driers... you get the idea.
Roping gloves might be your best bet, despite their heavy weight. In the wet, synthetic gloves may be better, as they will dry quicker and retain their shape – again, give different gloves a shot at home in training. If you and your steed part company letting go is not a good option and hanging on with no gloves will hurt.
Good gloves are essential from a hygiene point of view, you’re not riding your preened show pony types and there will be lots of grime, grease and dirt not to mention a good few creepy crawlies in those manes – going straight from horse to ger and dinner table will be marginally less of a health hazard if you always wear gloves to hand your horses. Spares might sound like a luxury in your 5 kg but you’ll use half as many wet wipes trying to clean your hands if you are never without gloves.
Now we're down to the nitty gritty. Ariat really do make the best boots on the market, lightweight, weatherproof, hardwearing and exceptionally comfortable – worth every penny – honestly. I’d go for short boots (like the Waterproof Telluride) and half chaps (Performance Equestrian again make to measure as do Just Chaps) , as these are easier to run in. Don’t think you won’t be running at some point. Wool socks will breathe and keep feet cosy at night, and some Goretex socks or Sealskinz would be an idea for those days where you’re crossing rivers and splashing through floodplains, or just those days you're getting rained on – one out of 5 days are usually wet in August.
Again , some folks appreciate some compression in their feet and ankles because they take a hammering on the race. This is something to experiment with, know your body and how it responds to a repeated kicking.
Stirrups- consider these a really important part of your kit – you need to know what type of stirrup is going to suit and help you along the journey. The same goes for the question of leathers or fenders – which ever you choose they must be able to thread through the stirrup bars. The stirrup slots are 1.5 inches. There are many different types of endurance type stirrups but they may just not suit you – beg, borrow or steal some different ones to try as you build on your training. Those of you in the UK or coming through the UK are welcome to try from me. Honestly chaps, get it right before you come to Mongolia!