Me (left) and former Derby rider Sarah Cuthbertson check out some of the horsey adventures at the Outdoor Adventure show.

Me (left) and former Derby rider Sarah Cuthbertson check out some of the horsey adventures at the Outdoor Adventure show.

The Mongolians have a word – zud – that describes winters where temperatures plummet to 50 degrees below zero and their livestock freeze to death.

I’ve been thinking about zuds as I trek to work swathed in my parka and sorrels this last week. And when I start to bitch about my Starbucks falling instantly cold during these frigid marches, I remind myself people around the world endure far worse hardships in the cold.

A Mongolian herder would no doubt snicker at my sissy city girl ways. But even that isn’t enough to get me out riding in these conditions.

To fill my time and assuage my guilt over the riding hiatus, I’ve turned to assembling my ‘kit’ – that little bag of survival goodies I’ll bring with me to Mongolia. All the gear I pack can’t weigh more than 11 pounds and that 11 pounds has to see me through approximately ten 12-hour days of riding.

Because of what’s going on outside, I’ve got staying warm on my mind. In August in Mongolia, the temperatures can soar to almost 40 degrees Celsius during the day but dip to around 5 degrees Celsius at night. In speaking with former riders, a common observation is how cold they were at night.

My mission has become sourcing the lightest, warmest sleeping gear. This mission led me to Europe Bound, a travel outfitting store in Toronto, where I learned that my previous calculations of the costs of equipment might have been a little, um, conservative. In fact, the right sleeping bag and mat could swallow half my anticipated budget for gear.

Fascinating facts learned in the last week:

  • The marvels of modern fabrics mean we now have sleeping bags that weigh less than two pounds and keep you toasty in 30 below.
  • Said sleeping bags cost about a thousand bucks.
  • Tack on another hundred bucks if you want the Cadillac of sleeping mats –the one the self inflates and weighs less than two pounds.

One former Derby rider suggested I look for used sleeping kits.

I don’t know much about the used sleeping bag market. Do you go on Craigslist to source a good used sleeping bag? Is it prying to ask if said bag has been sullied by a night of passion in the wild? Suffice to say the prospect of sleeping in someone’s former love nest or dirty dead skin cells is not worth saving a few hundred bucks to me.

What a wall of $500 sleeping bags looks like.

What a wall of $500 sleeping bags looks like.

On a positive note, I solved half this sleeping problem over the weekend. Former Derby rider Sarah Cuthbertson was nice enough to invite me to the Outdoor Show at the International Centre in Mississauga. She tried reassuring me I didn’t need a sleeping pad and the ground was just fine and another 50-something year-old Derby rider went without a mat last year. I wasn’t buying it. The prospect of riding a nappy bucking horse while I’m nursing a stiff back scares me more than the cost of good sleeping stuff. So we spent several hours poking through gear until I finally found a Thermarest pad on sale for 80 bucks. Done. I’m at the age where I value my body more than the cost of a night on the town.

The pad weighs just over a pound and rolls up into a nice tight pack. I inflated it over the weekend and it feels like lying on one of those deluxe Lululemon yoga mats you splurge for when you think you’re gonna do yoga every day.

Still looking for the sleeping bag though. And I’m not willing to scrimp on my Z’s. Any sleeping bag recommendations are welcome – I’m looking for something that weighs less than two pounds and keeps you warm to 0 degrees.