Now, this is how you pack for the Sahara Desert.
I first thought about doing the Sahara Expedition in the summer of this year. I’d just become the first woman to walk the Draa River, 1500km in Morocco, and my expedition organiser, Jean-Pierre Datcharry suggested I add the Sahara and then an Atlas stage and walk the whole of Morocco. Sounded crazy at the time, but here I am a few short months later reunited with my Draa team of Brahim, Brahim and Addi (my guides) and our six trusty camels: Hamish, Hunter, Hector, Callum, Alasdair and Sausage.
The Sahara Expedition is 2000km long and will take around 3 months. It starts at Oued Chbika and ends at the Mauritanian border. It is a particularly challenging one to prepare for in terms of clothing and shoes because I face extremes of climate. It gets to be very hot in the daytime – both dry heat and humid heat depending on how close we are to the sea – and very cold at night often reaching freezing point.
I need light clothes with a good jacket for day time so I have gone for the Kiwi Pro trouser and Nosilife Long-sleeved Adventure shirt. The trousers are stretchy which is good for comfort and the top protects against insects and washes and dries really easily. They are also both culturally appropriate – I will be meeting nomads en route so it would be impossible to wear short sleeves or shorts, they’d be horrified at my immodesty! One item of clothing that is totally vital to me is my ExpoLite Jacket. I have it on and off all the time. When you are very hot and sweating and then the temperature drops or you get into some cold shade, you really need to have something handy you can just pull on or you run the risk of getting sick and that isn’t a great option when you have to keep going regardless.
Nighttime is always my biggest worry when I am packing as I need to be able to sleep and that means getting the temperature right. Merino is my saviour and I love the new base layers from Craghoppers. The thing about Merino is that it actually works with your body and keeps your temperature even. I find it super cosy to sleep in and best of all the natural fibre means it doesn’t get too stinky too quickly. We won’t have much water for washing so may go two to three weeks in the same unwashed clothes!
There are other environmental factors too. The walking is across varied terrain but there will be a lot of soft sand which means two things. The first is that you need your boots to be big enough to allow for the inevitable swelling of your feet and they should be light as walking in sand is extremely draining. The second thing is that you need them to let in as little sand as possible. Any footwear that uses mesh (like many trainers) are a nightmare because sand and hot sweaty feet mean blisters and with 2000km ahead, that is to be avoided at all costs. I chose the Craghoppers desert boots. They are light with a flexible sole and are high up on my ankle. This means that they both protect against sand and against snake or scorpion bite – both of which are possibilities. One other great detail is that they have insect covers that stretch across the boots when you take them off and stop anything from crawling in.
So, those are my top kit tips and even though I am doing something very specific, I think they also cover the basic needs of most hikers -although of course, you may need to add a fleece layer and… a rain jacket!