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-   -   Advice for travel through Russia (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/northern-asia/advice-for-travel-through-russia-37073)

Baron Bolton 10 Aug 2008 17:02

Advice for travel through Russia
Hello folks,

I'm ramping up the planning for my RTW trip starting next year, and I could do with all the help I can get I think.

I'm wondering what kind of weather I'm likely to encounter as I cross Russia, probably entering from Ukraine in May, across to Mongolia for June/July, and I'm keen to have a go at the road of bones.

I realise this question branches into all kinds of others. I've looked into transport from Russia, across to North America, and it looks like Vladivostok is a more viable option than Magadan. However the appeal of the road of bones is very strong.

Anyway, to start with, can anyone shed some light on the climate I'm likely to encounter, so I can buy my sleeping bag! Is a -15 degree centigrade bag over the top?

many thanks

MountainMan 10 Aug 2008 17:54

Hey Baron,

Couple of quick comments, in regards to a bag I'd take a 0 to -5 bag, tops. You can always wear all your clothes to increase the warmth and if it actually did get to -15 you'll be looking for a cheap hotel rather that your freezing tent!

Also, I would definitely bring a synthetic fill bag rather than down. IMHO the opinion that rain and wet will be the biggest issue that you face rather than pure cold and man made fibers provide some warmth when wet, down not at all. The downside to synthetic bags are that they don't pack down as much so use up more space.

In regards to transport to North America, you should really think of Korea to Vancouver or Seattle as your most likely option. At the end of the day I woudl guess that 9 out of ten bikers end up shipping this way due to various factors suchas timing/cost etc. They have restarted direct flights from Vlad to Anchorage this summer which provides another option again, but the estimated cost from someone that was there and looking at it seemed quite prohibitive for most budgets. Can't remember the exact estimate, but they were charged for two segments, first to Kamchatka, and Kam to Anchorage.

Hope that helps, have a great ride.:)

Baron Bolton 10 Aug 2008 19:16

Thanks Mountainman, that's a good start for my investigation.

I figured I might need a warmer bag for the Russian leg of the trip, but it makes sense to head for a hotel if it's silly cold I guess. Is this advice based on your own investigation, as I see you're planning to head to Russia..?

The option of synthetic Vs down seems to divide opinion. I had thought I'd move to down, after travelling with my North Face synthetic bag.
I reasoned that it can't be that hard to keep a sleeping bag dry, but maybe this is mis-guided.
It's either going to be in an Ortlieb bag, or in my (hopefully still) water-proof tent.

Shipping info greatly appreciated, I was slowly coming to a similar conclusion. Do you know if you can ship from Magadan to Korea? Also, any ideas on total cost to ship from Russia to N.America?
Is my desire to try the road of bones stupid, and what time of year is best?

KTMmartin 10 Aug 2008 23:55

I would say that -5 would be fine as long as you're done by the start of September. I had a light snow fall in western mongolia at the end of Aug.

Also, a sleeping bag can easily get soaked by tent condensation as well as sweat so +1 synthetics. Also can be stuffed down as opposed to rolled, and if you do drop into a river it's not the end of the world.

motoreiter 11 Aug 2008 14:02

I would also recommend synthetic instead of down.

Regarding temps: I just finished a trip across Russia from Chita to Anapa (Black Sea), beginning end of May, ending end of June. It was pretty chilly out east, and there were several inches of snow on the road b/n Chita and Ulan Ude a few days before we got there; by the time we arrived, it was probably in the mid-fifties (Fahrenheit), and there was still quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road in the passes. From Ulan Ude to maybe Tyumen the weather was generally in the mid-sixties and cloudy/rainy. By the time we got to the Volga region (around Saratov), it was pretty warm (low eighties or hotter) and sunny.

Hope that helped.

Baron Bolton 11 Aug 2008 19:16

Excellent, thanks Martin and Motoreiter. I wasn't aware down had to be rolled, and I think that would start to grate after a few weeks,

I think I'll go for a -10 bag, and hope to have a cosy nights sleep even if 2009 turns out to be a cold year. Still not 100% decided on down/synthetic, but there seems to be a growing argument for synthetic here.
Have you had problems with down, or always chosen synthetic?

Specific temperatures related to Russia are useful, I'd figured it would be colder.

Any suggestions for specific sleeping bags or makes? Obvious variables being important; warmth, weight, size, cost.

MountainMan 12 Aug 2008 04:06

Hey Baron,

To your question, down bags are great as well, general use as well as for cold weather pursuits like snow camping and for very cold temps. But for general travel, anything around the freezing mark, and potentially damp places (like Vancouver or the UK:)) I lean toward the synthetic. There are endless debates about all this though, it's kind of like asking a motorcyclist is they should use sythetic oil or not:)

We don't really think about it, but our bodies produce a fair bit of sweat and over time, if you don't get a chance to dry your bag out during the day, it will slowly become more and more damp and lose it's warmth. As KTMartin mentioned above, condensation also adds to this. Some slick salesman will point out the waterresistant shell on their down bags, this all helps, but it will still get damp. There are too many things to think about so I defer to making sure that if the whole kit got really wet, it would still provide some insulative value. Your preference though, most man made fibers are pretty close to the same as far as I can tell. Any brand name (eg. Marnot) from a name supplier (eg. MEC, REI on this side of the pond) is fine.

In regards to your question about Russia, we were in the east last June, wasn't that cold except a few days but it was a bit wet. Mild though, when compared to the extreme unspoken danger of a riding companion that snores like a runaway freight train...

There is no shipping from Magadan to Korea that I have heard of. There is a current shipping thread of the guys getting out of Vlad though. Good info there.

motoreiter 12 Aug 2008 05:43

Just to make sure, I thought I'd point out that the temps I specified were daytime temps, got a bit cooler at night.

spakur 12 Aug 2008 09:08


I just returned from a from a trip. Spent 7 weeks in Russia and Mongolia. Started end of june and finished a couple a days ago. The temperatures vary a lot depending on weather vonditions and altitude. I had day temperatures from +20-40 and night temperatures from about +5-15. Some nights I spent above 2000 meters and it was cold in the morning (+5C?). My sleeping bag is rated at -4 comfort, but under +10 I am freezing in it. I am a bit sensitive to cold, so it also depends on the person sleeping in it...

Good luck with your planning!

colebatch 13 Aug 2008 10:26

Temperatures you will encounter will vary. The steppe area around Volgograd can be 40 degrees C and more in midsummer, but will be cooler when you are there. Even in the middle of siberia, in June / July / August it will vary from 5 degrees to 35 degrees C depending on the weather pattern passing thru and altitude you are at.

Henn 13 Aug 2008 13:43

I've just done a trip Vladivostok - Kazakhstan (mid-May to late-July). Things varied between bloody hot and cool during the days (and we almost entirely avoided rain, though there were two or three showers) and at night 0-10 I'd think.

I had a down bag rated to +5 and never had to resort to clothing. Though my girlfriend felt the cold MUCH more and at times was fully rugged up. So what bag to take depends on how much you feel the cold (leaving the down vs synth issue well alone).

Mongolia will be stinking hot most of the times in those months unless you're way up in the Altai.

And definitely look up all the bike clubs you can while in Russia. From my experience they are super-friendly, good fun and can put you in touch with any repairs/parts you need.


arunp 13 Aug 2008 19:26

We drove across Russia and Mongolia this year in May and June. it was hot but not too bad. It’s bearable. Highest it reached in Russia was 92F and Mongolia 95F. At night gets cold. not too cold in Russia but Mongolia you do need heating.
In Mongolia stay at Oasis Guest house, which is across busy UlaanBaatr town? But it's great. You get to sleep in GER or guest house- http://www.intergam-oasis.com/. The owner name is Sybille. Very friendly and helpful people. They are biker themselves.

be careful on Road from Chita to Vladivostok. have bunch of spares. Learn some key Russian words: such as eggs, bread, chicken, pork, beef, soup.
watch out for police, especially in west. They are greedy and will stop you. Be ready. Don’t give anything -we didn't. They will always use excuse that you crossed the white line. As soon as you see road sign -ANC, slow down and keep the bike straight. DO NOT PASS no matter how slow the vehicle in front of you. They have low tech cameras at check point to intimidate the drivers. Don’t give in and they will let you go.
Let me know if you need more information.
there pictures on my site for roads
Welcome to Drive Around the World

Best of Luck.

Baron Bolton 13 Aug 2008 22:34

This is great information, thanks very much people.
I'm working away at the moment, and just have a few minutes to skim through the above posts, before patchy internet access cuts out entirely.

Hearing people refer to recent trips, really brings home the reality of setting off for the long haul. I can't wait to be in the thick of it myself.
Thanks again

motoreiter 14 Aug 2008 13:51


Originally Posted by arunp (Post 202258)
watch out for police, especially in west. They are greedy and will stop you. Be ready. Don’t give anything -we didn't. They will always use excuse that you crossed the white line. As soon as you see road sign -ANC, slow down and keep the bike straight. DO NOT PASS no matter how slow the vehicle in front of you. They have low tech cameras at check point to intimidate the drivers. Don’t give in and they will let you go.

We must have been in different countries...I just finished a ride from Chita to Anapa (on the Black Sea). I speak Russian pretty well. At least once into the Urals, I tried to stay on small roads rather than the main truck routes. Rarely saw police, and when I did see them, they were very friendly, usually just asked about the bike. Rarely even had to show any documents. Only exception was Bashkiria (Bashkortistan), where they were out in force and pretty greedy. If you don't pass slow vehicles in Russia, well, you're in for a long ride and will be in danger from retreads or other stuff falling from the slow trucks in front of you. Pass as often as possible!

roadsacallin 17 Aug 2008 01:53

sleeping bag
I'd recommend getting a silk sleepsack in addition to your sleeping bag. They keep your bag clean, add a few degrees of warmth, work great in hostels, pack super small, etc. If it gets really cold, you might want to get your body temp up by exercising before getting into your bag. As you cool down, your bag and heats up, rather than your cold bag sucking the heat out of you. Of course you'll need a ThermaRest as well.

Take care-

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