It’s sandy, it’s hot and with questionable loo etiquette, the multi-stage race known as the Marathon des Sables will test you at the best of times. But if you at least make sure you’re half-prepped for the journey and post-race life at camp, the ride may be more comfortable. So for anyone up for this crazy desert adventure (or any other similar challenge), I’ve pulled together my 5 must-have camp items for running the Sahara.
The only help you will receive in the toilet department is what became known by us happy campers as poo bags (and even these are rationed). Needless to say, you’re on your own when it comes to toilet paper. Wemmi wipes are your ideal solutions as they come as they come in a dry tablet form. All you do is add water and they expand to the size of a wet wipe, which you can use to clean your face, body and then finally, well, you know where. A word of warning, do not haphazardly drop the Wemmi wipe into your bottle of water or you could spend up to half an hour trying to fish it back out. Alternatively you could simply de-hydrate wet wipes. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take something as you will not even find foliage that’ll do the job at some camps.
A knife may be mandatory on the Marathon des Sables kit list but this little gem of a tool contained a seriously sharp knife to slice up plastic bottles and a useful pair of scissors for cutting up foot-tape or opening the rather gooey soy sauces and flavouring of my staple camp dinner: chilli noodles. There’s also a pen, tweezers, nail file and toothpick. It weighs virtually nothing (26g) and if you really want to experiment (or the heat has finally got to you), you could create a make-shift shower by piercing holes in the bottom of the plastic bottle by using the toothpick tool.
3. A foil windbreak
Granted my foil windbreak wasn’t the most sophisticated in our tent. As opposed to Matty’s, who had basically moulded a sheet of aluminium, I had made it at the last minute out of injinji sock packaging, aluminium foil and sellotape (A-Team, eat your heart out). It did, however, protect the tiny Esbit fuel tab flame of my Bunsen burner and ensure both my evening noodles and morning porridge were cooked to camp perfection. Of course, food choice is down to you and some people are perfectly happy to forgo the fuss of having to heat up water. Personally, I liked the idea of having a hot evening “meal”.
If you do go down the cooking route, you have to order Esbit fuel tablets from the official site. Be aware that the 20 Esbit tablets you receive are 4g not 12g each. Also ensure that you decant them into a plastic bag – they will disintegrate into dust if left in the box. I didn’t know any of this before I arrived but having a smaller titanium mug meant my use of fuel was way more efficient than my tent-mates and their larger cooking tins.They had to use two tablets to bring the water to the boil whereas mine cooked the noodles with one. I even had spares at the end which I traded for as many painkillers as I could get my hands on.
5. Two sealable plastic sandwich bags
From keeping your Esbit tablets in-tact to protecting your eating apparatus, sandwich bags could not be more useful in the desert. It goes without saying that they are as light as a feather. You can use them to organise your bag into sections, protect your gear (roadmap) or even inflate them into pillows (something I failed to do). Honestly, it’s the little things we take for granted at home that can become multi-purpose in the desert.