A quick look at the Bedouin, in their sandals, robes and shemaghs, will confirm you don’t need lots of expensive, high-tech equipment to trek in the Sinai: you can actually get by with surprisingly little compared to other areas of the world. Some things ARE essential though, like good footwear. And although not ESSENTIAL, other things can enhance the trekking, such as a pair of binoculars. You’ll need two bags: a bigger rucksack, which you’ll use off trail; and a smaller daypack that you can walk with on it (if you ever need to take a big bag on trail, a camel will carry it). And whatever you do bring, keep it light: chances are, you won’t need as much as you think. If in doubt, leave it out.
FOOTWEAR The Sinai’s trails are rough, the rock is abrasive, and its hot surfaces make soles all the more vulnerable to nicks and tears so – whatever you bring – make sure it’s durable. Don’t bring any footwear near the end of its life and if you’ll be staying a long time, bring two pairs. Sandals are good for lowland desert areas as they don’t fill with sand; but they leave your feet open to sunburn, snakes and falling rocks. So don’t use them in the mountains.
CLOTHES The Sinai gets cold in winter – often below freezing – and people have died from hypothermia before. Even in the hotter months desert nights can be cold so ALWAYS carry something warm. ALWAYS carry a waterproof too – even if it’s just a plastic poncho – as rain can fall in any month (it’s most common in November to May). Good headwear to keep your face and neck shaded is vital too. The Bedouin wear a traditional chequered headscarf called a shemagh: brilliant in the hot and cold,(you can buy them in the Sinai). Finally, always dress modestly: men and women should both wear trousers – NOT SHORTS.
SLEEPING GEAR Tents aren’t a big feature in the Sinai. Most of the time, you sleep under the stars. When it’s cold you might use natural shelter; old huts, hermit cells etc. Tents CAN be good though; especially in winter, or on longer group expeditions where you want your own space. You’ll need a good 3 season sleeping bag in winter; a 2 season bag is fine in hotter times. Thermarest-style mats are prone to puncture: the desert is full of thorns. A better alternative is a thin, lightweight foam type that straps on your rucksack.
COOKING EQUIPMENT – The Bedouin cook mostly on open fires but wood is getting increasingly scarce so a camping stove is more eco-friendly. The catch is you can’t fly with the gas canisters OR get them in the Sinai. You CAN pick them up from Cairo, but only Campingaz models (try the Alpha Market on Al Malek Al Afdel Street in Cairo’s Zamalek district). An MSR-type stove that burns pretty much any type of fuel is a good bet. A mug, plate/ bowl and cutlery can be useful too, but they’re not essential.
WATER GEAR – Ordinary plastic bottles can spring leaks if dropped so take a tough plastic or aluminium trekking bottle. Platypus-type bladder bottles are good and some of them have hoses that you can drink through too: always good for staying hydrated in the sun. As for what you drink itself, the Bedouin gulp water straight down from drinking sources and many trekkers follow. You CAN do that but we recommend – just to be safe – you purify what you drink. Chlorine or chlorine dioxide tablets are both good, but take neturalising tablets to get rid of the taste (or use a fruit powder like TANG, available in local shops). Another option is a UV purifying pen, like a STERIPEN.
OTHER IMPORTANT KIT – Fire is essential so ALWAYS carry lighters/ matches. Take two cigarette lighters for every three days on trail as sand wears ignition cogs down fast. A flashlight is important and a headtorch keeps hands free for other stuff. Candles are good in huts, caves etc. String or paracord is always useful, especially getting water up from bucketless wells. A good knife is essential and binoculars are great for spotting routes and wildlife. Whistles are good for summoning help in an emergency and reflectors are excellent in sunny desert skies too: they’ll be seen from further away, including by search helicopters.
OTHER ODDS & ENDS – The Sinai is beautifully photogenic so take a good camera. ‘Rugged cameras’ are best as they’re waterproof, meaning windblown sand won’t get inside. Remember enough batteries and memory cards. A cheap mobile is important; you can use it to call in taxis from remote trailheads or help in emergencies. Other things to consider: a photocopy of your passport; your insurance policy; a pair of ear plugs and nail clippers.