We've compiled a list of what people have brought along with them as they started their Peace Corps assignments, what they wish they had left behind, and what was nice to get in the mail.

First, we have a list of what Mrs. Larsen's second grade class at E.B. Holman School thought Sarah Keinath should bring to Nepal.


What to Bring?

A List for Nepal:

One large backpack, one medium size backpack, one daypack (brought on the plane):

CLOTHES and SHOES
- T-shirts: 3
- 3/4 sleeve button down shirts: 2
- long sleeve button down shirts: 1
- "hiking" pants (the kind that dry quick and zip off to shorts): 1
- cotton pants: 1
- jeans/ slacks: 2 (one of each)
- long skirts: 3
- thick winter socks: 3-4 pair
- cotton socks: 4 pair
- underware: 15
- bras/ sports bras: 7
- shorts: 2
- men's cotton boxers (to sleep in): 1
- thermal sleeping pants: 1
- chacos sandals
- sturdy hiking boots
- day hiking shoes (walking shoes - I wear these like sneakers)
- hand towel
- large bath towel
- wash cloth
- Heavy fleece shirt (1) *
- light fleece shirt (1) *
- long sleeve thermal type (poly propoline) shirt (2) *
- down jacket (north face) that stuffs to very small size (1) *
- wool gloves (1 pair) *
- winter cap (1) *

NON-CLOTHES
- therma rest sleeping pad
- thermarest chair frame to put sleeping pad in when not used to sleep on (this has been great to have)
- down 15 degree sleeping bag
- trekking poles (useful here)
- boot gaiters (don't need!)
- Beets
- Notebooks/ pens/ folders for work
- The New Forester
- Other forestry books: 2
- two novels
- CD's
- CD walkman (I bought computer speakers in Nepal, but they may not be available where you are)
- batteries (rechargable a very good idea)
- eye contacts and solution (I do wear them occasionally)
- extra glasses (as per PC reg's)
- lotions
- soap
- Tom's of Maine deodorant: 2
- Tom's Toothpaste: 2
- toothbrush: 2
- hangable toiletries holder: 1
- daily planner book/ address book

Bolivia:

a few changes of clothes, a water filter (never used it), a solar shower (never used it), my sandals (used them a lot), my boots (used them all the time), my hat (used it all the time until it was stolen), a good knife, cassettes, tape player, photos from the states (really good thing to have), lots of books (the best thing to have).

Paraguay

our packing list suggested a ton of collared shirts, nothing too skimpy (skirts below the knee), no sandles, etc. Unfortunately I followed their advice and brought cotton collared short sleeved shirts, which I only wore during training. I found out after I arrived that I could wear birkenstock-style shoes, but not teva-style shoes. Basically, we needed to dress in a manner that didn't offend our language trainers.

Things I brought that were helpful: long skirts made of thin material, tevas, items to layer like thin fleeces, long sleeve t-shirts, winter coat, boots, socks, and comfortable pants. Clothes that I purchased in the US were of much higher quality than those available in Paraguay and lasted almost two years. I also had a lot of clothes made cheaply for me. I was warned not to take denim, as it takes forever to dry in the colder months. It was good advice. Thin denim was available in Paraguay to purchase.

I also brought books, a journal, addresses, photos, camara, batteries, film, Dr.bronner's all-purpose soap, a cook stove (which I only used on vacations), running shoes (which I was unable to run in for cultural reasons), US stamps (to send with volunteers going back to the states), the infamous Beets book, sleeping bag, and markers for children to use.

The Gambia

Two large back packs and one medium day pack, say 1750ci. (I would recommend getting a pack in between a large backpacking pack and a day pack and cut-off all those ridiculous waist and chest straps. Don’t get a book bag, those are uncomfortable. Take something you can walk 10-20 km with. You should be able to pack everything you need for a week into it; and it is a lot less than you might think).


About 6-7 t-shirts
Underwear
One dress shirt
One pair jeans, one pair of nice pants, one pair of comfortable pants
Two pairs of shorts
Few pairs of socks
One warm sweatshirt 'hoodie'
swim suit
One pair of running shoes (too hot to wear)
One pair of outdoor type shoes (too hot to wear)
One pair of tevas that died after two weeks in country.
One good soft towel (the most essential travel item for all Hitchhikers)
One Japanese saw (useless)
Coffee grinder and French press (I gave this up for Nescafe unfortunately).
Gas camping stove (useless)
Laptop computer with DC adaptor, (insured against damage and theft)
Solar panel with built in charge controller (10watt) which is a little bit too small.
All the important books and papers from MTU.
Tinker toys
Digital Camera
CD player and CDs (I don't think this is practical)
Minidisk player (more practical, and you can record)
World Maps
Fishing pole and lures. (great idea)
2 years supply of contacts and solution
a small supply of toiletries which I never needed (all you need is a barof soap, malaria pills(supplied by PC), a toothbrush and paste (you canbuy anywhere).
Power converter stuff.
Frisbee
Nerf Football
Pictures from home
A six-pack of fat tire beer (the best thing I brought, the first to be gone)
Leatherman (stolen)
Coloring crayons (not used much, can buy them here)
A good pair of sunglasses.
Sleeping Bag
I mailed myself a box of books.
Compass (almost useless)
Travel books (already many copies in country)
Good pens a few nice notebooks for journaling.
That crazy bag lock thing.
Combination lock and key type locks
Waterbottles (useless)
Large plastic tarp (useful, but unnecessary)
I think I had quite a bit more of this type of useless stuff. Don’t bother yourself with it.

 

What I would take now:
One large day pack and one larger backpack.
two button short sleeve shirts
2 Underwear
One pair of good sandals
one pair of comfortable pants
one pair of shorts (to double as swim suit)
One warm sweatshirt 'hoodie'
One good soft towel (the most essential travel item for all Hitchhikers)
Laptop computer with DC adaptor, (insured against damage and theft)
Solar panel with built in charge controller (10-watt) which is a little
bit too small.
All the important books and papers from MTU.
Digital Camera
Minidisk player (more practical, and you can record)
2 years supply of contacts and solution
Frisbee
Pictures from home
A six-pack of fat tire beer (the best thing I brought, the first to be gone)
Leatherman (stolen, but useful for grafting)
A good pair of sunglasses.
Dial Combination lock for my house.
A carton of my favorite cigarettes (American spirit).
two rolls of duct tape for beekeeping

Anyway its not about what you take with you…

Ghana

Two pairs of pants including a pair of jeans. Jeans are tough and sturdy but also good for trades. Two skirts, about 5 T-shirts and a long sleeve button down shirt. Two pairs of shoes (Tevas, running shoes). Good quality cotton underwear. For Ghana, they suggested bringing 21 underpants I think so you could wear a few throw them out when the elastic no longer worked and then pull some more out. One girl in our group during training had used all 21 pairs and I saw her in the bathroom washing out all 21 three weeks into training! Other than clothes I sent myself books through an M-Bag which was a great. One camera, camera batteries, lots of film. A Teflon fry pan was really useful. Sheet set. Herbal bath oils.

Panama

two nice shirts and two nice skirts that matched each other, pair of sandals, 2 pr. boots (useless as well), 2 pr. pants, three t-shirts, swimsuit, 5 socks, 5 undies, 4 bras- 2 sports two other, books, watercolors, charcoal, harmonica (broke) journal, fleece jacket and pants (need sometimes) small backpack (very useful) lots of little extras

Honduras

10 T Shirts
Running shoes, hiking boots, Chacos sandals (very good to have)
4 button down short sleeve shirts - very useful in "polite" Honduras
Rainjacket, fleece
3 khaki pants - good, since they're lighter than jeans
Dark colored Linen pants - nice, light, good for looking presentable
Laptop, Digital Camera, CD walkman, CDs
Leatherman (already stolen)

Panama

About 4 dresses, not really dressy but professional and cool enough. 1 skirt, for professional use too. REI Camper pants, it makes you look like a dorky tourist but it is a life saver when you go on long hikes. Many t shirts and many sleeveless (good thing). A couple work pants (2nd hand store). Most of my stuff is either falling apart, is trashed, or lost. I am now buying new clothes, slowly. I did bring a good hat for sun protection, good pair of Merrel sandals, gym shoes. 2 pairs of glasses, 15 pairs of contact lenses ( I got them free from an eye doc in Houghton, he travels on medical tours to bring glasses to central american countries), a solar battery charger, cd's, a small computer, tampons, vitamins other than daily, books, english dictionary, tape recorder, camera

Togo

Two bags and a backpack held everything)
Clothes:
1 pair jeans - (useless)
1 pair 'sport' pants
1 pair khakis
2 pairs bike shorts
1 pair sleep shorts
3 T-shirts
2 button-down long sleeve shirts
walmart packable rain jacket
light wieght hooded sweatshirt
2 weeks worth (cotton!) underware
7? bras
10 pairs of sox
1 sleveless dress - ankle length
1 just-past-knee-length skirt
2 tank tops
1 White long sleeve shirt (what was I thinkning!)
2 yards of fabric for clothing (plenty here,
unneccesary)
one large flat sheet
Two pillowcases


Other:
MTU books
Beets
Bible
4 or 5 leisure books
Short-wave radio
2 Nalgene Bottles
Solar batter charger and batteries (useless)
Battery operated fan (Too low output to make any
difference)
Bike seat
Non-stick frying pan
tennis shoes
tevas
birks
passport photos
some kool-aide
salt/garlic/cayenne
camera and film
journals
CD player and CDs (Should have brought tapes)
pictures of the homeland
jump rope
koosh balls
frisbee
volleyball
bike/ball pump
Sewing needles and thread
safety pins
duct tape
AA flashlight
watch and replacement battery

Toiletries:
travel size shampoo and conditioner
one bar soap
two toothbrushes
two toothpastes
one sun-tan lotion
travel size bottle of lotion
hair things
2 bandanas
sting-ease
Large towel (Doesnt dry, pain to wash!, dont use it)
Washcloth (Makes a great hot-pad)
One pump bottle hand sanitizer
One roll of toilet paper
2 bottles aleeve
a few bandaids

Editor's Note: Divide the things you plan to take into three piles: (1) absolute necessities (2) necessities and close to necessities and (3) luxury items. Absolute necessities should not exceed the weight limit specified by Peace Corps. If the absolute necessities pile does exceed the weight limit reduce the pile until it no longer exceeds the weight limit. Take half of the items from the absolute necessities pile. Take nothing from the necessities and close to necessities pile. Take one or two items from the luxury pile.


Most useful Item:

Nepal:

chaco sandals. They are strong and can be adjusted to be worn with thick socks or bare feet. I think they are much better than Tevas, which I have owned before and broke when i was hiking. They can be very casual or can be worn with something a little more fancy (if you clean them up!) I wear them almost every day and I have had them for over two years. Chaco will also resole them at a cost, which yes after two years I do need to have done.

Bolivia:

my birkenstocks and my hat

Paraguay:

tent - I used it a lot and it was not an affordable or available item in Paraguay. Also a walkman (they were available in country, too). I would put it on during bus trips, even if I wasn't listening to anything, so people wouldn't harrass me.

The Gambia

My Laptop Computer and Solar Panel. or My Chaco sandals (I wore Chinese flip flops, the official PC footwear, for
two years and my feet will never be the same.) Or my digital camera.

Ghana.

Good shoes. I walked a lot and the quality of shoes available in Ghana wasn’t what I liked. My pair of Tevas lasted the two years and a good pair of walking/running shoes lasted the two years. Of course you can buy cheap shoes and lots of people liked wearing those beach slippers “Charlie watties” but I only used those for the shower. Also, a good shortwave radio helped me through. I thought I’d put this under luxury but I would consider it a necessity. I got this item sent to me and it was so useful, a portable booklight that runs off batteries that you can clip to your book. So useful.

Panama

two things: my LED headlamp and my nalgene bottle. i don´t go ANYWHERE, not even the rice fields, without them.

Honduras

Good hiking boots

Panama

Biodegradeable tampons

Togo

Non-stick frying pan

Editor's Note: Good shoes of some kind get lots of votes.


Least Useful Item:

Nepal:

Boot "gaiters" (strapped on the outside and used to keep water from inside your boots). I haven't worn my boots in the rain - I bought $3.00 plastic boots to wear in the rain or I wear my chacos if I want to brave the leeches.

Bolivia:

My solar shower...I never used it except as a beer bong

Paraguay:

solar battery charger - it didn't work as well as I had anticipated.

The Gambia

Either the Japanese hand saw or my camping flashlight that eats AA batteries....or I have this big mesh wire contraption that can wrap around my backpack to lock it with something. Never did use it.

Ghana

Can you believe I brought a turtleneck. I don’t think I ever wore it although it did get cold during Harmattan and I did use a blanket when I slept at night that I bought there.

Panama

fiction books. there are a bazillion here

Honduras

Long sleeve cotton shirts - heavy and too damn hot

Panama

Sleeping bag and tent, hiking boots. We end up using big rubber boots here

Togo

Solar battery charger and batteries

 


Best Luxury Item:

Nepal

My camera - I bought a better lens before I left and I am so glad that I did. Pictures are invaluable.

Bolivia:

My CD player (I actually purchased it later but still have it)

Paraguay:

my watercolors and a violin. You should ALWAYS bring a luxury item

The Gambia

Six pack of fat tire beer. Packed carefully

Ghana

Herbal bath oils. We had bucket baths, just a couple of drops in the bucket made a big difference!

Panama

my watercolors

Honduras

Digital camera - Film developing is really expensive and not all that great quality. At least here in Honduras, if you don{t have a laptop there are enough computer cafes that its pretty easy to find a place that will let you download and burn your pictures to a CD once in a while at a fraction of the cost of developing film.

Panama

Cd's and camera

Togo

The blanket I 'borrowed' from the Air France flight when arriving in country


One item you wish you had brought along but did not:

Nepal:

Slide film, but I think you can find it in Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) but the quality is uncertain like most things here. I also wish I had a digital camera, as well, but you can't have it all.

Paraguay:

A short wave radio.

The Gambia

A good soils text. Or one of those super long lasting flashlights with the LED lamps that can last like 24 hours. I have a Chinese flashlight that uses cheap Chinese batteries and I hate to think of the pile of batteries I’ve left behind here.

Ghana

Laptop computer. I wanted to keep a better journal and unfortunately I am more comfortable with a computer than paper and pen. And now that I see others who are doing their service a digital camera to go along with the laptop, mostly for ease of documenting this pretty incredible experience.

Panama

a digital camera. we bought one, so much easier than trying to develop film, and pictures get moldy here.

Honduras

Good Gore-Tex rainwear - the cheaper versions just dont cut when it pours

Panama

sweat proof t shirts

Togo

Toss-up between:
-Food stuffs (sauce packets, kool-aide, spices, goodies)
-More underwear

 


Did you bring the amount of weight alloted for your flight to your PC country or more or less?

Nepal:

Much less - I think the weight allotment was 70Kg and I had about 35 - 40Kg. In Nepal, there is SO much available, which is probably the same for all other asian PC countries, but probably not Africa (I'm not sure about Latin America.) You could really come here with some essentials in one bag and get everything you need here in KTM and for a lot cheaper (though less quality, if you are using it in PC, it will probably get ruined, anyway, from dust or travel.)

Bolivia:

less

Paraguay

way less - I only brought 55 lbs!

The Gambia

I was over maybe a pound or two, but the airline (United/SN Brussels) didn't seem to care. I did notice that the laws are different for returning to America, I could take up to 80kg! I took back three giant wood drums. Most of the stuff I found I could do without now and don't use most of the time. I think most volunteers go through this sort of thing when they are getting ready, but really it doesn't matter much what you pack. If I did it again, I would go much more minimal. I would just take my music, computer, solar panel, camera, and the most basic of clothes to get me through a week or two of training (you can always buy 'dead white people clothes' here). Someone can send you stuff once you get there and even if you are out in a small backward little African country you can still get almost anything. Don’t buy very much, you probably own almost everything you need, save you money for travel and beer!

Ghana

More than the allotted weight but others in my group brought less so we average each other out. I didn’t need as many clothes, since I was able to buy local clothes.

Panama

i brought exactly 79 pounds, close to max!

Honduras

Just about the limit

Panama

I brought about the allotted weight limit. It's ok, everyone calls me mom cause I end up carrying things for people in case of emergency

Togo

Much less

Editor's Note: Less is better.


What was the best item you received in the mail?

Nepal:

Tom's of Maine deodorant and toothpaste; CD's; photos from home (can't pick one - they are all great. Anything from home is great to get in the mail!)

Bolivia:

I got some cup o noodles and instant oatmeal from the states. It was a huge hit in my village

Paraguay

My aunt and uncle sent me a lot of books. One day I was reading a book they sent me - The Barbie Chronicles, a collection of essays - and I discovered that my aunt was one of the authors!

The Gambia

M&Ms and good books.

Ghana

Stove Top Stuffing was a nice surprise. Chocolate, M&Ms especially shipped quite well and was so nice to get. Can you tell I’m fixated on food. An aside, a married couple in our group received a chemical camp toilet but it was kind of silly without the chemical to use it properly.

Panama

mix cd´s of music and hand held yatzee

Honduras

Nothing, since nobody loves me except my advisor

Panama

Trail mix, cookies, and pictures

Togo

Smores kit! (Marshmallos, chocolate, grahms, sticks, candle - the works)

Editor's Note: If you have a friend overseas in Peace Corps - send them something, it will make them happy.


Page created 18 December 2003.

Page updated 18 December 2003.

Page maintained by Blair Orr.

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