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Final packing tips

Hello all,

We know that you have already been given a general packing list, but we wanted to give you an updated version for our course (it isn’t much different), but may be helpful for reference and double-checking. We also have a few general packing tips here that we think might be helpful…again, no need to re-pack from scratch here…just hoping that this note can be helpful as you are doing your last pack checks before departure.

First…THINK LIGHT! You will have to put whatever you bring onto the tops of buses and into the backs of trucks, and you may have to carry your bag for long distances. The lighter you pack, the happier you (and the rest of the group) will be! Pack your bag and then walk around the block three times… Anything you can live without? Ditch it.

No suitcases…even the ones with wheels! (:

We will be taking flights with weight restrictions of 20 kg of checked luggage per person so please keep this in mind. And although there will be many opportunities to do your laundry by hand, you’ll be happiest with light, wrinkle-free, quick-dry clothing that doesn’t easily show dirt.


  • A BACKPACK around 45 liters is the best – But you can bring a slightly larger pack if you like. Just remember that you will be carrying it around and the smaller it is the better. Your shoes need to be able to be packed inside your pack.
  • A BACKPACK COVER or a waterproof slip to fit over backpack is important for the group will be traveling during the rain and mud season. HEFTY trash bags (to layer both the inside and outside of your bag) can also work equally well.
  • Small (less than 25 liters) DAY PACK.
  • CAMERA with extra memory cards and a charger. We will have access to power for most of our trip but you might also want to bring an extra battery if you’re worried. Definitely bring some extra heavy-duty ziplock bags as they pack easily and can keep your camera and other valuables dry in a pinch.
  • Small MOSQUITO REPELLENT (smaller than 3 oz) you can buy more in-country.
  • One pair of walking OR hiking SHOES (you don’t need both). The best option is a light, low top, hiker or mountain running shoe that can double as a street shoe. These must be able to fit inside your pack. You do not need high top hiking boots.
  • A pair of inexpensive FLIP FLOPS is convenient and appropriate for homestays and time in rural communities, but they are not appropriate for trekking/wilderness exploration, NGO visits or travel days.
  • One pair of walking SANDALS like Chacos, Tevas, Keens, etc. Again, these should fit inside your pack. Please note: people either love or hate sandals like these. If you love Chacos and wear them all the time they can be great. If you do not want sport sandals you can use almost any other comfortable sandal, including flip flops. There is no need to spend a lot of $$ if you don’t think you will wear them.
  • Small travel size SHAMPOO and conditioner that will last about one week. You can buy more there when you run out. Please note: it is definitely possible to buy a variety of toiletries while on course but it will be very hard or nearly impossible to find the exact same thing (specific brands) you have at home.
  • TOOTHBRUSH and small tube of TOOTHPASTE. These are also available in-country.
  • Small travel size SOAP. You can buy more when you run out.
  • Small hand TOWEL or small lightweight quick dry towel.
  • Small PHOTO ALBUM of pictures of family and friends including pictures of your house and school. Pictures are great for starting conversations or just to ward off homesickness. Consider bringing extra copies to give away as gifts to homestays. Please remember that they need to be culturally appropriate (no bikini shots or shots that show a lot of skin).
  • Small, lightweight HEADLAMP and extra batteries. This is mandatory!
  • A diary or JOURNAL and pens.
  • NECESSARY MEDICATIONS, prescription or over the counter (OTC), with instructions on their use and dosage (by your doctor if by prescription). The Instructor Team will carry a comprehensive medical kit with first aid supplies, OTC medications, and broad-spectrum antibiotics so there’s no need to pack any meds if you don’t want to.
  • SUNSCREEN, 30+, preferably a small bottle. It’s relatively easy to find generic sunscreen brands on course. Also consider bringing lip balm with sunscreen if you think you’ll need/use it.
  • GLASSES or CONTACT LENSES. If you wear contacts make sure you have enough for the entire trip, or if you sport glasses bring a backup pair. Make sure you also being enough contact lens solution with you too as this can be difficult to find in-country.
  • ALARM CLOCK/WATCH Preferably a watch with an alarm, but a small travel alarm clock will work as well.
  • ONE 1L REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES (like a Nalgene) – some students recommend one regular water bottle and one pouch style water bottle that rolls up. Most of the instructors carry one Nalgene and then purchase a supplementary water bottle for hikes. Nalgenes are often nicer than water bottles made of metal because they cool more quickly. We will often be served boiled water, so it is best to find a non-insulated water bottle. Also make sure Nalgenes are bpa-free.
  • STUDENT ID Having this with you will help us as there are sites that will give us discounted entrance tickets. This needs to have an expiration date and be valid. If for whatever reason you don’t currently have a student ID, then bring a picture ID like a driver’s license as this often works. The money that we save during course will largely be added to your student expedition budget which allows you to go big!
  • CASH AND ATM DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS for payments of visas you will need approximately $80 USD cash plus an extra $100 USD cash for incidentals is a good amount to have on hand. You’ll be able to go to the ATM to withdraw more local currency if needed during the program. Having an emergency credit card is also handy in case you need to go to the hospital.
    • Note: Please make sure you CALL YOUR BANK to let them know that you will be travelling from mid-September to mid-December in China BEFORE you depart.
  • For females, TAMPONS are hard to find in China. If you use these please bring a good supply with you. Pads are widely available in cities, but we recommend that you bring your own supply.



  • SUNGLASSES (Look for sunglasses that protect you from 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light).
  • HAT (one that you’ll actually wear on course).
  • Lightweight cotton or silk SLEEPING BAG LINER or simple cotton bedsheet. Sometimes students feel more comfortable sleeping in homestays when they have a sheet from home. It’s your choice.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL YOGA MAT for our budding yogis out there who practice daily yoga, you don’t have to stop because you’re coming on course. We encourage all forms of exercise. It’s good for health and endorphins. These can also double as a sleeping pad when needed.



Please make sure that any clothing you bring is CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE. Anything more than two inches above the knee (shorts or skirts), that exposes your shoulders, or that is low cut or see-through is not acceptable for monastery visits or rural home-stays. In Xishuangbanna at the end of the course, the weather will be hot, but it is inappropriate to wear short shorts, so please bring shorts of an appropriate length. Low-hanging pants that reveal underwear are not appropriate. Sleeveless shirts/tank tops or clothes with swear words or satirical jokes are not appropriate at any time on course.

On the China semester, we will experience an extreme gradient of weather and temperature (from dry, cool and windy nights on the Tibetan plateau (8°C) to hot and humid weather in Xishuangbanna (30°C)) For this reason, we need to pack efficiently so that we are prepared for all elements. Please bring the following:

  • Lightweight RAIN JACKET (should be breathable material).
  • Three or four presentable and polite T-SHIRTs (you will get a Dragon’s t-shirt and this can count as one).
  • One EXTRA T-SHIRT for sleeping in homestays and villages (no tank tops).
  • One nice outfit for special occasions.
  • One or two pairs of lightweight QUICK-DRY PANTS. Note: these do not have to be expensive zip-offs (these can be great but are sometimes pricy), just make sure the pants are comfortable and can dry out quickly. These are great for hiking.
    • Be sure to bring a WARM FLEECE/WOOL PULLOVER or JACKET Fleece is great because it is light, doesn’t hold odors, dries fast and keeps you warm even if it’s wet. This is an essential element of the layering system, and a wool sweater will serve the same purpose. We recommend that students do NOT bring cotton sweaters and sweatshirts, as they are heavy, take a long time to dry and will only make you colder if they get wet.
    • LONG SLEEVE THERMAL UNDERWEAR (TOP AND BOTTOMS) light to mid-weight capilene or polypropylene is the best. Basically, some type of synthetic or wool. No cotton.
    • LIGHTWEIGHT WARM HAT (especially if you feel the cold easily)
  • Seven changes of COTTON UNDERWEAR (should not be visible in any cases).
  • SOCKS 3-5 pairs made out of wool or synthetic material. You will need ONE PAIR OF LONG SOCKS for our trek to avoid leeches.
  • One DEODORANT that you prefer. Many types can be purchased on course.
  • KNEE LENGTH/LOOSE RUNNING SHORTS Like our yogis, our runners don’t have to stop running just because they are on course. We want everyone to be fit and healthy and exercise a great stress reliever. Tight leggings are not appropriate to wear in the villages we stay in but loose, but knee length/loose shorts are great.


  • TOO MANY BOOKS – they are heavy and do not last long in the rainy season. eReaders without internet capabilities like the Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Glowlight are acceptable. Preload your books onto your device and you can carry hundreds of books with you. Tablet-style eReaders are not allowed. We will have our own travelling library on course too that everyone will help to carry.
  • TOILETRIES BIGGER THAN 3OZ You won’t have the space to pack them.
  • BARE MIDRIFFS (no stomach should show at all, any time).
  • HIGH HEELS/INAPPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR You won’t need them and they are a safety risk.
  • FULL SIZE COTTON TOWEL – they are too heavy and won’t dry quickly.
  • MORE THAN one pair of shoes, one pair of sturdy sandals and one pair of flip flops. Please remember that your shoes must fit inside your backpack.
  • JEANS – too heavy and will not have time to dry in the rainy season.
  • Anything made of LEATHER that you don’t want ruined
  • RATTY, SMELLY, TORN UP shoes or flip flops.



  • T-shirts if you decide you need them
  • Toiletries
  • There will also be time to buy gifts and souvenirs at the end of the course, as well as additional boxes or bags for transporting the souvenirs back to the US

Happy packing! And please let us know if you have any questions.

Your 2017 Fall China iTeam.

Joe, Shuier, Gong


p.s. Speaking of packing – any idea what the gentlemen in this antique photo are carrying on their backs? Hint: It’s a big part of the history of Yunnan Province. If you have a guess, please share it here on the Yak Board!