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Some Notes on Packing

Hello from your instructor team, Madeleine, Ian, and Long Yun! We hope you are all reading up about China, practicing your Chinese, and generally getting excited for our incredible summer together! We will be using the Yak Board to share course details and advice as we gear up for the summer. This Yak covers some packing considerations.

You already have a pretty extensive packing list in the Course Preparation Manual, so you should refer to that list when packing. Here are some more thoughts from our instructor team and instructor teams of summers past:


  • Bags: I (Madeleine) usually travel with a 46L backpack, and have been able to live out of it for several months at a time. As the packing list suggests, your larger pack should be between 30-55L, and you should bring a light daypack (just any smaller backpack will do). Don’t worry about exact liter-age here, these are just guidelines. I usually like to carry one or two extra rolled-up tote bags, too, for laundry or quick trips around town.
  • Packing cubes: I use packing cubes to organize my stuff every time I travel, and think they’re a great investment. They can be expensive, though, and plastic or ziplock bags can serve a similar function, keeping things compartmentalized.
  • Water bottles: Bring one or two one-liter water bottles. There will be times where there is only boiled/hot water to drink, so you need a container that can safely hold hot water or tea. Durable plastic (like Nalgenes) or stainless steel is good. Bottled water is widely available.
  • Toiletries: Almost all toiletries are readily available for purchase in China, so you don’t need to bring large quantities of your own from home. One exception is deodorant. If you are partial to any particular brands, then bring your own as you may not find all the exact same brands in China.
  • Period products: U.S. brand pads and tampons have become much easier to find in China over the past few years, and you can definitely find them in cities like Beijing and Kunming. I also recommend using a menstrual cup (such as Diva Cup) as a long-term, sustainable, and healthy solution that is also excellent for travel.
  • Medications: The group will be carrying a fully-stocked med kit with almost all major drugs, including both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Consequently, there is no need for you to bring a huge selection of your own medications. That said, if you have a prescription medication you take regularly, please bring an ample supply – certain prescription medications are very difficult to replace in China.
  • Journals and pens: We will provide a journal and pen to each student in Welcome Packets that we will give you on the plane. It’s up to you whether you’d like to bring your own. You can buy notebooks and pens easily in China.
  • Footwear: Either bring a pair of shoes that is appropriate for both urban settings and for a 2-3 day hike, or bring two pairs of shoes so you will be comfortable in both settings. I always bring my own pair of shower sandals, too, which are easy to buy in China. However, it will be difficult to buy shoes in China if your feet are larger than a EU size 45 or so.
  • Sleeping gear: You do NOT need a sleeping bag or sleeping mat. We will not be camping and will always have beds to sleep in, though they may not be as soft as you are used to in the U.S.

Other Considerations

  • Pack light! The most common feedback we hear from students is that they wished they had brought less stuff. So consider carefully each item you bring. If you forget anything you decide you need, you can almost certainly buy it in China.
  • Temperatures: Kunming will be warm, sometimes rainy, but not cold. The village will be a higher altitude than Kunming so it might get a bit chillier at night, but still not cold. Beijing will be hot. Rain is very possible in Yunnan during the summer.
  • Bring more urban wear than the packing list suggests! Other than a 2-3 day hike and a day hike, we will spend most of our time in the city and the village, so bring clothes you want to wear there.
  • Laundry: You will have opportunities both in Kunming and the village to do laundry, so you don’t need to bring a ton of clothes! Most families in Kunming will have laundry machines (but not dryers).
  • Don’t bring your nicest or favorite clothes–in fact, you may want to bring older clothes that you don’t plan to bring back to the U.S. Long Yun suggests that you can donate some of your old clothes when you leave China. That way, you will have more space for gifts and souvenirs you’d like to bring home.
  • Appropriate clothing: We will be spending a good amount of time in rural areas, and you will notice that local people dress rather conservatively. We think that shorts, skirts, and dresses are fine, but keep them at about knee-length. If you want to wear leggings, bring a pair of shorts or a long shirt to cover your butt.
  • Spending money: Dragons will cover all normal expenses on course, but if you want to buy personal items like souvenirs, postcards, etc., you should bring some of your own money. It is easy to take out cash through ATMs in China using an international debit/ATM card, but make sure to let your bank know you are traveling to China so they don’t freeze the account.
  • Gifts for your host families: You can bring some small, meaningful gifts for your host families. Take some time over the next couple weeks to think of gift ideas!
  • Electronics: Stay tuned for a post about electronics (as well as outlets and converters) coming soon!

Remember, this is all just stuff! Don’t stress too much about what you bring or don’t bring. The most important thing is that you bring yourself and an open mind.

If you have any questions, please ask on the Yak Board or email Madeleine at

We can’t wait to see you next month!

Madeleine, Long Yun, and Ian

(photo by Alain Delorme)