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Updated Packing List

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-ish 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.

We will be taking flights with weight restrictions of 15kg 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.

We recommend that you bring what’s listed here, and not much more. This list has evolved over years of instructor wisdom and student input. Trust us, you won’t need anything else and if you do you’ll likely be able to buy it in-country.

It is very important that you can fit all of your belongings into one backpack (and a day pack) that you are comfortable carrying on your own! Note: you will not have to fit your day pack into your backpack, but you will have to put your shoes inside it (i.e. nothing should be dangling off your pack).

So, without further adieu:

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT (ALL):

  • A BACKPACK around 45 litres 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. We can’t stress this enough. In South East Asian culture, it is veryrude for anyone else to touch your shoes – so please keep this in mind – they need to fit inside your pack.
  • A BACKPACKCOVER 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 a 25 litre) 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 Ziploc 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. 25-35% DEET is the most effective for stopping mosquitoes from actually biting you.
  • 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, Teva’s, Keens, etc. Again, these should fit inside your pack. Please note: people either love or hate sandals like these. If you love Chaco’s 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.
  • TOOTHBRUSH and small tube of TOOTHPASTE.
  • Small travel size SOAP.
  • Small hand TOWEL or small lightweight quick dry towel. When you arrive, there will be opportunities to buy the traditional sarongs and bathing clothing that are used by most people in Thailand.
  • Small, lightweight HEADLAMP and extra batteries. This is mandatory!
  • A diary or JOURNAL and pens. This is a mandatory requirement.
  • 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.
  • 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 RE-USEABLE 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.
  • PASSPORT COPIES It’s a good idea to scan your passport, save a copy on your computer at home and then print out a couple of copies to keep in your pack.
  • CASH AND ATM DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS around $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.
    • Special note: Please make sure you CALL YOUR BANK to let them know that you will be travelling from mid-September to mid-December in Asia (China, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia) BEFORE you depart.

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OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT (ALL):

  • 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 This will keep you warm on our treks, but many students don’t use them otherwise… It’s your choice.
  • SMALL DRY BAG (like a stuff sack). This will come in handy for our water time when you want to keep valuables dry. Also bring extra re-sealable plastic bags. Having your things in stuff sacks smaller bags within your giant pack will make packing, un-packing, and re-packing a lot easier as well as keep your valuables safe from water and rain.
  • ELECTROLYTE PACKETS a small personal supply of Emergen-C, Airborne or alternative electrolyte packets. These will be important to replenish our bodies in the heat and humidity of South East Asia and they will also help treated water to taste different.
  • EARPLUGS, because some of the places that we stay can be quite noisy and if you are a light sleeper please consider bringing a pair. They’re also great for air travel.
  • Bring a travel-sized INSTRUMENT if you play one. Everyone loves music! You can also find some fun instruments on our journey together.
  • GIFTS A big part of South East Asian culture revolves around gift giving. Gift giving has very little to do with the actual gift and a lot more to do with the giving and receiving of any gift. Some things we recommend: Key chains, pins or postcards from your hometown and family photos are always good. It is nice to print hard copies of family photos as your host families will love to have them and you will notice that there are always pictures of past students hanging on walls in the places and homes we visit. Please remember that they need to be culturally appropriate (no bikini shots or shots that show a lot of skin).

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CLOTHING (ALL)

Please make sure that any clothing you bring is CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE. Anything above the knee, that exposes your shoulders, or that is low cut is not acceptable. Light colors that show bras are not appropriate. Low hanging pants that reveal underwear are not appropriate. Sleeveless shirts/tank tops or clothes with swear words or satirical jokes are not appropriate for men or women at any time on course.

We will send you back to get changed if we think what you’re wearing is not culturally or environmentally appropriate. As a good rule of thumb, if you’re questioning whether a piece of clothing is appropriate, it probably isn’t. Being on a Dragons program isn’t a fashion parade. If you feel like you look like a dag, then you’re probably doing it right.

MALE CLOTHING

On the Mekong course, we will experience an gradient of weather and temperature. From dry, cool and windy nights in the mountains to hot and humid weather in the lowlands. 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 (your Dragon’s t-shirt an count as one).
  • At least one COLLARED SHIRT. This can be short-sleeved as it will be hot, but it is important to have one item to “dress up” in. Bring light colors, but try to avoid white entirely as it gets dirty easily.
  • One EXTRA T-SHIRT for sleeping in home-stays and villages (no tank tops).
  • One pair of NICE PANTS (lightweight like Dockers).
  • 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.
  • One pair of LONG SHORTS (they MUST go to your knees). While you’ll see people wearing shorts, the majority of Asian men and women wear pants, even in the heat!
  • One pair of LIGHTWEIGHT SHORTS FOR SLEEPING in home-stays and villages.
  • One RASH GUARD (or quick dry T shirt) AND a pair of BOARD SHORTS (to the knee or below) are also required for swimming. The new European bathing shorts that are not appropriate to swim in.
  • WARM LAYERS:
    • 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.
  • Seven changes of COTTON UNDERWEAR (should not be visible in any cases).
  • SOCKS 3-5 pairs made out of wool or synthetic material.
  • A RAZOR and small bottle or tube of shaving cream. If you have facial hair, it’s appropriate to keep it well trimmed.
  • One DEODORANT that you prefer.
  • 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.

>MALES, DO NOT BRING

  • UNKEPT FACIAL HAIR: a clean-shaven face is the cultural norm. If you do have facial hair, keeping it well-trimmed is more culturally appropriate.
  • Any TANK TOPS.
  • T-SHIRTS that have INAPPROPRIATE or OFFENSIVE wording on them.
  • SHORTS that are ABOVE YOUR KNEE.

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FEMALE CLOTHING

On the Mekong course, we will experience an gradient of weather and temperature. From dry, cool and windy nights in the mountains to hot and humid weather in the lowlands. For this reason, we need to pack efficiently so that we are prepared for all elements. Please bring the following:

  • One Lightweight RAIN JACKET (should be breathable material).
  • Three or four presentable and polite T-SHIRTs (your Dragon’s t-shirt can count as one of your t-shirts).
    • It’s important that these are NOT low-cut, and that your bra is not visible, even when you bend over to say hi to your host siblings. Please make sure that your shirts aren’t too tight, slightly looser or baggy shirts are better. Many styles of women’s v-neck or scoop t-shirts currently available in the US are not appropriate, and tank tops are never appropriate.
  • One polite collared shirt or BLOUSES (Bring light colors, not see-through, and try to avoid white entirely as it gets dirty easily.)
  • One EXTRA T-SHIRT for sleeping in home-stays and villages. (NO TANK TOPS OR SINGLET TOPS – girls’ shoulders should be fully covered at all times.)
  • One pair of LONG SHORTS (they MUST go to or below your knees). While you’ll see people wearing shorts, the majority of Asian men and women wear pants, even in the heat!
  • One or two pairs of lightweight QUICK-DRY PANTS. Note: these do not need to be the expensive types sold at REI (those are great but can be pricy), just make sure the pants are comfortable and can dry quickly. These can be full length or Capri style.
  • One pair of nice light LONG PANTS and/or a LONG SKIRT for more conservative or formal situations. For skirts the hemline should be between the knee and ankle, nothing above the knee. It should not be possible to see underclothing through the skirt if you choose to bring one.
  • One RASH GUARD (or quick dry T shirt) AND a pair of BOARD SHORTS (to the knee or below) are also required for swimming. It is often hard to find women’s board shorts to an appropriate length. When searching keep in mind, if you put on your “swim suit” and think you look good, you’re doing something wrong. Many students choose to bring basketball-style shorts, Jess swims in her hiking capris, and most Asians swim in their clothes.
  • WARM LAYERS:
    • 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.
  • Seven to ten changes of cotton or quick dry UNDERWEAR (should not be visible in any cases).
  • BRAS: 1-2 sports bras and 2-3 regular bras (it’s your choice but you will need at least 1 sports bra).
  • SOCKS: 3-4 pairs made out of wool or synthetic material.
  • TAMPONS are hard to find in Asia. If you use these please bring a good supply with you. Pads are also available in cities, but we recommend that you bring your own supply. Look into menstrual cup e.g. Diva Cup, as these can be great alternatives too and reduce waste, which can be awkward to get rid of in a homestay setting.
  • One DEODORANT that you prefer. More are available in Asia.
  • 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, knee length shorts are great.

#Females – Trust us, we know that it can sometimes be frustrating to try and find clothes that meet the specifications above in the USA, but you’ll be very happy you followed them.

>FEMALES, DO NOT BRING:

  • A FULL PIECE SWIMSUIT OR BIKINI (unless to wear under your Asian “swim suit.”).
  • Any MAKE UP/COSMETICS (you’ll just sweat it off anyways).
  • Any SHOWY/VALUABLE JEWELRY (no jewelry is preferred).
  • LOW CUT (V-neck/loose hanging), TIGHT-FITTING and/or SEE-THROUGH TOPS The styles in the US right now can be too low and often clothing will stretch out from frequent washing and humidity, meaning the neckline gets even lower which is not appropriate.
  • SHORTS THAT ARE ABOVE THE KNEE, or any tight LEGGINGS/JEGGINGS (except for sleeping in). Though some women wear shorts in urban areas, they’ll attract unwanted attention, so it is important you also have capris, pants or longer skirts that you’re comfortable in. Any shorts or skirts need to go to your knee or below.
  • T-SHIRTS that show your MIDRIFF or reveal your BRA through your arm hole.

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DO NOT BRING (ALL STUDENTS)

  • Your CELL PHONE or any smart device.
  • 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.
  • Any sort of ELECTRONIC ENTERTAINMENT (no Mp3 players or Gameboys).
  • TOILETRIES BIIGER 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.
  • LOW-RIDING/LONG PANTS THAT DRAG Not culturally appropriate and a safety concern.
  • 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.

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ONE OTHER THING TO BRING… A HEALTHY BODY!

Your experience will be so much more enjoyable if you come with a body that is fully prepared for the journey. We recommend an exercise regimen that gets your heart rate above 120 beats per minute, for thirty minutes at a stretch, four times a week. If you can’t do this much, do what you can… The more the better! There will be several opportunities on the course to go for long walks or ride bikes. The better your condition, the greater the number of opportunities you’ll be able to seize.

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Ok, that’s a wrap from us. Phew. If you have any questions about the packing list, please post a message to the Yak board or email us direct your instructor team will address it.

Happy packing!

Your Thailand iTeam.

Jessica & Guy.

[email protected]