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A student practices working the fields with a water buffalo. Photo by Ming-Jiu-Li, China Summer Program.

A few packing tips

Hello fellow travelers,

Less than 2 weeks until we all meet up as a group! Now that you’ve seen our tentative itinerary You’re probably ready to start packing. In your Course Preparation Manual (CPM) you have a packing list. Please use that list as a first resource.

As instructors we have the following modifications and suggestions:

WATER BOTTLES – We recommend that BOTH of your 1L water bottles are heat-proof. Nalgenes are great! Single-walled steel or aluminum bottles are not because you can burn yourself. We do not recommend vacuum-insulated bottles: while they are able to hold hot liquids, they will also keep water hot for too long. Tap water is NOT drinkable in China, which means we’ll be drinking boiled water for the next month. This might take some getting used to, but as a Dragons group we travel light and travel lightly – we minimize our impact on the environments we have the privilege to travel through. By bringing our own water bottles, we minimize the disposable plastic bottles we have to purchase and discard.

WATER PURIFICATION: Boiled water dispensers are quite common throughout China but there will be times that you will not have access to them and will need a backup form of water purifications. Here are a couple recommendations

  1. Steripen (a handheld purifier that uses UV light, steripen.com for more info): Pro’s- Fastest form of water purification. Con’s- Expensive and are prone to breaking.
  2. Aquamira or other drops: Pro’s- affordable, no gross after-taste like iodine tablets. Con’s- Takes about 30 min to purify a liter of water.

LUGGAGE – Most students bring a camping backpack and a day-pack. No rolling suitcases please. A third bag that former students have found useful is a compact duffel bag, which can be used to split gear prior to a trek.
In the CPM we’re asking students to pack between 30-45L. If you feel you must go over, that’s fine. Most summer students can keep within 50L. More importantly, you need to feel comfortable carrying your stuff around, and be able to walk up to an hour with it all. As long as you can be responsible for your own load and still contribute to helping with some group gear it’ll work.

SHORTS – Shorts are not included in the CPM. Past students have suggested shorts as an addition to the packing list. We recommend bringing 1-2 pairs of shorts that are of appropriate length – they do not have to go over your knees, but should be modest.

COLLARED SHIRTS/BLOUSES/DRESS SHIRTS – The packing list suggests bringing two. We think one is enough.

LIGHTWEIGHT SKIRT – Past students have not felt skirts to be necessary. You do not need to bring one. For more formal events long pants and a blouse would be good enough.
A bit more on clothing: You should be ready to wash your clothes by hand. Clothes that dry quickly are great. Plenty of socks and underwear or underwear that dries quickly will extend how long you can go between big loads of laundry, which are time-consuming when done by hand.

Please also bring culturally appropriate clothes. We are going to be hiking, staying in local people’s homes, hosting guest speakers, visiting places of worship, etc. Yoga pants, leggings, and other tight pants are not acceptable unless covered with a skirt or shorts. Shirts that reveal cleavage (V-necks), shoulders, or midriff are not acceptable for men or women. Shorts and skirts should be conservative. We do not want any of the several generations we’ll interact with to be made uncomfortable by our clothing choices. If you think about it this way, we’re sure you’ll choose wisely (and respectfully).

FOOTWEAR: There is no need to bring hiking boots; a pair of shoes with good tread is good enough. Past students have recommended sandals or flip flops (for shared showers).

SLEEPING PADS – Listed as an optional item in your CPM – students often find them too bulky. You also do not need to bring sleeping bags – they will not be used with regularity, and add bulk and weight.

DOCUMENTS – Please bring a student ID. Several places of attraction give students discounted entrance tickets. If you don’t currently have one, then bring a picture ID, for example a driver’s license, as this often also works. It’s a good idea to scan and print three copies of your passport photo page and visa page. Two to carry with you and a third to leave at home with a guardian. Then, email yourself and your guardian a copy of the scans so that you can access them online if necessary.

BAGS – It is a good idea to have with you spare plastic bags and Ziploc bags. Having a heavy-duty trash bag to line the inside of your backpack and waterproof it is also a good idea.

LONELY PLANET – Though you may be tempted to bring this on the plane, please don’t. Check it in your luggage. Lonely Planet is sometimes confiscated at Chinese customs.

AN INSTRUMENT – If you have a travel-sized instrument such as a ukulele, harmonica, flute, finger piano, etc., we encourage you to bring it. Music is one of the best ways we know to make connections, especially in places where you don’t speak the language. A full-sized guitar isn’t recommended, sorry!

POWER ADAPTERS AND CONVERTERS – China runs on 220 volts with a variety of plug types. The most common are the 2 prong straight plug (USA style) and 3 prong angled (Australia style). Generally cameras and other electronics may need an adapter to fit in the plug, but not a power converter (an adapter helps your plug to physically fit into a wall, while a converter changes voltages so the electricity from the wall won’t ruin your device). If you have 3 prong USA style plugs you will need to buy an adapter (a world adapter from REI or another outdoors/travel store) or buy a power strip once in China.

A WATCH with an alarm is going to be very useful. You will not be able to rely on your devices to tell time.
TAMPONS are extremely hard to find to China.
A HEADLAMP will be very useful, especially in rural areas, or for reading on trains.

We hope this answers some of your questions for now. If you have any concerns, please post them here or email us.

Happy packing!

Jonas, Tingting and Zack