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A note on packing

Hola queridos estudiantes.

We write today to give you some tips to help you pack for our trip.  We know that packing for an adventure like this is daunting, but don’t worry too much.  Just breathe and relax; after all it is just stuff. This Yak is a collection of the best advice we have to give you.

This is a supplement to the extensive packing list available in your Course Preparation Manual (CPM), which has been refined over the years by many Dragons students and instructors, so please carefully read through that list.  We’ve highlighted some things here that we think are important. Many of these are suggestions, not requirements, so use your own judgement about what’s right for you.

We are about to embark on four weeks of travel through deserts, mountains, and rainforests at elevations from 200 to 17,000 feet. If you bring too much stuff, it will get in the way of our group’s ability to travel well. Try your best to fit everything you’re bringing into the one big backpack you’ll bring. We know that a day pack is on the packing list and it’s really tempting to fill that one up too. It’s a trap! Don’t do it! Your day pack should be more like a small spaceship that’s parked in the mothership at most times. It can be deployed during travel days and other times. Think that you will also want to buy some stuff here and if both of your bags are full you will not have any chance to purchase souvenirs and gifts for people back home.

Things not readily available in Peru: Technical gear: Waterproof-breathables, quick dry, light-weight gear is not readily available in-country.

Common items you can buy in Peru that are just the same as in the USA: Feminine hygiene products (both pads & applicator-less tampons), standard toiletries, clothing (American clothing, Peruvian clothing, lots of alpaca clothing!), cotton socks, sneakers, flip-flops, t-shirts, notebooks, paper, pens, and pencils.

No matter how many times we tell students this, at the end of every Dragons program, most students tell us they wish they had packed less.

We want to reinforce a couple of the points on the CPM packing list:

Bring WARM LAYERS and a ZERO-DEGREE SLEEPING BAG. It is mid-winter in the Andes and will get VERY cold while trekking at altitude. While we will be traveling through a variety of contexts and climates, be sure to bring warm layers for the high altitude portion of our itinerary. We will also spend time in a tropical climate, where you’ll want light layers that can also protect you from insects.

For WATER PURIFICATION we recommend STERIPENS, as they are effective and work in a variety of environments. No tap water we encounter in Peru will be considered potable. This means that we will have to purify water in both backcountry and urban settings.  For more on water purification, look at the packing list.

Please start breaking in your BOOTS now. Put on your hiking boots and go hike a mountain, walk up and down your stairs, hike up a 20-story building and down again. A few times. This is not something you want to have to do our first trek.

A GOOD HEADLAMP. This is probably one of the most-used items on the course.  AAA batteries are available in-country, but are generally of lower quality. Other types of batteries are really hard to find. Please bring two sets of back-up batteries for anything battery-powered that you wish to function the entire trip.

GOOD QUALITY RAIN GEAR (jacket and pants) is essential.  While it is the dry season in the Andes, rain gear will protect you from the cold and elements (and perhaps a bit of snow).  We will likely encounter rain in cloud forest and tropical areas.

At least one pair SYNTHETIC UNDERWEAR. Nice for washing on the go and quick drying. It’s good to mix it up with some underwear made from natural materials and some from synthetic materials for our treks.

LIGHTWEIGHT LONG-SLEEVED SHIRT to keep you cool in the lowlands in the Amazon, and to keep away the bugs and hot sun. This could double as a trekking shirt if it’s synthetic, or a dress shirt if it’s not.

One plastic leak-proof TUPPERWARE CONTAINER WITH A SEALING LID. It should be able to ride around in your backpack all morning without leaking. Screw-top Nalgene bowls are a great option. Box-shaped ones that seal are available in country as well. While on the trail, we often pack lunches in our Tupperware. In cities, we use them for take-away food. They should be big enough to hold an entire meal.

Camping CUTLERY. This can be as simple as a spoon from home.

NATURAL TOILETRIES help decrease our ecological footprint. Check your local grocery or health food store. Dr. Bronner’s is great and multi-purpose. LUSH ( has a great selection of solid shampoos that you can buy in a tin. They are small, all natural, will last you the whole trip, and best of all, they don’t spill! (You can also re-stock generic toiletries in-country.)

Please bring a pair of JEANS, or something you would feel comfortable wearing in the city. We might (though not always) have a chance to to leave extra things in storage before major treks or course “shifts.” We will be spending some time in towns and cities, so some “not camping” clothes is nice to have. At least bring some clothes you can sit in as you wash your trekking clothes.

Some RUNNING SHOES or sneakers. Most students will bring a total of 3 pairs of shoes (the other two being boots and sandals).

A bit more information on GIFTS. You may want something for individuals who make your course special, such as ISP mentors and homestay families. There is no expectation that you bring gifts, so simplicity is best for this! Some of the nicest gifts will be the ones you don’t bring from home: locally developing photos of your host family, leaving behind a sweet thank-you note. If you do want to bring something from home, think about a couple of small, meaningful gifts, not made of plastic. You don’t want to give somebody a cheap, made-in-China item. Some ideas are: postcards or pictures from home with a message on the back, games that you enjoy, small tokens of where you’re from (local crafts, a local treat, etc.), local sports team wear, etc.

A few small PHOTOS of people and places important to you. Make sure to print photos as opposed to uploading them on an electronic device, since you won’t have access to them in country.  These can be great tools for opening up conversations with locals that you live with or interact with.


Books are preferred to Kindles.  But if you want to bring a Kindle or other eReader, please be aware that they are at risk for damage or theft, and we’ll ask that you make use of them in a culturally sensitive manner.

A mosquito net. If they are needed they will be provided.

Please leave cell phones (iPhones included) at home. We will collect and keep them for the entire course and they just become an extra weight in our group luggage. We are not responsible for the loss or damage of phones bought on course .

We will address this topic at length soon, but please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for the entirety of the course. You will have intermittent access to internet and be able to make some phone calls home during the program. There will be plenty of ways to stay in contact with home, and the Yak page will be our main source of communication as a group to concerned loved ones following our journeys.

Inappropriate clothing (leggings as pants, clothing that is skin tight or revealing, more than a few inches above the knee, blazoned with inappropriate words, excessively torn, etc.) should be left at home to be enjoyed after our trip. Students with clothing deemed culturally inappropriate will be asked to change by their instructors. We hope to travel as respectfully as possible through lands that aren’t ours, and this sometimes means leaving some of our personal preferences at home.

Anything you don’t want ruined or lost.


Hope you find this helpful! Much love,

Los instructores