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Packing Tips

Hello from your instructor team! We hope you are all reading up about China, practicing your Chinese, and generally getting excited for our incredible semester together. To aid you in your course preparation, this Yak covers some packing considerations.

You already have a pretty extensive packing list in the Course Preparation Manual, so please refer to that list when packing. This Yak is not an exhaustive packing list, nor is it the same one in your Course Preparation Manual, but simply some additional thoughts from our instructor team and instructor teams past:


    • Sleeping gear: We will be trekking for 3-4 days in Gansu and Qinghai provinces. We will have tents provided, but you will need to bring a sleeping bag. Night temperatures will be cold, but rarely drop below freezing. Additionally, if you have your own sleeping pad and would like to bring it, please do. Otherwise, we can provide sleeping pads. The good news is that you will only need to carry these items for the first ~month of the course and can leave them in Kunming for the rest of the course. Please let us know if you do not have a sleeping bag, as we can provide a limited amount.


  • Water purification: For the large majority of our trip, we will have access to clean water. However, we may have limited access to boiled water during our trek and you should bring some sort of water purification. We recommend water purification drops (such as Aquamira) which you can easily find at any outdoor store. You may also consider bringing a Steri-pen, which is fast and effective, but can be quite expensive.


  • Watch + alarm clock: You will not have your phone during the course, so you will need a watch to be on time! Ideally, one with an alarm clock that you know how to use. If your watch does not have an alarm clock, bring a separate alarm clock that you know how to use.
  • Toiletries: Almost all toiletries are 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 the same brands in China.
  • Period products: Foreign-brand tampons and pads 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. We recommend using a menstrual cup (such as Diva Cup) as a sustainable, healthy, and waste-free solution that is also great 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. Therefore, there is no need for you to bring a large selection of your own over-the-counter medications.
  • Footwear: Either bring a pair of shoes that is appropriate for both urban settings and for a 3-4 day trek, or bring two pairs of shoes so you will be comfortable in both settings. You will likely also want a pair of plastic shower sandals. These are easy to buy in China, but it will be difficult to buy shoes here if your feet are larger than a EU size ~45.
  • Collared shirts/formal clothing: Ignore that item on the packing list. You will not need any formal wear on this course.
  • Electronics: Only bring permitted items. See the Technology Yak post for more information.


Other Considerations

  • Packing cubes: Packing cubes are great for organizing your belongings and accessing them quickly on the road. They can be expensive, though, and plastic or ziplock bags can serve a similar function, keeping things compartmentalized.
  • Temperatures: Our course begins in Beijing, which can be quite warm (highs in the low 80s F/high 20s C) in September, then heads West to higher elevations, which can be much cooler, especially at night, but rarely dip below freezing. Please bring appropriate outerwear. Kunming temperatures are not particularly cold in the late autumn, but the city does not have indoor heating, so it can feel much colder than it is and you will generally wear a coat even indoors. If you feel you need more cold-weather clothing than you brought, you can buy it in Kunming. Xishuangbanna will be tropical and warm, even in the late autumn/early winter.
  • Urban wear: Bring more urban wear than the packing list suggests. We will spend most of our time in cities and villages, so bring clothes you want to wear there.
  • Don’t bring your favorite/nicest clothes–in fact, you may want to bring older clothes that you don’t plan to bring back home. We suggest 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. Please do not bring low-cut or cropped shirts. We think that shorts, skirts, and dresses are fine, but keep them around knee-length. If you want to wear leggings, bring a pair of shorts or a long shirt to cover your butt.
  • Laundry: You will have opportunities both in Kunming and in homestay villages to wash your clothes, so do not weigh your bag down with too many clothes! Most families in Kunming will have laundry machines, but not dryers.
  • Gifts for your host families: You will want to bring some small, meaningful gifts for your host families (we will be doing four homestays on this course). This could be something you find, make, or buy either at home or in China. It does not have to be something expensive at all. Take some time over the next few weeks to think of gift ideas!


Remember, this is all just stuff. Don’t stress too much about what you bring or don’t bring. When in doubt, pack light. If you forget something you decide you need, chances are you can buy it in China. The most important thing is that you bring yourself and an open mind!

If you have any questions, please ask us on the Yak Board. We can’t wait to meet you next month!

Madeleine, Long Yun, and Zack