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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

The Art of Packing

Hola queridos estudiantes,

Packing is both an exciting task for the adventure that awaits and can be tough considering the diverse environments and activities of the months ahead. Truthfully speaking, I love having my creature comforts and often need to give myself ample time to figure out my packing systems- I encourage you all to do the same. Think of it as an art and craft wisely!

Please be sure to review the complete list in the Course Preparation Manual. Here are some considerations for packing practically:

For Mountain Time:

  • Sleeping Bag: Be sure it is rated for cold temps 0-15 degrees. There are a ton of opinions on the decision between synthetic or down. Synthetic is generally more durable over time and in wet/rainy environments. Down does really well in the mountains and packs down smaller. In general down is totally doable if taken care of, a waterproof stuff sack can be really helpful to insure it stays dry.
  • Water Treatment: Steripens are widely used within Dragons. I would suggest the rechargeable Ultra, as managing batteries can be difficult and sometimes they are difficult to find in country. Aquamira is a great back up treatment and works really well on its own.
  • Water Bottles: 2 of them at 1 liter each. Really! Hydration is happiness in humidity and at altitude. I pack toiletries or other small items in one of my bottles I am not using during travel for more space. (If bringing a Steripen make sure water bottles are wide-mouthed to fit and treat).
  • Tupperware and Cutlery: We often carry our lunches on trail throughout the day so the tupperware should be sturdy and totally sealable. I recommend a nalgene bowl which can be found easily online or at any outdoor store. Sporks are the best of both worlds and a spoon from your kitchen at home works great too.
  • Rain Gear: Read labels and make sure it says waterproof not water resistant (no such thing ;)) Although we are going to be in the Andes in the dry season, both pants and a jacket or poncho are important. If you want you can also bring an umbrella to keep completely dry, which can also provide protection from the sun while hiking.
  • Trekking Poles: They are not totally necessary. They can be helpful if you have bad knees or other injuries and they help with balance especially if we evercarry our large packs. If you do bring them ideally they are collapsible because you will also need to carry them through cities, etc.
  • Thermos/Mug: Optional but awesome for a morning cafecito or tea. You can readily find cheap tin mugs in markets in country as well.
  • Hiking Boots: Give yourself plenty of time to break them in, wear them to the grocery store to meet your friends, to bed jajaja. Blisters are a PAIN to manage in the mountains and can get pretty serious very fast so breaking in your boots is super important!

For YOU!:

  • 2 Copies of your Passport (the instructors will be carrying your passports so it is important for you to have a copy of your passport on your person).
  • Day pack: We use these both on treks and for travel days so make sure it’s comfortable and can carry layers, water, snacks, etc… 30 liters and up of carrying capacity works. It is helpful to have a belt strap and a chest strap but not totally necessary.
  • Pack: This may go without saying, but make sure you have a pack that is at least 75 liters and fits all your things. Normally you’ll have this on your back and some things in your day pack. Make sure you can carry everything you bring comfortably!
  • Watch WITH AN ALARM: Timeliness is important and it will be an individual responsibility to meet on time every day. Please make sure you have an inexpensive watch with an alarm.
  • Journal: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”- Mark Twain. And write it all down. Bring your favorite pen too!
  • Headlamp: Likely the most underrated gear item from the mountains to late evenings on course. Technology has been advancing in rechargeable headlamps, if that’s something you are interested in I encourage to look into Black Diamond. (
  • Natural Toiletries: Dr. Bronners is where it is at for a multi-use from body soap to laundry and an ecological decision. Lush makes great shampoo bars that are plastic free and last for a long time. You will be able to restock on toiletries in country as well.
  • Bags: It’s nice to have a few ziplocks for keeping things dry. Also large trash/contractor bags (one for you day-pack and one for your main pack) that are durable are great for lining your pack for treks to keep dry.
  • Duffle Bag: For storing items while trekking, something simple and lightweight. Can also be purchased in country for cheap.
  • Comfy/City Clothes: Great for while we are in homestays or cities. A pair of jeans can be nice after wearing hiking pants for so long. We are going to be in homestays and in urban areas (Urubamba, La Paz, and Tiquipaya) for about 5 weeks of our journey so calculate accordingly.

For Sharing:

  • Gifts: For homestays and/or ISP mentors. It is both a great offering of appreciation and nice to break the ice. If you have a skill such as painting or a game you enjoy that builds meaningful connection. Please no plastic gifts. This is also something nicely sourced in country, like a thank you note or something you make for your families. There is no requirement for gifts so please practice simplicity with this.
  • Photos: Of home and people that are important to you. To share with people you meet along the way and it’s nice to have for 3 months away. Also it’s nice to write down addresses to get old fashion and send letters/postcards to loved ones along the way.

For Home. To stay there and not come on course:

  • Cell phones: Please leave them at home. If you do decide to bring a phone to coordinate your travel to and from Miami, please keep in mind that we will collect all phones for the duration of the course and are not responsible for loss or damage. We will address this topic at length soon, but please be prepared to disconnect from your phone for our three months together. You will have intermittent access to internet and call centers to contact home during the program. There will be plenty of ways to stay in contact with home, and the Yak board will be our main source of communication as a group to concerned loved ones following our journeys. Please DO bring a camera for phenomenal vistas!
  • Inappropriate clothing: Shorts that are above the knee, leggings that are see through or mesh, revealing tank tops should be avoided. Please look for lightweight clothing with more coverage.
  • Anything you don’t want ruined or lost.

A lot of gear, like clothing, books, toiletries can be purchased in country. So be prepared with your comfort items and know that we will be able to restock where necessary. Also feminine hygiene products (pads and applicator-less tampons) can be purchased in country so please don’t bring a 3 month supply. You can also look into reusable feminine hygiene products. Any questions on this please direct to Elly or Raquel.

Lastly, to return to the heart of the matter, the most important thing you can bring is yourself. That will get you through a lot more than any t-shirt can. Please let us know if any questions arise while packing.

¡Buena suerte, [email protected]!


…also this second photo is a great example of a situation to avoid… it wasn’t fun I promise! Hehe