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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

Packing List!

Namaste and Hello!

Our program start date is getting closer.  We hope you are getting excited!

This post is to provide some additional packing tips to use in conjunction with the packing list (pages 31-35) in the Nepal Preparation Manual that you received from Dragons, which you should look at carefully.

First off, you should know that there is no “one way” to pack, as everyone has different styles, wants, and needs. You know yourself and what will make you happiest, and to that end, you don’t need to follow these suggestions or the packing list verbatim if you have a different way of accomplishing the overall goal.

The mantra for our trip is travel light. Please be judicious with your packing since you will often be carrying your pack during the course. If you bring too much stuff, it’ll get in the way of our group’s ability to travel easily. After all, it’s not the stuff that will make your trip. Students are often surprised how comfortably they can live with such few things, and it is very freeing to travel without too much stuff. Pack your bag with everything you think you will need, then walk around the block a few times. Is your bag too heavy? Will you be able to carry your pack around crowded cities, in and out of packed busses, and for multiple days in the mountains? Try to eliminate any extras to keep weight to a minimum.

We have a request for you: 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, but it should all fit into one package.

One of the best things you can pack is empty space. When we’re moving a lot and packing every morning, it’s much easier to pack a bag that’s not completely full.

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.

Staying Warm:

It is really important that you bring gear rated to what is advised in the program preparation manual. You arrive in Kathmandu at the tale end of winter, going into early spring, so it will be chilly at times. It will also be cold during our trek in the high Himalaya and while living in rural areas where houses don’t have insulation or central heating. So the warm gear and clothes you bring will come in handy during both our homestays and during the trek.

Being Culturally Appropriate:

Nepal is a more conservative country than many of you have probably lived in before. Although you will see young people in the cities wearing all manner of clothing, we prefer our students to err on the side of dressing a little more conservatively. This is because we will be travelling through some smaller villages that still wear traditional clothing and interacting with many traditionally-minded local people (like your homestay families). Wearing conservative, neat, and presentable clothing will help you to build rapport and ingratiate and immerse yourself in the local communities.

This means generally no tight-fitting shirts or pants (including yoga pants) and no tops that are very low cut or show your shoulders. Male students can bring knee-length shorts, female students should bring pants that are mid-calf length or longer. Know there will be times when shorter pants will be inappropriate for all students, male or female, so long pants that zip off or fold up into shorter pants are a smart packing choice. Leggings are only acceptable for female students to wear in conjunction with a kurta (a dress or long shirt). Traditional Nepali tunics that fall to mid-thigh are beautiful and very comfortable to wear. You can have them made by tailors in Kathmandu if you’re interested.

Dresses or skirts that hit mid-calf and are loose enough to squat in are fine. The packing list says all female students should bring a skirt but actually this is not required.

You should bring a watch (with an alarm) to help make sure you are on time for activities and to help wake yourself up in the mornings since you won’t have a smartphone with you! (Cheap watches can be purchased locally in Nepal too).

Trekking Gear:

This is covered in the packing list in the Preparation Manual but there are a few things we want to emphasize:

1. A 0 degree sleeping bag. The Preparation Manual packing list suggests the range of a 0-20 degree bag, but we think you will be generally more comfortable on the trek (and in sometimes cold Nepali houses) if you have a warm sleeping bag. (This is also dependent on whether you tend to sleep warm or cold, or are comfortable sleeping while wearing lots of clothing).

2. Polarized Sunglasses: These are important for the trek, especially since we’ll likely be trekking on snow.

3. Comfortable Hiking Boots: Please break them in before you get to Nepal. Your feet will thank you. 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 on our trek because you’ll get blisters and, blisters suck.

4. Two Nalgene or stainless steel water bottles. We mostly will use filtered or boiled water on our trip so you can use these bottles to store water and we’ll also use them on the trek. You can buy these in Kathmandu but should show up on the course with at least one. If you decide to bring a water filter along the lifestraw filters work great and fit in most nalgene bottles.

5. A warm hat for cold and a sun hat.

6. A good supply of sunscreen to last you for several months.  You can buy sunscreen in Kathmandu but if you have a particular brand you like you should bring it.

7. Warm gloves. Something waterproof or water resistant is especially useful for taking down your tent on cold mornings during the trek.

8. A strong headlamp (bring extra batteries if your headlamp takes an unusual kind). AA and AAA batteries are available. We cannot emphasize enough how useful this is. In addition to using it during our trek, it will come in handy for the nights when the power goes out.

Some General Suggestions:

Please BRING SOME NORMAL URBAN CLOTHING. You will want something you would feel comfortable wearing in the city. Keep in mind these should be culturally appropriate clothes. We will be many weeks in Kathmandu and Patan, in our urban homestays, and attending lessons and classes, so some “not camping” clothes are nice to have.

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

I like to travel with EARPLUGS as there will be all sorts of new noises (think roosters and car noise) and also with an eye/face mask to block out light.

Hopefully this has helped to clarify some packing questions you may be having. If you have any other questions about packing from this Yak or the packing list in the Preparation Manual, please feel free to post it here! Nine times out of ten, if you have a question someone else does too.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
Sharon and Parker