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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Additional Packing Notes – important, please read!

Saludos queridos Dragones!

The time has arrived to start thinking about packing and I’m pretty sure an important question came up for you; what should I pack? I am asking myself the same question every time I´m packing, and it is better to do it in advance than waiting until the last moment when you will forget some things or you will pack more things than you need for the next three months.

We encourage you all to start organizing and finding some gear you might not have yet. This is a supplement to the extensive packing list available in your Course Preparation Manual. We’ve highlighted things we think are extra important and also some things that might have been unclear the first time around. Many of these are suggestions, not requirements, so use your own judgement about what’s right for you.

Our packing lists have been refined over the years by the many Dragons students and instructors who have traversed the Andes and Amazon. Please read very carefully through the packing list!

Here are some considerations for packing practically:

For the mountains:

–     Warm layers and a sleeping bag: Be sure it is for cold temps 0-15 degrees F. It can get cold while trekking at altitude; while we will be traveling through a variety of landscapes and climates, be sure to bring lots of warm layers for those cold nights.

–      Water purification: We recommend Steripens, as they are effective and work in a variety of environments.  A Steripen is a compact handheld ultraviolet (UV) water purifier designed specifically for outdoor/expedition use,  is reusable for up to 8,000 liters, and destroys over 99.9% of harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoa Note: No tap water we encounter in Bolivia or Peru will be considered potable. This means that we will have to purify water in both backcountry and city-like settings. If you invest in a Steripen we recommend the Ultra and Freedom models that are USB rechargeable and hold a charge for extended periods of time.  If you a bring battery-operated model please bring extra batteries (preferably lithium, or the strongest you can find). If you bring a steripen, you must also bring a back-up water purification method; Aquamira is a great back up treatment and works really well on its own.

–    Water bottles: 2 of them at 1 liter each so your steripen can effectively purify the water and you can pack toiletries or other small items in one of them while you are not using during travel for more space.

–    Hiking boots: please start breaking your boots now. Wear them to the grocery store, to hike a mountain, walk up and down your stairs, to meet your friends. This is not something you want to have to do on our first trek.

–      A good headlamp: This is possibly the most-used item throughout the course.  AAA batteries are available in-country, but are generally of lower quality. Please bring two sets of back-up batteries for anything battery-powered that you wish to function the entire trip. Again, lithium batteries will last a lot longer than others.

–      Tupperware and cutlery: We often carry our lunches on trail throughout the day so the tupperware should be sturdy and totally sealable. A great option is the GSI Outdoors Fairshare Mug, which can be found at REI or on Amazon. Sporks are the best of both worlds and a spoon from your kitchen at home works great too; extra points if it fits inside your tupper.

–      Rain gear: Jacket and pants are essential, read labels and make sure it says waterproof not water resistant (no such thing) we are going to be in the Andes in the rainy season, both pants and a jacket or poncho are important. If you want you can also bring an umbrella to keep completely dry and if you like hiking with it.

–       Thermos/Mug: Optional, but really nice if you love your coffee or tea in the morning on treks. Sturdy and not too leaky ones are ideal.

–      Trekking poles: They are not totally necessary, but essential if you have bad knees, weak ankles, or less-than-perfect balance. Check out this link for the pros and cons of trekking poles and see where you fit.

–       At least one pair Synthetic underwear. Nice for washing on the go and quick drying. It’s good to mix it up: bring a few pair of underwear made from natural materials and a few from synthetic materials for our treks.

For YOU:

–       Prescription medications that you regularly take (and printed information on side effects and contraindications).

–       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… 25 liters and up of carrying capacity works. It is helpful to have a belt strap and a chest strap nut not absolutely necessary.

–       Backpack: 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!

–    Duffle Bag: For storing items while trekking, something simple and lightweight. Can also be purchased in country affordably.

–       Big pack towel: again the small ones are nice and do the job, but the big one will make you happy and well-covered for the duration of the 3 months. Especially in hostels and homestays.

–     Camera: You will have more than one opportunity for that phenomenal vistas while trekking or during different activities.

–      Watch and alarm clock: are mandatory! Students are responsible for waking up in the morning and meeting on time throughout the day. Each student needs to bring an inexpensive watch. (Remember you will not have your cell phones once you arrive in country).

–       Journal: you’ll also want to bring a straight-up notebook. Bring a couple of pens to get you started, but know they are easily replaceable in-country.

–       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.

–       Sewing kit: for those random repairs. A sewing kit from a hotel is perfect.

–     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.

–       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 and 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). We are going to be in homestays and in urban areas for about 5 weeks of our journey so calculate accordingly.

–      Flip flops: are useful for hostel showers and informal settings.

–       USB stick: for saving photos, documents for independent study projects, Field Notes, etc.

–       Earplugs: as there will be all sorts of new noises (think roosters).

–       Something Fun to do as a group! You will have many moments together as a group, it is nice to have games (cards, Uno, Set, Bang, bananagrams) and a book or two that you can trade off.

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, those options build 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.  We have a longer homestay in Urubamba and a couple more rural homestays of about three days each.  There is no expectation that you bring gifts, so simplicity is best for 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 and nice to break the ice while we will be with the host families.

For the Amazon:

–      Lightweight sleeping clothes: It is not appropriate to wear tank tops and shorts 99% of the time during our travels. However, it’s hot at night in the Amazon, so you may consider bringing some lightweight clothes for the muggy Amazon nights.

–       Lightweight long-sleeved shirt: to keep you cool in the lowlands, and to keep away the bugs and hot sun. This may be the same as your lightweight trekking shirt for the mountains.

Things to not bring at all. Really.

–      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.

–     Inappropriate clothing: Shorts that are above the knee, leggings that are see through or mesh, revealing tank tops should be avoided. Please look for comfortable clothing with more coverage.

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

–      Kindles and other electronic reading devices (including laptops, ipod touches, etc.) are a risk for damage and theft, and not particularly culturally appropriate.  We do not prohibit simple eReaders if you are excited to have more reading options, but know that if you bring one it may not be appropriate to use in all environments.

–       Anything you don’t want ruined or lost.

Things you can buy in-country

–       Clothing (traditional, American, and souvenir), knock-off footwear, books in Spanish and English, toiletries (non-natural), notebooks and writing utensils, replacement tupperware and cutlery, souvenirs, among many other things. It’s pretty easy to cover your basics in-country. Just remember to bring your staple items and technical gear from home. Waterproof-breathables, quick dry, anti wrinkle, light-weight gear is not readily available in- country.

–       Feminine hygiene products (pads/applicator-less tampons) are available in-country so there is no need to bring a 3-month supply.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are bringing cash, keep in mind that the money should not have rips or tears; the reason for this is because dollars are not the currency of Peru or Bolivia and banks do not accept them when they are damaged.


Thanks for reading all the way through!

And if any of you have questions or suggestions, please let us know!

Hasta la vista!

Los instructores