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Exciting packing list!

Hi All:

It’s only 4 weeks left before we finally meet up! I know you all have been waiting for it so long and are thrilled for this trip! Let’s do some final packing checks to make sure you are fully prepared. This is a challenging itinerary that will take us through many different climates. Whatever you take, you’ll have to carry it, so as you lay out your belongings, take some time to think: Do I really need it? How often am I going to use it? Could I get it there?

For this six week trip, we want to travel light. All your things must fit inside a backpack and a daypack, and you should be able to carry all of it comfortably for a long time. You can try to pack your bag, carry it around your neighborhood, then unpack and make some cuts. Most things you’re tempted to bring beyond the essentials will also be available (for cheaper) in China and Kyrgyzstan.

Clothing Notes: Choose comfortable clothes that can be used on multiple occasions. We are going to be hiking, staying in local people’s homes, hosting guest speakers, visiting places of worship, walking around in Muslim and Buddhist areas, etc. Modest clothing is essential and the cultural norms in these areas ask that both women and men show less of their bodies in public. Let’s be observant and and respectful, trying to fit in and adapt our dress and behavior to the places we go. If you think about putting the multiple generations we’ll encounter at ease, we’re sure you’ll choose wisely.

  • Clothing should be loose-fitting rather than body-hugging.
  • Shirts should completely cover the chest, shoulders, back, and midriff. No spaghetti straps, deep V-necks, halter tops, tank tops, sleeveless workout shirts, etc.
  • Pants should continue to cover your butt when you are bending over, so you might want a belt. Yoga pants and leggings are only acceptable if worn with shorts over the leggings, and even then only sometimes.
  • Shorts ought to come down to the knees and be loose-fitting. When you sit on the floor in these shorts they should continue to cover your knees and should slide up or reveal too much.
  • Sleep-ware should be appropriate for occasions we’re we’ll be staying in close quarters with hosts, such as sleeping communally in a yurt.

The Environment and Clothing: We will be traveling mostly in high elevation, arid regions. These places tend to be extremely dry and hot in the day (70’s to low 100’s) while cool at night (upper 30’s to 40’s). Layers are always good options. Expect the full range of weather from harsh sun to rainy. One city outfit may be good to have since we’ll be spending time in both urban and rural areas.

You’ll be washing your clothes by hand as we travel, so quick-dry clothes are ideal. Cotton clothes take a long time to dry, so minimize those. Past students have suggested bringing a short length of cord you can use as a clothesline for drying. Go for clothes  that won’t show dirt easily (or look dirty).

The pack: Go for a hiking or travel pack of of around 30-50 liters. You will pack most of your stuff in this and should be able to carry it on your own back without help. Please also have a small, lightweight daypack that can fit your water bottle, headlamp, journal, raincoat, tissue, and other essentials for daily use. Here is a fun 4 minute video on packing light. There are some useful tips for folding clothes and making the most out of your pack:

Toiletries: You can buy most toiletries at any corner store in China and Kyrgyzstan. There is no need to bring them unless you have special reasons. For students who only use tampons, please bring enough for the whole trip as they are not easy to find; pads can be found in every convenience store. Instead of hand sanitizer, consider liquid soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s or Camp Soap. Liquid soap can also be useful for doing laundry.

Trekking Gear: You’ll want a sturdy, tough pair of shoes with a good tread that you can use while hiking and walking. Hiking boots offer more ankle support, so if you roll your ankle a lot, it’s worth considering a pair. Also, they’re usually water and mud resistant. If those aren’t concerns for you and you’d rather not carry around heavy boots, a sturdy pair of walking shoes is just as good. If you buy a pair of new shoes, wear them around all the time in the weeks before the course so that you can break them in and avoid blisters on the trip.

Some people like to carry pocket knives. On this trip, please don’t bring one. It will likely be confiscated at an airport or train station.

Medications: The instructor team will be carrying around two medical kits all the time. The kits are stocked with a large selection of over the counter medications, certain prescription meds, and a range of antibiotics. In addition, we can visit clinics and hospitals if needed. If you have prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you take regularly or emergency medicines such as epi-pens and inhalers, bring enough for the trip in clearly labeled packages. If you get bad motion sickness from windy roads, bring medication for that. Almost everything else, we already have or can easily buy and there’s no need to bring it.

One small tip: Taking probiotics and prebiotics or eating unpasteurized yogurt are great ways to encourage a healthy gastrointestinal tract while traveling. As your system is exposed to new bacteria, you’re more likely to be able to cope without becoming ill and needing to resort to antibiotics. You can pick up probiotics and prebiotics at most health food stores and pharmacies.

Now onto the checklist. If it’s not on the list of essentials and it’s not something you need every day, like a medication, then you can probably leave it at home.

Essential Clothing:

  • Rain coat.
  • A warm fleece or puffy.
  • Long underwear (top and bottom, no cotton).
  • Warm hat (synthetic or wool are great).
  • A sun hat (preferably that covers your neck).
  • Hiking or sturdy shoes and flip-flops or sandals (knowing you’ll wear your hiking shoes most of the day and sandals at ends of days).
  • 3 short-sleeved shirts (synthetic tend to dry faster).
  • Sleep-ware appropriate for group living situations.
  • 1-2 light-weight long-sleeved shirts. Try to find something cool that can cover you and dry quickly. Most button downs should do the trick.
  • 1 warmer outer layer shirt to be worn between long underwear and fleece/puffy.
  • 1 pair of modest shorts (should go down to the knee and remain at the knee when sitting).
  • 2 pairs of long pants good for hiking and walking around the city (durable, light weight, dark in color). Some people like pants that zip off into shorts. Rain-proof pants are unnecessary and rain-resistant pants are optional.
  • 4-6 pairs of underwear (preferably quick-dry that you can wash quickly and easily in a sink or while showering).
  • 2-3 pairs of wool or synthetic socks
  • 2-3 pairs of regular socks
  • Some women like to bring a modest skirt or dress to help manage the heat. Just make sure it’s easy to wash, quick to dry, and goes down to the to the ankles.

Other Essentials:

  • Polarized sun glasses
  • Glasses and contacts: bring an extra set
  • Headlamp or flash light. Headlamps are more useful.
  • A watch or timekeeper with an alarm (remember, you’re not going to use a phone on this trip)
  • Earplugs (villages are usually quiet, but roosters, birds, bugs are LOUD!)
  • A small towel (preferably a quick-dry towel such as the camp towels available at REI).
  • A small bottle of sunscreen.
  • Any essential medications.
  • Two 1-liter water bottles, such as Klean Kanteen or Nalgene. These are possibly the most important item on this list. Make sure at least one bottle is not insulated.
  • A travel journal and a few pens (consider taking a sketchbook instead of a lined journal, this opens many possibilities to be creative).
  • Student ID for discounted tickets.
  • Copies of your passport photo page and visa (two copies each). Also make sure your parents have a copy.

And the most important part! Bring a healthy body and good mood! This is going to be an amazing journey, but a challenging one. Eat healthy food, get good sleep, be sure to do some exercise, and get ready for an adventure of a life time!

Happy packing!

Tindy, Luke, Noam.