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Packing Considerations!

Hello from your instructor team!

We hope you are all taking care of yourselves and getting geared up (and excited!) for our incredible summer in China together starting just a few weeks. This Yak covers some packing considerations.

You already have a pretty extensive packing list in the Course Preparation Manual, so you should refer to that list when packing. Here are some more thoughts from our instructor team and instructor teams of summers past:


  • Bags: We recommend that your primary piece of luggage be a 30-55L backpack. This is for ease of use in off-the beaten track areas and for 2-3 day treks. As the packing list suggests, and you should bring a light daypack for keeping a few items handy (water, sunscreen, camera, etc.). It’s also a good idea to bring one or two extra rolled-up tote bags, too, for laundry or quick trips around town.
  • Water bottles: Bring one or two one-liter water bottles. There will be times where there is only boiled/hot water to drink, so you need a container that can safely hold hot water or tea. Durable plastic (like Nalgenes) or stainless steel is good. Bottled water is widely available.
  • Toiletries: Almost all toiletries are readily 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 all the exact same brands in China.
  • Period products: U.S. brand pads and tampons 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. Another good option would be to use a menstrual cup (such as Diva Cup) as a long-term, sustainable, and healthy solution that is also excellent for travel. If you have a specific preferred brand/type, we suggest you bring what you need.
  • Medications: The group will be carrying a fully-stocked med kit with almost all major drugs, including both prescription and over-the-counter medications. So, there is no need for you to bring a huge selection of your own medications. That said, if you have a prescription medication you take regularly, please bring an ample supply – certain prescription medications are difficult to replace in China.
  • Journals and pens: We will provide a journal and pen to each student in Welcome Packets that we will give you on the plane. It’s up to you whether you’d like to bring your own. You can buy notebooks and pens easily in China.
  • Footwear: Either bring a pair of shoes that is appropriate for both urban settings and for a 2-3 day hike, or bring two pairs of shoes so you will be comfortable in both settings. There’s no need to bring heavy hiking boots. It’s also nice to bring a pair of shower sandals – or get some in China, where they are easy to buy in China. However, it will be difficult to buy shoes/sandals in China if your feet are larger than a EU size 44 (US 10) or so.
  • Sleeping bag liner: Sleeping bag liners can be a nice compact option that many folks prefer for cleanliness, consistency and layering in home stay beds. They are optional, however, because all homestays and hostels will provide bedding. Please do not bring your own sleeping bag. While we may have opportunity to do an overnight trek, if necessary we’ll either rent sleeping bags as a group or stay in guest houses on trek. They are far too bulky, hot, and heavy for course.

Other Considerations:

  • Pack light! The most common feedback we hear from students is that they wished they had brought less stuff. So consider carefully each item you bring. If you forget anything you decide you need, you can almost certainly buy it in China.
  • Temperatures: Kunming will be warm, sometimes rainy, but not cold. The village is at a higher altitude than Kunming so it might get a bit chilly at night, but still not cold. Beijing will be hot. Rain is very possible in Yunnan during the summer.
  • Bring more urban wear than the packing list suggests! Other than a 2-3 day hike, we will spend most of our time in the city and the village, so bring clothes you want to wear there.
  • Laundry: You will have opportunities both in Kunming and the village to do laundry, so you don’t need to bring a ton of clothes! Most families in Kunming will have laundry machines (but not dryers). My needs are usually met with a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, a few t-shirts and layers. The fewer clothes you bring the more space you’ll have 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. While shorts and skirts are fine, we ask that you consider modesty as you choose your clothes. Remember that even in urban areas necklines tend to be much higher in China than folks may be used to in the West.
  • Spending money: Dragons will cover all normal expenses on course, but if you want to buy personal items like souvenirs, postcards, etc., you should bring some of your own money. It is easy to take out cash through ATMs in China using an international debit/ATM card, but make sure to let your bank know you are traveling to China so they don’t freeze the account.
  • Gifts for your host families: You can bring some small, meaningful gifts for your host families. Take some time over the next couple weeks to think of gift ideas!
  • Electronics: Take a peek at the Yak post on electronics policy from last week.

Remember, this is all just stuff! Don’t stress too much about what you bring or don’t bring. The most important thing is that you bring yourself and an open mind.   🙂

If you have any questions, please post them on the Yak Board or otherwise email me at [email protected]


Ian, Maddie, and Patricia