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Packing List Updates

Whether your bag has been fully packed for weeks or if you haven’t yet started gear shopping, we are sure you may have thought of some questions about what to bring on your course with Dragons. The key to smart packing is: simplicity, packability, versatility, and light weight equipment.

Simplicity means only bringing what you need. The packing list (which you can find in your Course Prep Manual, pg 26) was designed specifically for our Spring 2021 itinerary, and we think it’s quite thorough. Please read it carefully and stick to it. It should have all the answers you need. And, if you’re thinking about bringing something extra, we advise you to take it out.

Packability means bringing items that are not bulky. This will especially come into play when we’re backpacking—in addition to your own gear, you’ll need to fit group gear like a pot and stove and up to 10 days worth of food into your backpack. If you’ve chosen a sleeping bag that occupies half the backpack, we urge you to reexamine.

Versatility means avoiding items that you are only going to use once. Look through your gear and figure out items that serve a similar purpose, then eliminate the less necessary item. (i.e. a rain jacket could act as a wind jacket as long as it fits over your warm layers, a foam sleeping pad can also be a sitting pad for around camp)

Light weight is our ideal for backpacking, and it does not always mean expensive and fancy gear. It’s easy to build a heavy backpack by not knowing how much your items weigh. As many backpackers say, “every ounce counts” and a series of small items will add up to feeling like a big item in your bag. While you do not need to weigh each item you are packing (though you totally can!), we encourage you to stay aware of the weight of what you are choosing.

We have compiled a supplementary list to the extensive packing list found in your Course Preparation Manual. We hope to highlight a few more items that you may find helpful and to clarify features on some of the items already found on the packing list. While we want you to pack light and not bring any unnecessary items, we also want to make sure you are comfortable and happy throughout the semester.

Being prepared for the weather and climate:

  • Warm layers: The southwest is likely both hotter than you are imagining and also colder than you are imagining. Please heed the suggestions for warm layers in the packing list; you will use them. A layering system will work better than one large jacket.
  • Sun shirt: We suggest packing a cotton or linen, button up, loose sun shirt (currently listed as optional.) This will come in handy on hot work days to keep the sun off of you. Light colors will be an advantage! (We suggest hitting up a thrift store to find a fun one.)
  • Hand cream: The arid climate of the southwest usually leaves skin feeling very dry. Some sort of hand cream will do the trick.
  • Camp chair or sitting pad: Something to sit on while around camp can make a big difference for comfort and warmth. This item is optional. For sitting pads, a chunk of foam sleeping pad will work great. For camp chairs, we like lightweight ones that roll or fold up, like this one or this one.

Toiletries: pack small sizes of everything! They will take up less space and you can refill as you go. It is common for groups of students to get together to buy a big bottle of shampoo, etc so everyone can fill up their smaller bottles. Another option is to buy shampoo bars, conditioner bars, etc. They take up less space, reduce the likelihood of spilling in your bag, and are more environmentally friendly! Win, win, win!

Make sure you know how to use your gear: When you’re new to backpacking or travel, it can feel overwhelming to learn how to use all of your gear. We want to highlight here some of the most important items to know how to use before arriving on course:

  • Your watch: make sure you learn how to set an alarm and do a test to see if the alarm is loud enough to wake you up. (You may need to set it next to your pillow instead of leaving it on your wrist.) Please test this. If you don’t have a watch yet, Casio (nice but quieter alarm) or Timex (nice but can be more expensive) are great brands.
  • Your boots: break these boots in! This could be the difference between a happy hike and a painful hike. Wear them around the house or out on walks around town. Boots with less bulk or approach shoes will break in faster and will feel more comfortable. If there is any reason you think a different type of footgear would be better for you, please reach out to one of us before purchasing them.
  • Your tent: make sure you know how to set it up and practice doing this! We challenge you to, at least once, set it up fully in the dark with only the light of your headlamp.

Final notes on other things to bring:

  • A bandana or two, we’ll use this while in the backcountry (packing list marks this as optional, but please pack 1 or 2)
  • Face masks (2-3) without a valve on them. Additionally, we would like everyone to pack actual masks to use as masks, instead of planning to use a buff or bandana as a mask (if this is an issue, please reach out to us)
  • Mailing addresses of loved ones and friends, plus stamps and envelopes (optional)
  • A few small, printed photos of family and friends (optional)
  • A few of you favorite family recipes that are delicious, nutritious, and easy enough to make (optional)

A couple things to not bring: 

  • Please do not bring any items of considerable emotional or monetary value, as it is easy to lose things when we are on the go.
  • Please do not pack any hardsided luggage. If you are concerned about the safety of your backpack in checked luggage, you can place it inside a very large duffle bag or durable plastic bag before flying.
  • Optional do not pack: tent footprint. Tent footprints can be quite pricey and can get very beat-up in the southwest. We will be providing a piece of tyvek plastic for each person to put below their tent to help protect it.

Used or borrowed: Buying new gear can be expensive and use a lot of non-renewable resources. While some items are important to have fit well to your body (i.e. backpacks, boots, etc) and may require being purchased new, we encourage you to consider used or borrowed gear for other items when possible! Check out thrift stores, used gear shops and websites, talk to friends about items they can lend, etc. Look for at our Yak post on discounted gear resources for more!

Hopefully all these thoughts have answered many of your questions. If this hasn’t (or if it’s created even more questions!!) please reach out to any of us instructors to ask questions or gain clarifications. We are here to support you and that starts with feeling prepared.

Your Instructor Team