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Ye Olde Packing Yak

Hi everyone,

As our course draws nearer, we imagine that you have started turning your attention to the packing list! We wanted to send along a small update to the list in advance of our departure to make sure that we all have everything we need to be comfortable and prepared for our time together.

 Some additions/specifics:

 *Crazy Creek chair/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. If you are packing your backpack in a large duffel bag to fly, you can stuff the chair into the duffel rather than making it fit inside the backpack.

*Duffel bag: In the webinar, we talked about a duffel large enough to fit your backpack. This can be convenient for stashing your extra stuff in while we are out backpacking or on the river too. Here are some specifically created for backpacks, but any large duffel would work. On the gear list a “sturdy trash bag” is offered as an alternative. We recommend a duffel bag for this course because you will be in and out of it daily.

*Camping knife/multi-tool: This is currently listed as optional on our packing list, but we would like to strongly encourage bringing this! Our instructor Nate will be teaching you how to make fire with a bow-drill set. You’ll need a knife (or can share one with a friend) to prepare the set and practice. If you will fly to the start of the course your camping knife or multi-tool needs to be in your checked baggage(In your backpacking pack, in your duffle bag).

*Bring less clothing! There are many items listed on the packing list a few times. You will want to choose clothing that is versatile and can be worn in many settings. It should be sufficient to bring 3 pairs of pants/shorts. This could be 1-2 pairs of hiking pants and one pair of shorts or other pants that you can wear while in town.  Similarly, 3-4 shirts will be enough. These could be 2 quick-dry sun shirts for rafting and hiking, a t-shirt you can sleep in, and one other shirt to wear while in town or farming.

*Warm layers: It will likely be both hotter AND colder than you are imagining on our trip. 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.

Sleeping bag & liner: We will be camping in both hot and cold climates. A 15-20 degree sleeping bag should be sufficient in the cold weather, and in warmer climates, we may opt to sleep in just the liner or unzipped sleeping bag.

*Sun Hat: Definitely bring a sun hat (one is enough)! At the very least, bring a baseball cap. We will be spending a ton of time outdoors and you will really appreciate having something to keep the sun out of your eyes and off of your face.

 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 your 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. You will want to bring boots that are comfortable to walk in, it is as simple as that. You will NOT need bulky mountaineering boots or boots with a “full-shank”. These kinds of boots have a rigid sole that is designed not to bend. You want the sole of your boot to flex, which will allow you to walk comfortably. If there is any reason you think a different type of footgear would be better for you, please reach out to us before purchasing them.

Your tent: make sure you know how to set it up and practice doing this! Our challenge: Before you arrive for the course, 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 written on a piece of paper, a pen, stamps, and envelopes (optional)

A few small, printed photos of family and friends (optional)

A few of your favorite family recipes that are delicious, nutritious, and easy enough to make (optional)

 A couple of 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 hard-sided luggage. If you are concerned about the safety of your backpack in checked luggage, you can place it inside your duffle bag

Optional: do not pack a tent footprint. Tent footprints can be quite pricey and can get very beat-up in the southwest. We can provide 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 our Yak post on discounted gear resources for more!

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 lightweight 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 4 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)

Lightweight 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.

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.

Happy packing!

Your Instructor Team (Atieno, Nate, & Christy)