Helpful Packing List
The following is the packing list for our "Identity in Exile" program. It is geared toward a similar region to where you’ll be headed, and will help you pack for this new itinerary. Please post questions if you have any.
North India: Identity in Exile
Clothing & Equipment List
THINK LIGHT! Do not bring more than you are comfortable carrying as it is very important that you can fit all of your belongings into one backpack and a daypack that you are comfortable carrying on your own. Pack your bag and then walk around the block three times. Anything you can live without?
Here’s a list of all that you will need to stay warm, dry, cool and comfy. When packing, think layers and do your best to stay away from cotton (save T-shirts) because cotton takes a long time to dry. We recommend that you bring what’s listed here, and not much more. The lighter your pack, the happier you (and the rest of the group) will be. Students who arrive in Los Angeles drastically over packed will be asked to send extra items home at their own expense. There will be opportunities (in urban areas and while on trek) to do laundry. Remember too that culturally-appropriate clothing, as well as extra bags, and some of the other items on this list (like batteries) will be available for purchase in India, for less than half of what you would pay at home.
GEAR – The most important point here is that your gear should be functional and comfortable. Be sure you know how to pack and adjust your pack, and that you can carry it comfortably when it is full! We have made suggestions of possible companies that make certain items on this list; however, the same product is almost always made by other non-brand name brands. Comfort is key! For more information, please refer to the purchase chart and shopping guidelines on the pages that follow this list.
q BACKPACK: We recommend something between 4500 and 5000 cubic inches in size. Please bring an internal frame pack, as an external frame pack may break. Most important is
that the backpack frame fits your body size (note that they make S, M, L and XL frame sizes), and that you’re comfortable carrying the pack when it’s full. Keep in mind that the more empty space you have, the more you’ll be inclined to fill it up; therefore, go ahead and carry a pack smaller than 5000 ci as long as you can manage to fit everything into it! All other bags, such as your daypack and lightweight duffle, must be compressible and fit inside you big pack. Please note that many backpacks now come with detachable “lids,” which can be used as daypacks.
q BACKPACK COVER: Waterproof slip that cinches to fit over your backpack, still allowing you to wear the pack; available at any good outdoor equipment store. They come in different sizes, so please make sure that yours fits your pack! An alternate option would be to use heavy duty trash bags to line the inside of your pack, although an external cover is strongly recommended.
q DAYPACK: Small, light, nylon bag with shoulder straps and/or a hip strap – again, something that is compact and can either fit inside or be part of your bigger pack. This is what you’ll take with you on day excursions. It should be compressible and yet big enough to hold a water bottle, headlamp or flashlight, some food, a raincoat, and a book or journal.
q STUFF SACKS: You’ll never regret bringing too many of these: lightweight and compact, stuff sacks can be very useful for separating clothes, food, toiletries, and everything else so that you may bring order to your pack and make your life simpler. We like to bring a few larger stuff sacks (even old, beat up pillow cases may work) to separate clean and dirty clothes. It’s also nice to have some smaller bags to hold toiletries, batteries, etc.
q HIKING BOOTS: North India students are advised to have a fairly rigid pair of boots that offers good ankle support. When on course, you may find that your boots become your everyday footwear! We recommend trekking/hiking-specific boots with Vibram soles as they tend to be solid and offer long-term comfort and protection. IMPORTANT! YOU MUST BREAK IN YOUR BOOTS AHEAD OF TIME! Once broken in, they will give you better support and protection, and will be much less likely to cause blisters. When fitting your boots, be sure to try them on with a suitable sock combination. If you’re getting new boots, ask the folks at the store what sock combo they recommend, and come with three to four sets of that sock combo.
q CAMP SHOES, TEVAS, OR CHACOS: You will need a pair of shoes to wear during water crossings and at camp (after a long day, nothing feels better than pulling your boots off and throwing on some lightweight duds). An old pair of sneakers may work wonders, but some people prefer the outdoor industry prototypes. Tevas and Chacos are light and quick-drying. Chacos are slightly more expensive but fit more snug on the foot and have more support with no Velcro. It is important NOT to bring flip-flops (they won’t stay on your feet) and also NOT to bring leather, as it is more difficult to clean and does not dry as fast.
q SLEEPING BAG: Synthetic or down, 10 to 20 degree rating. If you are a cold sleeper, consider a 10 degree bag. Some bags are designed for women—bigger in the hips, and smaller in the shoulders. Bags often come in short (up to 5’9”) and long sizes (Up to 6’ 2”). If you are in between sizes, opt for the longer size, as you can always use the extra room to keep your clothing warm at night. Down bags last longer, are lighter, but require more maintenance. Getting a down bag with a vapor-barrier exterior is a great idea to prevent condensation from jeopardizing the insulation. It is also essential that if you do get a down bag, you line your stuff sack with a plastic bag. Compared to down bags, synthetic bags are bulkier, but they are a lot more economical and you can stay warm in a synthetic bag even if the bag is wet. We recommend a compression stuff sack for packing your sleeping bag, especially for synthetic bags.
q SLEEPING PAD: A good insulating layer between you and the ground is essential. Thermarest makes an inflatable pad that is optimal, but if you do get an inflatable pad, be sure to get a repair kit – they can sometimes get small holes and need repairs! Ridgerest and other outdoor companies manufacture foam pads, which are functional, but not as highly recommended due to their bulky size; they are, however, more economical, and they don’t require any special precautions or repairs. Although a half-length sleeping pad is OK, we recommend something ¾ length or longer given the number of nights that we’ll sleep out.
CLOTHING – In general, layers are the key to keeping warm (and cooling off) when you need it. Also, keep in mind that dressing in a way that is culturally appropriate goes a LONG way in gaining the respect of local people and opening doors for you. Clothing that does not show dirt, is lightweight, and dries easily is ideal, but remember that whatever you bring will get a lot of use, so bring things that you don’t mind beating up!
q RAINCOAT: Best if lightweight and breathable. Gore-Tex is great, but there are other materials that are more economical. We like coats that are a little oversized to accommodate under layers. A plastic poncho could work, but it is much more effective to hike with an actual raincoat. For North India, we strongly recommend that you invest in a good quality raincoat as well as rain pants (see below).
q RAIN PANTS: Waterproof pants, coated nylon or Gore-Tex. These should be pretty lightweight, and as with the raincoat, breathable materials are best. Your pants will take a beating, though, so they should either be fairly cheap, or if you are going to invest in a good pair, make sure they have a reinforced bottom and reinforced knees.
q PILE JACKET or WOOL SWEATER: Pile, often called Polartech or fleece, is great because it is light, doesn’t hold odors, dries fast and keeps you warm even if it’s wet. This coat is an essential element of the layering system, and a wool sweater can serve the same purpose. A light down jacket could serve this purpose as well, and may be a better option as it will pack down into a very small size. Cotton sweater and sweatshirts are NOT OK as they are heavy, take a long time to dry and will only make you colder if they get wet.
q DOWN OR SYNTHETIC “PUFFY”: The cure-all for layering. Does not need to be an expedition-fill jacket, but this warm insulating layer adds an incredible amount of warmth and comfort in the evening and packs down very small in your bag. For synthetics, Polarguard is the best insulator. Look at Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Cloudveil or Montbell for highest quality (and cost!). North Face makes a cheaper down jacket that would be sufficient.
q PILE PANTS: Any warm, light to medium weight synthetic pants will be fine. Alternatively, you could be quite happy with heavy or expedition weight long underwear!
q LONG UNDERWEAR: Top & bottom, mid-weight capilene or polypropylene: basically some type of synthetic or wool. NO COTTON. Patagonia makes excellent long underwear.
q WOOL or PILE HAT: Bring your favorite winter hat, or pick up a good cheap wool hat along your travels.
q WOOL or SYNTHETIC SOCKS: 3 pairs. Some wool socks are blended with nylon to make them more comfy and to help them last longer. Old, military-style wool socks would work, but aren’t recommended. Patagonia, Smart-wool, and Thor-Lo sell great socks. Wool or synthetic socks are essential as they insulate even when wet. We recommend that you consider one expedition-weight pair (for sleeping) and 2-3 lighter-weight pairs (for hiking).
q COTTON SOCKS: 2 pairs. These are for the plane ride, home-stays, walking around town and for wear when not trekking. Keep in mind that darker color socks will appear clean…even when they’re not!
q GLOVES / MITTENS: 1 pair, medium or lightweight. For chilly evenings and mornings.
q UNDERWEAR: 4 pairs. If you can avoid cotton, do. Synthetic, quick-drying underwear will be much easier to wash and keep clean. Patagonia makes great synthetic underwear.
q T-SHIRTS: 2. Should be neither white nor black (grey is good), and in fair shape. May be cotton, or better yet, synthetic. Please DO NOT bring thin-shoulder tank tops or other shirts which reveal skin as these are culturally inappropriate.
q LIGHTWEIGHT, SYNTHETIC SHIRT: 1. Something short or long-sleeved that will dry quickly. Many companies now make synthetic shirts designed for outdoor activities or sports. Anything that will dry quickly is ideal.
q LONG PANTS: 2 pairs, at least one synthetic. We don’t recommend jeans, as they take a long time to dry. Your pants should be durable and lightweight, and, if possible, dark in color. We recommend lightweight trekking pants with zippers so that your pants may be easily converted into shorts. DO NOT bring wide-leg pants that might drag on the ground, as these are a disaster on Asian streets. Girls: DO NOT bring pants that are fitted in the waist/ butt area; they are culturally inappropriate, and you will undoubtedly feel uncomfortable in them.
q SUN HAT OR VISOR: Along with your sunglasses, this is essential protection from the intense sun of the Himalayas.
FOR MEN –
q COLLARED SHIRT: 1. Should be long-sleeved and lightweight (synthetic or light-weave cotton). Important for visits to monasteries and conservative rural villages, and for meetings with NGOs and other important city contacts.
FOR WOMEN –
q SUN DRESS or SKIRT: Important for visits to monasteries and conservative rural villages, and for meetings with NGOs and other important city contacts; also remarkably comfy for hiking. Your dress/skirt should be simple and lightweight and MUST cover the shoulders and come down below the knee. Don’t go out and buy anything fancy! Make sure your dress or skirt is loose enough to squat (to use the toilet with
out showing skin) and to sit cross-legged in. Sarongs are very versatile and could serve this purpose as well.
PERSONAL ITEMS –
q WATER BOTTLES: 2. 1-quart, plastic or aluminum water bottles. Nalgene makes great, durable plastic water bottles, and both Sigg and Brunton make great aluminum bottles. They may be picked up at any backpacking store. Camelbacks and other hydration bladders are great for trekking but must be cared for as the hoses can break.
q SUNGLASSES: Bring one pair that offers good protection. Make sure that your shades are 100% UVA/UVB protection. If you have extra-sensitive eyes, polarized lenses are recommended, although they are expensive. You may be able to find a cheap replacement pair in North India if you lose them, but quality glasses cannot be guaranteed.
q TOILETRIES: Best to bring a 6 week’s supply of everything you need for grooming yourself. Women, please bring enough tampons/pads for the entire course.
q SECURITY WALLET/BELT: You’ll want to keep your passport, ATM card, traveler’s checks and other valuables in a secure wallet or belt that’s well attached to your body. We prefer the cloth ones over nylon because they are cooler against the skin in humid weather. Eagle Creek makes good products.
q JOURNAL/NOTEBOOK: You must bring something that you can write in. Should be compact, but have room enough to record your daily thoughts.
q HAT / BANDANAS: Bandanas are versatile and can be very comfortable for women to keep their hair clean and tied back.
q HEADLAMP: We strongly recommend that you avoid bringing a hand-held flashlight. Headlamps are best, as they’re hands-free and can provide an extra modicum of safety should we find ourselves hiking at night.
q SUN SCREEN: Important! We recommend SPF 30+, water/sweatproof.
q LIP BALM: Make sure that your lip balm has SPF 15 or higher. Lip balm w/o SPF actually intensifies the effect of the sun’s rays!
q INSECT REPELLANT: A small bottle will be more than sufficient. Can fit in with your toiletries.
q PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS: Any personal prescription medications that you regularly take (and printed information on side effects and contraindications) and a cycle of Ciproflaxin or other broad-based antibiotic. Consult with a travel doctor for recommendations and a prescription.
q GLASSES / CONTACTS AND CONTACT SOLUTION: Please bring an extra pair of glasses in case you lose your first! Contact lens wearers should consider bringing extra pairs and enough saline solution to last the length of the course.
q TOWEL: Preferably quick-dry and not too big; can be found at any outdoor equipment store. MSR makes a great PackTowel.
q ALARM CLOCK or WATCH WITH BUILT-IN ALARM: If not a watch, your alarm clock should be travel-size. The alarm needs to be loud enough to wake you up and get you moving!
q GUIDEBOOK, PHRASEBOOK, and PROGRAM READER: Sent to you by Dragons.
OPTIONAL – We include these items to give you an idea of some extras that might come in handy; however, they truly are optional – all items that we believe are necessary for this course have been included above. If you have any questions regarding the necessity of a particular item, please contact us.
q DUFFEL BAG / TRAVEL BAG: You may need an extra bag to keep items that are left behind during hikes and short trips and a bag in which you may bring souvenirs home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and in fact, just about anything nylon and lightweight will be fine. Osprey and other backpack manufacturers make small, compactable “travel covers” that can double as a all-purpose duffle. If you can’t find something that works, don’t worry – you can get a great simple bag in-country for a fraction of what you would pay at home!
q CAMERA: Please bring extra batteries for digital cameras and extra film if you are using 35mm. Remember: if you have a rechargeable battery, you need the appropriate adapter (voltage converter) so that you don’t fry your device. Keep in mind that we will NOT have access to electricity during some parts of the course; you should therefore bring an extra battery or two. For people using digital cameras, bring a few memory cards as downloading your photos in internet cafes may take a long time!
q SOCK LINERS: 1 pair. Not essential, but nice as an additional layer…and they can help prevent blisters.
q ZIPLOCK BAGS: Of small and large size. These can be good for “waterproofing” or separating items in your pack. Stuff sacks may also work for this purpose, although very few are waterproof.
q GIFTS: A few simple things to present to people who help make our course special. Picture books of home and inflatable globes are great. Gift ideas that were a hit last year: T-shirts from schools or hometowns, pictures of yourself, name cards with your mailing address and email. (Students can discuss other appropriate gifts when their instructors call to introduce themselves in early June.)
q BANDANA: 1+. These can serve multiple purposes while traveling.
q STUDENT ID CARD: If you have one that’s valid, bring it in your safety wallet!
q SMALL BACKPACK PADLOCK: 1-2. It is a good idea to have some way to lock your bags.
q EXTRA PASSPORT PHOTOS: Not a bad idea to have a few extra pictures with you.
q PURELL: A small bottle of this hand-sanitizing gel, or anti-bacterial hand wipes.
q GOOD BOOK: Bring one to trade!
q EXTRA STUFF SACKS
q PLAYING CARDS / DICE / TRAVEL GAMES: As long as they’re small and light.
q EXTRA FILM: If you do bring film, it’s best if you pack it in a lead carrying bag, or pack it so that you can remove it from your luggage before sending it through any airport X-rays.
q DUCT TAPE: Wrap some around your water bottle, and pull it off as you need it.
q OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATIONS: You might consider bringing a small supply of whatever you use at home, along with some vitamins and some Pepto-Bismol tablets for bellyaches. We stock our medical kit with just about everything, but if you are especially prone to motion sickness, headaches, or menstrual cramps, it’s a good idea to bring some of your own. Instructors will collect and review all medications at the start of the course.
THINGS TO LEAVE AT HOME!
* TANK TOPS, SLEEVELESS SHIRTS, TIGHT PANTS, SHORT SHORTS AND MINI SKIRTS
* REVEALING CLOTHING OF ALL KIND We are not here to make a fashion statement.
* WIDE-LEGGED PANTS THAT DRAG ON THE GROUND A disaster on Asian streets and in public toilets.
* MAKEUP AND OTHER FANCY TOILETRIES
* iPODS AND OTHER TYPES OF MP3 PLAYERS These have been known to break easily at high elevations!
One final thing, and this is essential: A HEALTHY BODY! Your experience will be so much more enjoyable if you come with a body that is fully prepared for the journey. We recommend an exercise regimen that gets your heart rate above 120 beats per minute, for thirty minutes at a stretch, four times a week. We also recommend you go on at least one overnight backpacking trip before the beginning of the course, to get a feel for your pace (and also to use your pack and break in your boots). The better your condition, the greater the number of opportunities you’ll be able to seize!