Tag Archives: Peace Corps Packing List

Top 10 (not so obvious) most-used gear items we brought for our five month COS (Close of Service) trip

We’ve been “on the road” for more than two months now! It’s hard to believe we finished our Peace Corps service way back in July.

There were many things we had to get done at the end of our service, and packing for our COS (close of service) trip was one of them. Packing has never been easy for me. I always pack too much!

While Josh prefers to travel as lightly as possible, I have a hard time letting go of some items. I started out with a big pack, and as we went along I realized there were many things I wasn’t using. I left those belongings in the backpacker lodge’s free boxes.

Here’s our list of the 10 best items we brought along for this five month trip, aside from the obvious items you pack right away like a good camera, backpack, sunglasses,  water bottle, clothes, scarf (bring a scarf! keeps you warm, makes me feel more dressed up), bug spray, and for us, camping items, etc. Many of the same items we packed for Peace Corps we also brought on our COS trip.

  1. Katadyn water filter – In Namibia we were very fortunate that we could drink water right from the tap (we did, however, use the filter Peace Corps gave us most of the time). For the rest of our travels the water hasn’t been safe to drink in most places, so we use this water filter to make the water clean. We have a steri-pen as well to purify water but left that with our Peace Corps daughter. Bottled water adds up in price. This has saved us a lot of money.
  2. Platypus water bladder (2.5L) – To go along with the water filter, it would be a pain to pump water multiple times a day if we only had our single water bottles. When camping we also may not be able to be near a water source for a day or two, so we fill these handy platypuses and we’re set. We found the water bladders came in handy on our many hikes during our trip, as we used them as our hydration system with attached hoses. If you’re only concerned with one bottle a day, there are products like the life straw that would work well.
  3. Waterproof stuff sack and stuff sacks – When you travel, you are often in wet places with your phone and other electronics. We’ve used this floatable waterproof stuff sack to keep our belongings safe, to soak our foot in when a sea urchin attacks and as a basin to wash clothes. Stuff sacks are a great way to keep your clothing and gear organized.
  4. Battery packThis awesome gadget was given to us by our friends Mike and Christine when they came to visit, and it’s proven extremely useful. When we are traveling places where there won’t be electricity, or if the power goes out, which happens often in Southern Africa, this is able to power up both of our iPhones and give us a few more days of use. On a whim we also brought one of these handy car chargers and have used that quite a few times on long rides to charge our phones.
  5. Plug for sink – This flat rubber stopper is great for washing clothes in the sink as well as for filtering water and it works with all size drains.stop2
  6. Chico bag – My in-laws bought me this for my birthday and it has been such a great item on the road. I use it as a stuff sack when it’s in my backpack and when we go places for the day I prefer to use it over a purse. It’s super lightweight and has two big pockets on the side for water bottles. It can easily hold a lot of items (blanket, jacket, book, food) for a day trip.

    Sportin’ my Chico bag in Deadvlei

  7. Electricity adaptor set – We’re traversing two continents and multiple countries, and each has their own plug for charging. This set is pretty small and has worked everywhere so far.
  8. Luggage locks – These little locks have given me piece of mind when we leave our stuff in a hostel locker as well as on the road. I feel like they are good deterrent for thieves. We even used them to lock the zippers of our tent a few times.
  9. Hiking boots – If you are an active traveler, good footwear is important! I wear my chacos every day and they were one of the best thing I brought to Africa, but we have also hiked a lot and my boots from home were best for this activity. Good footwear and selection can be hard to find in Africa. These were a gift from my mom before we left for Peace Corps service. Thanks, Mom!
  10. Toilet paper and antibacterial alcohol hand sanitizer – I have toilet paper stuffed in every pocket of my jackets, and I always have some in my purse. Most toilets here don’t provide tissue. You never know when you might want to wash your hands, and it’s not always easy to find running water and soap in the same place. It’s important to stay as clean as possible on the road so you don’t get sick and ruin travel days!

Best Luxury Items: How you travel is a personal decision, and many of the items we brought above might be considered very luxurious to some. But in addition to the above, I love and consider my travel yoga mat that I use many days to be a luxury item I’m glad I brought. Working out and doing yoga is important to me, and it’s nice to have a cushion to protect me from the sand or dirt. I also brought my Asus transformer laptop. It’s great for travel – small and light. It serves as my entertainment (Kindle) and I play all my workout videos on there. It also allows us to easily update the blog.

As a side note, I’d bring as much crisp, new U.S. dollars as you’re willing to travel with. I cannot believe how many places have taken U.S. dollars as payment and it has helped us quite a lot when we’ve run out of local currency (ATMs not working has unfortunately been common on our travels!!). Cash is king!

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Top ten best gear items Lisa brought for Peace Corps Namibia

Josh recently blogged about his top 10 gear items he brought to Peace Corps service. If I had to pick a top 10, mine would be very close to the same, so I’ve decided to number my items 11-20. This way you have a top 20 list of the gear we brought. These aren’t in any particular order – if I had to, I could eliminate items of course (except #20). Part of PC life is learning to live without! We’ve lived without a lot of things these last 2 years, but the following have been particularly useful on a daily/weekly/vacation basis.

11. Earplugs and eye mask – These have been essential for a good night’s sleep here. They say Africa is quiet – but that has not been my experience! These two items have often helped me to get a great night’s sleep.

12. Protective case for my iPhone – I am a klutz and drop things often. Namibia is dusty. The Lifeproof case has kept my phone from impact damage as well as environment damage. It’s also waterproof which was great for places like Victoria Falls where it’s impossible not to get soaked. Carrying it around town people don’t know it’s an iPhone because the case conceals the logo. Lifeproof even sent me a new case when my old one got damaged. Now that’s great customer service!

13. Yoga mat- I brought my nice Manduka ProLite yoga mat from America and I’m glad I did because I use it just about everyday for exercising.  You can buy yoga mats in the capital here but they are not great quality.

I thought about taking it on our end of service trip, but it would be cumbersome to lug it around. My friend Julia told me about these awesome travel yoga mats and so I’m planning to get one (thanks to Julia’s sister) and use that for our big trip.

14. iPod and X-mini speakerGreat for listening to podcasts and creating your own stereo system. I’ve used these for teaching aids in class (think schoolhouse rock songs). It’s also nice to use the speaker when you watch a movie. Thanks to our cousin Joey Mink for tipping us off about the speaker. I listen to my iPod when cleaning the flat or running, and for entertaining myself on the very long combi rides we must take here.

15. Chacos – These were a staple in my life in Denver and here I wear them every day. They are strong, durable and have held up very well. And one of the best parts – Chaco offers a 40% discount on their shoes for PCVs.

16. Prana pants- These Jasmine Knicker pants are lightweight, they dry fast and they’ve held up well traveling. I love them because they keep you cooler than jeans in hot weather, and they look nice. I found them on Amazon for half price. I own two pairs – the gray and the green.

NamJuly-Sept 230

Sporting my Prana Jasmine Knickers and my chacos at the top of a Sossusvlei sand dune in Namibia.

17. Bag for teaching – My large backpack is great for traveling far, but for teaching I needed a shoulder bag/backpack to take my teaching preparations, pens, chalk, etc. in.

18. Toiletry case, beauty products and Dr. Bronner’s Soap – Having a toiletry case that hangs up is sooo convenient for travel! You hang it up on the back of a door and can easily access what you need. This one was only $13 on amazon and it makes showering on the road a cinch.

At home I was not a person who was very into beauty products. But here I have been! I’m really glad I brought some nice American beauty products (lotions, face wash, scrubs, etc.) They are a way to feel comfort far while from home. After a long day it’s nice to smell something familiar and feel good.

Dr. Bronner’s is a great “catch-all” soap. On trips as well as at home we use it as soap and shampoo, to wash our clothes, and even to clean pots and pans. It’s awesome!

19. External hard drive – For storing books, movies and TV shows. Some days you just want to escape and get lost in a movie or show. The danger is the food cravings that will follow after watching an American show.

20. A sense of humor – One of the most essential tools for living overseas. Don’t leave home without it! 🙂

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Top ten best gear items Josh brought for Peace Corps Namibia

I’m hoping this post can be helpful to people trying to figure out what to pack for Peace Corps Namibia or other countries in Southern Africa. Every site is different so these items may not be the same for everyone.

Unlocked iPhone 4s – Used everyday for SMS, voice calls, email, photos, etc. The drawback is that it could be a target for thieves, but I try not to have it out frequently in public. I haven’t had any issues in 21 months.

Laptop – A nine year old Dell running Ubuntu OS. I carry this clunker to work everyday. Very heavy and hard to do photo editing since the screen resolution is poor, but I just need to get two years out of it (at this point, three more months). I will leave it with a colleague or a local business owner at the end of my service. I use my computer everyday at work, but I would not recommend bringing an expensive laptop to Namibia. Colleagues have had their computers stolen or break here,  and the heat and dust are hard on electronics.

Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone backpack – This pack has seen all 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail, multiple Colorado and other Rocky Mountain backpacking trips, and now a trip to Africa. Going strong for ten years now!

  
REI Quarter Dome T3 tent – The camping options are great in Sourhern Africa and many lodges offer inexpensive camping at around $10USD a night per person. Right now we are camping in Livingstone, Zambia at Livingstone Backpackers. You can use the pool and other facilities at the lodges and most also have braai facilities so you can grill dinner. We also usually bring  our campstove or alcohol stove for making meals while camping.

Sea to Summit mummy liner – This is great on it’s own for camping in warm temperatures as it is basically like a lightweight sheet. Also nice in hostels and guesthouses if you question whether they changed the sheets from the last guest.

Crocs shoes – Lightweight and seems to keep out sand somehow. Easy to clean and fast drying. Very comfortable for work and for walking around town as well. The update to this style does not fit as well as my first pair but still great.

Canon EOS Rebel T3 SLR Camera – Entry level digital SLR camera for taking photos of Peace Corps projects and also for documenting the amazing scenery of Namibia. A telephoto lens is key for birding. I bought my first lens for $100 used and just had another replacement for a similar price brought over by friends.   

Kitchen knife – We use this everyday, and it is cheaper to bring a higher quality one than to buy a nice kitchen knife here. I like ours so much, I might take it back home!  

Big Agnes ground pad – Amazing comfort for camping. The seam on my first one failed, but I sent it back to them when returned to the US in May. They quickly mailed a new one to my parent’s address. The replacement was a nicer model than the one that failed, and my parents brought it to Namibia when they visited in December.

Sea to Summit pack towel – Small size, quick drying and useful even when Peace Corps puts you up in a guesthouse because there always seems to be a towel shortage.

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Filed under Peace Corps Namibia Blog