Whether it’s your first time going on outreach or you’re just determined to perfect your packing list, we know the importance of being prepared. We also know that when living for two months out of a hiking backpack, it is critical to pack smart. This blog is brought to you courtesy of the experience of nine different outreaches to thirteen different countries (Oman, Haiti, Israel, Lebanon/Turkey/Ethiopia, Jordan, Costa Rica, Jamaica, France, and Malaysia/Indonesia). We hope these gems will make it onto your must-have packing list and help you learn what is essential for outreach and what you can do without.
The biggest lesson we have learned with packing is that you will always need less than what you expect on outreach. While it might feel great to bring twelve shirts and five pairs of pants…
You really only need seven shirts maximum (though depending on the sweat factor you could even go as low as five) and two or three bottoms. Guys, we would recommend one pair of nicer pants for Sunday church services, and two more comfortable non-skinny bottoms. Girls, depending on what is considered modest in the country, we would recommend only bringing one pair of pants. We know you may have just internally freaked out a little, but you’ll really want to opt for some skirts instead. Skirts tend to go beyond culture. You should at least have one if not two skirts with you.
Now on to the stuff you might not have thought about…
1. Packing Cubes
If clothes are rolled when packed, these cubes can hold, on average, seven shirts and two or three pairs of pants. Especially when living out of a hiking backpack, packing cubes are an amazing way to stay organized with limited space. A few of our staff went on an outreach to three totally different nations where weather ranged from blizzards to blazing heat. They said these cubes were a great way to keep their warm weather clothes out of the way in the colder countries and vise versa. One even said she used it in place of a pillow! Bottom line, these cubes are a great way to organize and limit the amount of room your clothing takes up.
2. Travel Towel
These towels are fast drying and save you a ton of room. Regular bath towels will eat up what small precious space you have when they come to about a foot wide and three inches thick when folded (even a small one). Travel towels will get you dry and then dry themselves out quickly if you have to pack it up the same day you use it.
3. Wet wipes
These will likely come in handy in many situations. In many nations you will be considered lucky if you have access to a toilet, let alone toilet paper. When you are out and about in a village in Ethiopia and ask for a bathroom you may just be led to someone’s back yard where there is a hole in the ground. At this moment you will be so grateful when you have your wet wipes. We have also been thankful for these bad boys when shower situations were less than ideal. And by that we mean not at all available. These are a great way to feel fresh between showers.
4. Essential oils
Believe it or not, they have often been lifesavers on outreach. When we were in Turkey, one of our team members ended up burning her hand pretty badly on the top of a convection oven. Luckily she had her lavender oil, and it helped a ton! A burn that should have scarred is now only a memory that has faded away. Not only is lavender good for burns but it works for bug bites as well. In places like Ethiopia/Malaysia/Indonesia you may quickly become a feast for mosquitos. Just put a little lavender oil on and most of the itching will go away! On the other hand, to take preventative measures against all kinds of bugs, we recommend investing in a blend of eucalyptus, sandal wood, and/or peppermint.
5. Sewing kit
This has come in handy for us so many times on outreach. You never know when you will tear your favorite skirt, or have a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions where you will need to sew or patch something. On one outreach one of our team members had a zipper break on their backpack. They were fully packed so getting this fixed was crucial as we were doing a lot of moving around. Another time a team member had to make some emergency alterations on a bathing suit to make it culturally appropriate. We could share more, but lesson learned, many times, always have a sewing kit with you! You can usually find some decent cheap ones at Walmart or crafting stores with a needle and thread in multiple colors. So worth the buy!
As a few simple but easy to forget bonus items, don’t forget to grab your hair ties (girls and guys with long hair alike), and a pair of cheap sandals for around your house/apartment/hostel or in a not-so-clean shower. Also, for you coffee connoisseurs, a “coffee sock” and ziplock of your favorite roast are easy and convenient to bring along (if you’re willing to make a little extra space).
So there you go, our seasoned staff members top five recommendations of items that will hopefully make your outreach a better experience. Remember, if you aren’t positive you will use it, you probably don’t need it. Now get out there and change the world!