You’re going to be a Peace Corps volunteer, eh? Super cool! You will love it and hate it and then love it again. It will be awesome.
I was very concerned about what to pack for my Peace Corps service. It seemed very important. Looking back, it wasn’t nearly as important as I thought. All the true necessities are available locally and for the extras that aren’t, we’ve had visitors or care packages or Peace Corps friends making trips back to the States help us out. Or we’ve learned to make due or make our own.
Before your service begins, though, packing is one of the sure things you can actually control. It’s something concrete to focus on, when so much else (where will you live? what will you do? who will your friends be?) is a huge mystery. So I get it.
I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay and every post is different. I’ve never been a Peace Corps volunteer anywhere else, so I can’t comment on how well this list will cover your needs.
Also, I serve in the Community Economic Development sector, which means I do a lot of teaching and community work, but not a lot of down-and-dirty manual labor. Even so, a couple nice outfits is sufficient, as the rest of the time it’s jeans and casual shirts for me. Paraguay has red dirt and it seems to get on everything. Hence, you will see recommendations for darker-colored pants and socks.
I am also a female, so the list is geared slightly for women, but can be easily adjusted for men as well.
Again, this list may not suit your needs depending on your region and sector, but I hope it can be a start!
My Peace Corps Packing List:
This list is based on one I received before my service began, updated by me (with input from my fellow volunteers) after nearly two years in-country. Use it as a rough guideline and rest assured that people live and survive in your future country, so you can too! In fact, you may want to purchase some clothes locally to better fit in. That being said, it’s nice to have some familiar comforts too when adjusting to your new surroundings.
Let’s get to the list.
- 1-2 pairs dark colored khaki-like pants
- 2 pairs jeans with some stretch
- 1 pair nicer slacks
- 1-2 cozy/athletic pants
- 1-2 pairs long underwear/leggings for winter
- 1 khaki-type shorts (shorts aren’t generally worn by women, perhaps men could bring 1-2 more pairs) (shorts aren’t allowed in PC office nor training center)
- 2 athletic shorts
- 3 thick-strapped tank tops
- 6+ short sleeved shirts (some a little dressier) – this is what you’ll wear most of the year!
- 1-2 long-sleeved shirts
- 3-4 sweaters/sweatshirts (at least one slightly dressy)
- 2-3 lightweight, knee-length skirts
- 1-2 lightweight dresses
- 1-2 sandals (at least 1 comfortable for walking)
- Hiking-type sandals, optional
- 1 pair tennis shoes or all-terrain shoes
- Flip-flops for around the house
- 1-2 pair flats with thick soles
- Dress shoes (wedge heel is common for women)
- 1 hooded raincoat
- 1 fleece jacket
- 1 winter coat (packable down is good as it’s only very cold a few weeks)
- Hat, gloves, scarf for winter
- 6-8 pairs socks (white will likely not stay white. Consider wool for winter.)
- Belt (there’s a tendency for weight to fluctuate)
- 15+ pairs underwear (in a material that won’t easily stretch out)
- 6-10 bras (including sports bras)
- Makeup (if you’re brand picky)
- Diva cup (tampons available, but sometimes tricky to find)
- Cloth panty liners (disposable liners easily available locally)
- Sunscreen (if brand picky as PC provides some)
- Bug spray (if brand picky as PC provides some)
- Ponytail holders (poor quality locally)
- Shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, face wash (1-month supply or more if you are brand picky)
- Travel bag or small backpack
- Large backpack for longer trips (like with an internal frame)
- Camping sleeping pad (great for visitors or when visiting others) or thick yoga mat (which can be bought locally)
- Travel pillow (good for sleeping on buses or when visiting friends)
- Travel alarm clock (Peace Corps issued cells have alarm feature)
- Multipurpose took/pocket knife (in checked luggage!)
- Warm (down or compactable) sleeping bag for travel and for winter
- Water bottle
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Towels and washcloths (towels available locally but a quick-dry one is great for travel)
- Set of sheets for a double bed (or available locally, but some say good quality is pricey)
- Duct tape
- Dietary supplements you take, besides multivitamins (which are provided by PC)
- Sealable baggies (can be found locally in larger cities)
- Favorite spices (spicy things aren’t easily available locally)
- Photos of your family, friends (a good conversation starter)
- Portable games (cards, uno, checkers, chess)
- Rechargeable batteries and charger (regular ones available locally)
- 220-volt converter if required by electronics you’re bringing (typically laptops, phones, cameras automatically convert for you – it should say on the charger brick), preferably with surge protector
- USB flash drives (available locally)
- High capacity external hard drive (for information sharing)
- Camera and charger (expensive cameras not recommended without insurance)
- Laptop with multiple USB drives
Download a PDF of this Peace Corps Packing List, if that would be helpful as you prepare for this big adventure.
Other Peace Corps volunteers, what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your tips! To any future Peace Corps volunteers with questions or doubts, don’t hesitate to request clarification or ask away. I almost always have an opinion and would love to share it!