Peace Corps Packing List

Packing for two years away in Madagascar at the time felt like the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.  I remember thinking “How will I be able to fit everything I will need for two years in just three bags?”  Packing in general can be a stressful event but doing it for two years of unknown can seem like a nightmare.  When I was packing I spent hours searching for and pouring over packing list online trying to find a list that told me exactly what I needed and did not need.  In the end what you need to bring comes down to personal preferences.  I know your probably thinking that you have to get the right things to take; I know I did.  Yes, there are some things that are important to take (the electronics section), but there is no one thing that will make or break your service.  And most of the stuff that you need/want can be bought in country or shipped to you later.  When ordering gear, clothing, shoes, ext. there are a lot of business that give discounts to PCV’s.  You may want to take a look at this link for some of the discounts, as well, you can e-mail companies to ask about a discount.  I know many shoe companies do give discounts and are not on that link.  What follows is a list of what I brought to country and notes on items where I felt they were needed.  Feel free to message me if you have any questions about anything on this list or not on this list.  I hope this helps!
You probably already know that you get two checked bags (50 lbs per bag) and two carry-on bags.  I highly recommend one of your checked bags being a multi-day hiking backpack; it will be very useful when you travel around the country on vacation our training.  Your second checked bag I recommend being a rolling duffel bag.  I brought a duffel bag without wheels, which was fine, but it was a pain to carry with all my other bags.  It is also best if the bag is collapsible because once you get to site you will probably never use it again and will want it to be easily storable out of the way under your bed.  Do not spend a lot of money, or any if possible, on the duffel bag.  Your multi-day pack and your day pack are the most important bags you will have because they will get a lot of use and abuse.  So spend your money on them.  I recommend emailing for there prodeal web address (the e-mail address can be found on the link mentioned above).  Here you can get good bags for a great price. 
  • Multi-day Pack: Kelty Lakota 65 (checked): I use this pack when I go into Tana or on longer vacations.  When I chose this pack I tried to find the largest one that fit inside the size restrictions.  I also made sure that it was hydration compatible (which I have not used with this pack) and that it had an integrated rain cover.  If you buy a pack that does not have a rain cover I suggest buying a separate one so that you can cover your bag when it is on top of the brusse and raining. 
  • Medium sized duffel bag (checked): This is only to get your stuff to county/site.  Once there you will never use it again, except maybe as a storage container for all the stuff you thought you needed but come to realize you will never use at site.  Hard suitcases are hard to store and are heavier, so I don’t recommend them unless that is what you have. I had a duffel bag that fell just under the remaining size restrictions when added to the multi-day pack, so that is what I brought.
  • Day Pack: Sierra Designs Discovery 30 (carry on): This is by far the most important bag that you will be bringing to country.  You will be using it the most and it will be receiving the most abuse so get a good one.  I used this pack during PST to carry my books to and from tech sessions and to transport ‘beverages’ back to the training center.  I use it now every time I go on any trip (vacation, VAC, ext) and as a cycling pack.  You want to get one that is as close to the size restrictions as possible.  I also made sure to get one that had an integrated rain cover (if not buy one because it rains a lot) and was hydration compatible (I brought a 3 lt BCG hydration pack that I use when I go cycling). 
  • Messenger (computer) bag (carry on): I used this to get my electronics to country, but have never used it since.  You could use a messenger bag or smaller backpack as a “brusse bag,” but I just use my day pack.  You do want to buy a bag, either day pack or messenger bag that you fill comfortable holding in your lap on the brusse to carry the things you will be using (ipod, kindle, food, water) on the brusse and that you do not want thrown on top of the brusse. 
            This has to be the hardest category to prepare when packing for Madagascar.  I spent countless hours scanning Peace Corps packing lists and Madagascar PCV blogs trying to figure out dress codes, weather, and ext.  What makes it harder is that you will not find out where in the country your site will be till a month or so into being in country.  The temperature difference between the highlands and the coast are fairly significant.  I am in the Sudest and it gets really hot here, but my training when I first got to country was in Mantasoa which was really cold.  In the end, I would suggest packing more warm weather clothes than anything else and then just putting on layers if it is cold.  I despise the cold but I only came with a hoody, coat, and a pair of thermals and was fine.  This clothing list is for guys, more exactly education stages, but I think it gives an idea overall for everyone.  Education stages will have to “dress up” a little bit more than other stages because we are in the classroom.  The dress code is very relative to your region; the coastal regions are very chill when it comes to dress code.  In class I wear my quick dry pants and polo.  Do not worry about not having enough clothes or shoes when you are packing; I do not even wear have of the ones I brought.  When you get to country you will probably have far more clothes and shoes than most of the people at your site.  Dirty clothes take on a different meaning here in Madagascar.  If it looks clean and passes the smell test then it is clean.  You will be surprised how many days you will wear a shirt before you decide it is dirty.  When packing you also need to keep in mind how easy it will be to wash any certain item in a basin by hand.  When packing, I packed everything besides my clothes and then just packed clothes till I ran out of room.  If you do need something you can always ‘frip’ it.  Frip is similar to a resale shop, but is on the street or in the market and is huge here in Madagascar.  Word of warning for taller people, it will be hard for you to frip here.  I am 5’11” and I am pretty tall in Madagascar. 
·         4 Haggar Cool 18 Polo shirts: These are fairly cool in the hot weather and they dry fast…a necessity
·         1 polo shirt
·         2 Magellan shirts
  • 3 nice button up shirts: For swearing in and going to church/cultural events
  • 6 t-shirts: I suggest the thin cotton ones.  They are easier to rinse the soap out of and dry faster.
  • 3 tank tops: To wear around the house/workout in/cycle in
  • 3 pair of dress pants (1 khaki, 2 slacks): For swearing in/teaching/anytime you might need to dress up.
  • 2 Magellan quick dry pants: I wear these more than any other item. They are awesome. Comfortable, cool, quick dry, and they have a lot of pockets which is handy here.
  • 1 pair of blue jeans: I despise these and refuse to wear them in country anymore.  They are incredibly hard to clean by hand. 
  • 4 pair of shorts
  • 3 basketball/running shorts
  • 1 pair of cycling shorts
  • 2 pair of swim suits
  • 1 pair of thermals: I only used the shirt half of these a few times during trainging.
  • 1 tie: For swearing in.
  • a lot of boxers: You don’t want to frip these.
  • 6 pair cycling socks, 1 dress, a bunch of regular: I only ever use the cycling socks, but you also probably don’t want to frip these either.
  • 1 hoody: I think it gets cold in the Highlands, but I also do not like the cold.
  • 1 coat
  • 2 rain jacket: A must need. Or an umbrella.
  • 2 belts (1 dress belt, 1 regular belt): You will gain/lose weight when you get here.
  • 3 bandanas
  • 3 pair of sunglasses
  • 2 hats
            There is a reason for every shoe, but you most likely will just end up wearing flip flops most of the time.  That is what the locals wear, if they wear anything, and that is what is easy to find in country.  So good pair of flip flops, like Reef for example, are indispensable.  If you are in the Highlands you will probably wear shoes more often than in the coastal regions; I wear them to teach in sometimes. 
  • 1 pair of casual dress shoes (for teaching): I wore these for swearing in and then never again.
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes: Waterproof; it makes a huge difference. I wear these for teaching and hikes. 
  • 1 pair of sturdy sandals (Chacos): These are great for when it is muddy or long treks when you just don’t want to wear shoes, but I actually rarely ever wear them.  Some of my Stagemates wear them all the time though, so it’s all a personal preference. 
  • 1 pair of flip flops: These get far more use than anything else.
  • 1 pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes: I have only worn these once at PST but I like them and everyone needs their feel good shoes. 
Toiletries (at least 3 months worth):
            When you arrive in country Peace Corps will give you a med kit with a bunch of stuff that is all refillable when needed (Medical Kit Contents), as well as fun stuff like malaria test and a needle to remove Parasy.  So you will not need to bring any of the stuff on that list.  After PST you will have an opportunity to go to the supermarket and buy any other stuff you need refills on before you go to site.
  • deodorant: If you like the stick deodorant you should bring a lot or have people mail you some from the States, because there is not a very big selection of that here.
  • shampoo (regular and travel size) (regular and rinse free)
  • body wash (regular and travel size) (regular and rinse free)
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • extra toothbrushes
  • floss: PC will give you this in your med kit
  • hand sanitizer
  • daily vitamins
  • manicure set
  • lip balm: PC will give you this in your med kit
  • lotion (for after the inevitable sunburns)
            Madagascar is the place electronics go to die.  During training alone I broke my Galaxy S4, 3 of my stagemates fried their laptops, and one broke his external hard drive.  Humidity, rain, theft, power surges, and gravity all have it out for the electronics, so do what you can to prevent these as well as possible.  Clements Insurance has a special for PCV’s and it is fairly cheap, so I recommend looking into that.  If something does break or get stolen you can always have a new one sent to you.  Some people have had electronics shipped to them but it is not advisable.  There are always people going to and from the States so you can ask them to bring something back with them.  You can also buy electronics in country but they are very expensive.
  • Toshiba Laptop with power plug: You will need a laptop to do/submit your PC reports during your service.  Not to mention you will probably want it to do some writing/watching movies/listen to music.  Suggested downloads before you come: PC VRF program (a must; you can get this from PC), Calibre (for converting ebooks), and VLC media player.
  • unlocked smartphone (Galaxy S4): You can have PC get you a (very) non-smart phone during PST (highly recommended for use when in Tana/other big towns), but having a smartphone for the apps and listen to music while on a brousse is very nice.  Also, Peace Corps is now requiring Volunteers to now use Android phones to post data on projects.
  • Kindle: There is a huge e-book library that gets passed around by PCV’s
  • Ipod
  • digital camera, charger, memory cards, and case: Because you will want to take 1000’s of pictures to remember your time here.
  • GoPro Hero3+, memory card, 2 batteries, charger, and head strap
  • 2 extra memory cards (camera or GoPro)
  • 2 Tb external hard drive (USB powered preferably): You can easily fill this up with media either from stagemates or other PCV’s. Mine currently only has 1 GB free.
  • 3 thumb drives (varying sizes): Good for sharing small files.
  • Goalzero Nomad 7 solar charger with accompanying battery charger: I hardy ever use this because I have electricity, but if you find a good deal on one it might be worth it. Ag and Health are more likely not to have electricity, but 3 people in my ED stage don’t have electricity.
  • set of 4 AA and AAA rechargeable batteries
  • 2 rechargeable battery pack (different capacities): Nice to have on long brousse rides or when your are visiting places with no electricity.
  • 3 sets of headphones
  • traveling set of plug converters
  • set of 10 U.S to E.U. plug converters (they were cheap and in case I lose some): You will lose some.
  • rechargeable razor
  • 1 rechargeable headlamp: Because it gets dark and sometimes you need your hands free.
  • 2 rechargeable (crank) and 1 regular flashlight: I use the crank flashlight a lot around the house.
  • 1 solar light (Luminaid): This was a nice buy. I use it for the house after the electricity goes out and in my shower room if I shower at night.
  • rechargeable speaker: I highly recommend bringing one of these (or a bluetooth one).  You will want to listen to music from your phone/watch movies louder than your devices will get.
  • a lot of extra cables
Other Stuff:
  •  Malagasy/English dictionary: This is a really good one and is what most people bring. I highly recommend it.  PC gives you one in country but they aren’t that good.
  • 2 notebooks and 1 pocket sized notebook: PC gives you a notebook at PST and they are cheap to buy here. I now have an abundance of them.
  • sewing kit with extra thread
  • Gerber tool: These just come in handy.
  • pocket knife
  • key chain bottle opener: A must need.  Even if you don’t drink beer you will get use out of it.
  • 3 water bottles (1 Lt, 24 oz, and 20 oz): You use a liter bottle to measure drinking water for purification.
  • 3 Lt BCG water bladder (both backpacks are hydration compatible): You will most likely be doing a lot of cycling here in Mada and having a camel pack is great for that.
  • 1 deck of cards
  • ear plugs: Chickens, geese, and children are loud.
  • binoculars: Never use. I thought I would use them at the national parks, but I never remember to take them and don’t think I would even if I remembered.
  • solar shower: These are really cheap on Amazon and I suggest getting one.  It is really too hot in the Sudest for me to use it as an actually solar shower (the cold bucket showers feel great after a hot day), but its nice to have “running water” to shower with.
  • zippo lighter (empty), BIC lighter: I use the BIC to light my gas stove, but you can buy those here. You can buy fuel for the Zippo but it is expensive here.
  • 8 ct of sharpies (varying colors)
  • 24 ct of colored pencils: For the neighborhood kids to draw with.
  • 5 light calibers and 1 heavy duty screw caliber: So many uses (ex: to hold up the opening to your mosquito net, attach things to pack, ext.).
  • hammock, rope, and DIY hammock mosquito net: Awesome for just hanging out or when it gets to hot to sleep in a bed.
  • sleeping bag: I use this as a blanket or as a pad to lay on when camping.
  • watch
  • paracord rope bracelet
  • 2 sturdy combination locks: To lock your gate, ext. I have locks on all of my stuff so these just sit in a box under my bed, but better safe than sorry.  You can buy locks here but they rust easily.
  • pillow: Pillows here are just pillow casing stuffed with cubes of foam. I attached mine to my carry-on.
  • 2 full sized sheets: You can buy these here.
  • 2 light weight camping towels and 1 rag: You need at least one of these towels; I just had the extras.
  • 1 pair of work gloves: For gardening?
  • duct tape: Because you can fix anything with it.
  • multiple bungee cords: To tie things down to your bike rack.
  • 3 dry sacks (7.9 Lt, 4.1 Lt, 2.1 Lt): For your electronics.
  • envelopes and stamps: Don’t buy the lick and stick ones because the humidity in Mantasoa will make them all seal before you get to use them…I know.  Besides I have never had a reason to use them.
  • beer cozy: I never use these because the bottles are either bigger or are just not cold to begin with.
            All of this stuff you can buy at Jumbo or Shopright before you go to site.  It is a little expensive for our income but is about equal to U.S. prices.  So if you have them already, and have room, then bring them; if not then you can just buy it here.
  • measuring spoons and cups
  • 3 sizes of kitchen knife
  • spatula
  • peeler
  • thin planed cutting board
  • 3 Tupperware
  • box of 20 ziploc bags
 Host Home Gifts:
  • package of temporary tattoos
  • small photo album: You can take pictures and have them printed here.
  • soccer ball (ended up taking this to site for the kids to play with)
  • I bought a knife sharpener in country
List of Packing Importance:
1. Electronics
2. A few days’ clothes, something to keep you warm, and a month of toiletries
3. Shoes
4. Important ‘other stuff’
5. Whatever else on your list you can fit (‘other stuff,’ clothes, gifts, toiletries, food stuffs)

Remember you buy most things here in country and you can always have your family/friends send you things in the mail.  

Links are linked to my Amazon Affiliate account.


  1. Love this list! I just wanted to see if you did not go over the weight limit.

    1. Thanks! Glad it is helpful for you. All of this actually came in under the weight limit.


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