Packing list for Micronesia
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Micronesia and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. Although you can get almost everything you need in Micronesia, it is advisable to bring some essentials, find out what you really need once you are in-country, and then write home to have things sent to you. Having your family or friends buy what you need may be a little cheaper than buying things locally.
Be mindful that sites in Micronesia greatly vary—you won’t be able to pack for your exact location until you get your specific site placement. You may find yourself on an outer island requiring nothing more than two thus (loincloths)/or a lava-lava (sarong-type wrap skirt for women) and a spear (for fishing). Extra room in your bags to add things you obtain when you get here may be more valuable than extra things from the U.S. Locally appropriate clothing (particularly local skirts for women) is available here, and you will likely be less comfortable in skirts you bring from the states. Electronics are much more expensive here and selection is limited, so we suggest you bring what you must have from the U.S. An outer island Volunteers states that “As soon as I figured out I had an outer island location. I left about 20 pounds of things with my host family back on Pohnpei.”
Note: don’t bring anything too nice as everything will receive a lot of wear and tear and may get lost, borrowed, or taken.
- No more than three pairs of casual lightweight pants for work (many jobs require that you wear pants, as does the Peace Corps during training, Most Volunteers say that jeans are not appropriate as they are too hot. Quick-dry travel pants, such as those made by Ex-Officio or Northface can be very practical).
- One or two pairs of lightweight, slightly dressier pants
- Four to five button-down or polo-style shirts (anything short sleeved with a collar, the lighter the weight, the more comfortable; some Volunteers say button-up are cooler)
- Approximately three pairs of lightweight shorts (athletic and regular). Shorts should be loose and knee length. Note that shorts can be bought on main islands.
- Flip flops
Note that lightweight slacks, flip-flops or sandals, and a nice Hawaiian-style shirt is appropriate for almost any occasion—it is considered professional for work and is also proper church attire for males.
- One or two pairs of loose, lightweight, casual long pants and lightweight long-sleeve shirts (protection from mosquitoes at night.)
- One or two pairs of long, loose shorts (knee length) One should be quick-dry shorts to wear with a swimsuit. While long shorts may be purchased on island, smaller women will have difficulty finding a size to fit them here.
- Two to three loose skirts (not see-through) that cover your knees (Note: you could easily just bring one or two skirts as you will want to buy colorful local skirts for yourself and will likely be given some as gifts by host families also. You will accumulate many skirts throughout your Peace Corps service!)
- A couple of sleeveless tops that are not too tight (you will likely only wear these in your home, depending on your island)
- One to two casual, conservative dresses (not see-through and not sleeveless). You can buy local dresses and have them made, so you really only need one or two dresses to start with.
- Four to five button-down or polo-style shirts (anything short sleeved and dressier than a T-shirt—the lighter the weight, the more comfortable. Most Volunteers recommend button-up shirts for coolness. Cap-type sleeves are fine and can also be cooler.)
- Flip-flops (worn with skirts and dresses and appropriate for almost any occasion. You will need these, but they can also be bought here in Micronesia)
- Cotton half slip or biking shorts for wearing under skirts (nylon is too hot) Men and Women (note that this list is somewhat redundant with the separate male/female ones above)
- Not more than six T-shirts (without controversial topics printed on them and stay away from white). Bring some oldies and some favorites, your lucky shirts, etc. You can always get more here. Some Volunteers find that some solid colored T-shirts are useful as they can appear more dressy with a skirt or slacks.
- One sweatshirt or long-sleeve shirt with some warmth to it.
- Three to five pairs of socks for hiking or exercising and if you anticipate going running a lot.
- Two-week supply of underwear (cotton is highly recommended) 95
- Two swimsuits (Women swim in shorts and tanks/shirts so you will likely only wear a swimsuit underneath your shorts and shirt. Men will swim in long shorts. Generally Micronesian men also wear a T-shirt to swim.)
- Lightweight rain jacket (breathable may be most comfortable); can be paired with the sweatshirt or long-sleeve shirt for those few days that may feel chilly
- Hat with sun protection (best to bring something that does not blow off easily while on a boat)
- Sleepwear (many female Volunteers sleep in a T-shirt and long skirt or shorts as local women do)
- Bandana (can be bought locally)
- A pair of running/walking or athletic shoes
- One or two pairs of sturdy sandals (e.g., Tevas, Chacos or Keens) for walking/hiking on rough terrain. These should not be leather because leather will mold and rot. You can also use these sandals or athletic shoes for hiking (hiking boots are too warm, too heavy, and will likely mold very quickly). Most Micronesians hike on any terrain using no footwear or only flip-flops!
- Reef walkers/water shoes (to protect your feet from coral and other sharp things while you are in the water); some Volunteers use their Teva-type shoes. Note about shoes: Flip-flops will be worn 95 percent of the time, and the custom in Micronesia is to remove your shoes when entering homes or some office buildings. If you are not used to wearing flip-flops, make sure to bring a comfortable pair from the U.S. because those sold in stores here lack arch support and are made of tough plastic. Any shoe that is not a slip-on is impractical. Other than the below exceptions, there is really no situation where a male Volunteer would need a closed dress shoe:
- On Kosrae it is necessary to have closed-toe shoes for Christmas marching. Additionally male trainees are generally asked to wear closed shoes for swear-in.
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
(a medical kit is distributed within first few days, so we are only noting items you will need in addition to that kit)
- Start-up supply of basic toiletries- shampoo, deodorant, shaving supplies. Females may want to bring a one-year supply of tampons & panty liners. (Liners are great for absorbing moisture and reducing yeast infections. Both tampons and liners have limited availability in Micronesia, and what you can find tends to be extremely expensive)
- Start-up supply of nonprescription medicines.
- Three-month supply of prescription medicines
- Two pairs of prescription eyeglasses (if you wear them) and eyeglass repair kit
- One bath towel (fast drying), one beach towel, and one hand towel. Note that you can buy towels here, but that you will need at least one towel upon arrival and moving to your host family)
- “Pack” or quick-drying towel
- Two flat sheets with pillowcases (sheet can be purchased on most main islands, but supply is very limited and prices are high).
- Nail clippers and nail file (can be bought on main island) Kitchen
Although you will be living with a host family, eating with them, and likely using their kitchen equipment if you cook, you may choose to bring some items of your own (on most islands, your host family may be resistant to the idea of a male PCV cooking)
- A good can opener is highly recommended. You can buy a can opener here, but choices are limited.
- Your favorite recipes. Note that many ingredients may not be available here. Miscellaneous
- Sturdy backpack or duffel bag for three-to-four-day trips. A waterproof or water resistant one is ideal.
- Waterproof “dry” bag. Many PCVs consider these incredibly invaluable, and they normally cannot be bought in Micronesia.
- Ziploc storage bags—sandwich and gallon size (**Note plastic bags CAN be bought in Micronesia, but they are expensive and choices are limited)
- Daypack or small backpack
- Fanny pack or money belt
- Cheap water-resistant or waterproof watch
- Small travel alarm clock (and extra batteries)
- 2 pairs of sunglasses with UV protection (a spare is crucial)
- Swiss army knife or Leatherman
- Camera (consider an underwater housing - many wonderful photo opportunities exist under the water for both snorkelers and SCUBA divers. The housing will also help protect your camera in this extremely wet environment) Current PCVs strongly recommend digital cameras for sending pictures back home and sharing among Volunteers. Bring extra batteries and film if you have a standard camera.
- Walkman or CD/cassette player with electrical cord and CDs and tapes (power and outlets in Micronesia are the same as in the US—standard 110) PCVs suggest bringing burned CDs. They will get ruined, so better than the originals getting ruined.
- Aloe (for sunburn)
- Waterproof/water resistant flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries. Rechargeable ones are ideal, as waste disposal is a significant problem on Micronesian islands. You may only have the option of using disposable ones, however, if your site is on an “outer island” without continual electricity. These days, even many “outer islands” have a generator and occasionally electricity that would permit you to charge batteries.
- Sleeping mat or pad (note that a straw sleeping mat can easily be bought here in Micronesia). Families generally sleep on straw mats and may consider this adequate for a Volunteer. However foam pads can usually be found on-island.
- Snorkeling/SCUBA gear (with mesh carrying bag and defogger.)
- Tropical/Micronesian marine life identification book (optional)
- High-quality water bottles (e.g., Nalgene)
- A few U.S. dollars (There is a cash station in Kolonia, Pohnpei, and in Palau, although you will have limited access as a trainee)
- Sewing kit with strong thread
- Good scissors/razor (for cutting hair, etc.)
- PCVs may want to consider a daily oil-free facial lotion with UV protection. Do note that PC provides sun block to PCVs, but if you are sensitive to breakouts, you may want to bring something special for your face.
- Start up supply of Duct tape (wonderful for everything! Note that good quality duct tape can also be purchased on most main islands, after you have settled in)
- Start-up supply of stationery, envelopes, and pens (again—you can buy all this on the main island) Do not bring U.S. stamps, as FSM and Palau use their own stamps, although the postal service here is part of the US postal service system.
- World and U.S. maps
- Copies of photos of your family, friends, and home (keep in mind that originals can get ruined)
- Backgammon, Frisbee, and cards and other travel games. Host families love to play games with PCVs.
- Books. (Peace Corps/Micronesia has a good selection of paperbacks and technical references, but, you should bring any reference materials you feel will be essential to your job. PCVs tend to trade recreational reading books)
- Rock climbers’ clips for hanging or attaching things
- Small travel hammock
What Not To Bring:
- Anything that is especially valuable/sentimental to you.
- If you would be very upset if it broke, got lost, molded or rotted, or was stolen, reconsider your decision to bring it.
- Fancy jewelry. Lots of cool local shell jewelry is available here!
- Expensive Digital Cameras—this is an incredibly beautiful place and you may want to record it in images but the weather is disaster for electronic equipment. Plan on bringing protective gear for any camera you bring.
- Laptop—a few Volunteers have laptops, and are quite happy that they brought them. Think carefully, however, if the advantages to you personally of having these items outweigh the disadvantages. Over 2 years, moisture damage to electronic equipment is extremely common.
Don’t count on bringing the item home with you at the end of your service. If you are on an outer island, you may not have regular access to electricity. The Peace Corps office on each island has a shared PCV computer that you will have limited access to. Many local schools have computers that you will likely have some access to if you are assigned to a school. Laptops can be extremely useful to some PCVs, but some PCVs find the hassle and worries of having one are greater than the advantages. Others are extremely glad that they brought them. Some PCVs find that a USB storage device (jumpdrive, memory stick) gives them great flexibility to work on a variety of computers in different locations. Will bringing these items/modern conveniences enhance your Peace Corps experience or take away from it? These are personal decisions, and equipment that is invaluable for one PCV is a burden to another.
It will most likely be easier for your family to mail something to you that you forgot or later deem necessary, than to send something extra back home that you find you don’t need.
Suggestions for gifts for Host Families:
- Good kitchen knife
- Movies (DVDs)
- Good can opener
- Small bottles of Maple Syrup (Micronesians love pancakes)
- Small photo of you in a frame —possibly you and your US family—your host family may love this!
- T-shirts or coffee mugs with American stuff like: I love New York, I love Chicago, Baseball Teams, Football Teams, Batman, Pepsi, etc. Shirts sized L or XL.
- Anything else from your home state