Volunteering – Less Obvious Packing Essentials

Volunteering – Less Obvious Packing Essentials

Everyone knows – or at least I hope they do – that there are certain items you simply must pack when you go overseas to volunteer. I’d like to think it goes without saying why you need things like a padlock, first aid kit, head torch, pocket knife and money belt.

But having said that, to my mind there are a lot of items that you should seriously consider taking with you, such as…

Gaffer tape

You know how things can rip, tear, or otherwise break when you’re on the road? Gaffer tape is your one-stop-shop for repairing so many of those things. Whether there’s a hole in your tent, a rip in your trousers or a loose part on your platypus water mechanism, this inexpensive item can be a life-saver!


Photo Courtesy of Antje Verena

Alarm clock

Yeah sure, most of use our mobile phones as our alarm clocks these days, but electricity can be scarce – whether through a power cut, or because you’re simply too far in the wild – so you may not always be able to keep it charged.

Hand sanitiser/baby wipes

Baby wipes can very often serve as the closest thing you’ll get to a shower when you’re in areas where water is in short supply. Regular application of hand sanitiser will ward off germs and the possibility of getting ill (although water is probably better for visible, excess dirt).

Family/home life photos            

Making a proper connection with the people you’re volunteering with/for is every bit as important as the ‘work’ you do. I’ve found that they are invariably curious about your home life, and always appreciate you being able to show them…complete with anecdotes, of course!

Mosquito net

Nine times out of ten this will be provided for you by the placement, but there’s no guarantee of its quality. Remember that you are more susceptible to being really wiped out by diseases associated with mosquito bites – and indeed simply be more irritated by being bit – than the locals, so your own mosquito net could be a difference maker.


Even a seemingly luxurious mosquito net like this might have holes in it!

Pillow case

More often than not you’ll find yourself sleeping in digs at the lower end of the luxury scale, and this can mean decidedly grim and unhygienic sleeping conditions. Your own pillow case can save you from waking up with a head full of ugly bugs or worse.

Elastic clothesline

If you’re expecting washing machine/tumble dryer facilities…well, think again. Finding hand washing materials is easy enough, but what about the drying part of the process? A portable elastic clothesline – with either suction pads or hooks on the ends – is your answer here. 

Small gift(s) from your country

I certainly don’t advocate giving away toys and other trinkets to those you’re volunteering to help because of the beggar mentality it can instill (especially in children), but the remarkable people who work day in, day out at the project you’re only at temporarily certainly deserve and appreciate gestures like this. If you’re staying with a local host family – a fairly common occurrence – these would go a long way to showing your appreciation too.


What I would probably take – they’d appreciate the cheesy souvenirs more than me! Photo courtesy of Christian Cordova

What other useful-but-not-obvious items do you think you should take with you when you’re volunteering overseas? Let me know in the comments below!


  • Kaley

    April 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm Reply

    This is a really nice list of things to pack with volunteering! Especially the hand sanitizer!

    • Joe

      April 19, 2016 at 7:15 pm Reply

      A potential life saver in many a tough spot 😉

    • Flora

      July 19, 2016 at 5:47 am Reply

      Thanks for your thhgsotu. It’s helped me a lot.

  • businesstravelerswife

    April 21, 2016 at 9:58 pm Reply

    Interesting post! I haven’t thought about these but now that you’ve mentioned them, these are indeed essential when volunteering. In my case, I brought mosquito repellent lotion, sunblock and snacks/canned goods for sharing.

    • Joe

      April 22, 2016 at 6:14 am Reply

      Oh yeah, those are absolutely essential things to bring too, and your those you are help (plus your fellow volunteers) sure will appreciate food you can share with them 🙂

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