My actual packing list

An exhaustive list of everything I actually brought with me (or had sent later) for my 27-month service in Luapula Province in Northern Zambia, from February 2013 to April 2015:

What I brought Did I use it? Would I bring it again? Notes
1 x Thinkpad T530i laptop Yes Yes Used every time I was at the provincial house, which was where I kept it. Some volunteers brought theirs to their sites if they had a method of charging it and felt that their house/community was safe. YMMV.
1 x Sony NEX-5N camera Yes Yes Developed a glitch about a year and a half in where the camera would flash an error message after the shutter snapped. Worked around this until the end of my service, but had to sell the faulty camera body and buy a new one (Sony NEX-5R) for everyday use back in America.
2 x Samsung Galaxy S smartphones Yes Yes Brought one phone, was sent another (my dad is a gear junkie). First phone performed reliably until about a year and a half in, when the charging port stopped working. Used the second phone to charge the battery, then swapped batteries. Multiple. Times. Every. Single. Day.
1 x LG Optimus F6 smartphone Yes Yes My dad brought this phone when my parents came to visit. Didn’t use until the Galaxy S stopped working, then worked great until I stupidly soaked it in water. For what it’s worth, my friends who brought unlocked iPhones and didn’t do anything dumb with them only used two phones for their entire service (the iPhone and a cheaper Samsung Chat they bought in Lusaka for local texts and calling.
2 x 16GB SD cards Yes Yes Filled up both cards, plus a 32GB card in my phone, with photographs, videos, and entertainment files
1 x 16GB microSD card Yes Yes Used for phone storage
1 x 32GB microSD card Yes Yes Used for phone storage
1 x pair of earbuds Yes Yes One pair lasted me nearly my entire service.
1 x pair of backup earbuds Yes Yes Unfortunately, not my entire service. That’s why these backup earbuds were useful.
2 x electrical travel adapters Yes and no Yes, I’d bring one Used one all the time. The other one didn’t fit into any plug I ever found. You win some and you lose some.
1 x wall USB adapter Yes Yes Crucial for devices that use USB plugs to charge (read: all of them)
1 x Amazon Kindle 4 Yes Yes Perhaps my best investment of all the stuff I bought  for Peace Corps: $30 for a used Kindle.
1 x Kindle case Yes Yes Gotta protect that Kindle.
2 x 650-lumen headlamps running on rechargeable lithium batteries Yes and yes Yes I didn’t use headlamps as often as many volunteers because I ended up with three solar lamps in my hut. These were really useful when traveling though. And I did lose one, so the backup came in handy.
1 x battery charger/rechargeable batteries No No Turns out I didn’t bring anything that needed AA batteries. This could have been avoided with better planning.
1 x voltage converter Yes, intermittently Probably I didn’t use this every time I plugged something in, but eventually I did begin using it most times I charged my laptop at the provincial house. Although all laptop charging cords have built-in voltage converters, they still are not designed for Zambia-type voltages of nearly twice the current of American A/C, and I suspect that the difference in voltage is one of the reasons why many computers and appliances ended up conking out while in Zambia. Luckily, mine did not.
1 x mini portable speakers Yes Yes
1 x Joos Orange portable solar panel Yes Yes Used nearly every day, but ended up having a faulty charging port and so returned and bought a new solar charger when I visited home in December 2013
1 x Voltaic Spark tablet charger Yes Yes Bought ten months into my service when my first solar charger broke, worked great until the end of my service
1 x concealable money belt No No Did not touch once
1 x roll of duct tape Yes Yes Used it all up, so my dad brought another when my parents visited
1 x box of gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags Yes Yes, but could find similar product in cities Very useful
1 x combination lock Yes Yes
1 x box of ear plugs No Yes Here’s one of those unusual “No/Yes” items – though I didn’t personally use ear plugs, many volunteers couldn’t sleep without them. YMMV.
2 x baseball mitts and two baseballs Sometimes Yes One of those things that I didn’t use often, but when I did, it was disproportionately fun
1 gallon Ziplock full x cheap toys for kids No No Brought these on advice I read from volunteers. Everybody’s different, but I could never find an appropriate time to give away a bunch of useless small toys without incurring jealousy or cultivating greed and desire for more, so I ended up holding onto these for my entire service until I gave them away to families in my community along with everything else in my house
3 x potato peelers Yes No Brought these to give as gifts for host families. I did give them away, but I don’t know if they ever got used.
1 x glass lock food storage container Yes Yes One of the best random things I brought. Used every day to store leftovers in. I swear the tight seal helped keep unrefrigerated food good longer than my other containers, but perhaps my bias blinded me.
1 x silk sleep sack No No Heard that these were good for when sleeping in hostels. Then when it came time to actually sleep in hostels, realized that the sheets were probably way cleaner than I was, so didn’t bother with the sleep sack. At least it didn’t weigh a whole lot.
30 x photos of friends and family Yes Yes Nice to have around, if only to show the village kids pictures of other white people
5 x journals of various sizes Yes Not as many Kept a journal every day, so I nearly filled up one large one before I started writing journal entries as emails using my Bluetooth keyboard instead.
2 x pens Yes More You’ll get free pens at every training/conference, but they’re not always good. If you plan to write a lot, bring your own!
20 x envelopes Yes Not as many Didn’t write as many letters as I anticipated
40 x sheets of paper Yes Not as many Didn’t use as much paper as I anticipated
4 x toothbrushes Yes Yes
10 x spare razor blade heads Only 1 Not as many Yes, I only replaced my razor head once. Yes, I’m kind of unhygienic. Yes, in my defense, I don’t grow much facial hair.
1 x hanging toiletry kit Yes Yes
2 x loofahs Yes Yes, except I’d bring more Got a few more of these brought when my parents visited. Could find something that works in country though if you looked hard enough (or just used a washcloth)
2 x sticks of deodorant Yes Yes, more Had a few more sticks sent in a care package. These came in really handy when I ran through the first two sticks in less than a year.
2 x tubes of toothpaste Yes Yes A tube of toothpaste lasts a surprisingly large amount of time, but the second was still needed. However, this could have been found in any of the bigger cities
10 x condoms Yes No Peace Corps supplies volunteers with condoms in their medical kits. Not necessary to bring your own unless you think you’ll run out or if you’re fond of a particular brand.
Camping/travel stuff
1 x backpacking tent Yes Yes Bulky, but invaluable for camping trips and vacations
1 x down sleeping bag Yes Yes Used often for vacations, camping trips, and sleeping over at other volunteers’ houses
1 x sleeping pad Yes Yes Used often for camping and when other volunteers came to sleep on my floor
1 x 90L Arct’eryx Bora backpack Yes Yes Used often for traveling, vacations, and camping
1 x 60L North Face duffel Yes Yes Used mainly for the initial jump across the pond, then was stored the rest of the time. Fun fact: this was the same duffel my dad brought to Papua New Guinea when he was a volunteer from 1981-1985, so it has now served two different Peace Corps services, thirty years apart.
1 x School-sized backpack with laptop sleeve Yes Yes Good for short trips, carrying laptop and personal items to the capital city for conferences and meetings
1 x bicycle panniers Yes Yes Much more convenient for carrying items on my bike than a backpack
1 x rain shell Yes, not frequently Yes Necessary but didn’t end up using it a ton (sweated underneath, so what’s the point?)
1 x waterproof pants No No Again, not necessary when rains are mostly predictable and you rarely stay dry anyway
1 x hoodie Sometimes Yes Only during cold season
1 x thin long-sleeved shirt Sometimes Yes Mostly during cold season/in early morning
1 x basketball shorts Every day Yes My go-to shorts for everyday wear
1 x quick-dry polyester tee A lot Yes My go-to shirt (alternating with jerseys)
3 x cotton t-shirts Not often Only one Too hot/humid to wear these often
2 x long-sleeved nylon fishing shirts Yes Only one Good for when I needed to be more “dressed up”
2 x long-sleeved button-down shirts Only in training Only one Necessary, but used infrequently after PST ended – could have gotten by with one shirt
1 x short-sleeved button-down shirt Mostly only in training Yes Same as above
3 x chinos/slacks Only in training/ vacations Only one Same as above
1 x jeans Mostly in training/ vacations and during cold season mornings Yes
1 x convertible hiking shorts/pants Not very often once I realized that shorts made me less sweaty Yes Nice to have on hand, but better in theory than in practice
4 x pairs of Ex Officio boxer briefs Yes Yes These are awesome; easy to wash, can wear multiple times, quick-drying, odor-free!
5 x pairs of socks Not often Not as many Didn’t wear socks/shoes as often as I thought I would, and they’re hard to wash by hand
1 x tie Only once No Wore only for an Easter Sunday service attended by the President of Zambia
2 x pairs of dress shoes Seldom Only one Only need one pair for training and special occasions
1 x pair of running shoes Never No Thought I’d run regularly, then got to country and realized that it’s hot and I don’t gain weight
1 x pair of trail hiking shoes Seldom Yes
1 x pair of hiking boots Seldom No Interchangeable with the above hiking shoes; only need one pair