Packing list for Cameroon
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Cameroon 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. You can always have things sent to you later (if you are willing to wait 3 months for it to arrive). As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you "NEED" in Cameroon, and very few of the things you "WANT." Shirts and dresses, for example, can be custom-made in Cameroon for less than $10, but good luck finding quality socks or duct tape.
Luggage should be flexible and lockable. Frameless backpacks and duffel bags are very practical choices. Remember that you will be hauling your bags in and out of taxis and trains and often lugging them around on foot. The most important qualities are that they be durable, lightweight, and easy to carry. Bring receipts for any expensive equipment (cameras, computer, ipod, shortwave radio, etc.), as these help in case of a robbery, and officials sometimes ask for them at the airport.
Some things to consider when choosing clothes to bring to Cameroon:
1) Wherever you go it’s usually hot, so don’t pack several heavy clothing items. That said, there are a few places where it can get rather cool at night, and you’ll need a jacket if you plan to hike Mt. Cameroon.
2) Wherever you go it’s usually dirty, so stick with earth tones. These colors are easier to get clean and don’t show dirt as quickly. The dust in the air during the dry season and the sediment in the water year-round quickly cause light colored and non-earth tone clothing to become permanently discolored.
3) Your clothes are going to be washed by hand. If you look at an item and think that it won’t hold up to being repeatedly vigorously scrubbed by hand, then don’t bring it or if you do bring it don’t plan on wearing it much. (This includes underwear.) T-shirts, especially white t-shirts, do not last long.
4) It is NOT socially acceptable for professional adults to wear shorts in everyday settings. If you do wear shorts people will not respect you. Save precious suitcase space and pack only the couple pairs of shorts you may want for vacations or to play sports in.
5) Clothes can be made cheaply enough, keep that in mind when deciding the volume of clothes to bring. Instead of spending $40 on a cotton, casual, short-sleave, button-up shirt in the U.S., you could have about 3 or 4 handmade in Cameroon for that same $40.
6) Consider bringing “UnderArmour” or "Coolmax" clothing items because they wick moisture away from your skin. These t-shirts, boxers, underwear, bras, and socks cost more but are well worth it in when living in an extremely hot and humid environment.
7) A clothing company called "5.11 Tatical" makes excellent cargo pants in a variety of colors. The pants are cotton, well made, yet light weight, which makes them great for tropical climates. They are also designed in a manner that makes them dressy enough to pass as business casual.
8) Women: Bring a few good sports bras; they are especially great to have on bush taxi rides.
Here’s the list:
- Professional clothes, slacks, button up shirts, blouses and skirts (women). You should have business casual clothing (female teachers in particular should bring several nice-looking dresses they can wear in the classroom until they can have some clothes made in-country)
- Casual clothes for informal and after work occasions
- Pictures of clothes you might want to have made
- Good-quality cotton shirts in dark colors or earth tones
- Plenty of good-quality underwear, boxers, socks, and bras
- Rain jacket (try to get one that stuffs into its own little pouch)
- Durable jacket (i.e., jean jacket or fleece)
- Shorts (for vacation and sports)
- Jeans (but only if you enjoy wearing blue jeans in 90 degree heat)
- Bathing suit or swimming trunks
- Hats (baseball cap, booney hat, sun hat, fishing hat, etc.)
- Leather work gloves (if you plan on helping with some “hard labor” projects)
- One pair of sandals for general use (e.g., Tevas or Chacos) and another pair for work
- One pair of running/walking shoes
- One pair of work/hiking boots
- NOTE: When packing, stuff socks, underwear, bandanas, handkerchiefs, etc. into your shoes
to save luggage space
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizers (useful when traveling)
- Any vitamin supplements or herbal remedies
- Items that smell good, like lotions, incense, soaps, and sachets
- A three-week supply of all prescription drugs you are currently taking
- Two pairs of prescription eyeglasses (if you wear them), plus straps and repair kit
- Extra contact lenses/ cleaner/eye drops
- Sunglasses and hard sided carrying case
- Hair clips and ties
- Toiletries & feminine supplies
- High quality tweezers (useful for hygiene and medical situations)
- Plastic storage containers and or Ziploc-style bags of assorted sizes (large containers are good for organizing items such as medicines, film, and clothing)
- Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool (very important to many Volunteers)
- Favorite spices
- Plastic water bottle for travel (e.g., Nalgene); carrying your own water, rather than buying bottled water, saves a lot of money.
- 12 passport-size photos
- Weekend-size backpack
- iPod/MP3 player,loaded with hymns and praise music
- Shortwave/FM radio (there are plenty of radio stations in Cameroon, including the BBC; radios can be purchased locally but they are of VERY poor quality)
- Map of Africa, the world, America, and/or your home state. Maps make excellent relational tools
- High quality compact LED flashlight and or LED headlamp and batteries. Headlamp is much more convenient to read with instead of having to hold the flashlight). Plan on leaving them behind as gifts.
- Solar bulbs or/and solar power panels. With a power panel you can charge your cell or any other low-voltage USB-port devices, such as IPod, Kindle, etc. All you need is sun, and that's more than plentiful. You may want to check the Nokero and Solio products. Peace Corps Volunteers get a 25%-50% discount on Nokero products when they join Market for Change .
- Concealable money pouch or belt
- Travel-size games, such as Yahtzee, and Uno, as well as playing cards
- Art supplies (paints, brushes, paper, colored pens, and crayons) Also to be left as gifts
- Favorite writing utensils, with replacements or refills, quality pens are expensive and hard to find
- Stationery and an assortment of greeting cards
- Bandannas (many parts of Cameroon are dusty/dirty so bandanas are also used to sit on so you don't get your pants/skirt dirty)
- Superabsorbent “swimmer’s” microfiber towel (small and great for traveling)
- Heavy-duty duct tape (And a tip: wrap duct tape a few times around your water bottle - or a lip balm stick - so you always have an emergency supply of it with you - you never know when it'll come in handy!)
- 220 converter for rechargeable batteries and battery charger (especially if you bring a digital camera)
- Reliable watch (durable, water-resistant, inexpensive, but NOT cheap;
- A variety of open-pollinated (recyclable) vegetable seeds,
Shipping Things to Cameroon
NOTE: Some Volunteers suggest boxing up excess things you can’t bring with you that your family can ship it later. But be aware that it might take a while to get it, or it might not arrive, or it might arrive pilfered. Inform friends and family that sent you things to INSURE EVERYTHING with postal insurance. This dramatically increases the likelihood that you will actually receive what is sent you because when a package is insured Cameroonian customs and postal workers leave it alone because of bilateral postal agreements with the U.S. government. Make sure the packages are insured and tell people to write "INSURED" on outside of the package (similar to who they might write "FRAGILE").
Anecdotal evidence as to why this is important: A PCV in Cameroon (2002-2004) kept a log of packages sent to him. Only 56% of uninsured packages arrived, while 100% of insured packages arrived! Tell your friends and family to pay the extra dollar or two it costs to insure the package, even if they are only sending Velveeta cheese and granola bars, because if they do NOT insure it you have about a 1-in-2 chance of NOT getting it.