August 22, 2011


As the only male on the blog, I am probably not the best source of advice when it comes to deciding whether to bring your hairdryer to Russia. But packing for my year abroad has been a week-long ordeal, and with my bag standing ready to go in the corner of my room, I think I do have a useful word to contribute on how best to perform this most sacred of travelers’ rituals.

Given Middlebury’s orientation procedure, I will be arriving in Irkutsk on a domestic flight, which means Russia’s rules on luggage will come into play. On a Russian domestic flight, you are allowed a single stow-away bag, maximum 20 kg (44 lbs.), and a single carry-on weighing up to 5 kg (11 lbs). Fifty-five pounds for a year in Siberia—what to take?

Because I would like to travel the region a bit throughout and after my time in Irkutsk, I decided to invest in a large traveling backpack, and this has proved to be a great idea. The bag is light, comes with a detachable daypack, and fits carry-on regulations for most airlines (though not for Russian domestic flights). Should you want to do the same, make sure you get a bag that has backpack-style pockets as well as one on the top, and don’t buy the most expensive one unless you plan on doing a lot of wandering.

So far, packing has been all about economy—they say a typical Russian wardrobe is not very large. Here’s what’s in the bag:

  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 4 T-shirts
  • 3 long-sleeve shirts
  • Warm wear: 2 sets of long underwear, glove liners, heavy socks, balaclava (gloves, hats, scarves will be purchased there)
  • Undies and socks
  • 3 sweaters: one light, one medium, one heavy
  • books: a Russian-English dictionary and Gerhardt’s Russian’s World (a lot of students find this book overly dramatizing, but it has great contextual vocabulary lists), both of which are on Midd’s “Bring to Russia” list; a small reader; my diary; one book I can’t live without (Heaney’s poems)
  •  Dress wear: 2 shirts, 2 ties, 1 pair of dress pants, socks, belt (shoes I’ll have to improvise)
  • Basic medicines and a small first-aid kit
  • Travel miscellanea: adapters, hygienic paraphernalia, ski lock…

All of this comes out to about 40 lbs. right now, which is a good thing, because I still have to stuff this computer in there somewhere. And where are my boots and coat for my Siberian adventure? They didn’t quite fit into the bag, so I’ll be wearing them on the flight to Irkutsk. This could prove uncomfortably warm, but once November comes, I’m sure “uncomfortably warm” will be a pleasant memory.


4 Responses to “Packing”

  1. DanLee said

    I apologize for not reading earlier. I do enjoy the concept of packing. its a time to sit down and think carefully, while combating the urge to simply force things into a single suitcase.

    Anyhow, I demand that you one up these women with more posts, though I do appreciate their refined voices on this blog. Still, represent man. Come on.

    • nateinsiberia said

      I hope my new post will satiate you for the next few days, it’s about four in one, in terms of length. There will photos ASAP; Facebook might be better at recognizing my files, and I’ll put them up there if possible.

  2. Heather said

    You put your computer in your stow away? Did that turn out ok? I commend you on your mad packing skill. I have WAY TOO MANY clothes and even more shoes. How strict were they on the dimensions of each piece? Did you fly S7?

    • nateinsiberia said

      Hey Heather, glad to see you’re reading our blog! I did not put my computer in my stow away, I pulled it out for the flights, and I would suggest not letting anything dear to you or expensive leave your own care while travelling. And I did fly S7 from Domodedovo to Irkutsk. I don’t really know about how strict they follow dimensions, but Ben got through with a whole extra bag, if that means anything (I feel like individual experiences here shouldn’t be taken as a rule). And in terms of weight, we had a nice lady at the desk that didn’t weigh our carry-ons (mine was at least 7 kg, and after 8 sticklers tend not to allow them with you) and gave Mark a pass on a few extra kilos in his stow-away. So pick a friendly looking person and do your best. Also, some tips: I pulled out my coat and boots, as mentioned above, and also my computer and a heavy book, which were fine out in the open. But under my coat and in the pockets, which was not so kosher, I stashed a few heavy items (converter, bathroom kit, etc). Be confident, and keep that coat looking fluffy in your arms.

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