What do MSF staff pack in their suitcases?

16 Dec 2016
Related Countries
Democratic Republic of Congo

What do fairylights, yoga mats, and cheese have in common?

They've been bundled into the suitcases of our field staff, who aim to pack a little slice of home amongst the socks and mosquito spray.

While the value of extra underwear cannot be ignored, it is essential that people have ways to relax and remain grounded.

When you spend most of your time in faraway, intense and often stressful environments, a bit of chocolate goes a long way.


Packing for an MSF assignment requires considerable planning and preparation.

Three to 12 months abroad, combined with a strict baggage limit, means your options are limited.

Key factors to consider include: the weather, bugs, availability of items in the destination country, local customs and, of course, one or two things to remind you of home.

Here's some tips from our staff in the field:

  • Books are heavy!
  • Bringing food from your home country is a popular courtesy.
  • Pack more (patterned) socks and underwear than you think you'll need.
  • Bring adaptors for your gadgets.
  • Some immodium or diarolyte may come in handy for the first few weeks.
  • Don't forget your toothbrush!

read more stories about packing for an msf mission