Woohoo, you’ve done it! You’ve found a brilliant WWOOFing host. You’ve convinced your family you’ll be OK. And you’ve planned out your travel to your new home for the next few weeks or months. And now comes the fun part: packing. Knowing what to bring WWOOFing is perhaps one of the most important preparatory steps. But far too many people get caught up in the excitement and end up forgetting some pretty essential stuff. Don’t be offended by the post title; we all forget things. So, here it is, a list of things you’ll probably forget and should, therefore, make a priority as you pack.
- What to Bring WWOOFing
- 1. A Gift for Your Host
- 2. A Reusable Water Bottle
- 3. Non-work Clothes and Shoes
- 4. Natural/Organic Bug Spray
- 5. Waterproof Boots
- 6. Basic Nail Care Supplies
- 7. Work Gloves
- 8. A Head Torch
- 9. Sunscreen
- 10. Headgear
- 11. Quick Dry Underwear and Socks
- 12. Small First Aid Kit
- 13. Lightweight Rain Jacket
- 14. A Notebook
- 15. Medical Information
- Feeling Better About What to Bring WWOOFing?
What to Bring WWOOFing
1. A Gift for Your Host
No doubt you’ve already made a good first impression because you’ve been accepted onto someone’s farm or homestead (‘home’ being the key part of that word). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a little extra effort when you arrive. Bringing your host a gift is a lovely way to show your appreciation for the opportunity to be working with them.
When you are trying to find the perfect gift, take a look at their WWOOFing profile again. See if you can glean any clues for what they might like. If you are going to work with a beekeeper, for example, bring some local honey from your home region for them to try. If you have been traveling internationally before your trip, consider picking up something for your new host along the way. Homesteaders often don’t travel as much as the average person, so help them experience something exotic!
Importantly, make sure your gift respects any known belief systems or ways of life to which your host adheres. Oh, and it’s a good idea to avoid things that might set off a common allergy (peanuts, soy, dairy, etc.).
2. A Reusable Water Bottle
Your host will, of course, provide you with water for those thirsty days on the farm. But it’s still a good idea to bring your own water bottle. Some farms have many WWOOFers throughout the year and it’s not reasonable to expect hosts to cover the costs of all those reusable bottles.
If you are expecting hot weather, invest in an insulated water bottle. An insulated bottle will keep your water cool throughout the day. Personally, I use a Hydrapeak bottle; I’ve left that out in the sun for hours and the water was still cool inside. You will likely need to get a large bottle, too. You could be heading out into the fields for hours at a time, so getting yourself something of at least 40oz is going to be wise.
Reusable water bottles (especially insulated ones) may well be more expensive than their plastic counterparts, but it’s worth spending at least $20 or so on a long-lasting bottle that you can haul around with you for months on end. Not only will you save money in the long-run, but you’ll avoid sinking all that harmful plastic into the earth.
3. Non-work Clothes and Shoes
When the working day is done, you’ll no doubt want to change out of those muddy, sweaty, and stained clothes. A few comfy outfits to lounge around in at the end of the day are likely already high on your WWOOFing packing list, but make sure you bring something a bit nicer to go out in as well. Your hosts are probably keen to show off local restaurants and pubs, so you’ll need to look presentable for that. And you will no doubt want to go explore the local sites with your fellow WWOOFers throughout your trip, too.
4. Natural/Organic Bug Spray
Insects are unavoidable on farms. They’re in the air, in the soil, in the barns, in the crops, in everything. This is especially the case on organic farms where harsh pest control chemicals will not be used. Bug spray, therefore, can be a bit of a lifesaver.
When you’re finding a bug spray to bring WWOOFing, remember that WWOOFing is all about organic farming. Many of the bug sprays readily available in pharmacies are not organic. Indeed, many hosts will not want those chemicals used on-site, so you’ll need to do your research before buying. The good news is that more and more brands are moving away from dangerous synthetic ingredients like DEET and alcohol and instead are using natural oils. Lemongrass, citronella, and lavender oils are some of the most effective at repelling bugs. Brands like Sky Organics and Murphy’s are some of my favorites.
Better still, you could even make your own natural/organic bug spray before you leave!
5. Waterproof Boots
If you’re planning to go WWOOFing in the summer, you probably haven’t really thought about the need for waterproof boots. But you certainly need to. Even in the scorching hot summer, farms can be surprisingly wet places. Animals and plants require watering frequently, and construction projects could entail digging foundations down below the watershed.
I never skimp out on footwear, and I would highly recommend you don’t either. Poor footwear can turn your idyllic WWOOFing trip into a nightmare very quickly. Damp, ill-fitting, and blister-inducing boots are just awful. If you’re going away in summer, consider something lightweight, vented, and waterproof. If you’re going away in the rainier months, then something sturdier with fleece insulation is going to go a long way.
6. Basic Nail Care Supplies
Hands up if you love getting your fingernails dirty but hate keeping them dirty? I’m sat here with my hand up as I type this.
You can avoid grubby-nail situations like these by bringing along a little grooming kit with the basics like nail clippers and a nail brush. For many people, especially in the WWOOFing realm, dirty nails won’t necessarily feel like a problem. But you have to consider the people around you, too. As a WWOOFer, you will likely be involved in communal cooking and whatnot at some point, and frankly, no-one wants to eat food prepared by someone with poor nail hygiene. Chuck a couple of nail basics into your pack and you should be good to go.
7. Work Gloves
People wear work gloves for a number of reasons. Sometimes, it’s imperative for safety and sometimes, people just want to keep their hands clean (relatively, at least – let’s not kid ourselves here). Whatever your reason, it’s wise to bring a couple of pairs along with you just in case your host does not provide them.
If you know in advance what kind of projects you will be working on, this is a perfect opportunity for you to get appropriate gear. If you don’t, getting some run-of-the-mill work gloves with non-slip grips and breathable fabric is probably your best bet and will serve you in a number of activities.
Work gloves are made in a variety of materials, and unfortunately it’s quite tough to find 100% organic and ethical products. Do your best to find high quality ethical materials where you can. And if all else fails, get gloves from companies that invest in sustainability and are cruelty-free.
8. A Head Torch
There’s something oddly satisfying about strapping on a head torch, for me. It just makes me feel like I’m ready for work. My strangeness aside, you should probably make sure you get a head torch on your list when you’re thinking about what to bring WWOOFing.
There’s always something to be done on a farm, and oftentimes the night will fall before the day’s duties are over. Watering plants in the cooler evening temperatures, tending to an animal in distress, going on the hunt for a missing chicken – all of these things require not only that you can see what you are doing, but also that you have your hands free to work. Go for a rechargeable LED head torch (they are brighter and more energy-efficient) with an adjustable band so that you can strap it on over your head, a helmet, a wooly hat, and so on.
It’s common knowledge that farmworkers have a higher risk of developing work-related illnesses due to the sun. Dizziness, heat exhaustion, nausea, heatstroke, and dehydration are very common. But perhaps one of the greatest long-term concerns is skin cancer. Why? Because farmworkers tend to work long hours outside, often in direct sunlight.
While a gentle healthy glow is not something to get worried about, you do need to make sure that you don’t get sunburnt. Putting sunscreen on before you go outside and at regular intervals throughout the day is one way to help minimize the risk of skin-related conditions. You’ll be outside enough to need a higher SPF (sun protection factor), too. Even if you don’t have particularly pale skin, get your hands on the highest SPF you can find. Believe me, with hours upon hours in the sun you’ll be needing it.
Related to the above is having the right headgear. Working outside is rarely predictable, so you might need to bring along a couple of different weather-appropriate hats. There’s a reason you always see gardeners with wide brim hats; they need them to protect them from the sun! And it’s not just their faces they are protecting. Wide brim hats are especially important for protecting the back of your neck (an incredibly painful spot for sunburn!). Everyone wears them, so don’t feel silly if you haven’t had one before. No-one really cares what you look like when you are inches deep in manure, anyway!
If you are WWOOFing in the winter months, thermal headgear is going to be very very important. You lose an absurd amount of body heat through your head (something like 30%), so it’s imperative you bring something to keep your head warm. Not only will it make you more comfortable throughout the day, but it will also help avoid frostbite and other winter nasties. Organic Merino wool is especially comfortable, so keep an eye out for that when you’re shopping!
11. Quick Dry Underwear and Socks
Yep, I’m going there. Underwear. Don’t underestimate the number of times you’ll likely need to change your clothes while WWOOFing! Whether you’re head to toe filthy from digging vegetable beds or drenched through and through because your fellow WWOOFer decided to attack you with a hosepipe, you’re going to need to deal with wet underwear and socks. It’s just a fact of life, thus it should appear on your list of what to bring WWOOFing.
Having quick-dry underwear and socks certainly helps in this regard, so if you can find it, get it. Indeed, that quick-dry material not only dries quicker on the body, but it will also dry significantly quicker if you whip it off quickly and hang it out to dry. You will no doubt find plenty of items in sports clothing stores, but you can often find cheaper ‘not-so-technical’ pieces in department stores or large supermarkets.
12. Small First Aid Kit
Cuts, grazes, and scrapes are commonplace on a farm. I’ve got countless scars from errant barbwire, wriggly animals, and more devilish rose bushes than I care to think about. You will likely end up suffering the same fate, so it’s worthwhile thinking about what you might encounter in advance and stocking up appropriately.
Some of the travel first aid kits are small enough to pop in your pocket, so grab one (or make one up yourself) and carry it with you if you’re heading out into the fields or away from a full first aid box. It should contain antiseptic wipes, a few different sized bandages, a couple of safety pins, sterile eye dressings, and a pair of tweezers. Having a kit like this on hand will not only help you deal with minor injuries quickly, but it will also send a good signal to your hosts that you are capable of taking care of yourself!
13. Lightweight Rain Jacket
No matter what weather you are expecting, having a lightweight rain jacket that you can roll up small and stuff into a bag is never a bad idea. For summer months, you will be prepared for unexpected rainstorms, and the rest of the year you will be able to use your jacket as another critical layer of clothing. I much prefer having several layers of clothing that I can add and remove as necessary, rather than one big coat. This is a particularly good approach on a farm because moving inside and out, and between buildings, often means many changes in temperature throughout the day. Pack a lightweight rain jacket as a quick and convenient piece of gear and you won’t regret it.
14. A Notebook
WWOOFing trips are inspiring for just about everybody that goes on them. Having a small notebook with you on the journey can be a lovely way of recording your thoughts, ideas, and memories alongside your daily to-do lists and farming how-tos. WWOOFers also tend to be creative types, so if you are a poet, writer, artist, or general scribbler, bringing a notebook with you will certainly help you capture the beauty of everything going on around you.
Here are some other ideas for what to write down in your WWOOFing notebook:
- plant care instructions
- animal care tips
- vegetable garden layouts/plans
- recommendations for other WWOOFing hosts
- numbers and email addresses of new friends
- daily diary entries
- favorite local stores and restaurants
- list of seeds to find for next season
15. Medical Information
OK, a very serious one to end on, and something truly essential on your list of what to bring WWOOFing.
If you have a medical condition or allergy, there is no reason you can’t go WWOOFing. Many hosts are more than happy to make appropriate accommodations for you, like avoiding cooking with certain ingredients or helping you with certain tasks. That said, it’s still a good idea to prepare for the worst and carry all your medical information with you in case something happens.
You can buy bracelets with compartments for medical information, and simpler ones with space just for emergency contact numbers. Hikers and runners use them all the time to make sure they’re taken care of appropriately if something happens when out and about, and you should, too! Remember to include emergency contact information, existing medical conditions, allergies or suspected allergies, and a list of medication that you’re currently taking.
I’d recommend you do this even if you rarely have issues with your condition – you could be a long way from home and you just never know when something might come up.
Feeling Better About What to Bring WWOOFing?
I really hope this list has provided you with some reassurance about what to bring WWOOFing. Every person’s list of ‘essentials’ will be slightly different, but if you remember (or at least consider) the things on this list, you should be fairly well set up. If you’re still struggling, make sure you ask your host what you should bring as he or she will have a lot of experience (and I imagine a lot of requests!) from WWOOFing who have forgotten things in the past.
What are your thoughts on the above? Have I missed anything important? Let us all know in the comments below!
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