Sometimes the most difficult part of preparing for the drum corps season is figuring out what to pack! It's almost inevitable that you will end up running to Wal-Mart at midnight the night before you leave, picking up that last thing that you completely forgot about but absolutely have to have. The key to packing well is to start planning–and shopping–early. Each corps does things a little differently, so you should also check with your corps director and fellow corps members as you're getting ready. If you've never marched before, chances are you'll think you need all sorts of things you don't. It's really quite astounding how little it takes to get you through three months on the road! Also keep in mind that you have to carry all of your stuff, frequently at 4 a.m., when you get to the next housing site, so packing light is a wonderful thing.

Emily Tannert
A note on high-tech devices: many cell phones and music players now double as small personal computers. Keep in mind that while every corps is a family, sometimes you will have to leave your stuff unattended, and theft does happen on the road. No matter how careful you think you'll be, there will always be at least one day when you couldn't cover everything up as well as you thought, so if you're not willing to have it stolen, don't take it with you. Tell your family and friends ahead of time that you won't be able to check e-mail, get online, chat via text messages, etc. The same idea holds true for still and video cameras. Space in the bus is at a premium and it will be hard to find extra digital storage to recharge a bunch of different devices on a regular basis. Remember that your focus is on marching corps, not maintaining a lifestyle while on the road. On to the list! Clothes
Most corps do laundry every 10 to 14 days (your corps director can be more specific), so you need clothes for about two weeks. Exact figures of each type of clothing are very much an individual judgment. The formula I used to figure out how much of what to bring is, for undergarments, to add four to the maximum number of days between laundry, and for shorts and T-shirts, to subtract four. Shorts, especially if your corps does sectional shorts, can easily last more than one day in even the most extreme conditions, and chances are you won't wear a T-shirt more than 30 minutes a day. However, you don't ever want to run out of underwear or socks! A tip on packing your clothes: For whatever reason, rolling rather than folding things saves space, and prevents your clothes from getting wrinkled. -14-16 sets of undergarments
- 6-8 T-shirts and pairs of shorts
- 2 long-sleeve T-shirts
- 2 pairs of windpants or sweatpants
- 2 sets of pajamas
- 1 sweatshirt, fleece, or warm jacket
- 1 light rain jacket
- Off-day clothes: You'll want to look decent when you have the chance! A pair of jeans or khakis (and a belt), nice shorts, and one each of long-sleeve and short sleeve shirts will be plenty
- Shoes: Athletic shoes for the field – some people like to bring an extra pair in case of rain, shower shoes and sandals for wearing around housing sites
- Uniform accessories: 3-5 sets of plain white or black T-shirts and athletic socks, undergarments as specified by your corps and your marching shoes. This varies from corps to corps, so be sure to check! In the bathroom
When packing, it may help to keep track of how much you use for a week or two, then multiply that by how long you'll be gone. You will generally have a few opportunities to restock, but running out of shampoo with nary a Wal-Mart in sight is not a good feeling. This is one case where it's better to have too much than too little. - Toothpaste, toothbrush, toothbrush case and floss
- Contact solution, contact case (bring an extra because you'll lose yours at the most inopportune time), lens drops, glasses and glasses case (if you're blind like me!)
- Shampoo and conditioner: The "family size" will generally last the entire tour
- Body wash and a shower poof: Bar soap tends to turn into gelatin after a few days
- Deodorant
- Razor, extra blades (or razors), and shaving cream
- Body lotion
- Towel(s)
- Hairbrush/comb, gel, hair ties/clips/bobby pins
- Makeup Medical
Your corps will carry first-aid supplies, but it's helpful to have a few of your own things. - Band-Aids: The "active" varieties hold best.
- Neosporin
- Aspirin/ibuprofen
- Ace bandage
- Cloth athletic tape
- Any braces (knee, wrist, ankle, elbow, etc.) that you may need
- Aloe vera/Solarcaine
- Gold Bond: Many people swear by it, although I've never used it.
- Second Skin: A water-based gel that is great for cushioning blisters.
- Personal prescriptions: Be sure to bring enough for three months! You don't want to risk it not getting to you in the mail in time. Your doctor generally can write you a one-time prescription for three months. In the bus
It's often better to wait to get what you need to outfit your bus seat until you've actually had a chance to look at what space is available. You're likely to have a chance to hit a Wal-Mart during every day rehearsals, so this is one area in which it's safe to wait. You can also ask the vets in your corps for advice. - Bungee cords
- Suction cup accessories: Be sure to check your corps' policy on having things in the window.
- Fitted twin sheet to cover your seat: It's nice to be able to wash what you sit on every day.
- Bus box: A Tupperware-type box works best, although cardboard boxes, shower baskets and milk crates also are common. Be sure to ask someone how much room is available under the seat.
- Blanket: The A/C gets chilly at night.
- Pillow
- A personal music player and headphones: No boomboxes!
- Velcro, back of the seat organizer, etc.: Get creative about your space!
- Reading material
- Practice pad and sticks/mallets, or mouthpiece and BERP
- Carry-on bag: Most people just use their backpacks, but keep in mind it has to double as your rehearsal bag. On the field - Water jug: At least a gallon is best. There's nothing worse than running out of water in the middle of a rehearsal block. In my experience the tall Rubbermaid water coolers endure the tour treatment the best, and the handle will fit on a carabineer that can then be attached to your backpack
- Drill book and string
- Folder with clear sheets for music: Always keep your music with you for reference!
- Hat (not visor): Bringing an extra is always a good idea!
- Sunglasses
- Chapstick/lip balm with sunscreen: Your lips burn too!
- Sunscreen, waterproof, SPF 45: Do not get the spray-on variety. Get the cream or the stick kind.
- Bug spray Miscellaneous
These are all those things that may not be essential but that you probably want to have with you. - Sleeping bag
- Power strip
- Shoe polish
- Laundry detergent tablets, dryer sheets, and quarters: Your local bank can give you rolls of quarters, which is much more convenient than fighting the mad rush for the change machine.
- Laundry bag for dirty clothes
- Extra batteries
- Watch: This is essential!
- Flashlight: A smaller size will do just fine
- Sewing kit
- Multitool
- Scissors
- Duct tape and/or white or black electrical tape
- Ziplock bags: Several each of the sandwich size and gallon size. These double as great toiletries containers, amongst other things.
- Carabineer(s)
- Kleenex and/or toilet paper: TP is one thing you can't have too much of!
- Pens and pencils
- A pad of notebook paper
- Envelopes and stamps: Preaddressed and stamped postcards, or small cards, making keeping in touch easy.
- Camera
- A container for jewelry while you're in uniform
- Essential addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- Cell phone and charger: Some people swear by them, others think they're completely unnecessary. I've done one year each with and without, and I fall very strongly in the "swear by it" category.
- Calling card for emergencies and/or when you have no cell phone signal
- Personal mementos (photos etc.): Go easy here, as you probably won't have time or space for them