You’ve got your ticket to somewhere in Central America and in a few weeks you are about to depart for some exploration. During your adventure, you want to focus on your adventure and not on your stuff! This means that carrying heavy luggage, deciding on what you want to wear, or bandaging your feet from those cute but incompatible shoes are all things you want to avoid. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that every single item in your backpack has been vetted for comfort, lightweight, functionality, water resistance, and love —whoa love? Yes, love. Let’s be honest, if you don’t love the things you bring with you your chances of carrying them through rain and storm, through mountains and ocean is pretty much zero. Loving your things will also help you not forget them when you have to scramble for a 6:00 a.m. bus ride.
This packing list contains a list of suggested items that I’ve personally vetted for comfort, lightweight, functionality, water resistance, and, of course, love.
Central America, 95% of the time, it is moist and hot! So you want to bring clothes that dry quickly and try to avoid clothing that retains moisture (jean fabric, cotton, etc). However, sometimes you may head to the mountains where the air is a bit crisp and, on this occasion, you may want a long sleeve or pullover.
- 1 Swimsuit—Would need to be useful for water sports
- 2 Sports Bras
- 1 Real Bra—You probably forget to wear this. Lol.
- 1 Jean Short
- 2 casual tops
- 2 athletic tops
- 2 athletic pants/shorts
- 1 Photoshoot dress—You are visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world so find time to work it!
- 1 Sarong—A Sarong can be used as a beach blanket, a towel, and a dress. You’ll definitely want to bring one!
- 1 Party Skirt—A cute skirt that could go with your casual top.
- 1 light sporty pullover
- 3 pairs of wool socks—Even though it sounds hot, wool is the best to bring because it breathes easily and absorbs moisture from your feet to keep them dry. Plus, wool resists odors!
- 7 quick dry underwear
- Computer—Only carry if you work, of course! Otherwise, you can leave at home.
- Waterproof Case—This is for rain, I do not recommend dunking your phone in water even with a “waterproof” case. Many people leave Central America without a working phone.
- 2 phone chargers in case you lose one
- E-reader to download your favorite books
- Waterproof Watch
- Go Pro—So your phone doesn’t have to get close to water!
- UBL for ambiance music to play your tunes
- Bottle Opener—To open that wine bottle or beer on the beach.
- Head Lamp—You will need this to get around at night. Don’t buy a light with less than 200 lumens light emission.
- Small Flashlight—It’s helpful to have a second flashlight.
- A Lock—To lock your hostel locker.
- Sharp Pocket Knife –This was my go-to knife for cooking, cutting fruits off trees, and a weapon to attack potential danger (though that never happened lol).
First and foremost, you want to bring shoes that are tried and proven—there’s nothing worse than breaking in a shoe on the trail. Secondly, you will be doing a lot of walking on gravel and hiking through waterfalls so the ideal shoe will be fitted for adventure, lightweight, and will dry quickly. Thus, I do not recommend hiking boots as they are clunky and do not dry quickly.
- Water/Hiking Sandal—I recommend these Classic Chacos
- Flip Flops for showers
- Cute Sandal (optional for going out on the town)
- Running Shoes with good grip (Great option for hiking if you prefer closed toe, but tend to take a longer time to dry)
I strongly recommend not bringing a suitcase. The reason for this is that you will be in many situations where you are going to be walking on a dirt road or loading your stuff on a ferry—you want to be able to carry your own weight with a backpack.
- Osprey Backpack AG 65 —The anti-gravity feature on this backpack makes 50lbs of stuff feel like a feather!
- Osprey Day Pack—This will be important for carrying items you want accessible such as snacks and electronics.
- Travel Money Belt—For going out and not losing your shit.
- Tote Bag—To carry your phone, towel, and phone when you go to the beach. My Longchamp works well for this as it both waterproof and cute, as well as zips to provide more security.
I prefer to have two bags that contain my toiletry items. One that I have easy access to and contains everything I need to get ready in the morning and go to bed at night. The second bag is to carry refills, makeup, and items used periodically.
- Toiletry Bag—I like this one because it neatly organizes things and can be hung the door.
- Small hairbrush
- Diva Cup–So you don’t waste space with tampons and pads!
- Leak-proof Containers—For shampoo & conditioner
- Quick Dry Towels—Long one for the body and small for the face.
- Face Sunscreen
- Contact Solution
- Makeup Remover
- Shaver-Get one with a bikini trimmer… you’ll thank me later!
- Soap ContainerContainer—I don’t like the clunkiness of soap boxes so I use a retainer box to hold soap.
- Makeup—You will hardly use this so bring minimally!
- Nail Kit
- Camp Suds—Great to have if you ever need to wash clothes by hand.
- Natural Perfume—When things get stinky!
- Bar Soap—I cut mine in pieces so they fit in my box.
- Razor replacements
Health & Safety Gear
The most common ailments when traveling through Central America is dengue, food poisoning, and bacterial infections. Nothing too crazy and you are not going to die. However, it is good to be prepared and bring items to keep your immune system strong.
- First Aid Kit—I recommend this prepackaged kit.
- Alcohol Swabs—Will need for longer travel.
- Antibiotic—Must! Wounds infect easily in the jungle so applying this regularly will prevent that.
- Thermoneter—If you suspect you have an infection, a thermometer will be helpful to know when to see a doctor.
- Activated Charcoal—This is a natural product that absorbs toxin and works great if you have food poisoning symptoms or preventing a hangover!
- Bug Repellent—The military uses this one by Avon!
- DoTerra Peppermint Oil for bad breath and soothe bug bites
- DoTerra On Guard to prevent colds/sore throats
- Young’s Living Inner Defense––to prevent food poisoning/general immune support
Whether it’s a backpacker hostel or a national park, there are a lot of opportunities to camp, which I recommend in the dry season. If you have light and comfortable gear, it could be a great way to get a front-row view of nature, as well as, save some money.
- Small Tent—This tent is sturdy, will weather the rain, and only weighs 1.15 pounds!
- Sleeping pad—For good nights rest, I recommend this pad.
- Sleeping Sleeve—If you are sleeping on a couch or a hostel bed doesn’t look so clean this is nice to have.
Wet Season Extras
If you are traveling anytime from Mid April to November, you will want to bring tools to protect you from two elements: rain and mosquitoes. If you are not traveling during that time, don’t bring these things, they will be extra weight.
- 1 long pant—breathable and loose pants will save your legs from mosquitos
- Small Rain Boots—Not completely necessary, but if you are staying for an extended period of time, these will keep your feet clean and comfortable.
- Rain Jacket
- Bug Repellent for Clothes—This is necessary to keep mosquitoes from biting you through your clothes, which you can spray on before departure.
- Petroleum Jelly—To repel moisture from feet