Packing for Tropical Destinations: What I Wish I Brought

This pack list was created by one of our past Costa Rica program participants before and after her trip. Below, she reflects on what she brought, what she could have gotten away with, and what she wishes she had brought. What she packed and used on this trip might not be suitable for every tropical destination, but its a good idea of what to think about on an active two-week trip to a tropical location!

Packing lists can be tough. They really depend on the habits of the person who wrote them and how comfortable they like to be. Some of the people on this trip even recommended bringing some other type of biodegradable shampoo aside from Dr. Bronner’s, since it was very drying for hair. I also brought along my menstrual cup and a couple tampons for that time of the month.

I used my 45L backpack as a carry-on for the plane (I hate checking bags), so I chose to buy sunscreen and bug spray once I arrived in San Jose. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any! So please learn from my mistake: bring your own sunscreen and bug spray!

While traveling in tropical regions, it is important to remember that the air is pretty humid and it often rains in the afternoons. Therefore, any wet clothes you hang up to dry will take a very long time to dry –somewhere around two days. Since I packed very light, I had to do laundry about halfway through the trip. Although it was a very pleasant way to spend a free afternoon, my clothes didn’t get fully dry for a very long time. Quick-dry fabrics are probably a good idea.

I am SO happy to have brought a dry bag! I travel with my DSLR camera (which has a separate set of challenges) and I was really worried about it getting wet in rainstorms and on the rafting day. I ended up bringing one that juuust fits my camera, plus a dry layer and a few other small items.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I brought. I used pretty much everything, and I was fairly comfortable. I kept my pack as light as possible. Would I do the trip again with only the equipment I originally brought? Absolutely! It was challenging, but definitely doable. 

What I Brought:

  • 4 tshirts
  • 1 long sleeved base layer
  • 1 warm pullover
  • 1 pair long hiking pants
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 pair comfy pants
  • 4-5 pairs socks
  • 1 pair sandals (Tevas)
  • 1 pair hiking boots
  • 1 light jacket
  • 1 raincoat
  • 8 pairs underwear
  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 hat
  • 1 travel towel
  • 1 bandana
  • Toiletries
  • Menstruation cup
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Bar shampoo
  • Waterproof dry bag
  • Camera
  • Book

What I Wish I Brought:

  • Moleskin/blister prevention
  • Better raincoat
  • Bug spray
  • Reef-safe sunscreen
  • Waterproof pants
  • Plastic bags (for wet things)
  • Ear plugs

Leave a Reply