I have always loved packing. I cannot remember a time when I did not pack my own suitcase, and for years I packed my brother’s suitcase, too. Now I pack for Logan. I pack and repack about half a dozen times before most trips, and my process is excessive and, to be frank, crazy.
Planning in general is something that I get really passionate and obsessive about, and packing is a very hands on way to prepare for a trip. Now that I have been travel backpacking off and on for a couple years I have a better feeling for what I like to wear while traveling, what things I can’t live without, and what things I really can leave behind.
But when we were planning our epic honeymoon I stressed for months about finding THE PERFECT wardrobe for our very first backpacking journey. I also wanted to make sure we had all necessary the backpacker gear and the ideal toiletry kit. I searched endlessly online for packing lists, combed through thrift stores and discount clothing stores, spent a ton of our wedding gift money on gadgets at REI, and constantly revised our packing list.
Here is what we ended up bringing.
Shirts- 2 dry-fit tee shirts, 2 dry fit tank tops, 3 cotton tank tops
Warm Tops- 1 long sleeve flannel, 1 dry-fit pull over thin long sleeve, 1 “bug shirt”, 1 rain jacket
Bottoms- 1 pair of convertible hiking pants, 1 pair of black silk leggings, 2 pairs of shorts (one athletic), 1 knee-length skirt
Undergarments- 5 underwear (ExOfficio), 3 pairs of socks (one warm), 3 bras
Other- 1 bathing suit (reversible), bandana, hat
Shoes- Chacos, Converse, Teva flip flops
Thoughts on MY CLOTHES
Overall I was really happy with the clothing I brought.
I wore my two dry-fit tanks CONSTANTLY. I brought cute-ish ones that matched all my clothes and they took so much longer to get grimy and stinky than my cotton shirts. And they dried quicker (shocker!).
We splurged a little on dorky convertible pants, but I wore them on basically every travel day and wear them camping all the time now, so I think they were worth the investment. Plus, they aren’t THAT bad.
My knee length skirt was great for more conservative places, and I thought one pair of real shorts was fine. The three long sleeves seemed like overkill, and in non-polar vortex years I am sure this is not essential, but I wore them a lot, especially early in the morning,
Our Chacos were the best investment we made for this trip. We both wore them every single day and there were countless times where I couldn’t have asked for a better pair of shoes.
What didn’t work
I wish I had brought another knee length skirt. The one I brought was perfect for any occasion and was a great compromise between conservative and cool (temperature-wise).
I also wish I had brought another bathing suit. I thought my reversible one would be great for versatility (it was!), but it didn’t always dry before I needed to put it back on. Plus I wore it ALL THE TIME and I got sick of it.
I would also pack more underwear next time since they are so small and are the only thing I feel weird wearing over and over before washing.
My “bug shirt” was pretty unnecessary, but I got it for $3 at a thrift store and I really liked the color. I did wear it, but you would have to be doing some serious jungle trekking to make this a “must have” item. Silk leggings are similarly non-essential, but I got them for super cheap ($6 maybe?) at an REI sale and they dry so much quicker than cotton ones.
I only wore my Converse once, making them basically useless, but I couldn’t leave them behind so they lived in my backpack. Luckily they aren’t heavy.
If you are a dude (or a chick who packs for a dude like me) click here to see what I packed for my husband clothing-wise.
hair gunk (to help tame my mop)
Thoughts on MY TOILETRIES
My hair gunk and mascara were unnecessary, but I used everything else. We bought shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and toothpaste when we got to Belize, which saved on liquid space for our carry on bags. We used that space for sunscreen, and we were glad to have brought our own because options are limited and expensive in Central American countries. The pumice stone and nail polish were totally worth bringing since I wore sandals everyday and my feet got mega nasty. Being able to get them looking shiny and new again made me feel more like a normal (clean) person. Lastly, Diva cups are freaking awesome. And eco-friendly.
MEDICINE KIT (DIY)
pain killers (Ibuprofen)
motion sickness pills
Thoughts on MEDICINE KIT (DIY)
We brought way too much medicine, but other than the anti malarial pills we used everything at one point or another. However, you can pick up medicine super cheap in Central America, so we could have just brought an emergency supply and picked up more as needed.
tiny sewing kit
Platypus water bottles
Thoughts on RANDOM CRAP
Our clothesline broke, we only used our hammocks a couple of times, and we didn’t use the bug nets even once, but other than that we used all the rest of this stuff A LOT. We were pretty bummed our hammocks didn’t get more use, but there are hammocks hung everywhere in Central America, so ours were redundant. They are pretty small and we had plenty of extra room in our bags, so having them wasn’t a huge deal, but we wouldn’t bring them again.
The travel towels were unfortunately a necessity since not all accommodation in this region provides free towels, but I hate the material they are made out of (nasty microfiber) and they trap sand like crazy, so they are terrible to take to the beach. They do dry quicker than normal towels, but they still take more time than I expected to air dry. I usually just ended up using my sarong as a towel. It is much softer and dries much quicker.
We are pretty hardcore about recycling and minimizing our plastic usage, so the SteriPen (which sterilizes water with ultra violet light) and Platypus water bottles were used daily. Not everyone feels as passionately about this as we do though, and water is cheaply available everywhere, so this is probably unnecessary for most travelers.
There is a whole post coming your way about a lot of this random crap and why we travel with it.
Nikon Coolpix L820
cheapo crap camera (unknown brand and it got stolen)
extra memory card
flexible iPad keyboard
iPad SD card reader
Kindle Paperwhite x2 (we each have one)
Zune’s (we were the only people ever to buy these…)
necessary chargers (obviously)
Thoughts on TECHNOLOGY
We got our Nikon as a wedding gift from my dad and as a total photography novice this was a great first “real” camera. The only thing I don’t like about it is its size, as it is a TAD bulky.
I used the iPad for blogging during this trip, so I’m glad we had the keyboard and SD card reader so I could type more easily and upload pictures. That being said, I would NEVER travel without my laptop now. Even if I wasn’t blogging, having a laptop is essential for my travel well-being. We watch movies, do research, and upload photos constantly. I think it is worth any potential hassle.
We love our power travel strip because it has a 3-pin receptacle (meaning we can plug in my Macbook or anything grounded), and it’s compact. That combined with our power converter, which had 2 USB ports, allows us to charge basically everything that could need charging at the same time.
Gregory Sage 45 liter (me)
Gregory Savant 48 liter (Logan)
reusable grocery bag
Eagle Creek day pack (folds into its own pocket)
Haiku purse (with hidden passport pocket)
Thoughts on OUR BAGS
Our big backpacks worked out great! We didn’t come even closed to filling them, and I could have easily gotten away with a 40 liter bag. We got the slightly bigger size (although 45 liters is still really small in backpacker land) because we knew we would pack bigger and bulkier stuff for our Europe trip. For a daypack we carried the Eagle Creek, which was a little small for both of us but if I carried my purse then we usually had enough room.
We used the reusable shopping bag CONSTANTLY and it became our “food bag” so that we could buy larger amounts of bulk food items (like coffee, tea, and rice) and take them with us, saving us some money.
Stuff We Didn’t Bring But Wished We Had
- Waterproof camera!!!! So many missed photo opportunities.
- The iPad was okay, but I missed my laptop daily.