Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Packing for Costa Rica

I based my initial packing list on the lists in the 2009 Rough Guide First Time Latin America guidebook and the 2009 Let's Go Costa Rica On A Budget guidebook. I also checked out the Travelite FAQ (www.travelite.org) and the Universal Packing List (upl.codeq.info). Both guidebooks advised packing a minimum amount of clothing, but bringing a versatile mix of what I do bring. For example, I'm bringing a rain jacket just in case the dry season gets wet, and a fleece jacket for cold bus rides. Both the rain jacket and the fleece are light and neither consumes much space. If I use them, I'll be glad I took them. If I don't use them, their cost in space and weight is minimal. Both guidebooks also emphasized bringing toiletries and a basic first-aid kit.

At the last minute I decided to leave my jeans and my Adidas sneakers at home. The jeans would be too bulky and heavy for the tropics, despite their value in making me look less touristy. The Adidas sneakers would also make me look touristy, but they take up precious space and I'm already bringing walking shoes. I'll just resign myself to looking like a gringo.

Packing list:


1 50 liter Kelty Redwing backpack
(internal frame for durability, woven from high-strength nylon, metal zippers, fully adjustable straps. It can hold everything I'm taking. $100 from REI)
1 Trager courier bag (My guidebook says courier bags make for a less touristy daypack than a small backpack. I've had this for six years and have taken it abroad previously. It's roomy, I can sling it across my body, will fit plenty of stuff for walks around town and in the jungle, and has a handle for when I have to carry the Kelty at the same time.

Outdoor Gear:

2 bottles of bug repellant
(Mosquitos will be everywhere, especially around dusk and in the rainforest. I can also spray repellant around my bed to cut down on night-time bug bites.)
1 tube of 30 SPF sunblock
1 basic first aid kit (17 piece-kit of mostly band aids and some antibiotic creme. I have supplemented it with a bottle of Tylenol and a tube of Neosporin cream. $15.)
40 malaria pills (Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, which bites mostly at night. I will be spending time in the rain forest so malaria pills seemed prudent. Nearly $300.)
15 Cipro pills (Cholera can kill in hours and dysentary can ruin an entire week if untreated. Both diseases are spread through contaminated water or food. Cipro kills them both. $15.)
1 flashlight (pocket Mag-lite for night hikes through the rainforest.)
1 Costa Rica guidebook (Let's Go Costa Rica on a Budget. I looked at Fodors, Frommers, and Lonely Planet books, but Let's Go Costa Rica offered recommendations for lodging, food, and sights each city AND gave prices for all their recommendations. $25.)
1 camera (Cannon Powershot A540. I've been using Powershots since 2004. They're durable, small, not too expensive and take good shots. I've taken this one to Italy and Australia. The current version can be had for $115.)
1 compass with whistle, magnifying glass and signal mirror (It's pocket sized and useful for urban and wilderness adventuring. $10 from REI).

1 fleece sweater
(light, soft, folds away into nothing, and good for cold planes and buses. $40 from REI.)
2 cargo pants (1 Sahara pants and 1 Mojave pants, both from REI. They dry quickly, are light weight, and have plenty of secure pockets. The Sahara pants can double as shorts because the legs zip off below the knees. Both pants are good for anywhere on the trip, but will look touristy in San Jose. $50 each from REI.)
2 long-sleeve light-weight button down nylon shirts (dry quickly, light weight, breathable, moisture wicking. Lighter and more versatile than cotton shirts, button-down and collared so they look nicer than t-shirts. $50 each from REI.)
5 boxers
5 t-shirts (including 1 long-sleeve)

5 socks

1 folding hat
(Light-weight nylon, dries quickly, moisture wicking, includes neck coverage. Purchased from a catalog several years ago.)
1 pair of walking shoes
(I have wide feet so I prefer New Balance. I've had this pair for a couple years, so I know they're dependable.)

1 Gore-Tex rain jacket
(REI brand. Comfy with zippered pockets and secret pockets. Is light-weight, folds away into nothing and includes a hood. $75 from REI.)
1 pair of prescription sunglasses

1 pair of eyeglasses

1 neck wallet
(Zippered compartment for money and credit cards. Slide-in compartment large enough for a passport has plastic window. $20.)
1 travel towel
(Don't bring bath towels when traveling abroad -- they're heavy, they dry slowly, and they might rot after one month in the tropics. My travel towel is smaller than a bath towel, but feels like terry cloth and dries quickly $20 from REI).
1 swim trunks


1 toiletries bag (containing razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant)

3 small bottles 18-in-1 liquid soap
(Dr. Bronner's Peppermint soap. Soothing and smells good. Useable as detergent, shampoo, and soap. $10 for all three from REI)
1 bottle of Woolite
(Good for doing laundry in the sink or bathtub. $5.)
1 roll of toilet paper
(My guidebook advises me that some Central American public toilets do not have toilet paper)
1 bottle of Tylenol

1 quart-sized bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and Neosporin

1 clothesline
(travel clothesline that is as long as most showers and bathtubs. Includes clips and suction cups for easy attachment to bathroom surfaces. $10 from REI.



copies of drivers license and passport
(kept separate from my passport)
flight and hotel confirmations

health insurance cards


4 nutrition bars

1 laptop with charger

wipes for the glasses

1 battery-powered alarm clock

1 packet of instant breakfast


2 general reading books

1 camera battery charger
credit card
ATM card


  1. That was quite a long list to pack... ;) Bee-Bee

  2. Yeah, I know. But I used most of it without thinking I brought too much. The only thing I'd change is that I'd bring a lighter laptop.