So you’re heading to Costa Rica and wondering what in the world to pack for a country with so many climates, landscapes and adventures. The question is not just what to pack,but how to pack light! With airlines trying to charge an arm and leg for your baggage, and considering you may be taking small planes, buses or shuttles with luggage restrictions, here are a few things we suggest to help keep baggage down to a manageable size.
Tips for Types of Luggage
Maybe you’re not a backpacker so those giant packs you see lots of 20-somethings walking around with is not really an option for you. Don’t worry, you can still get around easily and with all your necessities in just these small convenient luggage items, (and your back will thank you for it!)
- Carry-on sized roller suitcase– At about 22 inches, this type of suitcase is small enough to carry-on on larger planes, easily carry up stairs or on rugged roads, and still fit plenty of items for a trip up to 10-days. (Don’t believe it? Read below to see how few items you’ll be packing!)
- Day backpack – This is great for carrying your personal necessities on hikes or day tours and also offers more space to pack your clothes and other items which can still be taken as a carry-on if you decide to check your roller suitcase. If you get one with a water reservoir it’s even better because you’ll need to stay hydrated and it won’t take up a lot of space when empty. Here’s a good wheeled luggage set with day pack from High Sierra I recommend that won’t break the bank and offers a lot of versatility.
- Purse or Waistpack – A must for when you’re strolling through the streets or doing a lighter hike and don’t want to be weighed down. It keeps your important items close and readily available whenever you need them (such as passport and money of course). Keep the purses to a lightweight (collapsible if possible) and over-the-shoulder style to ensure your hands are free to manage other luggage, paperwork or activity.
Clothes to Pack
You might think this list too minimal, but really, you don’t need to bring too much. Most towns and hotels offer laundry service for very reasonable prices, so this list will provide for about 5 days, then simply asking your hotel for a laundry service for a load of clothes will save you a lot of weight in your luggage and a lot of hassle! 🙂 Also, if you bring clothes for layering, you can avoid a lot of extra outfits you’ll likely never even wear. Use the rolling method for packing to make sure you use every inch of space in that suitcase.
- Tops – 5 t-shirts or tank tops, 1 long-sleeved lightweight shirt (Wicking and quick-drying materials work best for the warm and humid climates. They can also be quickly hand washed and dried if needed.)
- Bottoms – 3 pairs shorts, 1 pair long pants (2 if you’ll be doing a lot of jungle hiking. A pair of zip-off hiking pants like these is great because they can serve as shorts or pants and accommodate changing climates quickly.)
- Outerwear – 1 sweater/zip up fleece, 1 hat (your pick here, just limit to 1), 1 lightweight rain jacket (A pocket poncho is also an alternative to use even less space.)
- Footwear – 1 pair sandals/flipflops, 1 pair closed shoes, 2 pairs socks (trail-runners/hiking shoes/trainers whatever your preference, but heavy hiking boots are a little unnecessary unless, again, you’ll be doing crazy jungle hikes the whole time 🙂 )
- Underclothes/Swimsuit – 1 swimsuit/boardshorts, and as many undergarments as you feel you need, but again laundry is usually not a problem so I’ll leave that up to personal preference.
Gear for Your Nature Tours
There are a couple options for gear. Plan ahead and find out if the tours you’ll be taking provide equipment such as binoculars, snorkel masks, etc for the activity. If they do, perfect! Less equipment for you to drag around. If they don’t, consider taking only what you will absolutely use and take the lightest one. Opt for your small point-and-shoot camera if you’re taking binoculars for example. Or if you’re more interested in awesome photos, take the bigger camera and lens and leave the binocs at home. Also leave the tablets, ipads and other unnecessary electronics at home and make sure you just have a good compact smartphone since it can serve as your camera, communication and about a million other things.
For toiletries you can take travel sized items or buy from the local market when you get there. Depending on where you’re staying though, a grocery store may not be within easy reach so its best to be prepared with at least a small amount of those items.
- 1Pair Sunglasses
- Small Sunblock
- Mosquito/tick repellent
- Water Bottle (collapsible works great or water reservoir for backpacks )
- 1 Small Flashlight (also available for purchase at grocery stores)
- Handkerchief (During dry season, some areas can be very dusty. These are also great for cleaning up after a long hike.)
- 1 Small first aid kit (While tour companies should have these, they may not always be equipped. Best to have a small kit with a couple bandaids, ointment, painkillers or any meds for your own specific needs on hand, especially if you are in a remote area.)
Now that you’ve got some ideas for packing light, you’re ready to head off on your nature trip. Lightening the load will make it easier to move fast, change plans quickly and see as much as you can. Your journey awaits you!