What to pack – for Central America

What to pack for a long backpacking trip in Central America? I’ve been traveling for a long time and I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out what and how to pack my backpack under 12kg! During my first big travel – the South American trip – I learned that it’s not cool to carry a heavy backpack and a heavy daypack. I believe that every time I travel somewhere I improve this list and I travel with less gear. However, some things are just not possible to leave out – especially my “office on the go”, because I work online while I’m traveling 🙂

My rules for packing are:
1. It has to be REALLY useful/necessary
2. Pack light – I tried to take less of everything from clothing, footwear, other essentials, first aid kit and cosmetics, electronic things and other stuff.

There is no such thing as a ‘universal’ packing list. I based the following list on my experience from South America and I asked about the weather conditions in Central America. The plan was to spend most of the time on the beach, do some city tours and of course some volcano hiking. I also stayed in some places for a while, surfed and volunteered.
Regarding the style of packing, I prefer to pack half of my stuff in cubes and roll the other half. I heard that it’s very humid there, so I tried to avoid cotton clothes and I have things that dry fast.

This is inside of my backpack (shoes are on my feet :)

This is inside of my backpack (shoes are on my feet 🙂

Packing list for Central America (besides good mood and positive vibrations):

– 2x T-shirt
– 4x Tank top
– 1x Long sleeve shirt
– 1x Light micro fleece (essential for me)
– 1x Sweatshirt with hoodie
– 1x Very light rain jacket
– 1x Pair of trousers (quick drying, no jeans)
– 3x Skirt
– 3x Dress
– 1x Leggings
– 2x Swimming suit
– Underware (as much as I need ☺
– 2x Bra
– 7x Socks (1x especially for trekking)

– 1x Hiking boots (essential for me)
– 1x Sport shoes
– 1x Flip-flops (I don’t have, I have to buy!)

Other essentials:
– 1x Trek-type towel (super-quick drying)
– 1x Sarong or scarf (essential for me)
– 1x Spoon/fork in one
– 1x Swiss knife
– 1x Light sleeping bag

First aid kit:
– Pain killers
– Pills I have to take
– Band aid
– Bandage
– Repellent
– Lip balm
– Sun screen (essential for me)
– Anti-Diarrhea pills
– Thermometer

– Tooth brush and tooth paste
– Shampoo and hair balm (I need hair balm otherwise I have dreadlocks very easily – essential for me)
– Deodorant
– Razor
– Shower gel
– Scissors
– Wet wipes
– Disinfection gel for hands (good for long bus rides and toilets)
– Mascara, lipstick
– Face cream
– Sanitary towels/tampons
– Coconut oil and cocoa cream

Office on the go:
– MacBook Air, charger
– iPhone 5C, charge
– Logitech mouse
– Canon 600D Camera, charging cable, extra battery, extra SD card (essential for me), 2x lens
– GoPro Camera
– Flashlight
– International plug converter
– Sennheiser Headsets
– USBs and a harddisc

Surf gear (usually, I travel with only one surfboard, when I’m based in one place, I have more surfboards and then I sell them):
– 6.3 surfboard
– 6.9 surfboard
– Wax, fin key, leash

Other things:
– Backpack: 55l (possible to make up to 65l)
– Daypack: 10l
– Handbag (normally packed in the daypack) – for city life
– Book (or books)
– Pad-lock with a number combination (for hostel lockers)
– Notebook and pen
– Money belt
– Sunglasses
– Dioptric glasses
– Contact lenses
– Pictures of my family
– Business cards
– Passport (essential for me)
– Extra passport photographs
– Driving license
– Visa and Master card
– Cash
– Certificate of vaccinations
– Ear plugs
– Pack of cards
– Photocopies of everything important
– Small box for souvenirs
– Water
– Snack
– Toilet paper/tissues
– JJ – my travel dog and Saint Christopher – he holds patronage of things related to travel and travelers ☺

What do you think? Have I forgotten something? What is your usual packing style? Any recommendations are appreciated! Also, I hope that this packing list will help someone who’s going on a great adventure somewhere in Central America.

Finally, I want to finish this article with an advice that I read somewhere: “Lay everything out that you really want to take, halve it and take twice as much money.” I don’t want to spend money on something that I already have. But I also know that I will buy some new tops or dresses. It’s also fun when traveling. Or I will find something somewhere as much as I will forget something somewhere. Anyway, the most important is to have great experience and memories 🙂

Safe travels to all of you!

28 Comments on “What to pack – for Central America

  1. I will definitely check out the list once again in 2 weeks when I pack for Central America 😀 I will have more food, less cosmetics, more beach clothes and less warm clothes I guess 🙂

    • Good idea. If you’re planning to spend time only on the beach, take more beach clothes. I’m planning to do some hiking too, I heard that it’s colder and windy there. Let’s see…

  2. Oooo this was a great post to find! I am currently in the throes of packing for 3-4 months in Central America. I am not bringing as many warm clothes, but perhaps I should because I will be doing a lot of hiking and mountain trekking as well as beaching it. Do you think 2 sweatshirts and a fleece are necessary?

    • Hi Katie! I think that 1 sweatshirt and 1 fleece is enough. I have it only for some hiking trips. So I think that you’ll be fine with 1 🙂 Enjoy!!

  3. Brilliant! I am definitely using this “checklist” before my trip, too. Thanks Silvia.
    BTW: Have you found anything you forgot to pack? or anything you miss?;)

    • I’m happy that it was helpful 🙂 So far I have everything, things like sun screen and flip-flops I bought in Panama. So no, I don’t miss anything, it’s even good that I have sweatshirts and fleece, because it’s necessary for the vulcan hikes. Byeeeeee Veronika 🙂

      • Hi, finding your checklist very helpful 🙂 Iv read about being careful wearing shorts? Would you say this is true? Notice you don’t have shorts packed…

        • Hi Hana! I’m a bad person to talk about shorts 🙂 I had shorts when I was in South America. but I lost them after one week… so I don’t have more shorts with me, but I have lot of skirts. I didn’t have any problem wearing skirts until now… unless it’s too windy 🙂

          • Thank you. You read all sorts and don’t know what is exaggerated or genuine. So helps to hear first hand. Thanks, enjoy your travels 🙂

    • Hi Jacob! Yes, it fits. It also depends what kind of brand it is, I have Vaude and it fits. But has to be “super-packed”. If not, I have the option to make it 10l bigger. I hope that it helps 🙂 safe travels

  4. Hi so what was your review on this packing list after you did travel? anything you would add/remove from the list? i’m doing the same trip starting next week!


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  7. Brilliant packing list! I am trying to be minimalist when is about packing. I really don’t like to take unnecessary stuff and having extra luggage!

  8. Hi Silvia
    Have just found your list as my husband and I are amidst planning our 2-3 months Central America trip and I have NO idea where to start with packing as every other holiday we’ve done hasn’t been a backpacking one lol.
    Would I need much more than this for 2-3 months??
    Thanks for the help!
    And thanks again for the list!

    • Hi Karina! No, you definitely don’t need more. You can take even less. It doesn’t really matter if you’re going only for 1 week or 6 months 🙂 You don’t want to carry lot of stuff, there is laundry almost everywhere and you can also buy new stuff… Save travels, enjoy Central America!

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  10. I’ve found this super useful, thanks! I’ll be travelling for 3 months in Central America and not sure if I need to take enough sunceeam and insect repellant to last me or is it easy to pick up decent factor 25+ and high deet when I’m there? I burn easily and also attract mozzies. I’d rather not have to pack loadsa suncream so any advice would be welcome. Thanks!

    • Hey Genine! My recommendation is that you can buy everything on the spot, so just go there and you will see how hot it is, how many mosquitos and what do other people say 🙂 safe travels!

  11. I’m leaving for a month to El Salvador this Thursday! Your list is helping me along the way! Thank you!

    • Great to know Cate! Enjoy El Salvador and eat a pupusa for me 🙂

  12. This was awesome. Heading to El Salvador with a group to meet some family but have never been myself. I am overhauling my bag as I type. I am in your debt.

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