Costa Rica Field Trip: The Ultimate Packing List

Adventure Travel, Backpacking & Trekking, Costa Rica, Packing & Wardrobe, Shopping & Style — By on August 25, 2009 at 4:00 pm

By Amanda Pressner
LG Executive Editor

When I returned from my yearling round-the-world adventure with The Lost Girls back in 2007, I swore that I’d retire my trusty blue Snowgum backpack and only travel with a rolling suitcase from now on. Fast forward two years to July 2009, and you’ll see me digging around my aunt’s basement in upstate New York, trying to find the only bag I really trust to get me and my three weeks worth of clothing-across rives, through jungles and overnight buses in Costa Rica.

The first time that I had to traipse through two feet of seawater to board a boat that took me across the Gulf of Papagayo from one destination to the next, I realized that it would have been near impossible to accomplish the task with a big suitcase on wheels. Not getting rid of Big Blue was the best travel decisions I ever made (that and running away from an insane cab driver in Vietnam, but that’s another story).

While living out of a backpack for 12 months straight got pretty old on my last big trip, it did teach me one important life lesson-how to pack effectively (if not exactly lightly). Some may look at the list below and think “holy crap, girl…that’s way too much stuff!” but I truly did utilize each and everything below at least once, and usually many times during my recent Costa Rica trip. Call me a flashpacker (heck, I’ll do it for you), but I love my electronics, and am willing to shoulder the extra burden if it means being able to document my trip in the way that I want. One word of advice: If you’re traveling with a buddy, you can easily split up items such as toiletries, camera and books so that you’re not doubling up.

If you’ve got anything to add (or tell me why you don’t agree with one of my packing list items, feel free drop us a line. Happy packing!

The Ultimate Costa Rica Packing List*

*Note: If you’re doing any extreme sports, camping or hiking, you’ll need some additional items not mentioned here. Check with your local sporting goods retailer or tour operator for a complete list of essentials.


  • Tanks and Tees
  • Shorts
  • Quickdry pants
  • Sundress
  • Skirt
  • Light hoodie or sweater
  • Waterproof outwear (ie, anorak or jacket)
  • Bathing Suit
  • Beach cover up/sarong
  • Underwear
  • Sports bras (be sure to wear it when on long car rides!)
  • Bras
  • Sleepwear


  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Eyeglasses
  • Sleep Mask
  • Bandana or scarf
  • Headbands
  • Watch (water resistant if possible)
  • Belt


  • Flip-flops
  • Hiking or trail shoes
  • Tevas (or shoe with a back-strap for rafting)
  • Sandals (or pair nice flats)
  • Lightweight hiking socks
  • Running socks

Personal Items

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Styling products
  • Body wash
  • Shaving Cream
  • Razor
  • Contacts and contact solution
  • Moisturizer (face and body)
  • Brush
  • Rubber bands/bobby pins/clips
  • Perfume
  • Makeup
  • Makeup remover (optional)
  • Sunscreen with SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm with SPF 15+
  • Nail clippers or file
  • Tweezers (if you have a Swiss army knife, you can skip this)

Medicine Cabinet

  • Prescription Rx
  • Pain relievers
  • Imodium tabs
  • Allergy meds
  • Sleep meds
  • Motion sickness meds
  • Visine/Antibacterial drops
  • Insect repellant (with as much deet as you can get!)
  • Cortisone 1% anti-itch cream
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Feminine products
  • Birth control
  • Vitamins
  • Bandages
  • Small roll toilet paper


  • Camera
  • Video Camera (optional, as many digital cameras take video clips)
  • Ipod (w/portable speakers-I love my “Tweekers“)
  • Cell phone (if you’ve got an international plan)
  • Laptop (optional)
  • Chargers
  • USB storage drive
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Headlamp
  • Spare batteries

Gear and Extras
(much of the below is optional)

  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Reading books
  • Guidebook
  • Phrasebook
  • Journal
  • Pens
  • Playing cards
  • Shoe bags (your boots will almost definitely get muddy!)
  • Ziplock bags
  • Quick dry towel
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Lighter/matches
  • Swiss army knife
  • Duct tape (Dad was right-this always comes in handy!)
  • Corkscrew
  • Spork/Silverware set
  • Sewing kit
  • Water filtration tabs
  • Silk sleep sack


  • Passport
  • Driver’s License
  • Credit Cards
  • Diving Certification
  • Travel Confirmations
  • Copies of your passport and credit cards (or scan them and email to yourself)
  • Itinerary
  • Numbers for emergency contacts and CC companies
  • Copy of packing list
  • Travel insurance
  • Traveler’s checks (optional)

Luggage and accessories

  • Backpack
  • Daypack (one with a waist strap-this is critical when hiking!)
  • Packing cubes (to compress and organize your clothes)
  • PacSafe (a slash proof mesh cover to secure your pack in public storage areas)
  • TSA Approved padlocks locks
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  • Stormy says:

    Are those sailor pantys? I love it 🙂

  • travel tips zimbabwe says:

    One of the biggest risks if you are traveling with video equipment is the possible damage to the video equipment itself.
    You don’t want to break a law in a foreign country on accident because you could end up in jail for a night. Let’s consider a few examples to clarify the issue.

  • Jolee says:

    Thank you for providing this list, I will be traveling to Costa Rica in October for a month, so this will really help me to refer to. I haven’t traveled out of the U.S. for that length of time before, so I don’t want to forgot my necessities! 😀