Tropical Travel Kit — On Packing Light

Pretend for a second that you are planning a trip. You are off to somewhere in SE Asia or Central America, or anywhere warm and breezy where clothes seem of secondary importance. You know that your day to day will include heavy hammock usage, drinks involving some sort of locally distilled liquor, and a fair amount of swimming and hiking. You’ll be gone for a while — a month or more. What do you pack?

Having faced this problem a fair number of times while wandering the globe, I wanted to lay out my travel kit for the solo wanderer who is a bit new to the sport of getting lost. While the temptation is to pack the kitchen sink, the surprising truth is that one can live with barely anything. I recently spent 3 weeks in Nicaragua w/ only this 25L patagonia bag. When I’m gone for longer, I use a 44L Osprey Atmos.

Packing too little is something that can be easily rectified by purchasing more along the way. You’ve got this.

Key Ingredients for your pack


  • Two Swimsuits (make these light, no liner ideally, and they should be usable as shorts as well)
  • Two pairs of shorts (yoga shorts are perfect, something that dries quickly ideally is not made of cotton)
  • 4–5 t-shirts (these can be cotton based, but something sweat wicking is perfect)
  • 4 pairs of wool socks (wool is INCREDIBLE, especially in hot temperatures, does not retain scents, and will last multiple days of use)
  • 4–6 pairs of boxers or the like (limiting factor for doing laundry, get a pair of these if possible)
  • 1 button up shirt (something nice, but that you don’t mind getting ripped up should anything happen)
  • 1 very light rain-jacket/wind breaker
  • 1 pair of light pants, not jeans (optional)

That’s all! Everything else you can buy/discard as you travel.


  • Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Floss, One role of Toilet Paper, Dr. Bronners soap (can be used as shampoo, as well as to clean your clothes)
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray (Get something with 90+% deet)
  • Headlamp (just go to REI and find something cheap), Extra batteries
  • Bladder (CamelBak etc, throw it in your bag that you use for hiking)
  • Universal Plug adapter (these cost ~$20 and are gold)
  • Phone (This can alleviate the need for a camera, but throw in a gopro if you’re so inclined)
  • Kindle (because carrying books across the world does not work well with inclement weather and questionably safe boats)
  • A couple charging cables (you might lose 1 or 2)
  • 1 pair of hiking boots

You can buy a cheap pair of flip flops and sunglasses when you get there.