What’s in my Backpack? {One Year in Costa Rica}

Question: What do you pack when you are planning to spend a year traveling through Central America on a tight budget?

Answer: Not much.

I realize everyone has different travel preferences, so let me describe my travel style for you:

I am a budget traveler: I stay at hostels and air bnb’s. Usually the cheapest place available, however, sometimes I will pay a few bucks extra for a nicer place.

I always travel light and never check bags

I carry a Burton skate backpack (a small sturdy backpack with straps typically used to carry a skateboard) with most of my stuff inside and a yoga mat and ukulele strapped to the outside.

I also carry a Sacchi lightweight/insulated bag. This is my “personal item” on airplanes. It holds my water bottle, phone and other things I like to be easily accessible. Can also be used to keep lunch cold on day trips.

My bag fits in overhead storage on buses and planes, so I never have to let it get out of my site

I can easily move all of my things whenever I need

I walk around with all my stuff on my back way too much, (trying to break this habit and cough up the few dollars it takes to cab it more) but it’s liberating that walking is an option and I don’t HAVE to leave my stuff somewhere.

I silently laugh at people struggling to carry way too much stuff while traveling


My experiences have shown me that you don’t really need much when you are traveling in Central America, and that having a compact travel setup makes life simpler and more enjoyable.

This time I am packing for a year. Beyond what I actually need, I want to bring entertainment, clothes for a variety of climates, and some luxuries from home.

What’s in my backpack?

*Bolded items are some of my favorite travel supplies*


1 Burton skate backpack with lock (#safetyqueen)

1 Saachi insulated reusable grocery bag

1 dry bag that fits my camera and computer inside


1 pair of long loose fitting synthetic pants

2 pairs of capri yoga pants (I live in these)

1 sundress

3 swimsuits

1 athletic top

1 dressy blouse

2 black tanktops

1 sports bra

1 bandana (headcover, bandage, washcloth, small bag, shirt, ukulele protector)

5 pairs of underwear

2 pairs of socks

1 rashguard

1 synthetic longsleeve with hood

1 treated mesh bug jacket with hood 

1 pair of running shoes

1 pair of Tevas

1 sarong (towel, dress, suncover, sheet)
Books and such:

The 7 habits of highly effective people

A Costa Rican phrase book to study
Style: the basics of clarity and grace

1 Waterproof map of costa Rica

1 composition notebook


1 Asus flipbook

1 Sony Nex5N camera

1 Waterproof Lumix point and shoot with floating strap

I-pod and headphones

1 Waterproof and shockproof bluetooth speaker

1 Headlamp

1 3.5oz bottle of sunscreen

1 3.5oz bottle of Aloe Vera

1 3.5oz bottle of 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner

1 3.5oz bottle of Coconut oil ( lotion, hair tamer, wound care, cooking oil)

1 small container of baby powder

1 loofa

1 bar of soap

1 stick of aluminum-free deodorant

my retainer

60 days worth of hair skin and nails supplement

mascara and lipgloss

1 2oz bottle of bug spray

1 toothbrush

1 2oz tube of toothpaste

1 small bottle of advil

3 tubes of hairdye (purple)

1 “Harry’s” brand razor and 9 razor refills

1 shammy 

1 package natural baby wipes

1 dry bag

1 ukulele

2 pairs of sunglasses

1 pair of swim goggles

300 packets of Emergen-C (seriously)

1 stainless steel water bottle

1 Platypus Gravityworks water filter

1 travel hammock

1 umbrella

1 very small neoprene hip belt that fits credit cards, ID, small camera and a copy of my passport

Colorado CBD infused honey: 1 jar and 50 individual sticks (medicinal and also for gifts)

1 metal stamping kit (glutton for punishment?) and 4 rolls of hemp

With some tight rolling and zip locks it all fit in my bags 🙂 I check into my flight online the day before our flight and pre-print my boarding tickets. Locked, loaded, and ready for the airport!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Andrew Nguyen says:

    I also find a solar rechargable battery pack helps in tight situation when an outlet is available. Lightwight and inexpensive nowadays. Good luck missy and looking forward to hearing about your travels 🙂


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