@ wrote... (13 years ago)

I took a vacation over Christmas to Costa Rica with Gap Adventures (code CRA) so here is my packing list, including some much needed info about Rara Avis.

Pack Light

I've always been a bit of an overpacker, and this summer I went to Europe for a month and gave myself a weight limit of 20 lbs (approx 10 kg). Once you've traveled light you can never go back. Some of you out there are probably scoffing that 20 lbs is too heavy, but considering my last trip was with a 35 lbs pack, 20 is a pretty big accomplishment. 20 pounds does not include my day bag but that shouldn't be more than 5-7 lbs.

Don't give yourself a “pack lighter” goal, it has to be a hard and fast limit and I can't imagine anybody needing more than 20 pounds and 50 litres. I know how hard it is to pack the first time, but the second time is a piece of cake.

15 litres for the day bag seems to be the right size.

If you can't carry your bag up a flight of stairs with one arm then you need to be more ruthless with your packing.


Since this trip was just over two weeks I figured 20 pounds would be easy and it would have been but I wanted to bring a few extra items: noise canceling headphones, binoculars and mask & snorkle.

I also have a bit of a bag fetish, I'm somehow convinced that out there somewhere is a magical bag of holding that is bigger and heavier on the inside than on the outside. So in that vein I tried a duffel bag instead of my usual back pack. I won't be taking a duffel bag again.

The duffel is really nice in that it is cheap, very light and holds a lot for it's size (ie: it is very efficient) but even a 20 pound bag is murder on the shoulder if you have to carry it more than 30 seconds. The complete lack of pockets/compartments goes against my “everything inside something else” mentality. More on that below.

For my European trip I got the Sojourn (40 litre main, 18 litre daypack) and it's a great bag. The detachable day bag is a bit overdone and a bit heavy and hot but still a great day bag.

In the name of simplicity (and my fetish) I got a MEC Big Pod and was very impressed with it. Again, not perfect, it needs a mesh divider in the main compartment as well as more/bigger organizer pockets. The water bottle holder is pretty stupid (but not as bad as I first thought it was) and should be the exact duplicate of the side pockets of the Sojourn day bag. The cellphone pocket on the strap should be removable.


Shoes are always a major problem when travelling. Ideally you'd want flip flops, heavy sandals, hiking boots, walking shoes/runners and nice evening shoes. And I'm a guy. I settled on flip flops and heavy sandals.

I've never worn flip flops before and wasn't sure how I'd like them. I bought really cheap Old Navy sandals and although I loved flip flops (they're a party for your feet!) these sandals really suck and I'd recommend spending at least $10 on a pair.

For my real footwear I bought some Keens. My beloved 10 year old Tiva's had worn out and they no longer make the Wraptor's so I had to try something new. I like the Keens even if they are a bit clunky and heavy. I had to get leather ones since they didn't have my size in nylon. Buying sandals in Canada in December is a bit of a non starter.

I was planning on wearing the sandals white water rafting and canyoning but when I saw the water shoes for only $7 at Super Christian #2 (seriously) grocery store in La Fortuna I just had to get them. They kept my sandals clean and dry and looking good so money well spent. When I saw one of the guides wearing the same pair I knew they'd hold up for two day trips.


Now to the best advice I can give (after packing light) is get yourself some Eagle Creek packing cubes. Sure they're ridiculously over priced for what they are but they're also the best money you can spend if you ever have to pack a suitcase. I'm serious, these things are every bit as required as the backpack they'll get put into.

I use two full cubes and two half cubes. For each size one of them is double sided water proof type. All of them are different colors.

Bottoms go in one cube, shirts in the other. Socks and underwear each get their own half cube. Bathing suit, dirty socks and underwear go into water proof side.

What this gives me is 5 second access to any article of clothing I've brought from a closed duffel bag. Think about that. If all your clothes are loose (even if nicely folded) you'll never be even as remotely organized as I am. At first I was mocked but then I was envied. When you're packing and unpacking there is a lot of zippering going on but once you try it once you'll be a convert. Do yourself a favour, get some packing cubes.

Also in my bag was a small med kit, shaving kit, travel towel and my “gear pouch” which holds small bits like my flashlight, camera battery charger, etc. My mask and headphones were in their respective cases.

My duffel had 13 items in it standing vertically: 4 cubes, shaving kit, med kit, gear pouch, mask, headphones, towel, sarong (lying on the bottom), snorkle and flip flops. At a glance I could see everything and grab anything.

Rara Avis

You didn't know mud like this ever existed.

Even if the trip details don't mention it, you leave your main bag at the base of the “mountain” and only take your day bag up to the camp. You really don't need much so don't over stress this. Bring soccer socks (knee height) to wear in the Wellies (rubber boots). Fold the boots down if they're longer than your socks. If you have tiny or massive feet then make sure you're the first off the bus, like any bell curve, selection is limited at the edges.

I wore my bathing suit and synthetic sleeves for the tractor ride up (it took us about 3 hours and we were lucky since it never rained). In my day bag I brought another long sleeved shirt, rain poncho and a tshirt. If you're planning on playing mud soccer (highly recommended) bring another shirt or play without one.

For personal items: flash light, deodorant, toothbrush, after bite and sun screen. Bring after bite before the sunscreen. I wore some bug repellent but not sure how much it really helped. I suspect I needed to put some more on before bed and in the morning for it to be really effective.

I have a really nice North Face Gore-Tex jacket but it's really heavy and bulky. I bought two $1 rain ponchos from the dollar store and gave one away. They're about the size of a novel but only a few mm thick. Awesome size/weight/usage ratio.


I was determined to bring my luggage as carry on since there would have been no opportunity for my luggage to catch up to me if it got lost en route. Packing was harder than it should have been.

Because of the retarded rules about liquids and gels I bought a travel pack of empty bottles and filled them with shampoo and hair gel, etc. Even then it was hard to get everything into the little government issue bag.

Packing List

So here's what I brought. I wish I had one less long sleeved and one more tshirt. I was paranoid about sunburn hence all the long sleeved shirts, but sun screen and always aiming for shade works real good too.

I never used my binoculars or towel. That's at least a pound right there.

The mask and snorkle I used once when scuba diving but could have used the dive shops. Tough call there but ultimately I guess I'm glad I had them as I might have done more diving or snorkeling than I did.

I only used the sarong for 30 minutes at the beach but glad I had it since it makes a fine blanket if the hotel doesn't have proper blankets (common in hot countries).

The headphones were also a tough call but Costa Rica was a long flight (I won't get into the trials and tribulations it took to get down there) so I was glad I had them. They would have been the first thing to get yanked if my bag was over weight though.

Although I like my Tilley hat (best hat in the world!) I'm not really a hat person and this thing is big and bulky and hot. Wore it like 5 minutes. Bandana or baseball cap would have been better but even then I doubt I would have worn them. Next time I travel I'll probably pick up a buff.

Quantity Material Article Notes
1 synthetic day bag 14 litre
1 synthetic duffel bag
1   flip flops they’re a party for your feet
1   rugged sandals mine are leather
1   water shoes purchased en route for $7
2 synthetic long sleeved shirt awesome shirt, gonna buy another
1 merino wool long sleeved shirt don’t see what the big deal about merino wool is
1 cotton short sleeved button up shirt  
2 cotton t-shirts  
1 synthetic t-shirts  
1 cotton long sleeved shirt  
5 synthetic underwear  
2 synthetic sock liners  
1 wool socks see Rara Avis description
4 cotton socks 2 pair of each color
1 cotton convertible pants bulky but very comfortable
1 synthetic full length pants I like these pants
1 synthetic bathing suit boarder style with pockets
1 synthetic zippered wind jacket  
1   binoculars never used
1   mask & snorkle used once
1 synthetic Sarong / beach blanket  
1 cotton bandana  
1 cotton Tilley hat too bulky, too hot
4   Eagle Creek packing cubes best investment ever
1   dollar store rain poncho see Rara Avis description
1 synthetic travel towel never used
1   watch with alarm essential
    noise cancelling headphones  
    camera batteries and charger  
    small led flashlight  
Rara Avis     includes what I was wearing
1 synthetic long sleeved shirt  
1 cotton long sleeved shirt  
1 cotton t-shirts  
1 synthetic bathing suit  
1 synthetic full length pants  
    socks see Rara Avis description

Update: all the mec links are now broken so I deleted them

Category: life, Tags: packing, vacation
Comments: 1
Julie Carpentier @ January 17, 2010 wrote... (13 years ago)

Hi Kurt,

Your blog is excellent. I wish I had something like that to read before I left.

For my bags I had compression bags like big Ziploc. It takes out the air and keep your clothes dry. This is my favorite discovery for travelling.

Julia, Julia.

Click here to add a comment