TIPS: A Girl’s Packing Guide: Budget Backpacking – Tropical Wet Season

I still remember the disbelief my roommates expressed when my backpack for Central America arrived at our door: “What the hell are you going to wear for 3 months?!”

So, here’s my answer – a checklist of what I did pack, and what I should’ve packed. My backpack averaged at about 13kg for the entire trip, fluctuating every now and again because I would get rid of items, and buy new ones. The most important thing to remember is to PACK AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, because if you happen to realize you need anything, you can almost always buy it along the way (and if you didn’t remember to pack it, it probably wasn’t that important anyway).

The Bag
After reading review after review about different backpacks, I decided to purchase the Mother Lode TLS Weekender from eBags ($99.99USD – if you sign up to the eBags mailing list, they’ll send you discounts every couple weeks, so you can probably get it for cheaper).

This backpack served me well during my 3 month trip across the U.S., and Central America:

  • It was big enough to fit everything I needed (and a bit more)
  • It was small enough to force me not to overpack so I wasn’t carrying more than I could handle (which I discovered I did anyway)
  • Cheap
  • Durable
  • Practical size – it is the size of a carry-on item so you can bring it on the plane with you, but is expandable if you need more space
  • Has a lot of different compartments which makes it easier to sort and find items on-the-go

NOTE: If you are looking for something to carry for hours on end while walking, I would probably look into a more expensive option that is measured according to you, with proper hip straps to evenly distribute the weight (the ones on my Mother Lode broke during airport handling on the way to my first destination). My travels only required that we carry our pack for short distances (at most an hour or two per travel day).

The complete list is at the bottom of this blog post


  • Hiking/activity shorts x2: You always have a spare in case you get one dirty and can’t get to a laundry for a few days, and can be used as PJs
  • Denim shorts x1: Great for a casual look during the day, and you can pair with a nice top to hit the local bars at night
  • Comfortable shorts x1: My blue shorts were comfortable, made of a thin material, and breezy for those hot and humid days (I ended up buying another black pair similar to this)


  • Leggings x1: Great to wear as a second layer, or if you’re going hiking, they provide cover from the sun/mosquitos but don’t get too hot
  • Jeans x1: Bring an old pair that you don’t mind losing/damaging





  • Sport Bras x2
  • Bras x2
  • Bathers x1: I’d recommend bringing a plain/black bikini top so that you can wear it under your normal clothes without it being obvious that they’re bathers
  • Socks x5: Bring more or less, depending on how active you plan on being
  • Undies x9: You can bring less if you’re willing to wash them by hand


  • Tank tops x3: I originally brought 5 but I would recommend just 3 because there are so many chances for shopping for cool items you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Definitely bring at least 1 black tank, and try and make the others as plain as possible so you can pair them easily with other items.
  • T-shirts x4: I also brought too many t-shirts, I’d just bring 4 – 2 shirts for activities, and 2 nice tops (that can still pass as casual)
  • Hoody x1: A thin material is better, because you’re going to want that extra space, and it doesn’t get that cold at night
  • Long-sleeve button-up shirt x1: Good for the slightly colder climates or chilly nights – and also a good cover-up if you travel into a more traditional/sketchy area
  • Raincoat/Poncho x1: You WILL need this in the rainy seasonP1080788







  • Phone charger x1: Don’t forget the adapter!
  • Camera charger x1
  • Sunscreen x1: You can always buy this while travelling
  • Deoderant x1
  • Bandana x1: For those bad hair days, not really necessary
  • Large Durable Plastic Bag x1: To separate your dirty clothes
  • Waterproof bag x1: I cannot tell you how many times this bag saved my items from rainstorms and falling into lakes/the sea, and bonus – it’s really hard for people to pickpocket you without you knowing
  • Face/Anti-bacterial wipes x1: You can always buy more – I brought way too many
  • Microfibre towel x1: It’s compact and quick-dry
  • Contacts: If you need them
  • Glasses case: If you need them
  • Travel Diary: This is so important – you can write down where you are, what you do each day, and funny things that happen with your travel companions. Being able to read it after the trip is over and remember all the little things you completely forgot about is so rewarding (and I put a little glossary section at the back for words you learn in another language, or interesting phrases)
  • Toiletries: You don’t really need much make-up when travelling. I think I wore make-up maybe 2 nights out of the entire 67-day trip – and even then, just eyeliner and mascara.
  • First-aid kit: Bring the usual, band-aids, bandages, tablets for diarrhea (you will need those)/colds/headaches, etc.


  • Sport shoes x1: If you want to do some serious hiking, like climbing volcanoes, you can bring hiking boots too – but these served me just fine.
  • Sandals x1: Something that you can take from walking around a city during the day to a night out at the local bar/club
  • Flip Flops x1: I lost these about half-way through my trip, and missed them so much



  • Maxi x1: Like all other items, you want something you can take from day to night
  • Short dress x1: Something casual and plain for those hot days where you don’t want to wear pants




  • Hiking/activity shorts x2
  • Denim shorts x1
  • Comfortable shorts x1
  • Leggings x1
  • Jeans x1


  • Sport Bras x2
  • Bras x2
  • Bathers x1
  • Socks x5
  • Undies x9


  • Tank tops x3
  • T-shirts x4
  • Hoody x1
  • Long-sleeve button-up shirt x1
  • Raincoat/Poncho x1


  • Phone charger x1
  • Camera charger x1
  • Sunscreen x1
  • Deoderant x1
  • Bandana x1
  • Large Durable Plastic Bag x1
  • Waterproof bag x1
  • Face/Anti-bacterial wipes x1
  • Microfibre towel x1
  • Contacts
  • Glasses case
  • Travel Diary
  • Toiletries
  • First-aid kit


  • Sport shoes x1
  • Sandals x1
  • Flip Flops x1


  • Maxi x1
  • Short dress x1

And remember, if in doubt, leave it at home – the less you pack, the less you have to carry, and the more quirky travel souvenirs you can buy!


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