Colombia / Guatemala / Travel guides / Uncategorized

Unbundled Packing: Less is more!

Remember the last time you packed for a getaway? If you were like the old me, you packed half your closet into a cumbersome suitcase because you were unable to commit to exactly what you might feel like wearing at any particular moment or convinced yourself that you simply had to have ___ and ____ at your disposal. You lugged all that crap with you and returned home with much of it unworn.  Luckily, we grew up and realized that what we are wearing isn’t nearly as important as making the most of your life! A big part of seizing the day is getting rid of unnecessary baggage. I could go off on a tangent on the joy of parting ways with unsatisfactory life partners, but let’s just talk luggage…for now.

A few years ago, after a near 10 year hiatus from airline travel, I was preparing to venture off for a two month journey through Central America.  As a midlife traveler on a budget, I really, really wanted to avoid paying for checked luggage. I also did not want to waste a minute of my adventure dealing with baggage claim (or worse, lost luggage!).

Prior to my trip, I started a personal blog and detailed exactly what I’d packed.  I was so proud of my choices! I’d researched what to pack, what not to pack, and what you most absolutely must pack, for two months in Central America. I was pretty sure I had put together the ultimate collection.  I was sooooo wrong.  I packed way too much. Yes, it did all fit into a carry-on sized bag, but it was a hell of a large bag and it weighed more than a baby elephant. Don’t be me. My back still hasn’t forgiven me.

Here’s a picture of the insanity that I packed:


Now, here’s the list of what I packed.  I struck through the crap I ended up ditching, sending home or returning home without ever using.

My Central America packing list (from top left to right):

1. Black long sleeve shirt
2. ascend polyester longsleeve lightweight sweatshirt with a hood
3. Tan water resistant lightweight jacket
4. Self inflatable sleeping pad which also doubles as a comfy sitting spot while waiting for a chicken bus, etc. (Are you kidding me? What the hell was I thinking? Wait for chicken busses! HA! You’ll be lucky to get on before it starts moving again! )
5. Dress (multicolored) that could also be a long skirt (for nights out)
6. Bag of toiletries. I will spare you the details, but basically it’s a minimal supply of makeup (mascara and lip gloss), moisturizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, etc.)
7. DSLR camera (on which I will be using black electric tape to cover the Canon logos in order to attempt to deter criminals from coveting it) (Back breaker! Too heavy! I sent that right on back home!)
8. Three short sleeve wicking Columbia shirts which are easy to wash and will dry overnight and one light weight sleeping t-shirt that can also pass for day use
9. One pair lounge/sleep pants
10. Two pair of Columbia hiking pants that zip off into shorts or could be rolled up into capris
11. One bathing suit tankini which could also double as a tank top above the multi colored skirt or sarong
12. Sunglasses, a power outlet multiplier (makes 1 outlet into 4), and earbuds
13. Three tank tops and three pair of non-cotton socks (Thorlos and RedHead) (They will dry overnight, unlike cotton)
14. A yellow poncho and (then two over is a blue poncho also which I’m bringing extra for “C”) (Never used it, even during the rainy season. The ONE day I could have used it, it was sitting in my room, far far away)
15. Multicolored sarong (which can be used as a towel, a skirt, a shoulder covering, a lightweight blanket, a beach blanket, etc.) (This is a MUST HAVE!)
16. Red lightweight blanket for cold buses
17. Miscellaneous things (details below)
18. Ear plugs, first aid kit (with Band-Aids, alcohol pads, moleskin, prescription painkillers, antibiotics, Imodium (beware the water!) (Don’t need! You can get everything at the local farmacia!), and a black stretchy clothing line for hanging clothes to dry overnight in the hostel or hotel)
19. Black sandals for nights out or dressing up (Ditched ’em!) and flip-flops for the shower, the beach, etc. I’m also bringing a pair of Keen hiking sandals (not pictured) which will be my primary footwear
20. (Not pictured) A pair of jeans (in the wash!) and bra and undies (none of your business ;)) and an iPad mini.

Miscellaneous stuff:


Ugh. This picture makes my back hurt! I did not need most of this stuff!

1. Maxi DEET insect repellent by Sawyer
2. Tissues (I hear that toilet paper is scarce in Central America!)
3. Pack soap for washing clothes in the hostel or hotel (Who wants to do laundry on vacation! Drop it at the local laundry instead!)
4. Neutrogena sunscreen
5. Lonely planet Spanish phrasebook and dictionary (Nope, nope, nope. Used it once.)
6. Lighter, contact rewetting drops, hand sanitizer and baby wipes
7. A deck of cards, a pocketknife , (seriously, I thought I could pack a pocket knife…on an airplane?), a luggage lock, chlorine dioxide water treatment drops  (uh, yeah, did I think I was hiking the Appalachian trail miles from a store?) and a can of pepper spray (ok, ok, so I bought into a little bit of “you’ll die, don’t go to Central America”, crap.  You live and learn!)
8. (Not pictured) Duct tape wrapped around a Sharpie pen (Oh! This was a goodie!)

After squishing it tightly into ebag packing cubes (best things ever) I managed to make it all fit in the large purple bag. Fast forward to my next adventure – two weeks in Colombia. I packed less and was freed from the burden of excess baggage. Less bundles made for a much more enjoyable experience.  This time, everything I truly needed fit in a bag half the size.


Too much!

packed bag

Just right!

I know you might be thinking you need to pack more, but you really, really don’t.  Think about it.  When you come home from work everyday, don’t you just want to throw on a comfy outfit that makes you feel relaxed? Frankly, I love throwing on the same pair of cozy lounge pants  – who gives a whoop-di-doo if I wore them yesterday. That’s how your adventure clothes should be – the clothes that make you happy, comfortable and won’t weigh you down.

What’s your packing style?

One thought on “Unbundled Packing: Less is more!

  1. Pingback: Strangers along the way: Would you friend a Freelove? | The Unbundled Traveler

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