Sunday, November 23, 2014

Costa Rica! Part I: Packing

This was our first international trip together! Dun dun dun! To make a long story short, everything went well, we had a great time, and we are happy to be back, safe and sound! :-)

And now for the longer version...

I will divide our adventure into several parts, due to multiple interesting things happening!

The first part is our packing style. Then I'll talk about what we actually packed and how that went.

Packing: We chose to use carry-on size backpacks. This was because we knew we'd be moving around a lot, and there was no guarantee of smooth sidewalks for a rolly bag. We also wanted to prepare for our round-the-world trip in 2016, so this trip would serve as a "warm up." This post is for those of you who are like me, researching bags and luggage and looking for the the best in modern world conveniences for use while hiking and adventuring in remote parts of the world where the newest technologies for comfort and durability really shine!

Brand spanking new!
Our bags arrived the week before we left. Oz got the Osprey Porter 46L. I got the Osprey Farpoint 40L. His is the newer version, and is available in stores like REI. Mine is an older version and is being phased out, for some reason.

And we're off!
We chose these bags based on several criteria. We wanted carry-on size and full access to the main compartment, not just an opening in the top, like a stuff sack. I especially wanted nice adjustable backpack straps and hip belt.

Both bags fit the bill! In addition, they have convenient methods of stowing the backpack straps if you'd like to carry it like a duffel.

Oz liked the various compartments that came with his, and the sturdy padded side panels. I loved the smaller size of mine, and the super sturdy hip belt. The hip belt on the Porter 46 wasn't as padded, which got uncomfortable for Oz when walking longer distances- like 400m from one bus station to another. (We didn't get these bags to do any real long distance hiking, so Oz was ok with the lack of padding.) That hip belt, along with the size, was the reason I preferred the Farpoint 40. I'm 5'2" and having the hip supports saves my shoulders.

In addition to the larger bags, we both brought smaller bags to use for hiking and general walking about town with. Mine is an REI Stroke 19 with camel pack capability. I've had it for years and it hasn't worn out yet! Oz has the Osprey Viper 13, in green. He manages to stow it inside the Porter. Overall, the bags worked out great. Bonus: we didn't really choose the matching colors, but it happened to work out!

Waiting for our ride on a rainy morning in La Fortuna


It rained a lot while we were there. We traveled October 30 to November 19, catching the last month or so of rainy season. I had a rain cover that was for my bigger bag, but it worked just fine for my Farpoint. Oz wrapped a poncho over his bag. I have a Mountain Hardware rain jacket that is several years old, and due to it's lack of keeping me dry I think I've washed out the waterproof properties. (Here's a link to how to properly care for your rain jacket.) Oz was prepared with a $30 rain jacket from Target- we didn't need to go all out for a 3 week trip, and being that Los Angeles is in the middle of a drought, he probably won't get much use out of it the rest of the year. We were surprised at how dry he stayed while I was totally damp inside my jacket! 

 What's in the bag?

  • Three Eagle Creek packing cubes: two large, one medium. I love these cubes. I've had them for literally over 20 years. In them I squish:
    • 2 each of these: bikini, socks, tank tops, sports bras, t-shirts, shorts, sleeping clothes, lightweight pants (one is zip off, one is more like a pajamas). Quickdry EVERYTHING! We found that humid weather combined with frequent rains or swims in the ocean or volcano lagoons caused our clothes to be constantly damp.
    • 5 underwears. (Going commando is also an option!)
    • warm socks to sleep in (I find it really hard to relax if my feet are cold!)
    • sarong for the beach
    • quickdry towel
    • The medium cube holds excess toiletries that don't fit in the Muji bag: like razor, sunscreen, earplugs, toothbrush, ibuprofen, etc.
  • One small toiletry kit from Muji. I put my daily morning/evening routine in here. Contact lens case and solution, toothpast, deodorant, q-tips, eye liner, earrings/necklace (durable and well-securable so I don't loose them!), floss, etc. 
  • A money belt, which I use when I'm traveling and carrying large amounts of cash or other important documents and I don't want to take chances on losing it. I keep smaller amounts in my wallet, and the bag goes around my waist. I've slept with this around my waist in hostels, and leave it in a safe deposit box if possible. 
  • Rain poncho. A must in Costa Rica. 
  • A book. 
  • There's also my souvenir bikini and my charger for the netbook.
These are my only souvenirs!
  • Two sew-on patches for our bags
  • Cute locally made bikini
  • Frog sarong
  • CHOCOLATE! (This chocolate will get it's own separate blog later!)
SHOES: We both brought Keens. I got the Whisper and he got the Newport. They were both optimal for most everything Costa Rica, even 5+ hours hiking around Manuel Antonio National Park. We also brought dirty old tennis shoes to use specifically for the two volcano/jungle hike in La Fortuna/Arenal. Most people had proper hiking shoes but as it was rainy season, I didn't want to lug wet heavy shoes around with us, so I figured old sneakers- well if they didn't dry fast enough we could leave them in a trash bin! Which we did- they were nasty by next day! One hike in sneakers wasn't going to kill our feet, and it beat carrying around heavy hikers when the Keens were perfect for the rest of the trip. Those and flip flops for lounging!

Finally, here's the contents of my other bag, the REI Stroke 19.
In here I put another book and a journal- I think I overpacked the books! My baseball cap kept the sun off my face, and my netbook kept us connected. They had high-speed wifi everywhere, restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Better connection that in the US! My wallet is there too, which has a cross body strap, and my Keens. And my jacket, which I now badly needs a waterproofing treatment!

So that's it! This way of packing will guide us for our round the world trip, and it worked great for Costa Rica! I can forsee adding warmer clothing and sturdier shoes instead of the Keens.

Thanks for reading to the end, and please post any comments or questions down below. 
Happy travels!

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