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9 Days in Central America With Only 2 Backpacks

9 Days in Central America with only 2 carry-on backpacks – could you do it?  I just did on my trip to Belize and Guatemala with G Adventures.

As I was packing for the trip, I shared an Instagram Story of my stuff for trip including camera gear with tripod.  Yes, I got my gear in there too!  I did take out a few things, following the rule of always take out at least 10% of what you think you want to take.  Even after pairing down, I still took too much in 2 carry-on backpacks.  Should have taken out another 10%!  I got so many messages asking how I did it so I thought I would share.

I carried the Ebags Mother Load TLS Weekender Convertible Backpack and Osprey Celeste Everyday Pack.  These were the same two packs I took for 10 days in Cambodia last December.


The secret is traveling in a backpack is to maximize all the pockets and to use compression bags.  I ordered the Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set right before the trip.  They’re amazing!  I’ve used other packing cubes, but these save you space and your clothes don’t come out a wrinkled mess.  They are now my favorite travel accessory.  They’re also great for stashing your dirty clothes as you travel.  I like them so much I ordered another set after my trip.  They’ll be perfect for my carry-on roller too.

Here’s my list of what I took with notes of what I could have left at home/didn’t use.

Wore on Day 1 of travel:
Jean capris
Black tshirt
Lightweight sweater wrap (rolled it up and stashed in Osprey pack when I didn’t need it)
Tennis shoes

In Ebags Mother Lode TLS Weekender:
Small pouch inside:
Hair straightener (travel size)
Small jewelry bag
2 headbands (could have done with only 1)

Front Small Pocket:
Poncho and travel umbrella (ended up not needing, but normally necessary for rainy season in Central America)
Aquis hair turban (I have crazy hair and this helps a lot! Trick – store it in original baggie for easy packing)
Extra baggies, TP wipes, hand wipes, and Qtips

Small Eagle Creek Compression Bag: (This was perfect for swim stuff!)
2 bathing suits
Board shorts
Sarong (Didn’t use.  Didn’t need to take a coverup and sarong.  Needed only 1)

Medium Eagle Creek Compression Bag: (This went in a surprisingly roomy front pocket of bag)
1 sets of PJs
1 capri workout pants
1 sports bras
1 workout sleeveless workout Tshirt
1 bra
6 undies (Could have packed just 4 pairs)
3 pairs of socks (Only needed 2)
2 shorts (Only needed 1)

EBags Small Packing Cube: (I packed what I though I would need for first night/morning)
1 sets of PJs
1 capri workout pants
1 sports bras
1 workout top

Inside Zipper Side:
Light sweater and tank (Didn’t wear but I alway travel with a lightweight sweater just in case)
Shawl (Didn’t wear – should have left at home!)
3 T-shirts (2 sleeves, 1 sleeveless)
2 capris
2 skorts (Didn’t wear – should have only taken 1)
Black hat
Straw crushable hat (Could have done with 1 hat)

Back Large Pocket: (Not easy to get stuff in and out of so I packed two pieces that were “extras” and a towel)
Aquis beach towel/yoga mat
Long pants (Didn’t wear)
Long sleeve white shirt/cover up (Didn’t wear)
Floatable waterproof bag for iPhone

Open Packing Area: (Eagle Creek Small Compression Bag and Ebags Small Packing Cube went in this area)
Chacos (in plastic grocery bag – easy way to reuse bags and keep dirty shoes away from other stuff)
Flip flops (in plastic grocery bag)
Body glove water shoes (in a large ziplock bag)
Packable day pack (Osprey and folds into a pocket)
The North Face Reactor Hoodie (This lightweight pullover has flashdry technology and easy to roll up and pack)
Packable lightweight jacket (Patagonia and folds into a pocket)
Travel hair dryer and round brush
Rain jacket
Mpowerd Inflatable Solar Light (In case power goes out, which it did in Flores, Guatemala)
Rumpl Shammy Clean Up Kit (This kit of a small towel and wash cloth are ultra handy on adventure trips. They were perfect for drying off after cave tubing!)
Vitamin bag (I use tiny ziplock pill packets I got at Walgreens for morning and night vitamins, along with Emergen-C, and just in case I get sick stuff
Travel Tripod (yes, it’s a full size tripod but I found one that’s lightweight and ultra packable for small Sony camera and iPhone)

Osprey Celeste Everyday Pack:
Padded Zipper Pocket:
(one closest to your back and this would be pocket I’d lock in hotel rooms)
Folder with itinerary, travel insurance, and other trip details
2 magazines (yes I still like to read a hard copy magazine on a plane!)
Cross body purse
Wallet with money, credit cards, and passport along with money belt

Middle Zipper Pocket:
Go Pro
iPhone mic
Sony camera
Dopp kit of toiletries
Quart bag liquids (sunscreen, woolite travel packets, bug spray, and after-bite relief, lotion, etc.)
Makeup bag (normally in dopp kit but it fit better in pack if I packed it separately)
Pink Columbia Fishing Shirt (Used this as cushion in bottom for GoPro, iPhone mic, and Sony camera. The shirt is great for sun protection too.)
Small bag of charger cords, mic, and extra SD cards for cameras
Baseball cap

Front Zipper Pocket:
Ziplock of bars (Always have snacks!)
Snack bag cough drops (Ricola drops work wonders for dry throat on plane or if a cough fit happens, plus I like them hiking)
TP wipes, hand wipes, lotion, mints
Portable charge and cord for phone (In a mini bag to keep together)

There’s a small pocket on the top of the backpack and that’s where I put my sunglasses, phone charger cord, headphones for plane, and luggage locks (used one on my backpack to lock pocket with iPad and wallet while in hotel rooms).

The one thing I forgot?  My GoPro floatable handle.  Luckily one of the gals on trip happened to have an extra.

Another trick – take woolite travel packets or something to do a small hand wash load of laundry.  About halfway through trip, I washed black capris, black shorts, couple pairs of undies, a bra, sports bra, and one sleeveless T-shirt to get me through rest of trip.

So there you go – my secrets to being a backpacker traveler.  If you’re wondering, how I carried them – the red backpack went on my back and the smaller Osprey everyday pack I wore on the front.  If you’re doing a trip where you’re going to be hitting multiple locations and taking a variety of modes of transportation backpack is the way to travel.  Plus, a lot of hotels in Central America don’t have elevators!

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