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Heading on an adventurous trip to Central America? Great choice! It’s a small region that’s home to seven beautiful countries and it’s just a short flight from the US! Take a look at our Central America packing list for everything you need to know!
Central America Ultra-Minimalist Packing List
Table Of Contents
This ultra-minimalist 7-piece Central America packing list is inspired by a traveler I met in Mexico that packed only 4 pieces of clothing for her 5 month backpacking journey.
In this interview with the ultra-minimalist packer, Deanne Ballard, learn how she spent 5 months traveling Mexico and Central America with only 4 clothing items (she added 3 more pieces due to the cold).
To help inspire you on your backpacking travels in Central America or other destinations such as South America, I’m showing you how you too can pack as light as Deanne.
Her 7 essential clothing items were:
- convertible travel pants
- short sleeve top
- long sleeve top
- waterproof jacket
If your aim is to pack ultra-light, your best bet would be to choose travel specific clothing featuring high performance fabrics such as merino wool so you can get the most from your clothing – quick dry would be absolutely essential! However, with the exception of her waterproof jacket and travel pants, the rest of the clothing she packed was not travel specific.
Use packing cubes to help you organize and even compress your belongings to maximize your space.
Weather and activities are two of the most important factors when choosing travel clothing – this packing strategy was originally meant to be used for beaches, ruins, villages, and trekking during the months of October-April.
The secret to traveling light is to create a functional but minimalist capsule wardrobe. Learn more in my guide!
Based on Deanne’s experience, this is my interpretation of her ultra-minimalist packing list for Central America:
Shirt | V Neck | Sleeveless | Top | Dress 1 | Dress 2 | Jeans | Pants | Raincoat | Sweatshirt | Shorts | Skirts | Sandals | Shoes | Scarf | Backpack
Central America Packing List
This inspired list shows you all the essential items she originally chose with a few tweaks to make sure you can maximize each piece creating versatile travel outfits for difference settings.
As with the Minimalista packing list, this one features two tops: one short sleeve and one long sleeve. Button up tops can be worn as light jackets, unbuttoned, and as mosquito deterrents.
It features a convertible skirt in a lightweight fabric so you can use it as both a dress and a bottom to match your two tops while staying cool in the heat.
Take a look at the best convertible travel dresses (and skirts)!
I’ve also kept the convertible travel pants to maximize travel outfits and added quick dry travel tops for easy and durable wear including the Adea camisole top which I review here.
These are convertible travel pants for women you might actually like!
Although they’re not a traveler favorite, in this specific scenario the right convertible pants can be used as both pants and shorts (or capris) depending on your preference. If activities such as trekking are your priority over fashion, these provide a functional option for you.
You might be surprised to see jeans on the list but they’re an essential for this region. Not only can you dress them up for a night out in El Salvador’s surf hot spot La Libertad but you also need them to stay warm when traveling to towns in higher elevation such as Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
(Readers note: it is not advised to trek in jeans because of risk of hypothermia. Editor’s note: I do hope you would realize that you should use jeans for city wear not mountain trekking.)
Alternatively, these are hands down the best travel pants for women (and they’re not convertible).
When your outerwear options are minimal, make sure they are good quality in order to stay warm with less. Invest in a durable climate-controlled travel fleece or hoodie plus a waterproof jacket. Having the right 2-3 layers is all you need to stay warm when your goal is to pack light.
You should always pack 2 pairs of shoes minimum (3 max). In following Deanne’s list I’ve chosen hiking trainers which can be worn in cold areas plus be used for trekking. I’ve also chosen functional travel sandals with a slightly stylish touch for warm areas.
Find out how to choose the best hiking shoes!
A few feminine accessories that I would recommend that don’t take up much space are a set of dangly earrings, an makeup product or two that helps you add a touch of glam every so often, and an always functional and stylish circle scarf.
What do you think – would you be able to travel 5 months with just 7 pieces of clothing?
For more Central America packing list ideas, please read:
- What to Wear in El Salvador
- What to Wear in Costa Rica
- What to Wear in Guatemala
- What to Wear in Honduras
Suggested Travel Guide
We hope you enjoyed this functional take on an ultra-light Central America packing list. If you found it useful, please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
I’m planning a week-long trip later this summer to either Belize or Panama. While I’m not keen on the ultra-minimalist packing, I am hoping to stick to a 40L backpack. Thanks for the tips.
love your ideas and can’t wait to try them out for our next travels!
Thanks for reading Shanna! Glad you enjoy them! Happy travels! Where to next?
Hi, I’m going to Nicaragua at the end of July and we are doing a 12 day trip, going to both Volcanos, going to the Lake and hitting a lot of the cities. I’m trying to pack and I just keep thinking Zika, so must have long sleeves and pants, but I also know I will sweat up a storm. And I want to take a few nice things in case we go to out at night. Any ideas?
This sounds like a really exciting trip 🙂 Take a look at our article on Nicaragua for some more tips http://bit.ly/29iMM08
Totally digging these packing lists. GENIUS! BUT…I do live in Belize and I love the sandals you show above. Super practical…can you update the link? Or maybe they are just…no more 🙁
Hi Rebecca, glad you love the list 🙂 Unfortunately, items to sell out pretty quickly and it’s hard to keep up with so many posts 🙁
Thanks for this useful article! I was wondering if you can post an article about waterproof travel friendly jackets and some reviews of your favorites? The layering options? etc?
Sure, I’ll work on this. Thanks!
In the mean time, here is a pervious post that might help:
Great stuff! I wasn’t quite this ultra-light when I backpacked Central America last year but the fundamentals of this article were so helpful in my planning.
Thank you for this article! I’m in love with those pink and black athletic shoes in the photo. What brand are they?
I’m going on a trip next year and still need to find a good pair of sneakers. =)
Thanks! The image is originally from this article https://travelfashiongirl.com/packing-light-with-only-four-clothing-items-and-one-day-pack-minimalist-travel/ but she doesn’t say what brand they are. I personally love New Balance sneakers. Hope you have a great trip!
I’m heading to central America in Dec and know higher alts can be chilly but surprised so many jackets here. Def want to travel with carry on ony
This packing list and article is dead on! I lived with just 7 articles of clothing (not including the bathing suits!) when we lived in Nicaragua for a year. It was actually kind of nice not having to sort through so many clothes! Thanks for sharing this 🙂
Hi, thanks for the comment! I’m glad you like the post and can relate 🙂
That’s amazing. And makes me feel a bit embarrassed.. haha I always think I do a good job of packing, and then I see something like this. Great packing inspiration for our next trip.
Thank you for your kind words – This ultra-light traveler was truly inspirational!