Category Archives: vacation

How do I pack a travel backpack?

10 Backpacking Essentials

Planning on doing some traveling by foot this year? Maybe you want to hop trains in Europe or make your way through the Southeast Asian loop? Either way, you are going to need to pack lightly, efficiently and intelligently. We compiled a list of 10 backpacking essentials we never travel without. Think we missed something? Add it in the comments.

Disclaimer: This list is for urban/rural backpacking, not for overnight wilderness backpacking. The traditional ’10 essentials’ are for saving your life. This list is for saving you time, money and discomfort.

In no particular order:
how to pack for a backpack trip
1. Backpack: Having a good backpack is a given, but choosing one is more difficult than it sounds. Raymond, Eagle Creek, Lowe Alpine, Teton, Osprey, Gregory and tens of other brands offer backpacks of all shapes, sizes and designs. Volume, shape, material and fit are all going to be important factors. Read some reviews online and then make sure to go into a brick and mortar store, at least to try some on, because no backpack will be perfect for everyone. Here is a good list of backpack FAQs.

2. Durable and comfortable footwear: This is arguably the single most important purchase you will make for your trip. It can be a tough decision because shoes can add a lot of weight and volume to your pack, but if you get stuck without the right kind, you’ll be sorry. If you are planning on traveling mostly in urban areas and doing a moderate amount of walking, you may be fine with a good pair of walking athletic shoes and an extra pair of sandals for hot weather. Any trips that involve heavy walking, side trips into the wilderness, up mountains or through forests will require some sort of trail shoe or hiking boot. There is an entire spectrum of these, ranging from lightweight and less durable, to heavy duty and indestructible.

Head into your local REI or outdoor store, speak with an associate and try on some options. A trail runner hybrid shoe can bridge the gap between walking shoe and hiking boot in some cases. Also look into buying some wool or synthetic hiking socks to prevent blisters and wick sweat. It is a good idea to also get some moleskin and ointment in case you do develop blisters.

3. Undies: Around the internet, you can find different rules for how to pack underwear (3 pairs for every 3 weeks etc). Personally, we recommend spending some money up front and getting some Ex Officio travel underwear. You can literally wash these things in any sink and they dry extremely quickly, so you can have a fresh pair within an hour or two. You won’t need more than 3 pair ever. You can purchase them for about $30 (Men’s and women’s) at any

4. Duct tape: Duct tape has thousands of uses, from fixing a torn pack, to covering a blister in a bind. Don’t leave home without it. Jeff demonstrates the makeshift duct tape hammock below.

5. Sunscreen: This seems like an obvious pickup for anyone traveling in the summer months or in sunny areas, but it is a good idea year round anywhere you will be traveling. You will be spending a lot of time outside, and UV rays can be damaging even in overcast areas, especially at high altitudes. Check out this post from lifehacker regarding new FDA regulations on sunscreen. In the case you forget to apply, aloe vera is a tried and true method for soothing your burned skin.

6. Money belt: Yes, it makes you look like a tourist. No, it doesn’t higlight how worldly and street smart you are. Travel long enough without one though, and you will get pickpocketed or, at the very least, lose something. You can keep cash, emergency cards and your passport in here. Besides, you don’t have to let anybody see it. In fact, that’s the point.

7. Laundry kit: This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need to be able to wash your self so you don’t end looking like a smelly, matted-hair vagrant. Make sure to get environmentally friendly soap so you don’t go around polluting foreign water supplies. Also a sewing kit can come in handy for impromptu repairs.

8. Refillable water bottle: One of these will keep you hydrated, and because you won’t be buying disposable water bottles, will help save the environment and your beer money. Try to go BPA free so you don’t get The Cancers and purchase some purifying tablets if you will be anywhere with a sketchy water supply (i.e. Asia, Africa, and pretty much anywhere considered ‘3rd world’). Once you’ve had typhoid, you will agree that avoiding it in the future is worth a pretty penny.

9. Waterproof poncho: Having a foldable, waterproof poncho can be a godsend, whether you find yourself in a torrential downpour in the tropics, or just schlepping through a drizzle in London. They don’t look cool, but sopping wet hair and mildewy clothes aren’t very cool either.

10. First aid kit: You can get some pretty compact first aid kits, but make sure the one you choose has the essentials: antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze, aspirin, an instant cold pack, scissors and gloves. You can also put an extra list of emergency contacts in here as well as your condom stash (see honorable mentions below). Note however, that condoms should be used as a preventative measure rather than ‘first aid’.

Honorable mentions:

-ear plugs
-travel lock
-condoms (mentioned above, but depending on the traveler, they probably deserve their own post)
-clothsline
-drylite towel
-mini flashlight
-swiss army knife (be sure to check at the airport)
-travel lock

Think we missed something? Let us know your essentials in the comments section.

SG

Top 10 Things to do in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

1 – Learn Spanish

This one is simple, prepare before you arrive, but also be ready to engage once you get here. Learning a language is not easy, but diving right in and immersing yourself is a fantastic way to start. Whether you plan to further your education while in Tamarindo or just come away with a few more words and phrases, it’s very easy to find a place to learn. Fear not though, there are plenty of English speakers around town. Check out SG Spanish School in Tamarindo for more details and rates.

2 – Learn to surf

Tamarindo is home to a number of surf locations that can cater to wide array of skill sets. Whether you are just starting out on Tamarindo Beach or looking for a more advanced location such as Pico Pequeno (translation: small tip), there is a set of waves for you. There’s no shortage of surf shops or teachers either, it’s as easy as taking a stroll out to the beach. We’d highly recommend surf lessons for the first timer, but if you’ve ridden a wave before just ask around for the ideal destination for your skill set.

3 – Fish

The waters of Tamarindo Beach are home to a diverse sea life including sailfish, yellow fin tuna, marlin and wahoo, to name a few. Some of the best open water locations are no more than a few miles offshore and there are numerous boats and guided tours available in town. While the fishing is considered year-round, the ideal months are between April and August. A fun fact: September and October are generally the height of Costa Rica’s rainy season and bring with them some of the year’s best fishing.

4 – Explore Arenal Volcano National Park

For the past 43 years Arenal volcano was considered one of the 10 most active in the world with small daily eruptions and a plentiful amount of fresh volcanic rock. Now in a resting phase, Arenal is still a sight to behold towering, at its peak, some 5,437 feet over the lush hillsides below. The National Park is home to a rain forest, hot springs and it’s own lake leaving visitors with no shortage of things to do or see. This is an absolute must-visit for anyone new to Costa Rica. Shuttles and buses leave from Tamarindo to La Fortuna daily. Leave at least 2 days for this trip as travel time will be at least 3 hours each way.

5 – Snorkel and/or Scuba Dive at Tamarindo beach

Starting at Tamarindo beach is easiest, but up and down the coast there are tons of destinations for snorkeling and scuba divers. Supplies are easy to come by and scuba lessons are given daily, especially for beginners. You can expect to see a beautiful density of sea life just as easily close to the shore as you would in the deeper water.

6 – Kayak the salt-water jungle of the Rio Matapalo

Technically part of the Las Baulas National Park, this salt-water jungle serves as home to a number of species of water birds, crabs and the occasional crocodile, among others. Both self and guided tours are available to traverse its natural beauty, with the best tip being to get an early start and increase your chances of catching all the wildlife in action.

7 – Visit the tide pools at Playa Langosta

Take a trip just south of Tamarindo and you’ll discover the hidden gem known as Playa Langosta. Home to some small resorts and a number of surfing locations, Playa Langosta is also home to some beautiful tide pools naturally created within it’s rocky coves. This is another great way to get an up close view of sea life in it’s natural habitat and is a convenient trip, via land or sea, away from Tamarindo.

8 – Visit Playa Grande beach for sea turtle watching

Another stretch of beach to the south of Tamarindo, Playa Grande is a part of the Tamarindo Wildlife Sanctuary, which contains sea turtles, and other wildlife of the area. Playa Grande is just one of three beaches encompassed in the refuge and it serves as home to one of the largest leatherback turtle nesting sites in the world. Ideal months are between March and October when hundreds of leatherback sea turtles come to the beach and lay their eggs.

9 – Take a trip to Guachipelin

A boat trip away is yet another volcano with a host of activities for visitors. Guachipelin is home to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano and National Park. Rock climbing, horseback riding, white water tubing and hot springs are a few of the attractions.

10 – Eat at Dragonfly Bar & Grill

All this adventure will lead to a hearty appetite. Dragonfly is our pick for the ideal location to dine. Located on the road between the Hostel and Pasatiempo, Dragonfly places emphasis on using fresh and local ingredients for its spin on traditional cuisine. It’s far and away our favorite location in the area and we probably aren’t the first to say so. Try the filet. You won’t be disappointed.

-BZ