What to Bring

There are many travel sites and books with recommendations on packing and traveling light, but I have to include this quote from Charles Waterton an explorer/naturalist traveling Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) dated from 1816, the king of light travel.

 Leave behind you your high-seasoned dishes, your wines, and your delicacies; carry nothing but what is necessary for your own comfort… A sheet , about twelve feet long, ten wide, painted and with loop-holes on each side, will be of great service: in a few minutes you can suspend it betwixt two trees in the shape of a roof.  Under this, in your hammock, you may defy the pelting shower, and sleep heedless of the dews of night.  A hat, a shirt, and a light pair of trowsers, will be all the raiment you require.  Custom will soon teach you to tread lightly and barefoot on the little inequalities of the ground, and show you how to pass on, unwounded, amid the mantling briars.  –Clare Lloyd. 1985. The Traveling Naturalists. University of Washington Press.

 This bold advice was purportedly given to fellow travelers on a north bound boat from Brazil.  It evidently got some notice among explorers since Henry Walter Bates (11 years in the Amazon) when lamenting the final disintegration of his boots made a quip about a fellow naturalist implying they were not needed.  Though I’ve never achieved this level of light packing (nor would I recommend it!), I did in the 1980s take a three week trip to the Yucatan with only a day pack, binoculars and bird book. Since then, my packing weight, has slowly increased.

I’ve included a tropical packing list for your amusement at this link.  It is only a draft, and subject to modification depending on trip specifics.  Something that helps me when packing is that a few weeks or more before departure I start put things needed for the trip in a pile.  Gradually the pile grows till I get to the final organizing of things before packing.  At this time, when everything I think I’ll need is spread out across a spare bed, couch, or floor space, I eliminate about a quarter of it.  Then I pack.  I do try to adhere to two basic rules:

  1.  if I can’t afford to lose it, I can’t afford to take it
  2. don’t sweat the small stuff, if forgotten, I can buy it along the wa

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