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Costa Rica Expedition Packing Guide

This guide is designed to help you select and prepare your personal belongings and clothing for your Expedition. All specialist equipment (e.g. tools, safety equipment etc) and project equipment will be supplied by Raleigh International.

How to get started

Download your Printable Kit List Here


  • Firstly, do not panic! We know that the list looks extensive, but we have divided it into essential, recommended, and optional items to help you.
  • Read the guidance sections carefully. These sections will tell you about the items, as well as other key information.
  • Ask your friends and family to see if they have any items that you could borrow.
  • You may already have some of the kit, so feel free to use and adapt what you already have.
  • We don’t want you to spend lots of money on brand new items that you may not need, so please do look at what you already have. For example, you do not need to buy expensive technical clothing when a regular t-shirt will do. Some items (e.g. boots and rucksack) however, are worth spending a little extra on if possible as you’ll be using them every day. Other items (e.g. roll matt, sleeping bag liner) do not need to be top brands.
  • Try to save paper where you can, but if you find it easier, print off pages 3-4 (the checklists). Tick the box off when you have bought or borrows the item and again when you have packed it. Don’t forget to recycle the paper after you’re done!
  • Pack early, try and pack one or two days before you fly. This way you will know that your kit fits and that your bag is under your airline weight limit.
  • Do you have to carry it all? Unless you are on trek, there will be very limited space to leave anything behind at Field Base. For this reason, please ensure that you can fit all your kit into your large rucksack and day bag.
  • No camouflage, we do not allow camouflage to be worn on Expedition because of its military association.
  • Mobile phones, – we have a ‘no phones on project’ policy. You will be able to access your phone and contact home at field base during changeover.
  • Field Base VMs Only: You’ll spend a lot of time in our Field Base Office so we’d recommend bring more normal, casual clothes, and some other bits to keep yourself entertained e.g. books or games (please give us a call if you would like to bring a laptop).

Packing list

The list has been divided into three sections:

You must take this item with you.

This will make your life more comfortable or prove useful at times.

You may want to bring this, but it is completely up to you.

Personal belongings


See detailed list.

  • Rucksack (65-85 litre)
  • Day bag
  • Walking boots (and some spare laces!)
  • Sandals (with toe and ankle straps)
  • Sleeping bag (2-3 season recommended)
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Roll/Sleeping mat
  • Mosquito net (ideally box shaped)
  • Water containers (2-3 to hold 3 litres in total)
  • Head torch
  • Mess tin or metal plate/bowl
  • Mug (if you drink hot drinks)
  • Cutlery
  • Sunglasses
  • First Aid Kit (see below for details)
  • Toiletries and wash stuff
  • Towel/Sarong
  • Photocopies of key documents (e.g. insurance docs, flights)
  • Water Purification tablets (30 tablets)


See detailed list.

  • Dry bags (2-3) and/or a rucksack liner
  • String/paracord (10-15m)
  • Gaffa/duct tape (1 x roll)
  • Sewing kit
  • Padlocks (TSA approved if flying via the USA)
  • Penknife or multi-tool (blade must not be longer than
  • Bungee cords (2)
  • Spanish phrase book
  • Travel holdall/rucksack cover bag (protects your rucksack and can be left in Field Base)
  • Money (see detailed guidance regarding currency/amount)
  • Watch with an alarm.
  • Camera (see details below)


See detailed list.

  • Trekking poles
  • Playing cards/games
  • Compass
  • Journal/pen/pencil and paper/sketch pad
  • Laminated photos of home to show communities



  • 2 x Long sleeved tops
  • 3-4 x T-shirts
  • 1 x Fleece
  • 2 x Trousers
  • 2 x Shorts (to the knee)
  • Socks – at least: 2 x pairs of walking socks & 4 x pairs or normal cotton socks.
  • 4 – 7 pairs of underwear
  • Work / garden gloves
  • Hat (wide brimmed)
  • Lightweight waterproof jackets or poncho
  • Swimming costume (for washing in only)


  • Other shoes (e.g. trainers, flip flops)
  • Nice set of clothes for travel to/from Expedition, time at Field base, during Induction and Endex, as well as
    community meetings

First Aid Kit


  • Oral re-hydration sachets. E.g. Dioralyte (20)
  • Pain relief tablets (2 packets of each – up to 32 tablets in total)
  • Blister plasters (Minimum 5 large plasters)
  • Zinc oxide tape (1-2 rolls)
  • Anti-fungal foot powder / talcum powder E.g. Scholl (1 – 2 pots 20-50ml/g)
  • Plasters (1 packet)
  • Antiseptic solution (50-100ml bottle)
  • Antiseptic spray/cream E.g. Savlon (1 tube)
  • Hand sanitiser/gel (250ml bottle)
  • Liquid body wash/hand soap (250ml bottle)
  • Bar of soap (1 bar)
  • Insect repellent with minimum 50% DEET (3x 100ml bottles)
  • Sunscreen/sunblock minimum SPF30 (3x 200ml bottle depending on the season)
  • Any prescription medicine you may require (enough for your  whole expedition plus 2 weeks*)
  • Prescription glasses/sunglasses (contact lenses are not permitted)
  • Lateral flow tests (4) –

*The extra 2 weeks is to allow for any damage/loss that might occur – please ensure you have informed the Expedition Team if you will be taking any prescription medicine. Also remember to bring enough for any travelling you may be doing after Expedition.

Detailed information



This is a key bit of equipment, particularly during trek when you will be carrying 15-25 kg of group kit. Whether you buy or borrow, make sure that it is:

  • Top loading. A side-loading ‘travel pack’ will not give your back enough support.
  • Look for around 55-85 litre capacity, depending on your body
  • The right length for your back. If you’re buying new try some on in-store, some makes will fit you better than others. Many rucksacks have height-adjustable backs, designed for specific sizes, as well as shoulder straps with different lengths/shapes to accommodate differences in body
  • Comfortable!

Dry bag

A small bag is essential for taking your sunscreen, water bottle etc. to the project site each day – it also makes a good piece of hand luggage on flights. There is no need to buy new, and oldschool/college bag will do.

Walking boots

Another key piece of equipment. Like your rucksack, think of these as an investment; a good pair of boots can last for many years. Please ensure that your boots are comfortable, strong, and that you have practiced walking in them before you arrive.

  • Please buy or borrow your boots as soon as possible, and break these in by going for walks. You may get blisters at first when wearing them in, but it is easier to deal with blisters at home where you can dress these in a sterile and clean environment. We recommend doing at least a few short walks (up to 5 miles) in your boots to wear them in properly.
  • If you already have a pair of good quality walking boots that fit and are comfortable then bring them, just check all the stitching and that the sole is still firmly attached to the boot.

If you are buying or borrowing some things to think about are:

  • They are a good fit and comfortable. If you’re not used to wearing boots, they will feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you walk in them the more they mould to your feet.
  • That they are a good quality; you don’t want your boots to fall apart halfway through your trek.
  • That they give you ankle support. The boot must come up over your ankle; a lightweight ‘traveller boot’ or ‘walking shoe’ won’t provide enough support when walking over rough terrain/working on construction sites.
  • That they fit in both length and width. Different brands suit different foot types, so tryout different brands and styles on to find which fits the best.
  • The material of the boot. Both leather and suede/mesh, waterproof/non- waterproof boots have their pros and cons, and it comes down to personal preference.
  • That they are not Timberland/Caterpillar style work boots. These are unsuitable for hiking.
  • If you have US style military boots (Wellco), take extra care to wear them in properly.Unless you already own a pair, we do not recommend buying this style of boot.


You won’t want to be in your boots all the time, so you’ll need an alternative. It’s essential to always have something on your feet. Open toed sandals must have toe and ankle straps to keep them on your feet and allow them to dry out. They can be worn for washing in, and rivercrossings.

Sleeping bag

Due to the change in weather throughout the year in our programme countries, and the difference in altitude of our different projects (particularly the trek phase) we recommend the following sleeping bag temperature level:

  • Costa Rica – Comfort Level 2-3 seasons (-5°C to 5°C).

Some people feel the cold more than others, so choose a higher temperature range accordingly. Down sleeping bags are not suitable because they are harder to dry out and deteriorate in wet and humid conditions so try to borrow or buy a synthetic one if possible.

Sleeping bag liner

This helps to keep your sleeping bag clean, and if it is warm may be all you need to sleep in on some project sites. It is much easier to wash than a sleeping bag. A cheap and easy idea is to fold a cotton sheet in half along its length and stitch the long sides together (or bring an old single duvet cover).

Sleeping mat

Full length mats are best, bear in mind you will be sleeping on this for ten weeks. Foam mats can be brought fairly cheaply (under £5). A lightweight self- inflating mat can be more comfortable but are more expensive and can puncture (It is worth bringing a puncture repair kit if you do bring aninflatable).

Mosquito net

There is a risk of malaria and dengue fever in Costa Rica, so a mosquito net is essential.

  • We recommend trying to get a box shaped net, as it is the easiest shape to put up because it can be attached by all four corners to walls or rope when set up.
  • The net must be impregnated with permethrin which further protects against mosquitoes. Most new nets will have been pre-dipped but, do check before you buy. If you have an old/untreated net you can buy a bottle of permethrin from outdoors shops so that you can treat it yourself (this can be cheaper than buying a new net).
  • Tie long pieces (minimum 2 meters) of string to each corner of the net to allow you to hang it more easily and save time on your first attempt.

Water containers

Try to bring both hard bottles (such as a sports bottle) and collapsible containers with a 1 litre capacity allowing you to purify the water easily (1 puritab = 1 litre of clean water). You should bring enough to carry at least 3 litres.

  • Collapsible water bags are good because they take up less space when empty and you can drink from them without having to remove them from your rucksack – great when on the go, walking and short on time and space in your rucksack.
  • Although water filter bottles are now widely available, whilst you are on Expedition you will be asked to always drink the purified water, if you have a filter bottle this just means that your water will be double purified.

Purification tablets (Puritabs)

Each group will be given Maxitabs that purify large quantities of water for the entire group, however, you will need to have your own small personal supply. You must have enough chorine-based puritabs to last the trek phase, approximately 30-50. You should assume that you will not be able to buy these in Costa Rica, so please purchase these before you go. You can buy chlorine-based puritabs cheaply online.

Head torch

This is an essential piece of equipment as there will rarely be electricity on project sites. Ahead torch allows you to work hands free, it is a lot easier than a handheld.

  • You’ll need to bring spare batteries – they may not be available in country, particularly if they are not AA batteries.
  • Torches with LED bulbs are great – they use less battery power
  • A head torch with a red-light capacity is useful, as it attracts fewer flying insects at night
  • It is worth bringing a cheap back up hand torch, in case you lose your head torch

Mess tin or metal plate/bowl

A mess tin is a square metal container with a handle used as a bowl for eating food on placement. Mess tins can be purchased from any camping shop or online for around £4. Alternatively, a metal plate/bowl from home will also be fine.


If you drink hot drinks (tea, coffee, etc) bring an old mug from home. Plastic and metal camping ones are available but are not necessary.


A spoon is essential item here; however, try to bring a knife, fork and spoon. A set from home is fine, alternatively if you already have a camping set that clip together or a ‘spork’ (a cross between a spoon and fork, often with a knife on the handle) bring them. From our experience, plastic sporks can be flimsy and snap easily and will need replacing.


It’s likely going to be bright and sunny at some points. Ensure that the lenses have effective UV protection. It is worth bringing a hard case for them.

Toiletries and wash stuff

You may want to bring enough toiletries to last for the whole Expedition, but there may be opportunities to restock certain items e.g. toothpaste in town during changeovers.

Toiletry top tips

  • Try to bring as many environmentally friendly, plant based or biodegradable toiletries as possible in order to reduce the impact you have on the environment.
  • Try using shampoo/conditioner bars – these take up minimal space and are eco- friendly. They can be purchased from stores like LUSH/Holland & Barrett, or other online stores.
  • Sunscreen, DEET, and alcohol gel are all very expensive to buy in country, so it is better to take enough with you to last the whole of your Expedition.
  • A small nailbrush is good for washing dirty clothes.
  • If you only need small quantities of something, then small reusable bottles from pharmacies are often helpful.
  • Wet wipes can be useful to bring if you have some extra room in your bag.
  • Try to buy creams, lotions, deodorants etc. that don’t have a strong fragrance, as this attracts insects.
  • Please bring your usual method of menstrual hygiene management to cover your whole programme and some spares in case they get lost or damaged. The product you use will need to be kept in a waterproof container. Please get in touch with us if you have any further questions.


Travel towels are lightweight, compact, quick-drying, cheap, and don’t rot. They are recommended over a normal cotton towel. Some people like to bring a sarong instead of a towel as they tend to be lightweight, quick-drying, and can also be used as a blanket or clothing.

Photocopies of key documents

You should always have a copy of your essential travel documents kept separate from the originals; having them will greatly help should your documents get lost or stolen.

  • Passport (the photo page).
  • Vaccinations (a copy of the dates you received your vaccinations).
  • The overseas contact details of your bank or credit card
  • Insurance documents. You will need to take out your own insurance to cover your personal kit and equipment. You should keep a copy of your policy number and emergency contact
  • Flight e-tickets (print out a spare copy).

Detailed information



Having a small amount of this is always useful and can be used for many reasons e.g. improvising washing lines and hanging mosquito nets. Cheap standard string is fine; however, paracord (strong string) is more hardwearing, and is also reusable, so if you have some lying around the house, bring it. No more than 15 meters is needed.

Gafa/Duct tape

This is useful for repairing pretty much everything! Buy a non- name brand to save some money here.

Sewing kit

This is useful for repairing pretty much everything! Buy a non- name brand to save some money here.


Small padlocks for your kit can be useful for travelling and whilst storing kit. If you are transiting through the USA, make sure that your locks are TSA approved otherwise they are likely to be broken during US customs bag searches.

Penknife or multi-tool

An inexpensive small penknife with a blade (no longer than 2”), can opener, and scissors can be handy to have. Please remember to put it on your hold luggage for the flight.

Bungee cords

These are elasticated cords with hooks on the end and are useful for securing equipment and making shelters. 1 or 2 will be enough to bring.

Phrase books

¿Hablas español? The ability to speak even some basic Swahili cannot be underestimated when working closely with your Costa Rican team mates, as well as the local communities you’ll be living in. You will pick up some of the basics whilst you are there but learning some phrase before your Expedition will be invaluable. Duolingo is a great app for this, or try and pick up a phrasebook.


Raleigh will provide all your in-country travel, accommodation, and food costs for the duration of Expedition, excluding any day off activities. However, we recommend that you bring some money if you’d like to buy any extras like souvenirs, extra snacks, stamps, toiletries and Raleigh country t-shirts.

  • In the majority of Costa Rica, US dollars (USD) are accepted in larger shops alongside the national currency of Costa Rican Colones
  • You are advised to bring USD and then exchange it at the airport, the border or in the local town on changeover (or use an ATM).
  • $200 – $300 in USD should be more than plenty to last you the whole Expedition.
  • Please check your Flight & Visa Information document for information about any arrival or departure taxes. Departure taxes are often included within the cost of your flight so check with your airline if you are not sure.
  • If you bring any debit or credit cards on Expedition, check if you need to tell your bank/credit card company, otherwise they may block your card if you try and use it.
  • Do not bring traveller’s cheques as these cannot be exchanged. A travel money card (available from travel agencies and the UK Post Office) is a good alternative to traveller’s cheques and debit/credit cards, as they can be pre- loaded with money with less impact if lost or stolen.
  • Remember to budget fully if you are planning on travelling before or after Expedition.

Watch with an alarm

There are going to be a lot of early mornings, so a watch with an alarm is recommended. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a cheap plastic one will do. Ideally, look for one with a light and alarm that is water resistant.


As we have a ‘no phones on project’ policy, so we recommend bringing a camera with you to capture some awesome Expedition moments.

You can bring all types of cameras of Expedition, from cheap disposable ones through to Digital SLRs. If you do take an expensive camera, please ensure that it is insured as Raleigh’s insurance does not cover loss or damage to personal items. Please do not bring expensive or bulky items such as iPads, tablets, laptops etc as we will not be able to store these high-value items. If you do want to bring items like cameras, then you need to be happy taking these to your projects and communities.

  • If it takes rechargeable batteries, it is a good idea to bring spares if you have one as it is unlikely that you will always have access to electricity.
  • Disposable AA or AAA batteries are widely available in Costa Rica at pretty much any pulperia (small shop).
  • Make sure that you bring enough memory cards if using a digital camera
  • Make sure that you have a waterproof case. It may also be worth using some silica gel bags to help reduce moisture in humid environments.

Detailed information


Trekking poles

These can be found in any outdoors shop. These are a matter of personal preference, some people find that they help when walking up and down hills, or you can always go for a homemade version and pickup a stick along the way.

Playing cards/games

In the evening there will be some down time, so it’s great if you can bring games to entertain the team.


If you are involved in a trek, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to navigate. Each team will be given a compass to share, but please do bring your own if you are keen to learn.

Travel-proof holdall

A luxury, these lightweight bags cover your whole rucksack and are great for putting your rucksack in for flights, as they stop straps from being damaged. You can also padlock (TSA approved) these for added security. Make sure that the size you buy has a greater capacity than your rucksack. This bag can also be left at Field Base to hold any kit you want to leave behind during your trek.

Journal/pen and paper/sketch pad

These are great for making notes during your training, for planning your various projects and keeping you entertained. Bring some writing paper so that you can write to your friends and family when you’re on your project site, where you won’t have access to phone signal or internet.

Laminated photos of home to show your community

You will learn a lot from, and make real connections with the communities you will be working and living with, so it is nice to be able to share with them photos and stories from your home.

Detailed information


Please bear in mind the following:

  • It’s likely that everything you wear will be dirty and worn out by the end of your Expedition. If you don’t want to spend money on clothes that might get ruined due to the nature of your work, you could look for clothes in charity shops, or use old clothes that you may not have yet donated.
  • Field Base Volunteer Managers may want to bring some more comfortable clothing as you will be spending more time in the office at Fieldbase and around Turrialba.
  • Please do not bring any camouflage.

Long sleeved tops x2

You will be required to wear long-sleeved tops at dusk and dawn to protect you from mosquitos. They can also be worn during the day to protect you from the sun. Light weight tops are ideal, and old, cheap tops are just as good as expensive brands.

Fleece or warm top x2

The temperature at night and in the mornings can be significantly cooler than the daytime temperature, particularly when at altitude; therefore, a fleece or warm top is required. If possible, it should be a fleece material as they are quicker to dry than a thick hoody.

Trousers x2

Try and bring 1 reasonably nice pair and 1 pair that you don’t mind getting dirty on project sites.

  • They should be light/medium weight cotton or polycotton, loose fitting and quick drying. Cargo style trousers are good.
  • Do not bring jeans for project site, they are too hot, and take too long to dry. Feel free to bring a pair for travelling and changeover if you want.
  • Trousers that zip off to make shorts are useful and save on packing space

Shorts x2

Cotton shorts are good enough, and cargo pockets can be useful. Ideally, they should be fast drying. You must have at least one pair of shorts that reaches the knee to allow for cultural sensitivities.


You must bring at least:

  • 2 x pairs of walking socks. Look for ones that are not too warm.
  • 4 pairs of normal cotton/sports socks. Good for keeping your feet cooler when still required to wear socks (eg. at dusk to avoid mosquitoes).


4-7 pairs will be enough to last your Expedition, is it always worth leaving at least one clean pair with the kit you leave in Field Base. Dark colours are better as they don’t show the dirt. Sports bras are often found to be more comfortable.

Work/garden gloves

These should be hard-wearing work/gardening gloves for use on project sites. You can normally pick these up at hardware stores or supermarkets.


Preferably a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun (and rain) off your face and neck.

Lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho

Cheaper and more expensive options are available for both, and it comes down to personal preference. Ponchos cover more of you and your kit but can restrict movement. Waterproof jackets don’t cover yourkit but are more practical, but often more expensive. A ‘pac a mac’ type of jacket is fine.

Swimming costume

For males please bring board shorts rather than trunks, females may bring what you like, but please be aware you may have to wear a T-shirt and shorts over the top in order to be culturally sensitive.

Detailed information


Other shoes

It is good to get a break form wearing your boots and sandals when relaxing, so bring some comfortable alternatives if you have room.

Nicer set of clothes of field base and travel

As previously mentioned it is worth having clean clothes to come back to a changeover, as well as for special community events and making your flight more comfortable. A casual short/t-shirt with loose trousers ora loose-fitting dress/skirt are good options.

First Aid Kit Notes

  • First Aid Kit: You must bring your own personal first aid kit. You can buy a pre-made it from an outdoors shop, pharmacy, travel clinic or supermarket and add any items on the list that aren’t included. Alternatively, it can sometimes be cheaper to buy the items individually and store them in a wash bag.

  • Glasses if Required: If you need to bring them (and ideally a spare pair), both in hard cases. Wearing contact lenses is not permitted due to a greater risk of infection associated with using contact lenses in a dirtier environment. This applied to both disposable and non-disposable lenses.

  • Insect Repellent: (50% DEET minimum) this is difficult to get in country, so buy enough for the whole Expedition. You can normally get it online, and in pharmacies and travel shops. Do test it beforehand to check for skin reactions.

  • Foot Powder: Dusting your feet each morning/evening with foot powder can help to keep them dry and free from athlete’s foot.

    • Normal talcum powder is cheap and although it does not medically target fungal infections, it will help prevent them by keeping your feet dry.
    • Anti-fungal foot powder is more expensive but specifically targets fungal infections
    • An effective solution is to use talcum powder but also bring a smaller quantity of anti-fungal powder
  • Lateral flow tests: These are an important tool to detect Covid-19 where we need to get a test result quickly in the remove situations you will be based in. All participants are required to bring at least 4 tests each. There are many LFTs available online, we cannot recommend any in particular. There are many LFTs available online, we cannot recommend any in particular(though one example is here, or Lateral Flow Test from Effect Doctors)

Packing guidance top tips

  • Pack early. At least 2 days before you fly, to ensure that everything fits, and you are within your airlines weight limit. No one likes a last-minute panic. Lay your kit out in one place, on a bed or your living room floor. This allows you to check you have everything and then pack it in a sensible way.
  • Use the checklists. Tick off items as you go to ensure you don’t leave anything behind, as you are unlikely to be able to buy a replacement in Costa Rica.
  • Evenly distribute the weight. Though less important for packing for the airport (but essential for packing for your trek) try and distribute the weight evenly. It is even better to have a little more weight at the bottom of your rucksack than at the top.
  • Compartmentalise. Use your dry bags to put similar items together. For example, when you need new socks you probably need new underwear – put these together. Your sleeping bag and mosquito net will be needed at the same time – put them at the bottom of your rucksack.
  • Use your day bag as your hand luggage. In it make sure that you have everything you need for the flight:
    • Passport and valuables.
    • A small wash kit (make sure that any liquids are under 100ml).
    • A spare pair of socks, underwear, and a change of clothes (in the unlikely event your luggage gets delayed).
  • Wear your boots on the flight, this will save weight and space in your main bag.
  • Your first aid kit will be rarely needed, but when it is it will be needed quickly – make it easily accessible.
  • Pack any sharp objects or liquids over 100ml in your hold baggage.
  • Mark your bags. Use bits of tape/ribbon to allow you to easily identify your kit.
  • Label your bags. Use the Raleigh Field Base address with your name, this will help in the unlikely event that your luggage is delayed.
    Raleigh, Finca Ganadera del CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica. 30501.
  • Carry your spares in your hand luggage. Make sure you pack some spare clothes, your walking boots, and your basic toiletries (under 100ml) in your hand luggage just in case your bags are delayed.