I am not nervous about my mission trip to Haiti, but I am feeling fussy about my packing for this adventure. I am notorious for underpacking for any and every type of trip. Traumatized by my parent’s methods of excessive packing as a child for vacation, combined with a practice of amateur backcountry backpacking –  I always manage to under-pack and forget key items. I delight in the fact that I never have much laundry to do when returning from vacation. I am a master of packing a “capsule closet” for vacation. Unfortunately, it leads to under-packing mishaps like forgetting to pack your kids’ diapers for a week-long vacation in a remote location.

I needed to get this packing list right. If you need get ready for your mission trip to Haiti (or any other tropical climate country), and your travel requirements are a single carry-on bag. This is your one-stop guide to packing the perfect bag to get ready for your mission trip to Haiti.

Packing in the right kind of luggage

osprey backpackInitially, I was interested in a carry-on. However, this mission trip required a large piece of luggage to pack the classroom materials for the children since we could not ship it ahead of time. I did not want two rolling bags. Besides, I travel enough to come to terms with the fact that I need a solid backpack that can be a carry-on. I have lost countless pieces of luggage traveling and I despise checking my bag.

Know your criteria

For the sake of time and your sanity, I will spare you the extensive analysis and research I went through to select a good backpack. I recommend that you narrow down your criteria for the type of backpack you want.

  • Compartments: I did not want too much compartmentalization. Searching for a flashlight in the dark among a thousand compartments would drive me crazy.
  • Size and volume: I wanted a small bag that would not be questioned and subsequently forced to be a checked bag.
  • Shape and weight: I wasn’t going to buy something online because this was one of my most important criteria. I have a long torso and short legs. I needed the shape of the sack to fit my body comfortably. It also needed to be light as possible since I have a hip issue. The straps and frame was another key factor that brought me to the store to try on bags. Some of the highest rated bags were really uncomfortable for me either due to the straps or the shape of the bag.
  • Color: I don’t like feeling or looking like a tourist. I know what I am, and I don’t want to be a target as a vulnerable.

Get a list then get to the store

To save some time and a misguided sales pitch at the store, I hopped online to start my search. Since I am a woman, and women have different bodies than men, I narrowed my search immediately and found this site called Live Once Wild. They have a great list of backpacks to start your search. If you want honest reviews from real women that travel, I recommend HerPackingList.com.

What did I eventually chose?

With list in hand and patience in my pocket, I set off to REI and The Great Outdoor Provision Company (I like to shop locally if I can). After a few trips and mulling it over in my mind, I settled on the Osprey Porter 46 travel pack in black (pictured above). Check out Amber’s review if you want to learn more about the details. She’s summed it up very well!

Essential toiletries & accessories, consciously used

The earth has a trash problem, and underdeveloped countries like Haiti are impacted significantly more than other countries like the United States. At home, we make a conscious effort to do better to the planet by reducing our carbon imprint. This trip is no different. I have given significant thought to bring items that would not leave trash behind.

  • Hydro Flask 64 oz Growler - BlackContainers: I have made the habit to reuse liquid toiletries containers. I have small mason jars, and keep small glass containers from around the house and pack my Shampoos, conditioners, creams in them. You can buy plastic lids from your local grocery store to fit the mason jars. When I get home, I throw them in the dishwasher and they can be used again for anything!
  • Sanitizing: This is a little more tricky, but I am employing a method inspired by my grandmother. It is recommended across the interwebs and among experienced travelers to wipe down bottles and cans with sanitizing wipes. Once you use the wipes, you toss them. Well, to reduce the waste, I am going to try something a little different. Sanitizing spray (I always keep Honest Co. in my bag, pick your favorite) and a small handkerchief or bandana will probably do the trick.
  • Hydrate: Bring a large water jug. I am a huge fan of my Hydroflask 64 ounce Growler. I use it for sports, traveling, and my office desk. Bringing your own water jug, you can load up in the morning and get your minimum water intake with one fill. If you don’t like the wide mouth, switch out for a different top!

Packing clothes for now and buying them for later

Packing for a mission trip to Haiti presented a new challenge. Being from the Dominican Republic, I am familiar with the climate and demands of the environment in this tropical place. I am not equipped for a more conservative dress code that lends itself to the type of work I am required to perform in this climate. This was a challenge because I have also worked hard to minimalize my closet. I don’t buy clothes that I don’t need. I have widdled down to a seasonal capsule closet of select items. If you are facing a similar challenge, I recommend that you start your search early to find good deals and the right clothes.

  • Rummage through your closet FIRST: Chances are you have some core pieces that you can use for your mission trip to Haiti. Tune into t-shirts and summer dresses and skirts.
  • Linen and cotton are your friends: As you rummage through your closet and look for new pieces, stick to linen and cotton clothes. You need breathable material if you want to mitigate the stink and stay as cool as possible.
  • Shop consignment: If you need to add pieces to your outfits, browse your local consignment shops for seasonal items. If you’re tight on time and attention spans like me, sites like thredUP (use this link to get $10 off) offer the convenience of online shopping with easy returns as well as the consignment prices. For this trip, I sent some clothes in for consignment and used the credit to buy a skirt and a light cardigan.
  • Shoes: For our particular mission trip, we were asked to wear closed-toed shoes. My first choice for shoes was my TOMS. However, as I gave it some thought, I realized these may not be the best choice during Haiti’s rainy season. I wasn’t confident that they would provide the support I needed to be on my feet all day for 5 days in a row. I decided to splurge on my shoes. This was one area where I knew any shoes I purchased, I would use again. After trying on several shoes, I decided to go with the Keen Rose Sandals since they had the support and looked polished enough to wear with dresses and skirts.

For the tech junkies

The requirements of this trip do not involve a computer. I have also received countless warnings to leave my electronics behind. This is not an option for me as I have a sad addiction to my devices and I plan to share this experience, in real time, with my family, friends and the world! So, I am bringing the essentials to document this experience, communicate with my family back home, while not making myself an expensive liability in the event I have lost something or have something confiscated. I needed devices to cover a few things:

  • Photography: I need video and photo footage that was unobtrusive and tolerant to harsher conditions. If it’s tough enough, this new camera will have the honor to stay with our family for future use.
  • Blogging: I need a device that will allow me to hop on and quickly type up a blog and publish whenever I have a chance to access wifi. Most likely at the hotel.
  • Communication: With two little boys at home, I cannot trek off for a week without some face time. It will be so sad for all of us!
  • Entertainment: I cannot travel or workout without music. Music plays in the background to every adventure, moment, and event in my life. I would also like the option to watch a movie on the plane.

With these requirements, I settled on a few devices to bring with me:

  • iPad 2 and Bluetooth keyboard: A tablet can load up a ton of apps to serve almost any purpose you need. At the end of the day, the iPad is a better option for me than a phone because I can type up a blog, easily edit a photo and video footage to upload, and I would prefer watching on a larger screen.
  • Headphones: Unfortunately, I broke my Beats headphones a few weeks ago and I was on the market for a new pair recently. I settled on the highly rated Jaybird Freedom X3 headphones because they are sweat-proof and keep a low profile. 
  • Camera: My photography skills are limited to really good photos in the iPhone’s portrait mode. I sought out some advice from friends that are wonderful photographers. I took their insights to heart, but I ended up going in a different direction. The truth is, I am not a skilled photographer. I am a mom of two boys who like to play with my stuff. I am also someone who constantly drops things. I need a tough piece of equipment that can travel well. I was torn between what my heart wanted and what my common sense knew I needed. After some research, I purchased the Olympus Tough TG-5. The review from PC Magazine does a good job summarizing what the rest of the internet has to say about it.
  • Power & accessories: Bring your chargers, bring your flashlights, bring your power banks! Power is not always the most dependable in countries outside the US. I didn’t have a good travel flashlight, and my power bank is a little bulky as well. I found this practical flashlight and power bank combo made by Adisun (sold on Amazon) that I will be testing in the field.

Packing the right perspective

The most important item on your packing list is the space between your ears. Bring your common sense with you, and most importantly, bring a positive attitude on your trip. People are going to be apprehensive and nervous for you. Don’t be that. BE EXCITED! Embrace the unknown, drink up the anticipation! Stop chasing the squirrels and distractions around you and recognize that you’re in the middle of something amazing.

It never ceases to amaze me the precious time we spend chasing the squirrels around our brains, playing out or dramas, worrying about unwanted facial hair, seeking adoration, justifying our actions, complaining about slow Internet connections, dissecting the lives of idiots, when we are sittin gin the middle of a full-blown miracle that is happening right here, right now.
-Jen Sincero

Your attitude is everything as you embark on your journey. As I was packing each shirt, shoe, accessory, and hair product, I gave a little bit of thanks to that item. “Thanks for keeping my skin clean Mr. Face Wash!” or “Oh hello new shoes! I’m looking forward to getting to know you on this adventure and all the fun people we will meet.”

It’s ridiculous sounding. But, it’s way more ridiculous than telling yourself a scary story about what the unknown adventures may have in store for you. If there is even a chance that we indeed create the reality that we think and speak about, I’m going to make sure it’s a great reality.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs and vlogs while I am on my trip to Haiti! You can follow me directly on this website or check out my Instagram for quick updates!