Packing Revisited

I noticed today on my blog dashboard that one of the searches that had lead someone to my blog consisted of the words “Guatemala peace corps packing list”. And I felt bad that someone, who is clearly part of the incoming January training class, had been lead here and wasn’t aided. I feel particularly bad because I remember conducting that exact same search and being really frustrated at finding very little to help me. So, I’m going to do a little review of what I lugged all the way to Central America – what was worth the weight, what was not – so that the next future volunteer that stumbles upon my blog isn’t disappointed. And maybe it’ll also put the minds of my friends who keep asking “Is there anything you need me to send you?!” at ease.

Based on my research, a really strange list of suggestions from past volunteers through the UW PCMI program and the PC Guatemala packing list that basically says “You could be somewhere really hot or somewhere really cold, but don’t worry – you won’t be camping” I came up with the following packing list back in June or so:


  • Large rolling suitcase
  • Hiking Backpack
  • Messenger Bag


  • 1 Dress Pant
  • 1 Dress Skirt
  • 2 Casual Pants
  • 1 Casual Skirt
  • 2 Dresses
  • 2 Dress Shirts
  • 5 Casual Shirts
  • 5 Layering Tanks
  • 2 Weeks Worth Undergarments/Socks
  • 2 Lightweight Sweaters
  • 1 Medium Weight Sweater/Jacket
  • Rainjacket
  • 1 Belt
  • 1 Hat
  • 1 Scarf
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunglasses
  • Two Pairs of Eyeglasses
  • Pair Dress Shoes
  • Pair Casual Shoes
  • Pair Flip Flops


  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Facewash
  • Moisturizer w/ SPF
  • Soap and Loofah
  • Razors and Shaving Cream
  • Diva Cup
  • Small Make-Up Kit
  • Perfume
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Hairbrush, ties, bobby pins
  • Nail clippers/file


  • Laptop, charger, case
  • Digital Camera, charger, USB cord
  • Flash Drives
  • iPod, charger
  • Travel Speakers
  • Travel Alarm Clock


  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Leatherman Multitool
  • Vacuum Bags
  • Water Bottle
  • Compact sleeping bag
  • Blanket
  • Host Family Gifts
  • Non-Melting Candy for kids
  • Spanish-English Dictionary
  • Quick Dry Towels/Washcloths
  • Water Bottle
  • Frisbee
  • Playing Cards
  • Photo Album
  • Sewing Kit
  • Stationary and Pens
  • Crayons/Markers/Sharpies
  • Moleskine Journal

My checked luggage came in at a whopping 68 pounds – a full 12 underneath the limit. So, what should I have added to the bag? First of all, RAINBOOTS. Guatemala weather consists of a wet and dry season and poor drainage reduces the streets to rivers during the downpours. My ballet flats and chucks just don’t stand up to that kind of moisture.

I should have also packed a real pair of scissors (the tiny pair in my leatherman can only do so much), a magic eraser to keep my white macbook from looking such a mess, a “going out” outfit for those nights in Antigua and perhaps another pair of dress pants.

What should I have left behind? I can easily replace most basic toiletries so packing four toothbrushes was unnecessary. (Though I am not a fan of the kind of soap at the tienda, so maybe I should have packed a few more bars of Dove for my sensitive skin.) The candy, while it served its purpose in making kids like me, could have easily been picked up here – the kids could care less where it’s from. Also, the Spanish teachers here give you a Spanish-English dictionary, so now I have two, which seems kind of silly. I should also mention that I haven’t really had any reason to use the sleeping bag yet, but once I am able to use vacation days and start traveling around the country that could very well change.

On the list of things I am SO GLAD I brought are my northface rain jacket, the diva cup (Uhhh, it’s a girly thing for all the curious males. And don’t look it up unless you want to be scarred for life like my poor friend Michael), the quick dry towels, the travel speakers/ipod, an amazing poster with pictures of my friends given to me before departure and my blanket (a military poncho liner if you’re curious – I basically can’t sleep without one, habit picked up from my Dad).

Most things I need are available here and specialty items can be found in the larger cities as long as I’m willing to pay a little more for them. I’m basically living what they refer to in the Peace Corps world as “Posh Corps” (though there are rougher sites to be found in country), not at all like the rustic shacks and latrines one pictures… which I suppose makes me being here WAY less impressive for most people. Ah well.

So, there you have it, Future Volunteer. Hope it helps. Also, the first month feels like four – nobody told me that part and I wish they had.


[I should also take this opportunity to thank the people who helped me  prepare by actually being so kind as to give me some of the items above: Mom and Dad for the backpack, sleeping bag, towels, speakers, flash drives, laptop case, alarm clock and leatherman. Priscilla for the water bottle, poster and flip flops. Lane for the messenger bag and the unassuming zipper pouch I use as my wallet. Jordan for the iPod and moleskine. Tim for the headlamp. Sami for the GoGirl she sent me. Tanya for the stationary. Kate for the perfume (it was amongst the things you left in my apartment…). And Lisa for the scarf and criticism on every piece of clothing I packed. THANK YOU.]


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6 Responses to Packing Revisited

  1. DD says:

    even my female coworker didn’t know what a diva cup was. so i had to look it up. and i have to say, i would like one. the diva that i am.

  2. Ta-Na-Na-Na says:

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm……what were the vacuum bags for?

  3. Andrea Clark says:

    Very helpful of you Carmen!

  4. I laughed out loud at, “the first month feels like four – nobody told me that part and I wish they had.” Soooo true! That’s a pretty legit packing list. Nice work. If anyone asks me, can I just send them to your blog? Hope everything at your site is awesome and can’t wait to see you again! ~Carolyn D.

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