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Light, Rugged, Affordable: Great Gear for Traveling to Belize

By Adam Swenson

Travel GearYou’ve signed up to go on a missions trip to Belize – what an exciting time! As with any new venture good preparation will go a long way toward making you feel more confident and ensuring success.

There are many aspects to preparation, and in this column I want to talk about what you’ll be wearing and packing: shirts, shoes, sleeping pads, and so on. Our “gold standard” gear here will meet a few specific criteria: small, lightweight, durable, and affordable. If you’re a camper or into hiking or backpacking you’ll likely have a lot of this stuff already.

(You can find a full rundown on what to pack in our trip leader’s manual, which you can download here. That list is an overview – I’ll get specific in this list.)


For everyday wear, wicking T-shirts are hard to beat. The advantage of wicking is that they are cool and quick drying, two important factors in a tropical climate with frequent rainstorms! Amazon has these Hanes men’s X-Temp Performance T shirt for $10 a pop. For women try the Hanes women’s Cool V-Neck T-shirt.

Quick-drying convertible pants (pants with a zip-off section that convert to shorts) are very handy. The long pants can protect your legs if it gets buggy and if you want some sun just zip off the legs and store them in the side pockets! I personally pack a couple pairs of these pants and a few shorts when I go. Here’s a good example from Amazon. For women the Columbia Aruba convertible pants work well.

For shoes, any lightweight running type shoes or hiking boots will work well. You’ll want to have good traction and good support. Some people like to bring a second set of shoes in case the first gets wet. I like to pack Crocs or flip flops for a space-saving option. This gives me something I can wear when going to the beach on Caye Caulker or when my shoes are drying at night.

Speaking of feet, wear wicking socks if you can. They are quick to dry if (when!) they get wet. Here are 6 pairs of Saucony socks for $14, and 6 pairs of women’s for $16.25.

Rain in Belize can come up quickly. If you’re down there during the rainy season (June through November) it will rain every day! Pack a light poncho—this one is a reusable option. There are also cheap disposables that work well enough. Not stylish, but it packs down to nothing and will keep you dry. As a “poncho alternative,” mini umbrellas work well. (And some people don’t pack either—they make it through just fine, just slightly wetter.)



If you are doing a floor stay, you’ll need to pack a sleeping pad. As always, light weight, functionality, and portability are key. Belize is typically pretty warm year-round, so there’s no need for a big sleeping bag. This Coleman self-inflating camp pad comes with an attached pillow and is priced well at $40. Bring a set of sheets and you’ve got a comfortable lightweight sleep setup.

Fans can be a big help keeping cool at night. Our intrepid trip leader, Ludimir Nah, recommends a portable fan like this and then make sure someone from the group brings an extension cord with multiple outlets on the end.

Mini flashlights are also excellent to have, since it gets dark early in Belize. If you need to get up and use the bathroom at night you’d be wise to bring your own light source! This pack of four is $9, so you can give them away before you come home.


Any digital point and shoot camera will work well in Belize of course. If you have one you like, bring it! If you’re considering something specifically for the trip, I’ve used two types of cameras in Belize with good success.

The first would fall under the category of “bridge cameras” which fill the gap between point-and-shoot cameras and high-end SLR cameras with detachable lenses. Bridge cameras offer excellent image quality and typically very high zoom capabilities. I shoot a Nikon Coolpix L830, which has a 34x optical zoom to get up close and personal with subjects quite far away. I was quite happy with the images this camera picked up with on my last trip. (Here’s a link to the newer Nikon Coolpix L840.)

The second would be the go-anywhere, do-anything, submersible, and nearly indestructible GoPro series. These are extremely compact and you can capture underwater footage with them, shoot during the rain, or whatever. But you are limited in that you can’t see the picture before you shoot it, there’s no zoom, and so on. This can be a great option if you’re willing to live with those limitations.

For general purpose good photography, my suggestion would be a bridge camera. Obviously either of these are an investment, so think it through and be sure to keep your camera close when you are in Belize.

Other things to consider

Staying hydrated is essential to having a good trip. Pack a Nalgene or other water bottle with a large opening.If you are at all handy with fixing things, a Leatherman multi-tool is the tried and true option for a belt-wearable toolkit. There are roughly 23,000 permutations on this concept, so whether you want something small for your pocket or something a little more robust, it’s certainly out there. Just don’t try to carry it on the plane. Security does not appreciate that!

Ways to save

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 12.24.55 PMYou may look through this list and think you need to spend a lot of money to prepare for your trip. Not so! We are big believers in “staying within your harvest,” so if you have a small budget for travel gear, figure out what’s most important to you and invest in that.

You can also watch Craigslist and eBay and even thrift stores to get used items at greatly discounted rates. Good durable travel gear will be high quality and it really won’t matter if it’s a few years old, it should still serve you well. Get creative and have fun!

Adam Swenson is a missions consultant with Thirst Missions. Before joining Thirst he spent 10+ years as a magazine editor. You can reach him at

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