The Essentials to Make Your Baja and Hostel Stay More Enjoyable
When packing for travel in Baja or a hostel in Baja there are a lot of similarities for packing for any kind of travel. However, there are also many differences. I’ll discuss what you basically need and what you should leave home. Like travel in any foreign country you want it to be as simple and easy as possible. Tackle the hassles at home before you leave so you’re not caught without or in a bind. Pack to assimilate to your surroundings. Less is more. Of course, if you have your own transportation your options and carrying capacity greatly expand.
Packing List for Backpacking:
- BACKPACK – Pretty basic, huh? You’d be surprised how many people show up with those foolish little wheely suitcases. Overpacked with non-essentials, it’s always great humor watching them roll these monstrosities when the pavement ends. It gets even funnier when it’s way too heavy for them to carry. Get a good quality 40L backpack or one suitable for your height and weight from a reputable retailer. I like something used and beaten up so I blend in a little better. A used military rucksack from the Army/Navy store is just as good. With that said, I bought a small day pack from the Target department store once and backpacked for weeks throughout Asia without a problem.
- REAL HAT/SWIM SUIT/SHORTS – The sun is not your friend after a few hours in it. Get a real hat that has a brim that goes all the way around your head. Like the backpack a used one that has seen miles is best. A baseball cap is close to worthless but better than nothing. Make sure it shades your face. Swim suits and shorts are for the beach. Not for walking around town. You’ll very seldom see a local in shorts or without a shirt on in public. Out of respect for your host country you should wear what the locals wear in public. Booty shorts ain’t it.
- TENT/TARP – A quality low profile lightweight 2-person tent is the only way to go. This is also optional. Most of the times I camp it is with just a bedroll and a large rope around the sleeping area so those crawling things in the night get diverted before they crawl over me. But, a tent is great to keep the wind and flies off of you in the morning. The tarp is good for under the tent to protect it and so your miscellaneous groovies don’t fall into the sand around it. You want a low profile one when the wind picks up. And, it does get windy! There’s nothing more comical than when some Cretin sets up their mini-condo tent only to see it turn into a kite with the slightest wind. I love that deer in the headlights look when their bedroom blows into the next pueblo.
- BANDANA – Important to keep the sun off your neck or to use to cool down when wet. The large 27″ ones are best. A good bandana has many uses and you don’t realize it until you have one.
- PROPER FOOT GEAR – Proper hiking or walking foot gear is a must depending on what you intend to do. Get something with ankle support. Also, flip-flops or diver booties should be purchased. Better yet, get a good pair Mexican huarache sandals once your south of the border. Never wear flip-flops in town unless you enjoy stubbed toes from poorly constructed sidewalks.
- WATER BOTTLE – A good quality water bottle or Nalgene bottle will make life easier. Bottle or filtered water can be found most places.
- QUALITY KNIFE – A good Gerber, Buck or Swiss Army Knife can make your life a lot easier. You’ll be amazed at how many times you use it. Victorinox is the original maker and still makes the best Swiss Army Knife. Sometimes I do bring some of those cheapy ones from Walmart as backups and trading fodder. I’ve traded these for everything from Lobsters to tires.
- FIRST AID KIT – Carry a small one in case of an emergency. If you’re really remote be sure it has pain meds and Imodium. Be sure the case is strong and can last. A lot of these come in cheap bags and the zippers break allowing the contents to fall out when you most need them. Surviveware makes a good one.
- SLEEPING BAG/BED ROLL – I prefer using a bedroll instead of a sleeping bag. A bedroll allows you to layer more easily and provides more room to move around. However, a sleeping bag is easier to carry and take care of. Hansen Wheel makes a good bedroll but, you can make your own or find one that’s less expensive.
- STOVE, FUEL and COOKING GEAR – In Baja a small stove that runs on either propane or gas is your best bet. The alternative fuels that many camping stoves run on are either very hard to come by or non-existent. Propane is the easiest camp fuel besides gas to get. If you do go with propane bring a refill adapter to fill the small 16oz canisters they run on.
- SLEEPING PAD – A good quality sleeping pad is worth it’s weight in gold. Even a cheap one is better than nothing. The best bet is to choose your sleeping location wisely. Sculpting the earth to your body contour helps immensely. Whatever you do DO NOT get a big blow up mattress. They never last and are heavy.
- FIRE – Matches, lighter or a fire starter work well. Matches are used widely throughout Mexico and are very inexpensive. I prefer to pick up matches at the tienda when I shop for groceries. If you purchase some in the tienda spend the few centavos more and get the better ones. They light faster, don’t break and burn slower than the cheap ones.
- MONEY BELT/MONEY POUCH – Though not essential it keeps your valuables a lot safer. They both have their advantages. If you’re the sort to raise Hell and rabble-rous then the Money pouch that hangs from your neck is the way to go. Know that when you get tossed in jail in Mexico the Policia often ask for your shoe laces and your belt if you have one just to add insult to injury. Like, as if, you’re going to hang yourself for not paying their on the spot exorbitant bribe demand of mucho pesos. But, it’s all part of the show. If you’re just drinking then the Money belt is for you. Be cognizant if you’re drinking that the Pick-Pocket scam happens frequently. The perpetrators wait for their mark to come out of the bar. One rushes up to you yelling and jostling you to draw your attention while his accomplice rifles through your pockets. It happens so quickly you hardly even notice it.
- SUN PROTECTION – Bring an ample amount of sunblock and sunglasses with you. The sunblock sold in Mexico is expensive. Studies have shown that any Sunblock over 30 SPF has little or no additional effect. But, based on recent news we all know how reliable “Studies” are. I say get the most SPF you can find. Even if it doesn’t work any better it may give you more peace of mind.
- FLASHLIGHT or HEADLAMP – I like a good quality flashlight but, often bring a couple of cheap ones instead in case I loose one. The quality 90 degree military tactical ones with the clip on the back are the ones I like the best. They work as a flashlight and a lamp when hooked onto a shirt pocket or collar. They also come with colored discs to dim your light. I’ve never been a fan of headlamps because they blind the people you are talking to and I don’t like things strapped to my head. Your call.
- TOILETRIES – Make sure you put them in a quality bag that has a good zipper. The rest is up to you.
- BUG DOPE AND FLY SWATTER – This one is optional depending on where you plan of going and what you plan to do. If you plan to camp on the south side of Bahia de Los Angeles during certain times of the year or by any Mangroves these are a must. I’ve had good luck with the Cutter’s brand.
Packing List for Hostels:
- CLOTHING YOU CAN LAYER – Temperatures vary greatly and so do elevations. You can be surfing in the morning and cross-country skiing in the afternoon in some places. Most people bring way more than they need. Just realize that wight adds up and when you have to spend your time carrying or looking for things it stops being funny real quick. A hoodie and clothes that layer solves the problem of overpacking and being able to cool down or warm up in a pinch.
- A QUICK DRY TOWEL – A small one is best. I don’t bring one and just use my large bandana but, having a good towel is nice.
- MESH BAG – A quality mesh bag is good for keeping clothes in or, more importantly, for putting clams, mussels or shells in when you’re at the beach.
- USB MULTI-CHARGER – Many hostels don’t have a place to charge your electronics. A multi-charger solves the problem.If you have room bring a small power strip and or extension cord. In some older construction power outlets are less numerous.
- EAR PLUGS/SLEEPING MASK – If you have a bunk in a dorm these will help you sleep. A mask helps if your bunk doesn’t have curtains and the ear plugs keep much of the noise out. Get a good pair. Military ones work well as do the ones from Eargasm.
- DRY BAG – Keep your wet clothes from your dry ones. You can also use compression packing cubes but the dry bag is less expensive and easier.
- Fishing Rod and Lures
- Mexican Blanket
- Compression Packing cubes
- Noise Canceling Headphones
- Lip Balm
- Backup Power Bank
- Exact Change
- Sense of Humor
What Not to Bring
- Plastic Zippy Pants and/or Shirt
- Expensive Jewelry
- Large Cash Denominations