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Rustic Recs | What to pack this summer
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Rustic Recs | What to pack this summer

Even though summer trips don’t depart for another 200 days or so, it isn’t too early to get excited and start collecting the things you’ll need for your program, especially with the holidays around the corner. Travelers, show this list to relatives and friends who are looking for birthday or holiday gift ideas. This is by no means an extensive list, just a few products that we at Rustic find useful in our own travels. Happy shopping!

What you need to bring on your Rustic program this summer


When you look at your luggage, it should say, “I’m going on a 1-2 week trip,” not, “I’m moving to Australia for nine years.” We recommend either a backpack or a duffle for your luggage (55-70 liters is a good range to aim for), as luggage with wheels is going to be a bit out of place in the rainforest or in a rural village in Fiji. Go to an outdoors store to check out the various options in person and find the right bag for you. Remember, you should be able to handle whatever you bring, so if it’s a choice between a 55L or a 105L bag, always go with the smaller option. I’ve recently discovered the Minaal Carry-On Bag, and while I don’t own it yet, it’s in the mail and will be going with me to Peru this summer. This is a bit on the pricer side, but if you have your eyes set on one day backpacking through A-Europe, B-Latin America, C-Africa, or D-All of the above, it might be worth looking into. At the very least, watch their packing video to see packing cubes in action.

Packing Cubes

Problem: The shirt you want is all the way at the bottom of your bag and you need to unpack your entire bag to get to it. Solution: packing cubes. Have a cube for tops, bottoms, underwear/socks and stay sane while traveling. Now at the most, you only have to repack a cube instead of your entire life. Plenty of brands make packing cubes, such as eBags or Sea to Summit, but I’m partial to the Eagle Creek Original Pack-It Cube Set, which you can find on

Micro Puff Jacket

These are great for programs in cooler climates where you want to stay warm but can’t bring an entire bag just for your winter jacket. These jackets are usually filled with down or a synthetic material and they can be compressed into a small sac or a pocket of the jacket. Patagonia and The North Face are top contenders, though there are plenty of other brands that make similar jackets.


Perfect for nighttime reading, jungle treks, pre-dawn summits, and the occasional power outage, a headlamp is a must. Petzl and Black Diamond are popular brands, which have a variety of models for reasonable prices. Look for headlamps that allow you to adjust the direction of the light and the brightness. For students who are on one of the turtle programs in Costa Rica, look into models that have a red light mode like the Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp, which also has the added bonus of being water resistant.

Camp Towel

Space is at a premium while traveling, so leave the fluffy towels that take up half your bag at home and take a camp towel instead. Made with a quick-dry material, camp towels are better suited for the Rustic life than fancy white bath towels. Sea to Summit and REI offer good options, and they come in a variety of sizes. Check out the Sea to Summit Tek Towel which you can find online or at outdoors stores.

Water Bottle

“Hydrate!” and “drink water!” are familiar mantras on our programs, and a reusable water bottle is one of the first things you should check off on your packing list. Along with keeping you hydrated, a reusable water bottle also cuts down on the number of plastic bottles we use, which our planet really appreciates. There are too many brands to name, though Nalgene and Sigg are pretty common. Klean Kanteen is popular in the Rustic office, especially the vacuum insulated option. It keeps cold beverages cool for 24 hours and hot liquids (read: coffee) hot for up to 6 hours. Perfect for water while working on your service project or coffee during finals crunch time.

Travel Containers

Leave the full-sized shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and lotion at home and bring just what you need for your trip. Get a couple sets of Smart Tubes and cut your toiletry weight in half. They come in 2 and 3 oz options and are the perfect size for your travel needs. Added bonus-they are leak proof and carry-on compliant!

Music Accessories/Entertainment

Clearly not a necessity, but if you pack like a champ and have some extra room in your bag, consider bringing a small portable speaker for beach days or nights around the bonfire, or a headphone splitter/auxiliary cord for scenic bus rides just begging for an epic soundtrack. Another fun item is Bananagrams, which is crucial during a thunderstorm and you are stuck inside. Bring them on a language program and practice your new skills!

We will revisit this topic as we get closer to the summer, but for now use this as packing inspiration as we finish up our program packing lists (which will be up on the website soon). Rustic Alumni – what things have you brought on trips that you would never leave home without? Comment below and impart your wisdom on first-time travelers. Happy travels.

About the Author

Kelly Moynihan

Peru Country Director

More than a decade of program leader experience, fluency in Spanish, and commitment to community service make Kelly a natural fit to direct our Peru operations. Previously, Kelly worked in Costa Rica with indigenous communities and turtle conservation efforts after joining Rustic in 2008. Originally from New Jersey, Kelly earned a degree in journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.