THE PANAMA PACKING LIST: WHAT YOU NEED TO PACK AND WHY
Panama is one of my favorite countries in the world! You are reading this right now so it means you are probably traveling to Panama soon, so go through this whole article and when you’ve finished, you’ll be prepared for everything and anything Panama tries to throw at you. If you’re looking to run wild on adventures, go cliff jumping, snorkeling and waterfall hunting I’ve got you covered. This is the Ultimate Panama Packing list to prepare you for your adventures throughout Panama.
There are a few key factors that make Panama different from other countries and therefore make your packing list different are the following:
- Humidity: Panama can be sticky, sweaty and a bit awkward at times. Waterproof bags, phone covers, insect repellents, and other measures need to be taken into account.
- Rain: Panama can be boiling hot one minute and pouring with rain the next. You can still have an awesome time but a waterproof jacket that isn’t too thick is key.
- There are a lot of waterfalls and island hopping activities so a GoPro or waterproof camera can be a really fun tech toy to help record your adventures.
THE ULTIMATE PANAMA PACKING LIST
1. HYDRO FLASK
Since living in Hawaii, my reusable bottle by Hydroflask comes with me everywhere. It keeps your water icy cold and you’ll appreciate it more than ever after a day in the sweltering tropical heat. When you are wondering what to pack for Panama this should be at the top of your list for two reasons. Not only does the Hydroflask keep you cool, but you’re also doing your part by reducing single-use plastics in Panama. Once you arrive in Panama you will see that single-use plastic and plastic pollution are a huge problem! Insulated and built to last, this is the bottle for all your adventures.
Panama Packing List Item: Hydroflask Water Bottle
2. WATERPROOF PHONE COVER
Whether you’re island hopping or tip-toeing behind the enormous waterfalls of Panama, it’s a wise investment to get yourself a waterproof phone cover. I use a Lifeproof Waterproof Case, so I never have to worry about dust, water, sand and scratching my phone. It also handles being dropped all the time. Not only do they keep your phone safe from water damage, but you’ll also be able to take photos on the move too. If you want to use your phone near water a cheap phone pouch or a case will do the job, but definitely, don’t leave your phone bare, it is just asking for trouble and is why this item is so high up on my Panama packing list.
Panama Packing List Item: Lifeproof Waterproof Case
3. A RELIABLE POWER BANK
Panama can be a crazy place to get around and as a result, you’ll spend a lot of time looking at maps trying to work out the best route to your next destination. A few hours on Google Maps is a sure way to drain your phone battery, alas, a power bank is a necessity for me. This year I started using an Anker Powerbank and it was a life-changer. It stays charged when I’ve charged it, is super reliable and gives me 3-4 cycles of phone charge or camera battery charge. It guarantees I always have the battery charged on my phone, plus it has another USB point for other electronics like your GoPro. If you are a photographer, digital nomad or just love your tech this is a necessity when wondering what to pack for Panama.
Panama Packing List Item: Anker Powerbank
A Lightweight rain jacket is a very handy addition to your adventure backpack. For the windy moments on top of mountains all the way through to, through to rain protection in torrential downpours or waterfall spray, you’ll be happy to have one of these in your bag. Every single day while I was in El Valle de Anton, the rain would come after lunch and pour down, like clockwork. Panama is known for its great weather but it’s pretty common for there to be a short burst of rain each day. This rain jacket is on the Panama packing list because you will regret not having one as you are dripping from head to toe during a downpour. My rain jacket was the first thing I packed in my day pack every single day whether the sun was shining or the clouds were gre.
Panama Packing List Item for him: North Face Venture 2 Jacket Men’s
Panama Packing List Item for her: North Face Venture 2 Jacket Women’s
5. SELFIE STICK
Need I say more? Pack yourself a robust selfie stick to handle the hard impact of Panamas best cliff jumping spots and long enough to get the whole crew in the shot. Don’t be ashamed of using your selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles. I use the Sandmarc GoPro pole because of a couple of reasons. The Sandmarc pole is longer than the default stick GoPro sells and it also doesn’t have the three arm bend. It is for holding out during a cliff jump, on a moped. It doesn’t bend or need adjusting just whip it out, get the shot and put it away before anyone notices!!
Panama Packing List Item: Sandmarc GoPro Pole
6. BUG SPRAY
Prevention is far better than finding a cure, especially in a place like Panama. The pesky tropical mosquitos love to hang around in the same places you do, like palm trees, lagoons, villa pools and pretty much anywhere else you’ll find water. When you are packing for Panama you need to get yourself some mosquito repellent that has a high DEET percentage, it’ll stop you from getting bitten, scratching and potentially ending up with something nasty like dengue fever. Just remember to pack it in your checked luggage so it doesn’t get taken away at the airport.
Panama Packing List Item: Deet Bug Spray
7. Neck Pillow
There’s lots of long bus journeys when you travel through Panama. Lucky the bus system is quite cheap and efficient but you will want to have a neck pillow so you can grab some sleep on the long rides. The Cabeau memory foam neck pillow is the one I go with. It compresses into a little case so it doesn’t take up to much room but it is much sturdier than an inflatable pillow or one filled with beans.
Panama Packing List Item: Cabeau memory foam neck pillow
8. GOPRO HERO 6
The GoPro Hero 6 is serious bang for your buck. There is nothing else that compares to it on the market right now. It allows you to take amazing underwater photos at a very affordable price. Pair this with a selfie stick or a dome port and you’ll be able to capture some incredible angles. GoPros are also extremely durable, they’ll be able to take a lot more hits than you will so you don’t have to be afraid where you can and can’t take it.
Panama Packing List Item: GoPro Hero 6 Black
9. WORLDWIDE POWER ADAPTOR
Charging all your gear can be difficult enough in the Panama, it pays to get yourself a good quality adapter that will plug into any wall without fail. If you get yourself a worldwide adapter, it will come in handy for the rest of your travels too. There’s nothing worse than traveling around Southeast Asia and having to buy a new adaptor for every single country. Get a universal adaptor and simplify your travels.
Panama Packing List Item: Universal Power Adaptor
11. HIKING/WATER SHOES
You’re probably starting to realize there is a bit of a reoccurring theme here. Water-related adventures can be found all around Panama and so can a lot of sharp, slippery surfaces too. A great pair of water shoes will keep your feet from getting cut up on coral or any other unforgiving surface you might stumble upon.
Panama Packing List Item: Water Shoes
12. TRAVEL WALLET/PASSPORT HOLDER
I take a travel wallet with me everywhere! Inside it, I keep my cash, passport, credit cards, and any other important travel documents with me. These are items you can’t afford to lose so it’s nice to have them all in one place instead of sprawled around your luggage. Worst case scenario, if your bag gets lost or stolen, by keeping this separate you’ll have the essentials to sort through any problems that arise. Often it is the only thing I put in the safe or locker at a hotel.
Panama Packing List Item: Travel Wallet
13. WATERPROOF DRY BAG
You got it, another tropical essential. When you’ve seen as many people lose their phones or camera gear to water damage as I have, you’ll understand why I place so much importance on a waterproof dry bag. A quality dry bag will do as it suggests by keeping your belongings air-tight even if the bag happens to become fully immersed in water during snorkeling, a boat trip or waterfall adventures.
Panama Packing List Item: EarthPak Dry Bag
14. A RELIABLE BACKPACK
If you’re really adventurous and heading out for some multiple day hikes, it pays to have something supportive, spacious and comfortable. I use a VictoriaTourist backpack and I have used this bag for the last 3 years. I can fit a laptop, clothes, water, drone, GoPro and DSLR with lenses all for a day of adventures. It is one of the only bags in the world that fits a laptop, 3 liters of water and has your DSLR camera and lenses in a zippable front pocket rather than in compartments inside the bag. I always watch other photographers take their bag off or reach around into the side of their bag to reach their camera and wonder why they paid $200 or more for such inconvenience when the VictoriaTourist bag provides a better option for just $60. It also has a rain cover, which has saved me multiple times. I could go on forever about this bag as it has been through so much with me. From the top of Everest Base Camp to the waterfalls of Panama!
Panama Packing List Item: Victoria Tourist Laptop-Camera Backpack
Keep it light: Pack athletic and casual is the answer when you are wondering what clothes to pack for Panama. A good pair of hiking shoes, a light rain jacket and quick dry clothing is the go!
Panama Packing List Item: Light/Breathable Clothing
16. TRAVEL INSURANCE
Panama is a place prone to accidents with all of the adventures on offer. Read up on what you’re covered for and keep a copy of it at the bottom of your suitcase. With high-quality medical support still not widespread across Panama, it’s not a place you want to get stuck if you have any mishaps. There are some great hospitals in Panama but if you are like me and have a crash out on the jungle roads, you will be taken to the nearest clinic and you get what you get. I use World Nomads World Nomads Travel Insurance because it allows me to be covered globally. I never know what I am doing a few months in advance so I don’t want to have to chop and change my travel insurance all the time depending on my travel plans. Now I can also itemize my valuable camera gear and laptop so that I can adventure hard without worrying about breaking things.
Panama Packing List Item: World Nomads Travel Insurance
17. QUICK DRY TOWEL
Pack yourself a quick dry towel that won’t take up much space so you can dry off after a surf or shower and then hang your towel out to quickly dry. Unlike normal towels the micro-fiber towels dry in under an hour so they aren’t damp in your backpack and start smelling as you backpack around.
Panama Packing List Item: Micro-Fiber Quick Dry Towel
18. PACKING CUBES TRAVEL ORGANIZER
Its all about making your life as easy as possible right? Packing cubes area sure way to keep your suitcase/backpack compartmentalized on the go. You can keep your electronics in one cube, have a spot for your swimmers and casual gear in another. Personally, I love these because I carry around so many chargers/cords for my gear so it’s the closest thing to having a wardrobe and chest of drawers on the road for me.
Panama Packing List Item: Packing Cubes
19. MONEY BELT
Money belts are great for security and practicality. Whilst traveling, the last thing you want on the back of your mind is to worry about your money, valuables or room key is lost or stolen. The great thing about a money belt is that nobody can tell that you’re wearing one. It keeps your money and valuables completed concealed and invisible to potential pickpockets.
Panama Packing List Item: Money Belt
20. KINDLE READER
Some days just aren’t for adventures, either the weather isn’t permitting or you need a day to rest, reset and to get ready to go again. Recently I’ve included a Kindle in my travel packing list so I can read on the plane, bus or when I need to put my feet up for a few hours. I enjoy the Kindle screen as it never has any glare even under direct sunlight on the beach. With millions of books available, you’ll be sure to learn a few new fun facts for dinner table discussions.
Panama Packing List Item: Kindle E-reader
There it is, the most extensive Panama Packing List. Have a blast, enjoy the raging waterfalls and be sure to send it off a few wild cliff jumps for me. P.S Don’t forget to wear a helmet on the moped.
I thought I would also add the camera gear I travel with to this post for all photographers out there who want to capture their epic adventures in Panama.
MY CAMERA GEAR
SONY A7II MIRRORLESS CAMERA
I wanted a light camera, one that I would be able to carry on hikes and to secluded beaches. It had to be able to take a knock or two and be relatively weatherproof. It also had to be affordable, which is different for every person. My budget for the camera and lens was $2000 at the time. It was compatible with Canon lenses if I bought an adapter but I decided to sell off all of my Canon gear and purchase some Zeiss lenses designed for the Sony a7 series. My favorite part about the Sony A7II is being able to use the Sony PlayMemories Apps. There are lots of free apps you can install on the camera such as the Time Lapse app and Sky HDR app.
SONY 16-35 F4 LANDSCAPE LENS
The Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar F4 Lens was the lens I decided to purchase and it gave me a lot of flexibility. The focal length of 35mm is equivalent to what you see with a naked eye. A focal length of 16mm is much wider and enabled me to capture an entire scene, a vast range of mountains or an entire beach in one shot. The Sony 16-35mmwas my primary lens and It enabled me to shoot some portraits but also the flexibility to fit an entire landscape into my frame.
SONY 55MM 1.8 PORTRAIT LENS
I started to field several requests for taking portraits and decided maybe it was time to look at a prime lens. A prime lens has a fixed focal length and a much wider aperture, which enables low light shooting and a much smaller depth of field. I purchased the Sony 55mm F1.8 Sonnar T FE ZA Prime Lens. I ended up doing a few paid jobs and paying off this lens quickly. My favorite time with this lens was in Indonesia where I tried my hand at travel portrait photography for the first time, which turned out to be really fun especially with the small depth of field the Sony 55m F1.8 delivered.
All of my landscape photos involved the sun and often the ocean. The harsh light from the sun often blows out the water with awful reflections. I bought a Hoya 72mm HRT Circular PL Polarizer and with a small twist before taking a photo I was now able to reduce or eliminate the reflections on the ocean. All of a sudden I could see the reef below the water and bring out the turquoise color of the Pacific Ocean. Even on hikes the polarizer really brings out the greens of the trees and is so handy when shooting a waterfall. My polarizer is on my camera 90% of the time and is one of my favorite accessories.
CARBON FIBER TRIPOD
Of course to be able to use an ND Filter to smooth water and show movement with long exposure photography you need a tripod. Choosing which tripod to buy was a tough decision for me as I wanted something sturdy enough to endure windy conditions, however, it was something I would have to carry up mountains. I decided to get the sturdiest carbon fiber tripod that would fit in my bag. I am so happy with my ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod and it comes everywhere with me. In the past, I would have left a tripod at home unless there was a specific shot I wanted but because it is lightweight and compact, my tripod is constantly packed in my small backpack. This is definitely one of the most important pieces of photography equipment for beginners.
I began looking at the work of many talented landscape photographers and decided I wanted to try my hand at long exposures. I did hours of research and finally decided to get a Hoya Pro 72mm 1000x Neutral Density Filter, which is a 10 stop ND filter. This allowed me to smooth oceans, waterfalls and show motion in the water. It also helped to show motion in the sky especially with cloud movement and during sunset/sunrise.
WASABI BATTER POWER PACK
If you are traveling like me, you don’t get to charge your batteries every day. I carry four batteries with me and charge them all whenever I get the opportunity. The Wasabi Power Pack comes with 2 batteries and a charger, which is handy for the hotel room and is much cheaper than buying the Sony version. Sony mirrorless cameras tend to go through batteries a bit quicker than traditional DSLR’s so I suggest buying a few extras so you don’t run out on top of a mountain as the sun is setting.
I struggled to carry my gear in different sized backpacks and was constantly frustrated trying to pull out my camera to quickly get a shot. When I was hiking I would put it back in the bag to continue the hike with both hands-free for safety. I finally decided to get a VictoriaTourist DSLR Camera Backpack that was designed for carrying electronics. This durable bag fits my laptop, chargers, 2 lenses, memory cards, a jacket, 4 liters of water and still has space for any extras. The great thing about this bag is that comes with a waterproof cover that is in a zip pocket underneath the bag. I have used this a lot of times and is something that is actually really important to think about.
SANDISK MEMORY CARD
I bought two SanDisk Extreme PRO, which has worked perfectly for me and can hold over 1500 raw images and are also capable of shooting 4K video.
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