Before our Habitat for Humanity build in Honduras last year, we had many questions and concerns about what to take with us. We were given a couple different packing lists, and some of it seemed a little over the top, especially in consideration of the fact that we were asked to travel light. In an effort to help others, I thought I would write about the items that were important to bring along.
I have never needed to pack light before, so it was a brand new experience to be packing for 11 days away in a carry-on bag.
Luggage: It was highly recommended that we ONLY take a carry-on due to a multitude of reasons but mainly due to the little amount of room in the shuttle van for baggage plus 14 volunteers.
First. Even though it was an unexpected expensive purchase, I bought an OSPREY wheeled luggage from SAIL which I will use for a lifetime (and have already used it several times since our build trip). I was unsure at first, but due to all of its pockets and unique structure, I was able to pack a lot more than expected. Items such as feminine products, underwear, and socks were all tucked away in the side zippered pockets within the frame. Since it was built into the frame, it did not bulge out, and did not take up any room from the main compartment.
Second. I bought some dry sacs (generic brand and Eagle Creek Sets) and extra-large Ziploc bags. The Ziploc bags were amazing as they allowed me to pack so much more. For example, I put a full weeks worth of shirts in one bag – of course I had to sit on the bag to let all the air out. I also rolled up items such as a rain coat, and stuffed them into small dry bags, and once again only took up a small amount of space.
It was strongly suggested that you brought minimal clothing and then did laundry at least once throughout the week. We did exactly that. We had brought large dry sacks to leave at the hotel front desk half way through the week.
Budget Shopping TIP: When shopping for dry bags don’t visit the TRAVEL section of an outdoor store but rather the CAMPING section and you will find the same or similar product at half the price.
The Right Shoes: It was suggested to bring hiking boots or work boots for the construction site.
Adam and I were extremely happy that we went with the KEEN steel-toed work boots even though they added a lot of weight and took up a lot of space in our carry-on bag. It gave us the freedom not to worry about what could happen. A lot of people in our group were just wearing athletic shoes which did not give the support they needed, plus several people had very sore feet from dropped cement buckets and tools. KEEN work boots are built on their best-selling hiking boots, so they were super comfortable.
Work Clothing: It was suggested to bring Work Gloves, Brim Hat, Bandana, Long Pants and Long Sleeves to protect from sun exposure, and bugs that transmit disease.
Leather work gloves are a necessity. You can’t do work without them. 2 pairs were ideal, and of course if you had extra that could be left behind and given to the local workers that was even better.
I did bring a hat, but used it more for leisure time, as we wore hard hats on the site. I appreciated the long pants and sleeves as they kept me protected from metal rebar cuts and the general scrapes that happen on a job site that could easily get infected. The Bandana was worn each day by everyone on the team. It not only protected your neck from sun, but mopped up the pouring sweat!
My husband and I found that it was effective to have 2 pairs of work pants. One to be washed and drying while you were on the site wearing the second pair. (We washed these in our bathroom sinks instead of sending them to the laundromat). Only having one pair of pants was not a great idea, especially if you were going to be working on the foundation and mixing and setting cement.
Casual Clothing: I had questions about the amount of clothing to take and if the women on the team dressed up for dinners.
For our casual clothes, we had enough to last us the first half, so we had to do laundry mid-week. It worked out great. I also brought one dress (non-wrinkle-able) that I wore a couple times. The rest of the time I wore capri pants, t-shirts and sandals. One lady had the idea of buying several dresses at Walmart, wearing them while there, and then donating them at the end. Brilliant, and it was much appreciated.
It was suggested to bring a rain jacket or a poncho. It was not something we would wear on the construction site as it was better to just get wet rather than have a jacket get in the way of the tools. We only wore our rain gear when we did local cultural excursions, so a disposable dollar store poncho would have sufficed.
Other items on the suggested list:
Micro-fiber Towel – We actually never had the need or opportunity to use it. Possibly if one of the R&R excursions were to go to a beach you would need it, but the hotel provided towels.
Duct Tape and Sharpie Marker – We did not use the duct tape, but I could see how there might have been a need if something broke and needed immediate fixing. The Sharpie markers were in high demand, as they were being used to mark the re-bar. Not sure if that was the original intention of use or not.
Water Bottle – This was a must, and we were very glad we had our Hydro Flask water bottles with us. Habitat for Humanity provided the filtered water, but we had to carry our own water on the construction site. The Hydro Flask bottles kept the water cold and refreshing all day long. Some people brought plastic bottles instead, which was definitely not a great idea as they were easily ruined, the water got warm within minutes and the plastic could harbour bacteria more easily. If any of you know Adam and myself, you can already guess which colour was whose – Adam’s is the pink one of course!
Hand Sanitizers – Another definite must. Lunch was provided on-site but with no place to wash hands and remove contaminated dirt the hand sanitizers became super important.
Travel Size Toilet Paper – This was a must for me. You never knew where you were going to stop for a washroom break, and in most cases we needed to use our own supply of toilet paper. Many people on our trip “embraced diarrhea”, as our trip leader liked to say, and you never knew when it was going to hit. Better to be prepared.
Whistle / Flashlight / Spork – We never did use the whistle or flashlight, but the spork was used daily for lunch.
These are the main items that I had an opinion on, but if you have any questions I would be more than happy to answer them.
Read more about our build trip with Habitat for Humanity in Honduras.