Having spent three weeks staying in many different locations across Ecuador and in varying climates, I have realized an important aspect of any travel abroad experience is making sure you have packed appropriately. The professor provided us with an exhaustive packing list including helpful suggestions from previous students. One important thing that was left out was just how often we would be moving locations and the difficulty of fitting everything in the same bag when jumping from location to location.
The first thing I brought that wasn’t necessary were my Keen hiking boots. I believe a pair of trail running shoes would have worked just fine and would have been easier to pack. Rain boots are provided and you will wear them everywhere! Comfort insoles are suggested and encouraged as well as thick/tall socks. Several people got blisters on the first day of hiking which made the rest of the trip more difficult when we were walking everyday. Chaco type sandals were worn every day while in the Galapagos and they worked just fine.
Second item was a beach towel… DO NOT BRING IT! Find a microfiber towel (full size towel) that folds as small as a wash cloth. I was so jealous of those who had a microfiber towel and it would have made my life so much easier. On days with hiking, you will pack a backpack with a water bottle and bug spray, the last thing you want to tote around when walking on unstable terrain is a bulky towel.
SNACKS!!!!! The accommodations did very well providing for those that had dietary restrictions and preferences, but you will still want some foods that you can munch on especially on long hikes. We ate breakfast around 7:00am, Lunch at 1:30, and dinner around 8:00 every night. I am used to eating several times a day so the large gaps without snacks was very difficult. I would suggest various protein bars, crackers, trail mix, granola, beef jerky, even protein powder to mix would have been nice. The meals are good but very high in carbs, so keep that in mind if you are on a diet. They prepared a lot of fish and there will be a soup provided with lunch almost every day.
Also, it gets so cold at night when up in the cloud rainforest, so make sure you pack a decent jacket and two pairs of sweatpants or thicker leggings in addition to field pants. When doing laundry, especially in the rainforest, your clothes will not dry. I paid for laundry twice while on the trip which was so worth it for dry clothes. I wish I would have packed everything I brought in ziplock bags because without central air, you luggage is exposed to humidity 24/7. I would also suggest packing a dryer sheet in every bag. After a while everything starts to stink and smell like the moldy accommodations, so any good scent is better than what will be accumulated after the first week.
Do not pack any nice clothes! I packed some normal clothes (which was a huge mistake) in case we went out on the town or to a restaurant. Just accept the fact that you will look like a jungle tour guide for three weeks and it will all be fine.
Quite a few people had some allergy issues while on the trip so make sure you bring some medications for a cough, runny nose, and sneezing if you are prone to that sort of thing.
I packed bug spray wipes and they were great! I also sprayed all of my clothes with permethrin a few days before I left and that helped a lot with mosquito protection. When picking coffee and hiking through the jungle, rub you ankles and socks really well with bug spray to prevent chiggers. Black fly bites are worse than mosquitos and chiggers put together, so pants are highly suggested when going zip lining.
A waterproof backpack was very handy on days when we were hiking in the rain. I brought my camera and my phone, so It was nice to know that is was safe while on our journey and a random storm popped up.
All in all, the packing list helped out a lot and with the addition of these tips, you will be all set to conquer your study abroad trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.