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Use this Lost City trek packing list to prepare you for the 45 km-long jungle-bound journey to the mountain-top archaeological site.
Colombia’s best trek is no walk in the park. The Lost City trek in Colombia charts a route through the rugged and isolated jungle terrain of the high coastal Sierra Nevada mountains to reach the 1,400-year-old ancestral site of the indigenous Tayrona people.
While you won’t have to contend with the bitter cold and thin air of high altitude, you will face heat and downpours in the dense, muddy bush that’s just as unforgiving.
This is a back-to-basics four-day trek – here’s how to best prepare for it.
- Packing Preparation for Jungle Trekking
- Full Lost City Trek Packing List
- Ready to Reach Cuidad Perdida?
Packing Preparation for Jungle Trekking
Choosing a decent daypack
Minimalism is the aim, as you will carry your backpack the entire time. This includes carrying a weighty one or two litres of water every trekking day alongside your entire kit for the four days.
A 20 or 30-litre daypack is better if it has various compartments so you can separate your things and get to more essential items like mosquito spray and water quickly.
Make sure it fits well and has straps that can be tightened and bucked to distribute weight and prevent injury.
Strength training for bag weight
You have to train for weeks before the trek to build stamina for the hours trudging through jungle terrain, but with no porters on this trek, you also need to train to carry the weight of a full bag for hours while on the move.
By the end of the trek, there is a chance to share the cost of a horse to carry some load for you, but this is typically reserved for emergencies. Carrying your pack is your responsibility – if you overpack, it’s your burden.
Keeping dry in jungle humidity
The primary importance of the trek is to try to keep all your belongings dry; otherwise, you will just be uncomfortable, miserable and chilly. A dry bag is, therefore, an essential item. The chances of washing something at the end of the trek day and drying it by the morning are slim. Humidity even meant our dry clothes felt damp in the morning.
Full Lost City Trek Packing List
It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s key to nailing the minimal packing essentials to cover you while you are off-grid for a few days.
Best Clothing for Lost City Trekking
Packing light while simultaneously knowing you will either sweat through your daily outfit or get wet and muddy is not the ideal combination. But it’s possible – mainly by not being too precious and knowing a shower awaits at the end of each day.
Here are the minimal clothing items to pack to cover you for the entirety of the Lost City hiking tour in demanding terrain while staying comfortable.
- Two moister-wicking t-shirts and one pair of trekking pants (quick-dry material is better). Often, people pack two tops, one pair of long pants and a pair of shorts. If you are prone to mosquito bites, ditch the shorts and stay covered.
- A light, waterproof jacket for potential late afternoon showers in the wet season. You don’t need a down jacket or a heavy Gore-Tex jacket, as you will be sweltering in jungle humidity.
- Good-fitting and broken-in trekking shoes are essential, especially when walking on steep uphill and downhill terrain. I’ve had my trekking shoes for a couple of years, so they are well-worn to prevent blisters and pain points.
- Flip flops or sandals to change into at camp at the end of the day and for use in the shower.
- Underwear, because you want something to feel clean! Enough to last as things do not dry very quickly overnight.
After Trek Wear and Evening
- Bikini/swim trunks. There are plenty of waterfalls and water spaces along the trek, which makes for a relaxing cool-down after a hard day of trekking.
- A light pair of Pyjama bottoms to sleep in and as a cool and clean layer in the evenings. A pair of leggings would also serve the same purpose.
- A light mid-layer jacket or sweater is good when it can get a little chilly in the evenings. I always feel the cold, so this isn’t essential for everyone.
The Lost City trek is not a technical climb, so you don’t need to pack heavy-duty gear. The first step is choosing the right bag.
- Walking Sticks are a perfect means to balance and keep control on difficult terrain. I don’t always use them, but I wish I had brought at least one walking pole for the Lost City Trek. I was lucky that my Wiwa guide went to the jungle and found a solid stick I used from beginning to end. It saved me on several bumpy areas and losing my balance on the loose ground many times.
- Bin liner or dry bag to keep all clothing and electronics dry. My small 10-litre dry bag I brought with me was an aid in protecting my electronics, and fit neatly into my daypack.
- Headlamp for use at the camps. Electricity and lighting are turned off around 8-9 pm.
- Refillable water bottle. Each trekking group has a water tank assigned at each camp.
- Microfibre towel. You will want to shower every afternoon when arriving at camp, and quick dry material is the best option. Microfiber also saves space.
Avoid non-biodegradable and environmentally damaging products like baby wipes, and dispose of any packaging in the bins provided at camp.
- Mini-sized or sachets of shampoo and shower gel. I had an anti-mosquito liquid that could be used as a hair, body and shower gel. You can purchase a sachet of shampoo and hair conditioner at the pharmacy in Santa Marta.
- Deodorant. You want to feel fresh after a good clean.
- A toothbrush, and a small toothpaste tube. Ditch full-size and save space.
- Sun cream lotion. Because you are on the Caribbean coast, after all, and despite some jungle cover, there is a lot of sun exposure.
- Toilet paper. It’s wise to bring a small amount, not an entire roll, as all the camps are equipped but can easily run out late into the evening.
Medications and Hydration
You can’t purchase anything medicinal on the trek, so pack everything you need.
- Prescription medications and regular painkillers. For example, I must always carry two asthma inhalers and pack painkillers too for situations like dehydration, headaches and muscle aches.
- Rehydration salts or dissoluble tablets. I used these in a litre of water every day to ensure I had extra electrolytes trekking in the heat.
Humidity and heat is coupled with bugs and critters, bites and itching.
- Buy Mosquito spray locally. Most of the high-deet sprays from home don’t work well here, and deet is bad for the environment. Get some Nopikex Mosquito Repellent from a pharmacy in Santa Marta before you leave.
Electronics and Extras
Electronics are often the bulkiest and most precious items on most packing lists. Take only what you need – it’s a four-day trek, not 12.
- Camera and Phone. There is no WIFI out here, so enjoy the digital detox. But for some, their phone is their main camera and serves as a good torchlight.
- Fully charged power banks. Between the two of us, we had two fully charged power packs. I also took two fully charged camera batteries. Space limitations mean not being able to carry a huge bundle of individual chargers.
- Money for buying drinks and snacks. Every camp has a mini snack store with soft drinks, well-deserved beers, chocolate, and other snacks. Expect to pay 4,000 – 5,000 (up to $2) for a drink.
Ready to Reach Cuidad Perdida?
Packing is one part of the prep. My Lost City Trek Guide covers top tips, a route overview and the history of this sacred site, so you know when to go, how to book and the best ways to experience trekking in Colombia.