Lost City Packing List: What to bring on a 4-day jungle trek

Trekking to Colombia's Lost City is a great adventure -- but you need to pack as little as possible for this four day jungle trek.

So you’ve signed up to trek to Colombia’s mysterious Lost City. You’ve got four days of adventure ahead of you: fording rivers, climbing mountains, and exploring abandoned ruins sites. The bad news? You’ll have to do it all while carrying everything you bring on your back. The key to surviving this trek is to pack as little as possible. In this post, I’ll provide you with the perfect Lost City packing list to make sure you have everything you need — and nothing more.


Wile you’re trekking, you can leave all the rest of your belongings at your Lost City tour company office in Santa Marta. I went with Expotur Colombia and they even brought my bag to meet me on the last day so they could drop me off at Costeno Beach, near Tayrona National Park. So you have no excuse — pack as light as you can!


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1. Backpack: Osprey Day Lite


Everything on your Lost City trek packing list should be able to fit into a day pack.
Halfway through the Ciudad Perdida trek with my loyal Osprey Day Lite backpack.


The goal of this Lost City packing list is to travel with just a day-pack, not your big travel backpack. And the ideal day-pack to use is the small but sturdy Osprey Day Lite. I’ve traveled all over the world with this pack, and it’s never let me down.


The Day Lite is smaller than typical school backpacks, but perfectly designed for outdoor adventure. It accommodates a Camelbak water bladder. Even better, it has waist and chest straps. This helps a lot with weight distribution — the people whose backpacks only had shoulder straps on my Lost City trek constantly complained about neck pain.


If you follow the rest of this Lost City packing list you’ll have no trouble fitting everything into this bag.


2. Clothing


You can leave the rest of your clothes in Santa Marta -- only pack what you really need for the Ciudad Perdida trek.
Even though you’re in the mountains, the climate of the Sierra Nevada is extremely hot and humid. Wool clothes are best, as they dry fast and don’t smell.


It’s a tough balance on the Lost City hike. On the one hand, you want to bring as little as possible. On the other, it’s so hot and sweaty that you won’t want to wear the same clothes each day.


I suggest striking a middle ground — bring a change of underwear and socks for each day, but only two shirts and one pair of pants. And of course you’ll want something to change into after you finish trekking each day. This is assuming you’re doing the trek in four days. If you’re extending to five or six, throw one more shirt in your bag.

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The essential Lost City packing list clothes:

  • Two wool or polyester, quick-drying, lightweight t-shirts. I particularly like this one from Toad & Co — it’s super durable.
  • One lightweight, comfy shirt to wear in the evenings and as pajamas. Choose something you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
  • One pair of hiking pants. Although many people hike in shorts, I highly recommend long pants due to the bugs. These pants from Toad & Co are perfect.
  • One pair of leggings for the evenings and as pajamas.
  • Four pairs of hiking socks.
  • Four pairs of underwear.
  • Two sports bras.
  • Bathing suit — you’ll have several opportunities to swim in rivers.


3. Shoes


On the way to the Lost City itself, you'll have to cross this river -- bring strap-on sandals.
Bring a pair of strap-on sandals for the river crossings and to wear in the evenings.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only hiking boots I will ever trust are these amazing Merrells. They’ve taken me to the crater of a volcano in Ethiopia, a jungle trek in Malaysia, and up to nearly 5,300 meters in the Himalayas. Again on my Lost City trek, they held up, despite the rain, mud, and river crossings. Because the trails are so steep and muddy, I would definitely recommend proper hiking boots over regular sneakers.


You should also bring a pair of sandals to change into in the evenings. Flip-flops are fine, but I prefer these Tevas for extra sturdiness and support. Since they’re strap-ons, you can wear them for river crossings too.


4. Toiletries


Feel free to abandon your beauty routine on this trip and only bring the essential toiletries.
No matter what you bring in terms of hair products and makeup, you’ll end up looking gross after three days in the jungle. Don’t even bother.


In case it wasn’t already clear, you’re going to be dirtier during your trek to the Lost City than you ever thought possible. Whatever your normal beauty/hygiene routine is, you won’t be able to maintain it in the jungle. So don’t even try. Bring only the essentials on your Lost City packing list:

  • Body wash or soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel-sized tube of toothpaste
  • Deodorant (if you have a small one — otherwise, don’t even bother)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Contact lenses (with at least two buffer pairs) and/or glasses if you need them
  • One small bottle of high-SPF sunscreen.
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET.
  • Toilet paper. Most campsites don’t have it
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One thing on this list bears extra emphasis — the mosquito repellent. The bugs at the Ciudad Perdida ruins themselves are some of the worst I’ve ever encountered in the world. Expect to go through most of a small bottle of bug spray on this trek. Don’t take any chances — infected mosquito bites are extremely common in this part of Colombia. One guy in my group got one and became so ill that had to ride back on a mule before we even got to the Lost City.


5. Electronics


Add a camera to your Lost City packing list to make sure you can capture the beautiful landscapes and fascinating ruins.
If you want this iconic photo of the Lost City, bring a camera.


Yes, you’re heading deep in to the Colombian jungle. But it’s not totally insane to include some electronics on your Lost City packing list — most of the camps have power where you can recharge things.


Still, electronics take up space and add weight. Plus, they’ll be vulnerable in the event of a downpour. So I’d keep it pretty minimal:

  • Camera or phone to take photos on: I use the awesome-but-still-lightweight Sony A6000
  • Camera/phone charger and spare battery
  • Plug adapter if you need one
  • At least one — maybe two — plastic bags to protect each piece of electronic equipment you bring


6. Essentials for the jungle


Don't forget insect repellent -- the bugs during the Ciudad Perdida tour are insane.
Insect repellent is perhaps the most important item on a Lost City trek.


The Colombian jungle is a tough environment to hike in. Throw these items in your bag to make your trek more comfortable and safe.


First, bring a camping towel and an inflatable pillow. The towel will allow you to shower when you get to camp each afternoon — which is huge for feeling less disgusting. The pillow is less essential, as all the camps provide pillows. The provided ones are clean, but they smell gross and they aren’t very comfortable. Additionally, pack a headlamp for middle-of-the-night bathroom runs and early-morning packing.


Rain protection is a big issue on the Lost City hike. Even when it’s dry season in Colombia as a whole, it still rains in the jungle — and by “rains,” I mean “rains.” The humidity means nothing will dry overnight. If putting on damp socks sounds unpleasant to you, take steps to prevent your backpack from getting wet: Invest in a decent rain cover. Additionally, line the inside of your backpack with a garbage bag. Finally, carry an additional garbage bag that you can pin to the outside of your pack, above your rain cover.

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You can buy bottled water all along the way to the Lost City, but it’s not very environmentally friendly. Instead, bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill with safe, purified water at each camp for free. I also recommend bringing a Steri Pen — a U/V light that purifies water in 90 seconds without affecting taste. This provides an extra layer of protection from the treated water, but it also allows you to fill your bottle from streams and rivers between camps. Better yet, you can use it throughout the rest of your travels in Colombia and totally avoid buying bottled water!


7. Lost City packing list nice-to-haves


To get to the Ciudad Perdida itself, you have to climb 1,200 stone stairs. Trekking poles help.
Trekking poles help a lot when you hike Ciudad Perdida — the trails are insanely steep.


If you were able to fit everything above into your Day Lite pack and still have space, congratulations! You’re a master trek packer. Consider using the space that’s left on one of these items.


First, you could consider bringing a book on your trek. Long afternoons at the camp can be pretty boring, and reading material helps. Just remember that books add weight and you stand a good chance of it getting wet.


Better than books perhaps would be a deck of playing cards. Use it to make new friends in your trekking group and pass the time — or just play solitaire if you’re feeling anti-social.


Finally, proper trekking poles would make the extremely steep descents a lot easier on your knees, if you don’t mind carrying them. For more on the pros and cons of using trekking poles, check out this article.


And that’s it! If you follow this Lost City packing list, you’ll be covered with everything you need for this four day jungle trek, without having to lug around anything extra. Happy hiking!


What’s your favorite trekking accessory? Leave a comment and tell me about it!


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Trekking to Ciudad Perdida in Colombia? It's a great adventure -- but what do you need to bring? This Lost City packing list will help you prepare... #colombia #travel #packing


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5 years ago

I didn’t get a chance to do this when I was there and I kinda regret it. Looks amazing and I have to agree Merrells are the best hiking shoes ever.

5 years ago

I understand why you want to pack as little as possible if you are carrying it all on your back. But I would have to improve my packing skills to try this trek! Packing for busy hiking sweaty days must be a challenge. Especially if you really can’t wash things at the end of the day. Hiking boots and sandals seem like a good idea. I would definitely want a good supply of bug repellent. We got a good rain cover for our new backpack. Even doing city trip we wanted to protect the stuff inside! But extra garbage bags… Read more »

5 years ago

Oh wow, so impressed with how little you packed for four days! In the end, the less you pack the better right! The trek looks amazing, thank you for sharing.

Stevo Joslin
5 years ago

Thanks for the trekking tips! The hike looks amazing and very strenuous! I didn’t know anything about trekking poles before but it’s definitely something I’ll check out before my next bog hike! And good call on all the mosquito repellant. If you say they’re the worst you’ve ever seen maybe I’ll bring three or four bottles! Infected bites are nothing to mess with, especially in the humidity. Thanks for sharing!

Vanessa Workman
Vanessa Workman
5 years ago

Impressive packing list! You obviously have it down to a minimalist science and I’m going to heed your advice on my next jungle adventure. I’m absolutely the worst packer of all times (always too much). But wow, also very cool that they have power in those camps for recharging electronics. I wouldn’t have even considered that a possibility on a 4 day jungle trek.

Elaine Masters
5 years ago

Wow. I’d love to tackle this hike but it sounds gruelling. A truly Lost City is a once in a lifetime trip though. Bugs and heat are enough to keep me away! I so admire your gumption.

5 years ago

Haha, I just love your tip to not even bother with beauty products! I can just imagine how gross I’d end up feeling (and looking) after 3 days in a jungle! But your tips are extremely helpful – thank you!

5 years ago

I totally agree with on you a couple points – the Osprey Day pack is awesome and yep, leave the make up at home or in your hotel/hostel. Sweat, humidity, etc… everyone comes out looking gross, so save the space and the weigh in your bag for camera or food!

5 years ago

I LOVE abandoned ruins sites! Hiking through the Colombian jungle would be an amazing memory and the lost city looks gorgeous. Hank you for all the information on how to make this happen

5 years ago

OMG the mosquitos here really are the worst!! I was so glad I wore trousers actually in the Lost City itself, I still got bitten but much less than my friend who just had shorts on. It is totally worth all the effort and bites though, it is a magical place 🙂


[…] out my full Ciudad Perdida trek packing list for more, but for now, suffice it to say that you will have to carry everything you bring — […]

2 years ago

Wow, this is very useful! Thank you very much!

1 year ago

Thanks for the advice!
I am heading on this trek (5 day) at end of May. I will certainly consider what you have said and I look forward to the challenge of the hike and the challenge of gear options.

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