Packing for a tropical getaway usually only involves deciding what color swim trunks to pack. But when your plans include jungle hiking, cave exploration and scuba diving, things get a little more complicated. The key is versatility — you need gear that works underground or underwater just as well as it does topside. For our week in Belize we made sure everything we took did more than just one thing well. This saved space in our luggage and let us be nimble yet well prepared. Here’s a sampling of what we took.
Dakine Cyclone Drypack
The Cyclone pulled double duty, schlepping a towel, dry shirt, sunscreen and other essentials during days on the salt-sprayed dive boat, and carrying our lunch, layers and extra headlamp batteries as we negotiated the dripping caves of the Mayan underworld. The thick padded straps and back pad were comfortable, even when loaded; the 36-liter rolltop main compartment swallowed up gear with plenty of room to spare, while the outer pocket was perfectly sized for an energy bar and camera. Through it all, the thick rubberized material with welded seams kept everything dry.
Adidas Clima-Cool Boat Lace
These aren’t your dad’s boat shoes. The Clima-Cool Boats fit like slippers but wore ruggedly, even through a jungle hike. While the soles are perforated for drainage, the sticky rubber provided grip on slick tree roots and wet boat decks alike. The lightweight mesh uppers don’t absorb water and kept our feet cool as well as sandals would have — but with more protection.
Patagonia Tropical Flats Shorts
Versatility was the name of the game in Belize and the Tropical Flat shorts delivered, going from jungle trekking to snorkeling and then on to al fresco dinner. So light and airy are these shorts, we had to double check that we were still wearing them from time to time. The nylon/spandex fabric is cool and dries very quickly, both welcome traits in the tropics. A drawstring elastic waistband and mesh pockets keep things simple.
Patagonia R1 Wetsuit
Built for surfing but still perfect for diving, the R1 added warmth instead of bulk by means of a polyester (recycled, naturally) grid lining in the suit’s torso and thighs. The welded seams and double-sealed neck opening kept us snug while the rear zipper laid flat and didn’t interfere with tanks.
Volcom Colorblock Rash Guard
When you’re snorkeling off the beach a wetsuit is overkill, but going bareback risks sunburn. The Volcom rashie fits snugly enough to keep from riding up on you but not so snug you have to suck in your gut when you walk up onto the beach. 50+ UPF protection means you won’t get scorched while scouring the shallows for treasure.
Suunto Zoop Dive Computer
There are dive computers with electronic compasses and those that can sync with your regulator — or even your dive buddy’s. But when it comes to underwater instruments, we prefer to keep it simple, and the Zoop is as simple as they come. It’s compatible with air or nitrox diving and capable of no-deco or decompression diving, and you won’t be left wanting for features. Suunto’s conservative diving algorithm keeps you safe, which is what you want deep down.
REI Endeavor Convertible Pants
Zip-off pants have gotten a bad rap thanks to countless sunburned, airport-wandering dads. The Endeavors should help change that impression. The cut is fitted and athletic, the crotch is gusseted for climbing and the nylon material has a bit of stretch to it for easy movement. The legs have full-length zippers so you can go from pants to shorts with little fuss, and the reinforced knees were appreciated during tight squeezes while spelunking.
Light & Motion GoBe
It used to be that dive lights didn’t work on dry land, and vice versa. That’s because high-powered diving lights get hot and rely on water to keep them cool. The Light & Motion GoBe solves the problem with its innovative cooling channel that circulates water or air around the hot light element, letting it go from underwater to underground. The Action Camera Kit lends even more versatility with a camera tray for a GoPro and two flexible arms that accept the modular lights for shooting underwater video. When we went caving, the GoBe was mounted on our helmet and, even on low power, illuminated spooky stalactites and human remains just fine without burning through battery life.