It was weird.

There I was, trekking back up the mountainside clad only in a bikini and a sarong in my Havaianas, muttering profanities under my breath as I huffed and puffed back up to where our van was waiting for us. Not exactly what I expected to be wearing up in the mountains, but it made my hike back a lot more comfortable then if I wore sweats and a long-sleeved shirt with a jacket. Although I did change into that right after we got back to the lodge.

If you’re planning a trip to to Sagada, but don’t exactly know what to pack, here are my 10 essentials:

1. A big backpack. Yes, yes, travel light and all that. But if you’re anything like me and plan on staying the weekend, then you’ll need space for a towel (if you’re picky about stuff like that), clothes, med kit, tea stash, extension chords, chargers, and all the little things that don’t exactly fit into a handbag. I recommend the Little America Backpack by Herschel & Co. – it is sturdy AF, can pack up to 25 liters of stuff, and looks really pretty! That last one was more for me.


2. Clothes for layering. Wear your pants, jacket and over-sized scarf-slash-sarong on the 10-hour bus ride to the mountain province but pack your clothes for layering. The weather can be finicky and go from really, really cold at 6 o’clock in the morning to really humid at noon. A lightweight hoodie that you can zip up or take off as well as walking shorts and tank tops should do it.


3. Comfortable shoes and flip-flops. Wear your sneakers on the bus, but pack hiking shoes (if you want that extra grip and foot protection) as well as a pair of flip-flops for when you go spelunking, trekking, or just want to use the facilities. There is A LOT of walking to be done in Sagada, so be kind to your feet.


4. A travel pillow. As I mentioned above, the bus ride to and from Sagada is around 10 hours each way. That’s almost a whole day of you just sitting in a cramped bus trying to hold your liquids in whilst also trying to fall asleep. Travel pillows seem almost like a luxury item in situations like these, and I personally love Muji’s Neck Pillows. They come with a snap on closure so you can attach it to your backpack when you’re not using it. This also makes for a good souvenir bag for when your backpack is full.


5. A bikini/boardshorts and a rashguard. Some of the more popular activities in Sagada – like the cave connection and Bomod-ok Falls – will require you to be chest-deep in icy cold water. Makes sense that you bring clothes that dry quickly and help you NOT freeze your tits off.


6 Dry bag. Keep your camera, phone, notebook, and the kitchen sink dry while spelunking or traversing down the side of the mountain only go get soaked by the Bomod-ok Falls. I use a 20L Tactics Dry Bagpack that I got from Lazada which is pretty roomy. I can store my towel and two cameras in there with lots of space to spare. Plus this model lets you wear it like a backpack, making it super convenient.


7. A first aid kit. This is a no-brainer and a must when traveling anywhere. Always pack a few of the following: different sized bandaids, iodine, gauze and plasters, menthol rubs, and your go to medication for trips (you can read up on the Philippine equivalent of international over-the-counter meds to pack) as well as mosquito repellent. Popular local drug stores like Mercury Drug and Watsons usually have pre-packaged first aid kits on hand, pretty handy when you find yourself in a pinch.


8. A BPA-free water bottle. If it isn’t obvious already, you can expect to be doing a lot of walking. Hiking up and down the mountainside can get pretty tiring, and you will be kicking yourself for forgetting to bring a bottle. Even if you only plan on staying the weekend, you can save up tremendously by bringing your own BPA-free water bottle and filling up on water at the lodge you’re checked in at before you leave for the day. I love my BPA-free Water Bottle from Cotton On – it’s super handy and doesn’t take that much space.


9. A camera. This can be anything from the latest DSLR to your mobile camera, but it would be great if you could record your adventures in Sagada in one form or the other. I brought my trusty old FujiFilm X-M1 with me to document the trip – it’s really easy to use and makes me look like a pro when I shoot.


10 Cash. However much you think you’ll end up spending in Sagada, bring double that amount. I’ve only seen one working ATM up there and it is always out of cash! The tours can get expensive since you pay for the tour guide as well as the driver, and aside from your three squares a day, you’ll probably want to take home a few souvenirs, too.

Aside from these essentials, it would also be wise for you to pack sunscreen – I recommend VMV Hypoallergenics’ Armada Sport 70 – since the weather up in the mountains can be downright deceiving! After a day of going up and down the mountains, I woke up the next day all red!