Backpacking South America: What to Pack!

Backpacking South America: What to Pack!

Hooray!  I am about to embark on a South America vacation with only what I pack in my backpack to weigh me down.

Wait.  What.
Prissy or not, I like ‘packing security’ and bring full size zebra print suitcases for three day weekends in Vegas.  This is the same girl that brought 10 bathing suits for a 7 day yacht trip through Greece.  Just in case I wanted some mid day wardrobe changes I suppose.  The same girl who brought two oversized suitcases (yes, more-than-50-pounds-pay-extra-oversized) to study abroad in Spain.. but came home with three to house the 9 pairs of shoes I couldn’t-live-without and had-to-buy when there.

So I challenged myself, to really cut corners, bring only the essentials and pack as lightly as possible to leave room for a pair or two of those can’t-live-without purchases.  And I did it.
Lets take a moment to chat about pack size.  I bought mine off ebay for $45.  The brand is ‘Creeper’
and holds 60 liters, comes with a rain cover and has plenty of pockets and straps to feel legitimate.  This bag worked great for me – but I did not ‘overpack’ it. And it is almost a compulsion on one to see which bag suits you the best, because you might need to save all the energy you can. has a lot of reviews and ideas through which you can sift through to see if you’re overpacking or if there’s a room for more, and you can also get to know what bag suits what kind of expedition. Travelling light with these lightweight options always makes a trip invigorating as you would have a lot more energy in reserve when compared to travelling with excessive baggage. If you are planning on doing serious hiking trips or packing your bag until the seams burst, then splurge the $200-$300 to get a serious bag from REI.  Also men, and some women, can easily go up to 75 liters if you crave the extra space.  My mantra is save my back, pack with the intent that clothing will be ruined and discarded throughout the trip, and save room for shopping. If you are looking for larger and more spacious backpack, check out best tactical backpacks.
  • Passport
  • Copy of passport
  • debit card & credit card (call bank ahead to tell them you’ll be leaving the country, see if your card has a chip in it – it will be more readily accepted at ATMs)
  • Insurance Card
  • U.S. currency ($200 is fine, this is an emergency reserve, not to spend!)
  • Journal & pen
  • Camera & charger & extra memory card
  • Phone & charger
  • Kindle (or ipad) & charger
  • Small lock with key or code
  • Prescription Medications (clearly labeled with doctors note)
  • Any other meds (Tums, Aspirin, etc)
  • Small first aid kit
  • Bug Spray!
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick with sunblock
  • 4 oz Shampoo
  • 4 oz Conditioner
  • Bar of Soap or body wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • toothbrush holder
  • Facewash
  • Makeup remover wipes
  • 4 oz body lotion
  • face lotion with sunblock
  • mascara, bb cream, lip gloss & bronzer
  • 10 extra large freezer bags
  • nail polish
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • hair brush
  • razor
  • needle and threat kit
  • contact case
  • contact solution
  • extra contacts
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras and 1 strapless bra
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 8 tank tops
  • 5 tshirts
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of lightweight pants
  • 1 beach cover up
  • 1 pair of pajama/gym shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans (especially important for guys – can’t get into some clubs without long pants)
  • 2 pairs of flip flops
  • 1 pair of athletic sneakers
  • 1 hat
  • 1 scarf that doubles as a beach wrap
Now comes the tricky part… how to pack.
I laid all my clothing flat, folded each item once then tightly rolled it up.  Each rolled article of clothing I put into their appropriate XL zip lock baggie.  I organized the bags in the following categories: , tshirts, dresses/beach coverups, shorts, socks/undies/bras, bathing suits, makeup, shower essentials, remaining toiletries, and charging cords/electronics together.  I kept most of the bags slightly open on one corner to allow them to compress easier.
As I begun to wear things, I started a ‘dirty clothes bag’ which i kept in a separate compartment of the pack.  I also quickly learned to dry off the shower essentials before putting them back into their bag.
All of this only filled up 3/4 of my bag, leaving me plenty of room to buy along the way!
*Tip:  when you run out of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. on your trip – keep the travel size bottles and buy full size bottles at the local convenience store.  Split the cost with travel friends and divide amongst yourselves, refilling bottles.

Fashion –  I brought indie/coachella inspired fashion.  Backpacking is a bit of a hippies world, and the fashion is carefree with fun patterns and colors but effortlessly put together.  Don’t stress about bringing jewelry, you’ll make friends who will give you bracelets and you’ll acquire trinkets along your journey.

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