A PACKING LIST FOR SOUTH AMERICA
So you’re going on a big backpacking trip across South America and you need to pack for several months on the road. Not only that, but you also need to pack for different geographies and climates which will range from bone-chilling mountains ranges to sweat-inducing beaches. Where do you even begin?
Fret not! I recently spent 5 months in South America and I only brought along my Osprey Sojourn 80L wheeled backpack and a carry on backpack. Those two pieces of luggage fit all of my clothes, all of my electronics, and I can’t say I ever lacked anything.
Today I thought I would share my packing list for South America, so let’s have a look at everything I brought along, shall we?
// Luggage //
Backpack – I brought my Osprey Sojourn 80L backpack on this trip. I love that it is a wheeled luggage / backpack cross over that you can roll around or strap on to your back depending on the terrain. You can read a full review of the Osprey Sojourn here.
Carry on pack – I have a backpack that carries my computer, camera, and the rest of my electronics. I always bring this on the plane with me.
Cable lock – To secure your valuables on buses or in hostels. For peace of mind, a cable lock is a must add item to your packing list for South America – especially if you’re going to be taking a lot of overnight trains and buses, or staying in dorms.
Purse or tote– I use this whenever I’m out sightseeing for the day. Just something where I can carry my camera, a map, and a bottle of water.
Packing cubes – The reason my suitcase is not a huge mess. If you’re going to be travelling for a few months, it’s worth investing in some packing cubes to keep your clothes organized.
Laundry bag – Hardly takes up any space and it keeps your dirties from mixing with clean clothes.
// Clothes //
Shirts (7) – I included a mix of tank tops, short sleeves, and long sleeves with the intention of layering some of these if it got cold. I mostly stuck to neutral colours that can be easily mixed and matched with different bottoms.
Fleece (1) – You’ll want to pack a fleece is you’re travelling to colder, high-altitude destinations where the temperature drops overnight. Alternatively, if you don’t want to bring a fleece from home, you can buy a warm alpaca sweater along your travels (I bought one at an artisanal market when I arrived in Cuzco). Also remember to keep your fleece or sweater handy for overnight bus travel as it can get quite cold when the AC is blasting.
Rain jacket (1) – I would recommend going for a rainproof windbreaker. You can wear this over your fleece, and it’ll come in handy if you’re planning on doing treks (like the Inca Trail) and outdoors adventure type activities.
Cardigan (1) – For days when you want something a little dressier to keep you warm. Again, I went with a neutral colour that worked with my tops or a dress.
Dress (1) – For a nice evening on the town, whether that be date night, catching a tango show, or going to a performance.
Shorts (2) – I packed one pair of ripped jean shorts for casual days, and another pair of high-waisted back shorts that I could dress up a bit more. I wore these 2 on rotation.
Skirts (1) – I brought along a neutral skirt that worked well with all of my shirts.
Pants (2) – I packed 1 pair of jeans for cooler destinations and another pair of breezy summer pants for warmer destinations.
Leggings (2) – I basically qualify these as pants. Since leggings are so comfortable, I often wore them on long travel days, for lounging around, and sometimes even as pyjama pants. If I was travelling somewhere particularly cold, I would also wear a pair underneath my jeans. I had one pair of cotton leggings and another pair of fleece-lined ones for colder climates.
Undergarments – Enough for a week is fine, and then you can always wash things in your hotel sink if you’re running low.
Bathing suit (1) – Especially important if you’re including some beach destination on your South America itinerary.
Socks (5 pairs) – A mix of ankle socks, crew socks, and fuzzy socks.
// Shoes //
Sneakers – For hiking and long days of walking around a new city. If you don’t like the look of sneakers, another idea is to get a pair of canvas shoes with memory foam. I usually wear my sneakers on travel days since they are my bulkiest and heaviest shoe. Depending on how much trekking you’re planning to do, you may want to consider adding a pair of hiking shoes to your packing list for South America.
Flip flops – For warm destinations, the beach, and showers.
Sandals – One strappy leather pair that can dress up an outfit.
// Accessories //
Hat (1) – A straw hat or baseball cap for days of sightseeing in the heat.
Toque (1) – I ended up buying a chullo at an artisan’s market in Cuzco, which I wore in cold climates.
Scarf (1) – I brought one light scarf that could either be worn to protect my shoulders from the sun on a hot day, or to wrap around my neck when it’s cold.
Gloves (1) – Just a cheap pair for those days of hiking when the temperature barely hovers above zero. It may seem like a silly thing to add to your packing list for South America, but keeping warm can make the world of a difference in your mood.