If you’re going to South America, the prime problem is that you will encounter different climates, potentially making packing a tricky affair.
However, here is what I have taken and found to be essential. I have used every single item mentioned on this list – I hope I’ve remembered everything!
My bag weighed just 13kg at Heathrow Airport.
1. 1 pair of jeans. Jeans are heavy but essential for casual wear. They’re also great when it’s a cold.
2. 2 pairs of shorts. If you’re a girl, make sure one pair is suitable for a night out as shorts are easy to dress up or down. If you’re a guy, one pair could be a pair of board shorts for the beach.
3. 5 t-shirts/tank tops/sleeveless tops.
4. 1 nice top or shirt for going out. Make sure it’s lightweight and versatile in terms of where you can wear it.
5. 1 cotton summer dress. It will be lightweight, perfect for hot weather and beach destinations, and they roll up really easily.
6. 1 pair trekking shoes or sports sneakers. If you’re trekking, I would take trekking shoes but otherwise standard sneakers/trainers will suffice.
7. 1 pair flip-flops.
8. 1 pair shoes suitable for casual wear and going out. This may be your trusty Vans, some lightweight pumps, or a pair of ballet flats.
9. 7 pairs of underwear + 2 bras.
10. 7 pairs sports socks.
11. 4 pairs of thick socks (if you are taking trekking shoes).
12. 1 zip-up hoody. I prefer zip-up hoodies as you can simply undo them when it’s too warm and zip them back up when it gets chilly. If your hoody isn’t very thick, it might be worth taking an extra sweater or fleece to layer up in the super colder parts of South America.
13. 1 raincoat. It’s worth having a good quality, well-lined one rather than a basic, cheap shower-proof jacket.
14. 2 long-sleeved tops. Necessary for when it’s cold and also to protect you from mosquitoes. (These have been an honest God-send this trip! Mine cost me just £3 each from Primark.)
15. 2 pairs lightweight trekking trousers or 2 pairs of leggings. (Perfect for keeping away mosquitoes in hot weather, general lounging around, and any outdoors activities. I got mine from Mountain Warehouse.)
16. 2 bikinis or pairs of swimming shorts.
17. Woolly hat and gloves (especially if you’re doing the Salt Flat Tour!)
18. 1 sarong for lying on the beach – much lighter than a towel (and yes, boys, boys also use them!) I double mine up as a scarf when it’s cold.
AVOID: anything white + materials that crease really easily (like nylon and satin)
1. Travel towel – definitely worth the investment! Mine is a giant one from Mountain Warehouse.
2. Head torch.
3. Travel Blanket – I don’t recommend buying a sleeping bag liner, but travel blankets are very handy on those long and cold overnight bus journeys.
4. Eye mask and ear plugs.
5. Mosquito repellent with a good amount of DEET in it – the best repellents will be those that you buy in South America itself. You will also find that hostels and hotels provide mosquito nets so you don’t need to buy your own.
6. Money Belt. Especially for overnight buses!
7. Spanish Dictionary (and Portuguese if you are heading to Brazil).
8. Adaptor. The European one works in South America. If you have multiple things to charge, try to buy one that allows you to charge several things at once. Mine didn’t and it was such a hassle!
1. Sun cream.
2. Sun glasses.
3. Sun hat. I don’t have one, but if you’re sensitive to the sun, you may want one.
Sleeping bag and tent?
If you will only be camping once or twice, there is no point in a taking a sleeping bag as they are relatively inexpensive to hire once you are there.
The only time you’ll need a tent is if you’re planning on constantly hiking and camping.
Obviously this list isn’t perfect and what you decide to take will largely depend on the countries you’re visiting and at what time of year. So check the seasons properly before you pack!
Hope this helps you and leave any questions in the comments below,