I traveled around South America for 6 months so in this article I will share the must-haves, some things I could have done without, and I will cover some items I have seen many fellow travelers asking on travel forums.
I will also cover the backpack I had and why I recommend it (no affiliation).
If you are short on time here is a quick summary of what to pack for a South America backpacking trip:
Must Haves: raincoat, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, long sleeve top and pants, warm jacket, swimsuit, towel, and international adapter.
Do I need hiking boots? - You do not need them but I had them and I used them a lot.
Which is the best backpacking bag? - Any bag from Osprey.
The most important tip - pack with a thought in mind that you can lose everything!
If you prefer to watch this in a video format, please scroll to the bottom of the article.
I planned to be in each country during the dry season but even then I faced some rain so a raincoat is a must-have! The weather in South America can be quite unpredictable. In the morning it can be sunny but after 3 hours there can be rain, so a good quality and easily foldable raincoat will be very useful.
The sun in South America is extra strong so sunscreen is also a must-have! I started my journey in February in Colombia with UV protection of 50 and then later in the trip, after 3 months I got down to 30. But I wouldn't use anything lower than 30. With this point, I would also like to add that a hat and sunglasses are also very useful.
Whatever mosquitos you have faced in your life, the ones in South America are on the next level! Apart from the allergic reaction, I also had bites that didn't go away for a month! Always have a mosquito repellant with you, no matter if you are in the city or jungle, but jungle FOR SURE!
Regarding clothes, it all really depends on your style and what you are planning to do but a long sleeve shirt and long pants I believe are necessary.
The biggest myth about South America - it is hot weather there all year around. Wrong! There is a lot to see and do up in the mountains and there it is always cold, so make sure you have a warm jacket.
And of course, it is hot in many places, so also a swimsuit is a must-have!
I would also recommend having a towel. I didn't use it that much but when I did I really needed it. I had the one that was easy to fold and doesn't take up too much space.
I know, packing for the South America trip is one of the hardest tasks!
Definitely make sure you have the right adapter so you are not left with a dead phone. I have an international adapter that fits everything - UK, USA, and EU plugs.
Do I need hiking boots?
I want to cover this because I have seen this question on so many travel forums. So I believe it might be on your mind too.
From my personal experience, I can say that I had hiking boots with me and I did wear them a lot. I need to add that I am passionate about hiking so I knew I will do a lot of trekking. At the same time, my boyfriend had only sports shoes with him and he was completely alright. So to summarize - you DO NOT NEED hiking boots but I had them and I did wear them a lot!
Which is the best backpacking bag?
Before getting one I did a massive search online and almost everyone recommended bags from Osprey.
Also when I started to travel, I saw so many people with Osprey bags so that was kind of confirmation that I made the right decision. Just if you do order from Osprey add something to your bag unique, like a keyring or a bow so your bag does not get mixed in the airport as I saw at least 6 identical bags to me during the trip!
The bag I ordered is not on the website anymore but I ordered the one meant for females and it was a 40L bag. I wanted to be 100% sure I will have no issues with the hand-luggage standards. And it didn't!
Other Packing Tips!
Always remember, if you forget something or you are missing something on the way, do not worry, you can always buy stuff. All the most popular brands can be found in South America, especially all the outdoor adventure shops!
If you are adventurous like me and you know you will go to the
Amazon and do similar tours then I would recommend getting a professional flashlight. These days you can get very small ones that do not take up too much space. I will definitely buy one for my next trip because I could use my phone flashlight but I felt like other travelers with powerful flashlights enjoyed the experience more.
Definitely ensure that whatever camera and drone equipment you have, get good quality hardcovers for them because even if you are a very careful person, there will be other people dropping and throwing your stuff!
Get extra pair of socks because laundry places will keep losing one sock every time.
The most important tip!
Pack with a thought in mind that you can lose everything. As dramatic as it sounds you need to ensure you do not pack anything you would hate to lose or ruin. Of course, a passport, phone, etc. goes in your little bag, which you NEVER let out of your view, always have this with you but other things that go in the big backpack can get ruined or the bag can get lost or robbed. It is just what it is. So if you pack with in that in mind you will be emotionally ready for what can happen.
All the above is summarized in this video: