How I packed my bag to travel South America
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Unknown
It’s always a challenge packing for a trip to unfamiliar climate and terrain. I knew my journey would test it all:
- trendy city life in Buenos Aires
- ice cold waters of the Chilean Pacific Ocean
- snowboarding in The Andes Mountains
- wandering the frosty desserts of Bolivia
- hiking Machu Pichu
- exploring the amazonian jungle in Ecuador
- basking in the sun and caribbean waters of Colombia
- surfing the entire west coast of the Americas and much, much more…
I travel light compared to most, whether it be for a weekend of camping in Australia or a month of snowboarding in Japan. I don’t need much. Although, this next adventure sure tested my packing skills.
This is what I traveled with.
After I decided to leave my job and picked my destination, firstly, I needed to find what I thought would be the best backpack on the market to comfortably get around and at the right price. Everyone I’d spoken to that’d traveled a bit replied the same. What ever size backpack you think you need – THINK SMALLER!
My other tip was also NOT to get a backpack that opens from the top (like most hiking packs do). When I would search for something in my pack it would be better to access my things from the front (similar to how a suitcase would open). Actually, during my travels, I have watched on as so many other backpackers with top opening packs would struggle in hostel rooms trying to dig to the bottom of their bag to find what they needed.
In the end after searching around many camping, baggage and other recreational stores, I went with MacPac. The travel bag I bought was the MacPac Orient Express 65.
I’ll proudly say I’m not the most tech-savvy Gen-Y around, but I do like to have good access to the small luxuries making travel easier. I’ve put together what items I chose to take. When choosing these items my main thinking was size and weight to carry with me. I also had to consider value of these items incase of damage or theft.
Most of my camera footage was shot using a GoPro Hero. The GoPro is compact perfectly suited to my trip especially when surfing, diving and snowboarding. After having Linda share with me some of her photographer advice I then switched to only taking photos on my iPhone. After a few lessons and many arguments for taking bad photos of her, I soon felt like I was taking way better snaps simply using my iPhone and appreciating the basics of taking a good photo.
I also used my iPhone for directions. I came across the most helpful travel App which I highly recommend for anyone to get prior to taking on for a trip. Maps.me provides fast, detailed and completely offline maps of all countries to ensure you never get lost. The category tab within this App is also great for finding Hostels, Wifi, ATM’s, Markets, etc.
I went with a MacBook Air and it was way more useful than I thought. The Air is really lightweight and fits comfortably in my daypack. I originally thought I wouldn’t spend much time on my computer but it’s perfect for reading, researching, emailing and listening to all my music. Only downside is the internal memory is limited, but I threw in a 1 TB external hard drive to load up.
My References: 1 iPhone 6 – 1 Macbook Air – 1 Hard-drive 1 TB – 1 GoPro Hero – 1 headphones – Adapters -Cables – Chargers
Here is a list of the documents I included to ensure hassle free boarder crossings. I won’t go into much detail, parents give several reminders about the importance of these just as mine did. Thanks Mum and Dad! It was annoying but necessary.
My References: 1 passport – 2 photocopies of passport – 6 passport photos – Credit and debit cards – Emergency funds (USD, everyone will take US cash so always have as extra stash) – Vaccination Certificates Identification – Internation Drivers License
Clothing as follows. Only tip I will give is to go easy on the branding and type of clothing you take. Just remember that cool retro Tee you plan on wearing for your photo at the top of Machu Picchu might be fashionable now, but, maybe when you show the photo to your kids a few years later they might not agree. So, keep it simple and stay classy.
My Inventory : 4 shirts – 3 t-shirts – 2 long sleeve shirts – 1 flannelette shirt – 3 pairs of shorts – 2 pairs of board shorts – 2 pairs of jeans – 1 hoodie – 1 rain/wind jacket – 1 pair of flip-flops – 1 sunglasses – 1 running shoes – 1 lightweight hiking pants – 1 hiking shoes – socks – underwear
Yes, I don’t have much. This is all I need day to day. Everyone is different and honestly these items don’t take up much space in your backpack, throw in whatever extra you need to be comfortable.
My Inventory : 1 towel – 1 Dr Bronner soap + soap container – 1 deodorant – 1 toothpaste and toothbrush – 1 face scrub – 1 floss pack – 1 zinc cream
I traveled with a little more medical supplies than others. I do recommend packing extra if like me, you plan to get off the beaten track. In the case you do happen to unfortunately injure yourself or become ill, sometimes it’s just bad luck that it will happen when you’re far from any form of medical treatment. Luckily I packed a little more as I became the ‘go-to on the road medic’ between travel friends.
My Inventory : 1 small medical kit – 1 box paracetamol – 1 box antihistamine – 1 box adhesive bandages – 1 large dressing pad – 1 bottle antiseptic – 1 antiseptic powder – 1 tweezers – 1 needle for removing splinters
A few extras I could and couldn’t live without…
My Inventory : 1 surfboard + its bag – 1 MacPac sleeping bag – 1 head torch – 1 swiss-army knife – 3 pad-locks – 1 mini sewing kit – 2 lonely planets – 3 reading books – 1 snorkel and mask – 2 lighters
At the time of packing I finally got everything to fit like a glove. I was too worried about under packing and forgetting something. It’s crazy now to look back and realise how stupid that sounds. I shouldn’t have stressed: with some local currency and a bit of confidence, I could always have gone and bartered down at the markets anyway.
Now, after a year wandering throughout South, Central and North America, I am more experienced. So there is fewer things I would have taken and as a result I could get away with a smaller bag. I would probably ditch my sleeping bag (can rent these everywhere for short camp trips), hiking boots (a good pair of runners will do fine) and some other clothing that I didn’t wear that much.
So even for me I would still go smaller if I had the chance to pack again; it will probably be the topic of another post 😉