Before I travelled to South America, I looked everywhere for a packing list. So many blogs provide lists for big time hikers and outdoorsmen when they refer to “backpackers”, but I couldn’t find anything that would help me decide what to pack if I planned on doing a lot of partying, a bit of hiking and a whole bunch of chilling. I wanted to be practical but not look like an absolute gimp in cargo pants and hiking boots the entire time. I was under the impression I’d stand out based on what I wore so I should be careful, but it ended up being so obvious that we were all tourists anyway that it really didn’t make a difference how we dressed ourselves.
During my trip I did a two-day hike through the Colca Canyons, biked down Bolivia’s Death Road, went to the Bolivian Amazon for three days and did a three day Macchu Picchu Jungle Trek. I also did a lot of partying and hanging out in hostel bars and I was grateful I brought mostly clothes I actually like, instead of only khaki bucket hats and reinforced-strap-dad-sandals, as recommended by most backpackers’ websites.
This is the list of items I brought with me, and they served me pretty perfectly.
Backpack (I used an Explore Planet Earth Torino 75L Travel Pack and it gave me enough space to bring back gifts)
Down jacket (I bought a cheap puffer jacket from ebay for $18 which kept me warm enough)
Travel money card
Insect repellent (Bushman’s offers up to 80% deet)
Small day backpack (I generally only took a 10L pack with me on the hikes, not my big pack)
Vaccinations book (It is essential that you have a yellow fever vaccination for South America)
Tights (I don’t own hiking gear so these were perfect when I went on treks, they were comfortable and kept the bugs off)
Vans/tennis shoes (or whatever enclosed shoes you wear day-to-day)
Boots (I took a pair of extra lightweight Doc Martens and used them as hiking boots which was not optimal but got me by. There were plenty of travellers who just wore sand shoes or Vans for hikes so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have proper boots).
Thongs (flip flops)
1x jeans (a lot of sites say don’t bring jeans – jeans were a lifesaver for me! It gets chilly at night and I wore these out almost every time)
3 x shorts (I packed loose-fitting denim cutoffs and two pairs of cute, loose-fitting high waisted shorts)
3x singlet (three nice singlets that didn’t cost me much but I wore a million times over)
1 x beach dress
2 x T shirt (these were perfect for hikes as they kept the sun off my shoulders)
1 x lightweight long sleeve shirt (for keeping off bugs when hiking)
1 x bra
1 x sports bra
10 x undies
5 x ankle socks
3 x long socks
2 x microfibre towel
Eye mask for sleeping
Shampoo and conditioner
Painkillers (ibuprofen and paracetamol)
Antimalarials (doxycycline or malarone)