Packing List for South America (UPDATED)
A little overdue, but here's my updated list of what to take to South America. I'm going to compare this list to my previous list I posted before my trip to let you know what actually worked and what didn't. Hope this helps! So, first things first, I took way too much stuff! I only took a 40 L backpack and a smaller day pack and it was still too much stuff.
CLOTHES I took one pair of jeans, which worked out well for me. Even though jeans are heavy, wearing the one pair while flying helped and I was able to wear them multiple days. Also, there are laundromats all over in Cuzco so you really only need to bring bare minimum cause you can just have your clothes washed for only a few soles. They charge you based on the weight of your clothes. I packed 3 yoga pants, which was a huge mistake. Only 1 is necessary, although having an extra pair was nice on the days you got really dirty (while hiking) so that you have a clean pair you can switch into. I packed way too many t-shirts. Next time I think I will only take 2 quick dry t-shirts and 1-2 tank tops. I had a long sleeve shirt I never wore, a flannel I never wore, and another shirt I never wore. When you're out and about and traveling with just a backpack, you really want to have the lightest backpack possible. Especially if you're going to be trekking to Machu Picchu. I regretted my heavy backpack so much on the Inca Jungle Trek. Although they do allow you to leave your pack on some days at the hostel or they have a van take it to your next destination, on one day you have to carry it with you all day. So seriously, the lighter the better! Don't break your back. I took one fleece sweater which was really important to have because it does get super cold in Cusco. I ended up losing my sweater so I have to get a new one. I also took a rain jacket which is also extremely important to have because it rains a lot in Peru. The one I took was not water proof so I definitely will be investing in a good quality rain jacket for next time. I also took about 4-5 pairs of socks, which was a good choice because it's nice to have clean socks you can change into when your socks get wet from the rain. I took a few pairs of underwear too just because they are small and I didn't want to have to wash them often. For shoes, I took a pair of New Balance cross trainers, my Toms, and cheap sandals. Sandals are a definite must! I wore them in the hostel showers and they were great for wearing after each day of the Inca Jungle Trek. My cross trainers held up pretty well. I wouldn't say hiking shoes are an absolute necessity, but I did kind of wish I had hiking shoes that were a little more water resistant. But a few of the girls in my jungle trek group had hiking shoes and they still got wet. In one of the small towns we stayed at during our trek we were able to pay to have our shoes cleaned and dried. My Toms weren't necessary, but they were nice to have to wear just on casual days while walking around the city.
EXTRAS I took my DSLR and I barely ended up using it. I think the reason for that was because I am still a beginner at taking pictures with it and a lot of the times it was a hassle to bring it out of my backpack. So next time, I may just skip taking the big camera and just stick to my iPhone and my Sony Action Cam. I also carried around my Joby Gorillapod, which I never used once!
The collapsible water bottle I took was definitely a good choice. I bought water bottles there and would pour the water into the collapsible one and hooked it onto my backpack. Very versatile!
My Sony Action Cam was great and took a lot of footage with it, but I kind of regret not getting the GoPro instead. Because I didn't realize that the GoPro can transfer files via Bluetooth on your phone. But the Sony Action Cam is still a nice camera that I was able to take some good videos with.
A rain cover for your backpack is absolutely necessary! It rained a lot during our trek and I felt comfortable that my gear was protected with this rain cover. But I also used these dry bags for extra protection and put my camera and other electronics in these bags inside my backpack.
A headlamp is a must. I only used it the morning of Machu Picchu when we started our hike up around 4:30 in the morning. It was super dark hiking up and it was nice not having to hold a flashlight while hiking.
The money belt I used was also a good buy in my opinion. I felt safer having my passport, credit cards, and some extra cash on my body than in my bag. Your bag can get snatched from you a lot easier than the money belt. I always just kept my every day cash in a smaller coin bag I bought while I was there separate from my stash cash. Some of the travelers I met didn't even feel the need to keep their money belts a secret and used them like purses! I guess to each their own and you can use it how you feel most comfortable.
A quick dry towel is an absolute must! They are much more compact than a regular towel and you can hang them to dry overnight. Hostels don't provide you towels, however you can pay to rent them. I felt more comfortable having my own.
Locks are also a must because you need a lock to secure your stuff in the hostels when you don't want to lug everything around when you're out exploring. I took two, and used one for my gear at the hostels and one for my daypack.
And finally the clotheslines I took never came to use. I never ended up washing my own clothes and instead just paid to have my clothes washed. It was much more convenient. The female pee pee device I took never got used either. Although, I'll still have to test this thing out the next time I go on a trip. It was just never practical to bust that thing out and especially because I never had a bottle I could use to pee into. Next time, I think i'll make sure to carry an empty bottle I can use to pee into while trekking. :)
This is the toiletry bag that I used and the day pack I took. I would highly recommend both. The toiletry bag was a little small, but great to force you to take the bare minimum and the bag itself is super lightweight and water resistant. And the day pack I took has a lot of cool security features that allowed me to feel comfortable walking around not having to worry about being pick pocketed. But to be honest, I never felt unsafe during my whole trip, however it doesn't hurt to be extra cautious just in case!
That's about it for my gear list! I hope this helps you decide on what to take to South America. Please let me know below if you have any questions and I would be more than happy to help! Also, none of the links above are affiliate links or sponsored. These are my actual opinions and the gear that I actually used and tested on my trip! :)
Take care and talk to you soon!