Your Essential South America Packing Checklist Guide

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So you’re going on an adventure to South America? Working out exactly what to pack for a short vacation or a longer-term backpacking trip can feel like a daunting prospect. Before my first ever backpacking trip to South America back in 2014, I remember feeling exactly the same way. Since then, we’ve spent over five years living and traveling in the region and have backpacked, vacationed, and lived across the continent. We’ve overpacked (mostly), underpacked (rarely), and discovered exactly what items you can and can’t find across the continent if you forget or mislay them during your trip. Pack for a whole host of climates, altitudes, and weather systems with this packing list for South America.

Key Takeaways:

  • Preparing for a trip to South America can be overwhelming, but with the right packing checklist, you can feel confident and prepared.
  • Consider the climate and activities you’ll be participating in when packing your clothing.
  • Choose a backpack or suitcase that is comfortable and functional for traveling in South America.
  • Don’t forget travel essentials like insurance, travel documents, and camera gear.
  • With a well-prepared packing list, you can embark on your South America journey with ease.

Key things to consider before packing for South America

When preparing for your trip to South America, there are a few key things to consider before you start packing. These tips will help ensure that you have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable journey.

1. Type of Travel

Consider the type of traveling you will be doing in South America. Will you be backpacking, taking day trips, or staying in hotels? The type of travel will affect what you need to pack. If you plan to do a lot of hiking or outdoor activities, make sure to bring appropriate gear such as hiking boots, quick-drying clothes, and a rain jacket. On the other hand, if you will be staying in cities or doing shorter trips, pack comfortable and casual clothes for everyday wear.

2. Avoid Overpacking

One of the most common mistakes travelers make is overpacking. Remember that you can find most things in shops across South America, so there’s no need to bring your entire wardrobe. Laundry facilities are easily accessible in many places, so you can plan to wash your clothes during your trip. By packing light, you’ll have more flexibility and freedom to move around without being weighed down by heavy luggage.

3. Safety Considerations

South America, like any travel destination, has its own safety considerations. Be mindful of the valuables you bring and keep them secure. It’s a good idea to leave expensive jewelry and unnecessary electronics at home. Additionally, research the safest countries to visit in South America and plan your itinerary accordingly. It’s always better to be prepared and informed about the places you’ll be visiting.

By considering these key factors before packing for South America, you’ll be able to pack efficiently and enjoy your trip to the fullest.

Backpacks for South American Travel

When it comes to traveling in South America, a backpack is an essential piece of gear. Whether you’re planning on backpacking through the region or simply exploring cities and towns, a good backpack will be your trusty companion. When choosing a backpack for South America, there are a few key factors to consider.

Size and Capacity

First and foremost, think about the size and capacity of the backpack. This will depend on the length of your trip and the amount of gear you plan to carry. For shorter trips, a 45-60 liter backpack should suffice. However, if you’re embarking on a longer adventure or plan to carry camping gear, a larger capacity, like 65-85 liters, might be more suitable.

Comfort and Features

Comfort is another important factor to consider. Look for backpacks with adjustable straps and a padded back panel. A well-fitting backpack will distribute the weight evenly and prevent strain on your shoulders and back. Additionally, consider the features of the backpack, such as side pockets for easy access to water bottles, a rain cover for protection during rainy weather, and compression straps to secure your belongings.

OspreyAdjustable back system, side pockets, rain coverVarious sizes available$100-$300
BerghausComfortable fit, functional featuresVarious sizes available$80-$250

Ultimately, the best backpack for South America will depend on your personal preferences and travel style. It’s a good idea to try on different backpacks and see how they feel before making a decision. Remember, your backpack will be your home away from home, so choose one that feels comfortable and suits your needs.

With the right backpack on your shoulders, you’ll be ready to embark on your South American adventure with confidence and convenience. Pack your essentials, strap on your backpack, and get ready to explore all that this diverse and beautiful continent has to offer.

Wheeled suitcases for traveling in South America

When it comes to choosing the right luggage for your trip to South America, wheeled suitcases offer a convenient option, especially if you won’t be doing much hiking. While not as versatile as backpacks, they can still serve you well if you prefer the convenience of rolling your luggage rather than carrying it on your back.

When selecting a suitcase for South America, consider opting for a lightweight and durable option. Look for suitcases with either a hard or soft case, depending on your preferences and the level of protection you require for your belongings. A suitcase with a durable wheel system and sturdy handle will make navigating the streets and airports of South America much easier.

One recommended brand for wheeled suitcases is LEVEL8. They offer a range of sizes and compartments to suit your travel needs. Whether you’re embarking on a short city break or a longer adventure, a wheeled suitcase can be a practical choice for your journey through South America.

The Advantages of Using a Wheeled Suitcase in South America

  • Convenience of easily rolling your luggage
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver through crowded streets and airports
  • Provides protection for your belongings with a durable case
  • Available in different sizes and compartments to suit your travel needs

“A wheeled suitcase can be a practical choice for your journey through South America.”

Table: Comparison of Different Wheeled Suitcase Options

BrandFeaturesPrice Range
LEVEL8Durable wheel system, lightweight design, multiple compartments$100 – $300
American TouristerHardshell case, spinner wheels, expandable capacity$70 – $200
SamsoniteSecure locks, durable material, built-in TSA lock$150 – $500

Daypacks for South America

A daypack is an essential item to have when traveling in South America. It will serve as your go-to bag for carrying all your daily necessities as you explore the cities and embark on day trips. The right daypack should be comfortable, functional, and able to accommodate your needs and preferences. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the best daypack for your South America adventure. We’ve done the research for you and compiled a list of top recommendations that combine comfort, durability, and practicality.

  • Adjustable straps: Opt for a daypack with adjustable straps to ensure a comfortable fit on your back.
  • Pockets and compartments: Look for a daypack that provides ample storage space with various pockets and compartments for organizing your belongings.
  • Size: Consider the size of the daypack based on your needs. If you plan on doing day hikes or carrying a lot of items, a larger capacity daypack may be more suitable.
  • Waterproof or water-resistant: South America can experience unpredictable weather, so having a daypack that is waterproof or water-resistant can be beneficial.

“The right daypack should be comfortable, functional, and able to accommodate your needs and preferences.”

H3: Best daypacks for South America

OspreyTalon 22Adjustable shoulder straps, multiple pockets, hydration compatible$110
Lowe AlpineAirZone Trail 25Adjustable back system, large capacity, rain cover$120
PatagoniaArbor Classic Pack 25LRecycled materials, laptop sleeve, water-repellent finish$89

These daypacks have been tried and tested by travelers and have received positive reviews for their durability, comfort, and functionality. Whether you’re exploring the urban jungles of Buenos Aires or hiking through the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, having a reliable daypack will ensure that you’re well-prepared for your adventures in South America.

Clothes for South America | Hiking and essentials

When it comes to packing clothes for your South America trip, it’s important to consider the diverse climates and altitudes you’ll encounter throughout the continent. To ensure you’re prepared for any adventure, here’s a list of essential clothing items to pack for hiking and other outdoor activities in South America:

Hiking Clothes:

  • Breathable shirts and tank tops for warmer regions
  • Shorts for hiking in hot weather
  • Long pants or jeans for cooler climates or protecting against insects
  • Fleece jacket for layering in colder regions
  • Waterproof outer shell jacket for rainy periods
  • Down jacket for extremely cold regions or high-altitude hikes*
  • Travel shoes with good traction for hiking
  • Hiking socks for comfort and support

*Note: A down jacket may not be necessary for all South American destinations, but it can be useful for colder regions like Patagonia or high-altitude treks in the Andes.

Other Essentials:

  • Flip-flops for beach visits or hostel showers
  • Travel socks for everyday wear
  • A beanie, gloves, and a scarf for colder regions or high-altitude hikes

Remember to pack clothing that is versatile and can be easily layered to adapt to changing weather conditions. Opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying materials to ensure comfort during physical activities. Additionally, don’t forget to pack a travel laundry kit or consider utilizing laundry facilities available in South America to keep your clothes clean throughout your trip.

What Backpack to Bring To South America?

Choosing the right backpack is crucial for a successful backpacking trip in South America. You need a backpack that’s comfortable, durable, and able to accommodate all your essentials. Here are some factors to consider when selecting your backpack:

  1. Size and Capacity: The size of your backpack depends on the length of your trip and the amount of gear you plan to carry. For shorter trips, a 45-60 liter backpack should suffice. If you’re embarking on a longer journey or plan to carry more equipment, opt for a larger capacity backpack, around 65-85 liters.
  2. Fitting and Support: It’s essential to choose a backpack that fits your body well and offers proper support. Look for backpacks with adjustable shoulder straps, a padded hip belt, and a back panel with good ventilation. This will help distribute the weight evenly and prevent discomfort during long hikes.
  3. Durability: South America’s diverse landscapes and rugged terrain require a backpack that can withstand the elements. Look for backpacks made of durable materials like nylon or polyester, with reinforced stitching and sturdy zippers.
  4. Features and Organization: Consider the organizational features of the backpack, such as compartments, pockets, and straps. These will help you stay organized and easily access your gear. Look for backpacks with side pockets for water bottles, a separate compartment for a sleeping bag, and external attachment points for carrying extra gear.

Some popular backpack brands that are well-suited for South America include Osprey, Lowe Alpine, and Deuter. These brands offer a range of backpacks with different sizes, designs, and features to cater to your specific needs. Remember to break in your backpack before your trip to ensure maximum comfort.

Should I Get Travel Insurance for South America?

When planning your trip to South America, one important consideration that often gets overlooked is travel insurance. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, getting travel insurance for your South America trip is highly recommended. It provides you with valuable coverage and peace of mind during your travels.

Travel insurance can protect you against unexpected events such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and even emergency evacuation. South America is a diverse continent with varying landscapes, climates, and altitudes, which means there is a higher chance of encountering unforeseen situations. Having travel insurance ensures that you are financially protected in case of any unfortunate events.

Before purchasing travel insurance, it’s important to carefully read the terms and conditions to make sure you understand the coverage and any exclusions. Look for insurance providers that offer comprehensive coverage specifically tailored for South America trips. They should cover medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation or interruption, and baggage loss or delay. Additionally, check if they provide 24/7 emergency assistance so you can have support wherever you are in South America.

Remember, accidents and emergencies can happen to anyone, even the most seasoned travelers. It’s always better to be prepared and have travel insurance to safeguard yourself against any unforeseen circumstances. Don’t let a small expense now turn into a huge financial burden in the future. So, before you embark on your South America journey, be sure to get travel insurance and travel with peace of mind.

Table: Comparing Travel Insurance Providers for South America

Insurance ProviderCoverage24/7 Emergency SupportCost (for a 2-week trip)
Provider AMedical expenses, trip cancellation, baggage lossYes$100
Provider BMedical expenses, emergency medical evacuation, trip interruptionYes$150
Provider CMedical expenses, trip cancellation, baggage lossNo$80

Note: The table above provides a general comparison of travel insurance providers for South America. Costs may vary based on the length of your trip, age, and specific coverage options. It’s important to obtain a personalized quote from each provider to determine the best option for your needs.

What Other Travel Essentials to Bring To South America?

When packing for your trip to South America, it’s important to remember that there are other essential items you should bring besides clothing and backpacks. These additional travel essentials will help ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey throughout the continent.

Must-Have Items for South America Trip

Money Belt or Hidden PouchA secure way to keep your valuables, such as cash, credit cards, and passports, safe from pickpockets.
Universal Power AdapterAllows you to charge your electronic devices in different countries across South America.
Portable ChargerEnsures that you have a backup power source to keep your devices charged during long days of exploring.
First Aid KitIncludes essential medical supplies like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers for minor injuries and illnesses.
Reusable Water BottleHelps you stay hydrated while reducing plastic waste by refilling it with filtered water from trusted sources.
Travel TowelA compact and quick-drying towel that is essential for backpacking and camping adventures.
Travel DocumentsIncludes your passport, visas, and copies of important documents like travel insurance, reservations, and emergency contacts.

These travel essentials will provide you with added convenience, safety, and peace of mind during your South America trip. Remember to pack them along with your other belongings to ensure a hassle-free and enjoyable adventure.

Having a money belt or hidden pouch is crucial for keeping your valuables safe while exploring busy cities or crowded areas. It provides an extra layer of security, giving you peace of mind throughout your journey.

As you embark on your South America adventure, remember that these additional travel essentials can greatly enhance your experience. They will help you stay organized, protected, and prepared for any situation that may arise during your trip. By packing these must-have items, you can fully enjoy all the incredible destinations and experiences that South America has to offer.

What Camera Gear to Bring To South America?

South America is a photographer’s paradise, offering stunning landscapes and vibrant cultures to capture. When packing for your trip, it’s important to bring the right camera gear to ensure you can capture those unforgettable moments. Here are the essential camera equipment and accessories to consider for your South America adventure:

Camera Body

Choose a camera body that suits your photography style and preferences. Whether you prefer a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, make sure it has a good sensor for high-quality images. Consider factors like resolution, ISO range, and autofocus capabilities. Popular options include the Nikon D750 and the Sony Alpha a7 III.


Bring a selection of lenses to cover different shooting situations. A versatile zoom lens, like a 24-70mm or 18-135mm, is great for capturing wide-angle landscapes and close-up portraits. For wildlife or sports photography, a telephoto lens with a longer focal length, such as a 70-200mm, is essential. Consider also a prime lens with a wide aperture for low-light situations or creative depth of field effects.

Memory Cards and Batteries

Make sure to bring ample memory cards to store your photos. Opt for high-capacity, high-speed cards to accommodate the large file sizes of RAW images. It’s also important to have spare batteries and a reliable charger to keep your camera powered throughout your South America journey. Consider a portable power bank for charging on the go.

Tripod and Other Accessories

A tripod can be a valuable tool for capturing stable shots, especially in low-light situations or for long-exposure photography. Look for a lightweight and sturdy tripod that is easy to carry. Other accessories to consider include lens filters to enhance your images, a camera bag for protection and convenience, and a cleaning kit to keep your gear in top condition.

Remember to pack your camera gear securely and keep it easily accessible for those spontaneous photo opportunities that may arise during your South America adventure. With the right camera equipment, you’ll be able to create lasting memories of your journey.


Packing for your South America trip can feel overwhelming, but with our ultimate packing list and essential tips, you’ll be well-prepared for your adventure. Consider the diverse climates and activities you’ll be participating in, and pack clothing that is versatile and suitable for different weather conditions. Choose a comfortable and functional backpack or suitcase that suits your travel style. Don’t forget to pack travel essentials like insurance, important documents, and camera gear to capture the breathtaking landscapes and vibrant cultures of South America.

By following our South America packing guide, you can embark on your journey with ease and confidence, knowing that you have everything you need for an unforgettable trip. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins in Peru, hiking through the dense Amazon rainforest, or relaxing on the stunning beaches of Brazil, our packing checklist will ensure that you have all the essentials at your fingertips.

So, grab your backpack or suitcase, check off each item on our South America travel packing checklist, and get ready to experience the wonders of this captivating continent. We wish you a safe and incredible journey in South America!


What should I pack for a trip to South America?

The packing list for South America includes versatile clothing for different climates, a backpack or suitcase, a daypack, travel essentials like insurance and documents, and camera gear if desired.

Do I need a backpack or a suitcase for traveling in South America?

A backpack is the most versatile choice for traveling in South America, while a wheeled suitcase can work if you won’t be doing much hiking. Choose one based on your travel style and preferences.

What type of daypack should I bring for my South America trip?

Look for a daypack with adjustable straps and pockets for organization. Consider the size based on your needs, whether it’s for city exploration or day hikes. Popular brands include Osprey and Lowe Alpine.

What clothes should I pack for South America?

Pack breathable shirts, shorts, long pants, jeans, and a fleece jacket for layering. Don’t forget a waterproof outer shell jacket for rainy periods and consider a down jacket for colder regions. Also, pack travel shoes, flip-flops, and hiking socks.

What size backpack should I bring for my South America trip?

A 45-60 liter backpack is sufficient for shorter trips, while longer trips may require a larger capacity, like 65-85 liters. Look for backpacks with good back support and durability, such as Osprey and Lowe Alpine.

Should I get travel insurance for my South America trip?

Yes, it is highly recommended to get travel insurance for your South America trip. Travel insurance provides coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Look for insurance providers that offer comprehensive coverage and read the terms and conditions carefully.

What other travel essentials should I bring to South America?

Other travel essentials include a money belt or hidden pouch for keeping valuables safe, a universal power adapter, a portable charger, a first aid kit, a reusable water bottle, and a travel towel. Don’t forget your travel documents, including passports, visas, and copies of important documents.

What camera gear should I bring to South America?

Bring your camera gear, including a camera body, lenses, memory cards, and batteries. Consider bringing a tripod for more stable shots. Don’t forget camera accessories such as lens filters, a camera bag, and a cleaning kit to keep your equipment safe and in good condition.

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