Jul 11, 2010 - Wanderlust    No Comments

An Epic Packing List

A Packing List for the Unknown [*updated post]

I am going to South America.  Perhaps you knew that already. I leave in a couple of weeks, and have no set return date, and yet, I’m just starting to make my packing list. As of now my plans include: Hiking Macchu Picchu in Peru, renting an apartment in Buenos Aires, and trying to set foot in all 13 countries on the continent.  So given the fact that my time-frame is undefined, and my itinerary is open how does one begin to pack for an adventure such as this. Carefully, very carefully.  I know one thing:  I need a bag.  My previous backpack is a Kelty external frame doozy and while it gotten my safely around Mexico and Central America, I need something a little more up to date so I ordered a bag similar to the one below from REI [mine is UT orange]. 90% of what I take will fit in this bag. I’m also taking a smaller [think school sized] backpack to keep with me on the bus that will have my camera, passport, money, ect.

I’m not going to revisit every item in my backpack**, but there was the usual–Socks, underwear, long sleeved/ short sleeve shirt, pants (yes, those obnoxious zip off kind), skirt or two, jacket, fleece, and a professional-ish jacket for the occasions that required me to not look like a bum. Sandals, trail shoes, and hiking boots. A few toiletries, a Kindle, a Zune (does anybody even know what that is anymore?), travel guides, and a couple of book.  Oh and some random items that we’ll get into later.

**At the bottom of this post is my original packing last, posted July 4, 2010**

These item convinced me I was a packing genius.

Packing cubes

I will never, ever not even for a day, travel without packing cubes again.  I discovered these babies in 2006 prior to my Italian holiday and these changed how I pack my bag. Instead of rummaging through my bag  to find random necessary item, it is quick and easy to find it as long as the cubes are organized in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t have them believe me you need them.

Keen Sandals

I bought my first pair prior to leaving and have since gone through 2 other pair and I have another pair waiting to be broken in as soon as the current  pair bite the dust [it won’t be long].  These sandals are durable, waterproof, have a closed rubberized toe so that when you  I inevitably stub my toe on roots or cobblestones, it  will only hurt my pride.

My first aid kit
I usually go overboard on packing my first aid kit and going to South America was certainly no exception.  However, the meds you can get in most countries are much much cheaper than in the US and they also have meds not available in the US that work amazingly well [See Magic Pills].  I also overstock on the supplies, but every single supply in there is something I’ve used at least once.

Sleeping Sheet

I originally was going to buy a silk sleeping bag liner, but those things border on $100. Instead, I bought a leopard print queen size slinky microfiber flat sheet and sewed it up at the edges.  Yes I used it for sleeping. I also used it for my Halloween costume.


These items seriously made me question my sanity

Travel wash bag

The awkward size took up too much room. I thought the hook at the top would be practical but most places did not have somewhere for me to hang it. I carried it around for 16 long months because I do use it when I go hiking.

Expensive travel clothes

I was so excited at this big trip I went out and bought a bunch of fancy travel clothes. Patagonia pullover? Check. Silk base layers? Check. REI parka? Check. Fancy hiking boots?  Again, check. If you are an adventure traveler you may need this, and to some degree I am and will probably always be one but if you realize that hiking is not an activity for you, spend the $500 on something you truly enjoy.  You’ll come to hate lugging around heavy hiking boots, leave them under some hostel bed, and then wonder why you buy nice things.

All that aside, I did wear [and return home with] every single nice adventure clothing item I took.  I still wear the same parka 7 years later.  It’s good quality stuff and will  last a long time.  If you prefer high heels to hiking boots, buy them at home. You’ll get a lot more wear out of them.

Rain poncho

I had a hiking jacket and another waterproof windbreaker. Why I thought I needed a 99 cent poncho was beyond me. I finally put it in the trash around month 9 after living in the desert for 3 months. I saw some kids playing with it and thought ‘well, at least someone is using it.’

Multi tool

I used the knife function frequently.  But the other tools never even saw the light of day. Next time I’ll just bring a knife.

Sewing Kit

Yes I had one, Yes, I even used it more than once, but every time I needed something sewn or patched and I was in a city, I just dropped it off  at a seamstress store and she fixed it for something like 50 cents.

Mini flashlight on keychain

I had a head lamp, which was recommended by many and I used it quite a bit, even if just to enter dorm rooms at night.  I mainly used it on the beaches.  Nice to have. Small. Compact. But definitely not necessary.




Mineral Water


I’m not going crazy with the electronics.  I am taking a small point and shoot camera [FujiFilm Z70; it’s waterproof], my Canon digital Rebel, 2 lenses + flash, a unlocked cell phone I got off e-bay, my Zune, a couple of flash drives to save photos to, and chargers for each.  That’s it for electronics.  I hope I’m not overdoing it.

Backpacking Things

  • Thermarest compressible pillow
  • 0 degree sleeping bag
  • down vest [white]
  • waterproof parka [red]
  • Patagonia long sleeves fleece [black]
  • 1 pair of waterproof hiking pants
  • fleece gloves
  • ear wrap
  • light weight rain jacket
  • plastic poncho

Clothes + Shoes

  • Asolo Hiking Boots
  • Merrill Trail Walking Shoes
  • Asaics tennis shoes
  • Keen Sandals
  • Clark’s Sandals
  • Flip-flops
  • 5 pairs of wool socks
  • 5 pairs of regular socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 5 bras/5 sports bras
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 8 ‘nicer’ shirts
  • 5 t shirts
  • 3 long-sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 pair fleece pants
  • 1 pair thermal underwear pants
  • 5 pairs of pants [mostly khakis]
  • 2 pair of zip-off pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 pair of shorts


  • travel brush/mirror
  • small make up kit
  • nail kit + polish
  • toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • lotion
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • razor + refills
  • powder
  • deodorant
  • lip balm
  • soap
  • feminine hygiene products


  • washcloths x4
  • quick dry towel
  • extra shower flip flops
  • swiss army knife
  • guide book [South America on a Shoestring]
  • 3 paperback books [for trading en route]
  • copies of passport/visas
  • snacks
  •  bucket style hat [for sun protection]
  • notebooks x2
  • travel journal
  • pens
  • first aid kit
  • head lamp
  • water bottle x2
  • sewing kit
  • hand sanitizer

Whew!  That’s a long list.  Is it too much? Did I leave anything out?  Will I have to go shopping somewhere?  Stay tuned for updates…

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