South America Backpacking Packing List

South America Backpacking Packing List

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I’ve got my Yellow Fever, Tdap booster, and second Hepatitis A shot. I’m about done with my series of Oral Typhoid pills.

And in about a week and a half my buddy Jeff and I will be hoping on a plane bound for Cartagena, Colombia to spend the next 6+ months traveling around South America.

Undoubtedly, the bulk of our time will be in hostels, couchsurfing, WWOOFing, and busing around.

But I *DO* hope to get in plenty of time in the mountains, at least camping and hiking, hopefully a little peak bagging (renting gear).

It is extremely challenging for me to balance the competing demands of city life and mountain life with only what I can carry on my back. I have never actually done the nomadic backpacking thing before.

I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve studied abroad, but I’ve always kind of had a home base when I arrived.

I’ve never had to fit EVERYTHING I need and want on my back for months on end. I’m pretty sure I want to take my sleeping bag, shelter, stove, etc in addition to my laptop and camera gear. We’ll see if I regret that later.

All in all my FINAL packing list is clocking in at around 32 pounds, with no food and water. Which fits in my CiloGear 40L Pack with enough wiggle room for food and other stuff.

Below is my final packing list for 6+ months in South America.

Item Pounds Ounces Notes
Pacsafe 85L 1 4.8 Wrap up bag in wire and lock
Gregory 4300ci Pack Cover 5.6 More for neatness/discretion than rain
First Aid / Repair Kit 11.8 Deet, Cipro, Ibu, Potable Aqua, Seam Grip, etc
Black Diamond Z-Pole w/ bag 14.2 Hiking poles
MLD eVent Soul Bivy Sack 12.8 Jeff has a tent
Feathered Friends Vireo Sleeping Bag and stuff sack 1 2.8 Hoodless, zipperless sleeping bag.
CiloGear 40B Work Sack 4 1.2 Weight with all straps, support, etc.
Neoair X-Lite 13 Sleeping pad
REI Flash 18 11 Daypack/carry on pack.
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   10.8
  —————-
KITCHEN
REI TiWare 1.3L Pot and Ti-Tri Caldera Cone Stove 10.4 Alcohol and wood burning stove
Aeropress with metal filter 9.8 Coffee kit!
Hario Mini Slim Mill Grinder 8.6 Coffee grinder
Mesh kitchen sack 1.2
Alcohol fuel bottle w/ bag 8.4 (weight when full)
Sea to Summit Alpha Light spoon 0.2
REI blue plastic cup/mug 1.8
28oz glad bowl + lid w/ DIY cozy 4.4
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   2.8
  —————-
MLD Shoulder water holster  Included in pack weight
MLD Waist pockets  Included in pack weight
REI 20 oz Water bottle 5 Hard sided– odd size
Passport, immunization, visa photo, and document copies 1.6
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   0.41
  —————-
PACK BRAIN
Feathered Friends Jackorack 4 Wind shirt, light rain resistance, but not rain jacket
Patagonia Houdini wind pants 3.2 light rain resistance
Remington Electric Razor and case 11.4 USB chargable
Outdoor Research Sun Sombrero Hat 2.4
SPOT GPS 4.8  Emergency beacon
Sea to Summit Bug headnet 0.6
Sea to Summit waterproof bag and S-biner 1.2 Extra to keep something dry.
Ultralight pack towel 3.8
Altice Eclipse glacier glasses and case 4.8 Sunglasses as well
Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp 2.8
Leatherman Squirt PS4 mini multi tool 2
Compass 1.2
Steripen Ultra 6 USB chargable version
2L Platy (no hose) 1.6
Gatorade Bottle 2.2
Large Opsaks x3 4.4 Waterproof, smell proof
Toiletry Bag  1 2.8
Travel Lock x2  1.6
Two small spare stuff sacks
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   4.77
  —————-
CLOTHES
Patagonia R1 Full Zip fleece 12
Prana Stretch Zion pants 13.6 x2 (wear one)
Smartwool Light Hiker socks 2.6 Longer socks
Smartwool Phd Running Light short socks 1.8
Smartwool Phd Running Light short socks 1.8
Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Fleece Gloves 1.4
Buff 1.2
Columbia Long sleeve PFG sun shirt 7 x2 (wear one)
Swim trunks 5.6
Under Armor x2 4.8 (wear one)
Patagonia Capilene 2 long underwear pants 5
Icebreaker Merino Bodyfit 150 short sleeve T Shirt 5
Montbell Light Alpine Down Parka 1 0.8
La Sportiva Boulder X Approach Shoes 2lbs 8oz WORN
Crocs Men’s Prepair II 11.8  Look COOL
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   5.68
  —————-
ELECTRONICS
Asus T100 Transformer Book 64GB Transformer 2 14.2 Total weight with case and charger
Mini USB Mouse
JOOS Solar Charger 2 11.6 Includes case, connections and mirrors.
Sony NEX6 Camera + Accessories 2 2.2 One lens, Case, Blower, brush, GND, Filter holder, extra battery, mem cards, charger
Joby Gorillapod 2.2
SD USB Card Reader (No SD card slot on ASUS)
Samsung Galaxy SIII cell phone and charger 8 Map, phone, camera, MP3 Player, Kindle, etc
x2 32GB Mini SD Cards additional phone and tablet storage
My Passport 1TB external hard drive (Not much hard drive space on ASUS)
Other MISC CHARGERS
SUBTOTAL (lbs)   8.4
 —————-
 TOTAL   32.9

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About Ryan

I'm a lover of the great outdoors and a former Washington DC based desk jockey who left behind the working world for a year-long dirtbag climbing trip in 2013. Since the beginning of 2014 I've been traveling through Colombia and have since settled down in Medellin for the time being.

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17 Comments


  1. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in your “kitchen” section and I would 100% ditch the dictionary and the frommer’s guide – you’re already bringing your laptop! If you want to know a word write it down and look it up later. Also, do you have a bivy sack? Way easier to manage than a tent/tarp.

    I backpack with my MSR pocket rocket and http://www.rei.com/product/798273/gsi-outdoors-halulite-minimalist-cookset – you’re cooking for yourself, not a family of 4… I also just check the full fuel canisters (oops?).

    You’re not bringing climbing shoes? Those are the most frustrating thing to rent if you can hire ropes/rack.

    Why not drive the truck down? Then you can bring all the gear you want for any weather conditions. I’m sure you can hire a ferry for the Darien gap.

    I’ve backpacked southeast asia, central america and india with my sport climbing set-up (60m, 12 draws) on buses, trains and motorcycles. In rural area I would sleep with families or temples along the way, didn’t do any backcountry adventures solo. I would usually just buy new clothes once I started to get holes so I never carried more than what I was wearing (wash/air out at night) – more stuff, more hassle. I’m always happiest with what I’ve packed for a trip when I’m nervous that I don’t have everything. Good luck!

    • Awesome Kelly, thanks so much for your feedback! Actually the plan from the beginning was driving the truck down with my buddy, haha. But plans changed, unfortunately.

      Yeah, I figured I would ditch the books… :) And I’ll have my phone (used as a tablet) so I can look stuff up. Redundant.

      You take the Pocket Rocket? No problems finding canisters? I have a Pocket Rocket and Jetboil… In my current setup most of my stove stuff nests inside the pot, so it isn’t too bad. I like the multiple fuel possibilities with the Ti Tri, as well.

      Good tip about the climbing shoes… Maybe I will rethink. I don’t know how much pure cragging I will do though… Alpine scrambles or peakbagging seems much more likely, thus the approach shoes. I will hit up Google.

      I do appreciate you taking a look though! Some good tips and things to think about there…

  2. For the stove I recomend you a Caldera Cone. Canisters are hard to get, and alcohol is cheap and easy to find.

    for the record, I’m a trekking guide in Colombia.

    • Manuel, gracis por tus recomendaciones! A wind resistant pant would probably be a good, light addition to my pack that would certainly boost my comfort level at times. Might have to be a last minute purchase…

      Thanks for the confirmation that alcohol is readily available…

      If I make it to your area in Colombia, I’d love to meet up and chat!

  3. and at least a pair of WR pants like the Montane Featherlite.

    I use Paramo waterproofs.

  4. Yep, ditch dictionary/books.

    I would ditch the entire coffee making setup. That’s just me though. The cost of buying a coffee in South america would probably be 1 dollar?. I mean, its up to your preference but i suspect many a time you will be staying in a hostel or house that has some kind of coffee maker. I know it is really cool to make coffee with the aeropress and fun, but how often would you really be spending time making coffee. Spend the time seeing stuff and/or switch to tea which just requires boiling water. Its only 6 months.

    ok, at minimum ditch the thermometer.

    Bring a picture of family or back home to show people you meet and stay with. Look into a small gift to give people you stay with.

    otherwise, good list and have an awesome adventure

    • Hey Zach, thanks for chiming in… Yeah, it isn’t a huge priority to bring it, more of a luxury item to have in the backcountry while camping. It’s on the possible ditch list, though I really would like to bring it to the mountains. :)

      Good tip about the photo and gift, didn’t think of that really. Thanks.

  5. Ryan,
    Good list and good luck on the adventure!

    I assume you are checking your bag? If not, I would guess the pocket knife will cause you some trouble at the airport in a carry on bag.

    I haven’t used the aeropress before (not a coffee drinker) but if you are going to be buying coffee, why not just consider something super light like a GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip? You will barely notice the weight and it should work with your mug/cup. I’m sure if would be more time consuming to use but would save you on the weight and bulk of your aeropress it looks like.

    http://www.gsioutdoors.com/products/pdp/ultralight_java_drip/coffee

    Shoot me an email and I’ll hook you up with one for your trip to test out if you are interested in going that route!

    Chris
    The Gear House

    • Hey Chris! Thanks for dropping by and checking out my packing list. Yeah, I’ll be checking the bag… Just easier than dealing with those overhead compartments with a pack.

      Thanks for the offer and mention of the GSI product. Down to the wire here in terms of when I leave though. Might check it out down the line though…

  6. Ahhhh, lucky!! I have been so curious to hear about your trip since you first mentioned it. Tonight I packed for my own South American adventure that I’ll be leaving on on Wednesday! But I’ll be headed for Ushuaia, Argentina, and Antarctica. I won’t have much internet access while I’m on the boat to Ant, so I will look forward to reading your updates when I get back to Ushuaia for a bit!

    I am also in vote of minimizing the coffee equipment. I 100% understand about wanting a good cup of coffee while backpacking. Could you maybe stock up on a bunch of Starbucks VIA packs or something similar? Or if you wanted to actually make coffee these things work super well: http://www.rei.com/product/784659/gsi-outdoors-ultralight-java-drip-coffee-maker

    As my mom would say, “Have fun and be careful!” :D

    P.S. Your “Crocs – look COOL” cracked me up! ;)

    • Ahh lucky you! Antarctica that should be incredible. A buddy of mine just left to go work on McMurdo for the season… I look forward to reading your updates–I hope to maybe make it as far south as Ushuaia, but probably not Antarctica–I expect it would be a little to pricey for my budget at that point.

      Man, I just don’t know if I can drop the Aeropress. My buddy and I are both from Seattle, ya know? :D It will probably come along… Heading to some primo coffee country. We’ll see, might be something I regret…

      • That’s awesome about your friend! I was just looking at jobs there the other night. They need a postal clerk and I have all the requirements. ;) (Which are not many, ha ha!)

        Hey, normally I don’t tell people they should support Starbucks (which is also from Seattle, right? Ha ha) but so this ups my vote for the ultralight pour-over!

  7. Sounds like a sick trip! List looks good only things I might add are a full body bug net for warm nights sleeping out (if you can find a light enough one) and rehydration powder and/pepto tablets. I have a fairly weak stomach though and spicy food always gets me in trouble when I travel. Have a blast, look forward to your stories!

    • Thanks for checking it the list, Ben. I will likely pick up a cheapo bug net down there at some point… for jungle adventures in particular. The Pepto would probably be a good addition to my kit though, for sure.

      Hope all’s well out east. Jealous of your icy adventures. I’m gonna miss a season… :(

  8. Hey! I thought this packing list was great, as I’ve been thinking about a South American trip that includes a lot of time in cities as well as some extended backpacking/trekking. I would be really interested to hear how this has turned out–what you wish you had left, what you wish you had started with, etc.

    • Hey James! Thanks for checking in… Most everything that I brought has been used at one point or another–I am overall happy with how I chose to balance the outdoorsy/city stuff. Although I have definitely used the outdoorsy stuff less than I thought I would, especially as I settled down in Medellin (just use it for weekend trips). Initially the camping stuff got a lot more use, camping out on the beach, volunteering on rural projects, heading to the mountains, etc.

      My situation was unique in that I was travel with my buddy, who has sense returned home… We mostly packed so that we could remain totally self sufficient for camping purposes (for exactly that reason–if one of us left), ie two little stoves, little first aid kits, etc, etc. But he did have the tent which we mostly used. I brought the bivvy sack thinking that would be my replacement when he left. But I haven’t used it once. Since then I have borrowed tents or traveled with others, not just going solo. Upon reconsidering it, maybe it would have been better to bring my own tent… But I’m not sure.

      Plans do change… I never thought I’d be settling into Medellin like this. One thing I wish was that I had more clothes… At least here. I didn’t care when I was traveling every other week or whatever. It was fine to have so little. My mom came down to visit me in July and I had here bring a few normal clothes (jeans and cotton tshirts) to add to the mix.

      Some things that people recommended I don’t bring, like my coffee kit, I am absolutely happy that I brought it. I think it is good to include at least one luxury/splurge item that you enjoy and will regularly use.

      The only other item that has been added really was an ENO DoubleNest Hammock that my buddy’s girlfriend brought down with here. That thing is an amazingly comfortable luxury campsite addition.

      Hope that proves somewhat insightful–maybe down the road I will have some additional thoughts.

      • Ryan,

        Thanks for the additional information! Many of the things you have done sound a lot like what I’m interested in, and I’m enjoying reading about your adventures, even though I’m just beginning to read through your blog. I have an ENO Nest and really like having it on camping trips–it’s on my initial backpacking list too. I hope to be setting off on a similar trip one day!

        Thanks again!

        James

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