A city girl turned backpacker’s packing list

I’m a city girl, through and through. I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I like high heels and jewelry and cute handbags. And I also like to travel — on a budget.

This summer, I traded in my oversized suitcase for a backpack and went on the road for two months (without a single regret about what I packed!). A lot of people have asked me how I comfortably lived out of a backpack for two months (and still looked cute in all my travel photos…obviously).

The truth: I spent weeks agonizing over my packing list. I didn’t want to be one of those backpacker newbies, throwing stuff out of my bag at every bus station trash can because my pack was hurting my back or I couldn’t fit my souvenirs. Also, I’m a Type A and organized to a fault. So, here’s my list. Hope it helps you prepare for your next adventure!

At the airport. Santiago  > Bogotá

At the airport. Santiago > Bogotá

Packing List for 2 + months in South America: 

Shoes:

-hiking shoes
-comfortable casual sneakers (Black Vans, for me) / Only one pair, ladies.
-flip flops / Again, only one pair! If you need new ones along the way, you can buy them anywhere.

Clothes:

-2 pairs of convertible hiking pants / I get that these aren’t the most fashionable things. I have sworn them off for years. But just face it, they are useful, quick drying and completely necessary so bite the bullet and pack ‘em!
-2 pairs of shorts
-1 pair leggings / Can be used for pajamas, layers under pants on cold nights or worn on long bus rides (although I preferred to wear my hiking pants on the buses because of all the useful pockets).
-1 lightweight casual dress / Can be worn for a night out or over a swimsuit.
-4 (stylish, not hiking looking) tanktops
-2 hiking shirts
-2 T-shirts
-1 lightweight sweater / Can be layered for variety or used for warmth.
-1 swimsuit
-1 rain jacket / My jacket has a zip-in layer for extra warmth that can be removed on hot, but rainy days. I recommend it.
-14 pairs of socks / Invest in some hiking socks that are synthetic and NOT cotton to prevent blisters.
-14 pairs of underwear / It’s good to have extra underwear in case you have to wait awhile for a laundry day.
-5 bras (4 sports bras, 1 regular) / Sports bras can be worn under low cut shirts instead of camisoles for extra coverage.
-1 pajama set
-2 hats (one for sun, one for cold weather)
-1 scarf / Can be used to cover your face on dusty dirt roads, for warmth and to accessorize outfits / make your wardrobe appear varied. This also makes a good, small souvenir.
*Notice I didn’t bring Jeans. They’re heavy and really unnecessary, I promise. If you’re going out for the nightlife, wear the dress, or a cute tank with the shorts or leggings.
*I also recommend not bringing jewelry. I bought jewelry along the way, which added accessories and made for small, unique souvenirs.

Toiletries:

-wet wipes / Double to clean up spills and for the bathroom (always bring your own toilet paper!)
-hand sanitizer / I like the kind fron Bath & Body Works that doubles as a lotion. You need this as most bathrooms don’t have soap!
-body wash
-toothbrush & toothpaste
-travel towel
-azor
-contacts & solution
-glasses
-hair brush / DO NOT bring a hair dryer. It’s a waste of space and probably won’t work in the outlets anyway. Figure out a style that is quick and doesn’t require a hair dryer (I kept my hair in a braid most of my trip).
-hair ties
-sunscreen
-minimal make up / I brought mascara, one color of eyeshadow and lipgloss.
-tampons / These are very difficult to find in South America!

Electronics:

-Camera and extra battery and memory card, cords
-iPod and cord
-1 flash drive
*If you have an e-reader, bring it. Books are too heavy and take up too much space. My friend read like 30 books between all our long bus rides and I was super jealous.

Misc.:

-Ziplocs / Bring an extra stash. You will need them for toiletries, food, wet clothes … who knows. You can never have enough.
-Mesh laundry bag
-bug spray / The kind with lots of DEET.
-Flashlight or head lamp

Important Documents: 

-Copies of:
-Passport
-Any visas for entry to countries
-Halth Insurance Card
-Emergency Contact Info
*I carried a folder of important documents, as well as kept an electronic folder on my Google docs).

There you have it, ladies. Follow this list and you’ll have a trip without the overpacker’s remorse and look beautiful while doing it!

—JDF