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Packing for South America can be challenging because there are so many climates in one region. So when I had to plan my 9-week trip across South America, it took me some time to compile the perfect South America packing list which would be suitable for both hot and cold climates.

In Peru, I would be sleeping in a tent at high altitude which means sub-zero temperatures! By contrast, it will be the height of summer in Brazil (and the depths of winter when I got back to Gatwick!) I would also have to carry my bags for 9 weeks and starting with a misbehaving back so packing light was more important than ever!

Therefore, I did my research and I compiled my own South America packing list for girls which I thought I’d share with you…

south america packing list for girls - flat lay

Which backpack to take to South America?

In terms of how to carry your stuff, I usually go for a 70-80L backpack but I aim to only fill it to 2/3 so room for souvenirs and no need to spend ages trying to squish everything down into it each morning!

You’ll hear other people telling you to use a smaller backpack and I would agree for other places with more predictable climates or where you are always staying in hotels. If you are camping and travelling through both hot and cold climates, you are going to have a LOT more stuff.

My backpack can be filled from the side or the top (which is useful when what you want is at the bottom) and has a 2nd compartment at the bottom. I do wish it had more pockets though – always look for pockets! I then had a 2nd smaller pack I wear on my front which I use for hand luggage and carrying all my electricals.

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South america packing list for girls to cover all climates both hot and cold weather. What to wear in South America and all the backpacker essentials you will need for backpacking south america

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Right so for the packing list…

South America Packing List for Girls for all climates – hot and cold!

Equipment you will need for camping in South America 

  • sleeping bag – make sure you get a 4 seasons lightweight one like this one.
  • Self-inflating sleeping matt – a must if you are camping a lot to save your back!
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Travel pillow – I love this one as it converts between a neck, back and regular pillow!
  • walking poles (Only if you’re doing a lot of hiking! For me its the Lares trek help take the load off your knees and give stability going downhill. )
  • washing line
  • biodegradable soap

What clothes to include in your South America packing list

  • shoes – I’ve debated for so long over this!! I’ve decided on hiking boots, 1 pair flip-flops (for campsite showers etc.) I’m also adding some super comfy Toms but this is a luxury. I enjoy dancing and am hoping to do some dance lessons in Buenos Aires and Rio – these are light, comfy and easy to spin in! Flip-flops or sandals would be a nightmare!
  • 1 pair of walking trousers (can be swapped for extra gym leggings if you prefer)
  • 1-2 pair gym style leggings (can be used for hiking and as PJs in colder climates – I lived in leggings!)
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair regular leggings
  • 2 pairs shorts for hot weather.
  • long sleeve thermal top
  • long sleeve normal top
  • microfleece
  • 1 black cardi which goes with everything
  • waterproof warm down coat (down gives plenty warmth but is super light and squishy)
  • lightweight waterproof for warmer climates
  • 2 exercise gym t-shirts for hiking (quick drying, anti-bacterial)
  • 4 t-shirts – choose mostly dark neutral colours so you can mix and match clothes and they won’t show the dirt if you have to make do with handwashing! The first time I ever backpacked (aged just 17) I took a white t-shirt to the jungle! Really?!!
  • 2 strappy tops
  • 2-3 cotton dresses. Can be worn over leggings in cooler weather. Super comfy for travelling and slightly smarter for any nights out. Can also be worn on the beach as a cover-up.
  • A sarong – so useful! It can be a pillow, a beach cover-up, for warmth, a spare towel or can be used to cover your knee/hair when going into religious buildings.
  • 1 bikini and 1 regular swimming cossie.
  • 10 pairs underwear
  • 3 bras
  • 5 pairs socks – 3 will be hiking socks
  • 1 set summer Pjs.
  • gloves and hat
  • sun hat (though I have to admit I don’t wear it as often as I should! )

Toiletries for your South America Packing List

  • Contact lenses or glasses if you wear them
  • first aid kit / regular meds / just in case medications  (more on that later in a separate blog)
  • small bag of basic makeup – it’s nice to occasionally feel a bit girly after weeks on the road. But I keep it to basics and I try to get all makeup with SPF so at least its dual purpose! Check out my travel make-up list.
  • shampoo and conditioner – I’m going for a smallish bottle but not travel bottles – I’ve been warned that decent conditioner is hard to find in south american countries so I’m hoping to eek it out as long as possible.
  • small soap, toothbrush and paste, deodorant
  • small face moisturizer – I’d ditch this in my 20’s but your 30’s are less forgiving!
  • razor
  • sample bottle of perfume
  • tweezers – useful for many things when travelling as well as stopping your eyebrows from resembling the jungle you are visiting!
  • hair brush and lots of hair ties – these ALWAYS go missing!
  • sun cream – I also take a specific face sun cream to try to avoid greasy spotty skin whilst travelling. Using regular sun cream means most of my photos from a previous trip got rejected as I looked like a spotty teenager!
  • lip salve with SPF
  • antibacterial hand gel
  • tissues
  • insect repellent
  • a wash bag which unfolds and has a hook for hanging in the shower!
  • dry shampoo
  • 1 nail polish and remover pads

Technology you might want to include when packing for South America

  • A kindle – take loads of books without the weight!
  • iPhone
  • a new charger wire (I always find out these wear out fast!)
  • solar charging pack
  • Pad or laptop. I take a laptop for the blog but an Ipad may be easier.
  • A camera – I use this one.
  • 2nd more discreet waterproof point and shoot
  • Chargers for both. Spare DSLR battery
  • Plenty of memory cards
  • 2 lenses – 1 multipurpose lens eg 18-140mm, 1 zoom lens 55-300mm – a prime and a wide-angle would be luxuries
  • A gorilla pod as a tripod alternative
  • worldwide adapter
  • headphones 

Paperwork you need to take with you when you are backpacking in South America

  • Passport
  • yellow fever certificate
  • copy of passport, insurance details, flight details, tour details
  • debit and credit card and enough cash to get me started. I also take a EFX currency card.
  • small purse

Miscellaneous items for your South America Packing List

  • day bag
  • a canvas bag that can be folded down and used as a beach bag  (or keeping things in that you need handy in your tent)
  • quick dry towel – how pretty is this one?!
  • energy bars for lares trek
  • To save money on buying bottled drinks all the time, I will be taking a couple of super concentrated squash squeezy bottles. They are only small and this will hopefully save me money on the Galapagos boat where only tea coffee and water is provided. I’m one of those strange folk that doesn’t drink tea OR coffee! And water gets boring after a while!
  • a small cross body bag for evenings out. I feel more secure with a cross body bag.
  • packing cubes for clothes – these will revolutionise your packing!
  • sunglasses – always cheapies as I lose and replace sunglasses time and time again travelling. Everyone loves a pair of ‘Roy Bons’ right?!
  • eye mask and ear plugs
  • small wrist watch
  • padlocks
  • money belt
  • headlamp
  • small notebook and pen (mostly for scribbling blog ideas!)
  • Toilet paper
  • pack of cards
  • dry sack. Useful for getting on and off boats in the Galapagos to stop me having a heart attack over my camera each time!
flat lay of things to pack for south america - camera, hat, sandals, diary

So that’s it, my in-depth packing list for South America to cover all climates and last for 9 weeks travel, camping and adventure activities! Do you think I’ve missed anything? Do you have any packing questions I can help with?

If you enjoyed this South America Packing list you may enjoy my other posts about travel planning for South America! I also have other packing lists which may help you plan for other places and climates…

Read next…

Travel tips for South America

The ultimate South America travel guide and itinerary

The comprehensive guide to preparing for your big trip (with freebie printable trip planner)     

The REAL girls guide to training for a high altitude trek

A Galapagos Packing List

SouthEast Asia Packing List

Packing Cubes and other backpacking esentials

A Skiing packing list for beginners

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