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What to Pack for South America: 32 Backpacking Essentials

Written by Lia Garcia

Before we left for 5 months of South America backpacking, we spent months researching what to pack for South America (or rather, I did – Jeremy’s less persnickety about these things).  Well, after 5 months of backpacking through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, we can safely say that we’ve fully field tested everything that we packed for backpacking in South America!

While we made a few mistakes on that trip – there are quite a few things that we wish we did or didn’t pack – we also packed a lot of travel gear that was perfect for backpacking South America!

Since that first trip a few years ago during our year-long honeymoon, we’ve been back to South America many times – and on one occasion, we even took a group of Jeremy’s high school students with us. We’ve now perfected our packing for South America!

In this packing guide, we’ll share our favorite travel gear for South America with you. This isn’t meant to be a complete list of what to pack for South America (you know, like, “bring a t-shirt” and so on – you can find plenty of those elsewhere), but rather a specific compilation of our favorite, field-tested gear recommendations.

Whether we use them daily or they’re just incredibly handy in a pinch, this list has all of our favorites: the best things that we always pack for backpacking in South America! I hope you find our packing tips handy when creating your packing list for South America.

LAST UPDATED

May 8, 2022

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Practical Wanderlust

Media Mentions from Practical Wanderlust

Hey there! We’re Lia & Jeremy. We created Practical Wanderlust in 2016, just before throwing all of our stuff in storage and embarking on a year-long honeymoon. The honeymoon was pretty much a disaster, but we had a great time anyway.

On our blog you’ll find practical, down-to-earth, budget-friendly travel tips that will help you avoid making all of our terrible, terrible mistakes. We love off-the-beaten-path travel and discovering what makes a place unique (and a little weird). Our goal is to inform you & make you laugh (preferably at the same time). We want to show that travel doesn’t have to be perfect – sometimes it’s a complete disaster, and that’s OK too!

MEDIA MENTIONS

My only complaint is that eventually, backflushing won’t be enough. These can clog up after some time and no amount of back flushing will fix its low flow. I went through 2 on the AT. However, it will attach to Smart Water Bottles and most bladders!

Anna Hamrick

MEDIA MENTIONS

Built for backcountry reliability and portability, the Sawyer Squeeze filter is our pick for the best portable water purifier.

Pete Ortiz
Writer

MEDIA MENTIONS

The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
Media Mentions from Halfway Anywhere