“South America! It’s like America – but South!”
– motion picture, ‘UP.’
So after my roughing it in the land down south, I can say with a degree of confidence that I know what I’m doing when it comes to travel below the equator. However, this was not always the case! Before my trip I was scouring the internet, searching for blogs and guides trying to glean every ounce of information I could on what I should be packing for this incredible journey. It was hard trying to find a suitable packing list, not to mention every message board was loaded with arguments over what gear was best. So today we are going to talk about what I ended up taking and what preparations I needed to get ready for this fabulous journey! This gear list is more towards what I used when I was out in the rainforest and trekking it, rather than lounging it up in posh hostels!
Alex’s Packing list for Wonder and Excitement!
* First things first, get a REI membership ($20 for life) and buy all of your gear from them! Members get 10% back at the end of the year! Plus they ship quickly! But beware, the gear for this trip does add up quickly, so make sure you consider that in your financial planning for your trip!
1) Backpack: I made the horrible, awful, dreadful choice of using a suitcase while in Europe on my last adventure abroad. Never again! My first day in Florence the wheels broke on the cobbled streets, and I was stuck carrying everything by hand! So what did I do? I bought another suitcase, and so the suffering continued. Thus I speak from experience when saying, DO NOT purchase A SUITCASE! So for my next bout of travel gear, I instead bought the Osprey Aether 70L backpack. 70L means 70 Liters, and that’s how much of your life it holds. Basically, you could fit a 60lbs suitcase into it, but who would want to carry that? So in addition to the backpack, I had to painstakingly strip away bits of my life for a lighter load (quite literally considering the thing I own most of is clothing)! But there is an incredibly satisfying feeling knowing you can fit your entire monetary life into a backpack and take it with you!
2) Spot Gen3: So when I first tell most people about my trip to South America, their reaction is usually something like “You want to be kidnapped?” or “You’ll be sold into sex slavery and have your organs removed.” These are the general opinions I got about my trip, but every once in a while I did get some positive feedback. That being said, I found a way to keep in touch and let people know I was okay, or at least where to find my body! The Spot Gen3 in a small GPS device with three essential functions. The first is an SOS button, which if I push it wherever I am in the world help will come! The second function is a check in button, where it sends a preprogrammed message to my loved ones saying I’m okay with my GPS coordinates. The last function, and my personal favorite, is a tracking feature where you push a button, and it sends your coordinates to an interactive public map so your friends and family can track where you are and where you’ve
been! The actual device costs $149 with a $20/month subscription. I recommend this mainly for those who love deep forest or mountain hiking!
3) Platypus Origin 9 Hydration
Pack: I didn’t want to carry the big backpack everywhere
when staying in one location for a while, so this was used as my daypack with the essentials! Plus, it’s waterproof! So it can double as a dry bag for both when I’m carrying the larger pack, and whenever I want to go out on the water!
4) Marmot Cloudbreak 30 Sleeping Bag: We went to some pretty remote parts of the jungle while in Ecuador, and camping is going to be a usual occurrence. I bought synthetic sleeping bag since wet conditions are likely (and down costs a fortune!)! Plus this one is nice because it is super light and highly compressible!
5) Hydration Equipment: water is life! First off, I bought a 3L Camelback hydration bladder that fits both my large pack and my day pack for quick hydration. For all of my water filtering, I bought the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. This tiny device can be hooked up inline to my hydration bladder, has an easy backwash system, and filters over 100,000 gallons of water! Plus it’s only $25! (+$eight bladder inline adaptor). Never not once did I have to use icky tasting tablets!
6) Watch: I recently received a Citizen Eco-Drive watch from my mom for Christmas. It’s waterproof up to 200M, has an alarm and world time functions. A watch is a man’s best friend when pulling out an iPhone draws too much attention.
7) Trail Running Shoes: boots are heavy and take up a lot of space in your bag, so I went the trail running shoe route. I bought a pair of Inov8 Talon 212, which dry quickly, are extremely lightweight and have tons and tons of tread! Bought some swiftwick socks to how with them so my feet stay relatively dry and blister free! The best pair of treks I’ve ever bought, and they worked like a dream both on muddy slopes in the forest and through the rocky crags of the Peruvian mountains.
8) Packing Cubes: when living out of a backpack, the organization is key. Thus I purchased the Eagle Creek Spector Compression cubes. They compress your clothes, are water-resistant, and ultra lightweight! I would be a wreck without them!
9) Headlamp: the ABSOLUTE BEST piece of equipment I brought wi me! I bought a Black
Diamond Spot headlamp, because once the sun goes down, it’s dark. Very dark. A headlamp gives you hands-free light, so whether it’s setting up your tent, walking around camp, going to the bathroom, or getting some late night reading in this is your go-to. Don’t forget rechargeable/backup batteries, and try to buy a waterproof lamp if you are going to areas where rain is a common background feature!
10) Computer, iPod, Camera
I am an apple geek and proud! I have not owned a PC or laptop for the past four years, and
Have had a monogamous relationship with my iPad… Well, iPads, considering I couldn’t help but buy the updated versions. I currently have an iPad mini, and use it for EVERYTHING! Textbooks, social media, skyping… It is the ultra lightweight solution for travelers! For flights and long bus rides an iPod is a must, if not only to tune out the snoring of the passenger next to you. I also have my iPhone 5C and buy cheap prepaid SIM cards as I go, not to mention it doubles as an excellent iPod and camera! Don’t forget! If you like, then you should put a life proof case on it! Make sure to have all of your power cords + converter for the country you’re visiting, and at least one pair of backup headphones! Last but not least, make sure you have a waterproof bag to store all of these in!
11) Power Supply!
As we all know, batteries do not last very long. Here’s the solution! It’s called the Gear Zero Pack 10! This not only recharges rechargeable batteries but also can use charged batteries to charge an iPhone 3X! Or an iPad 1.5X. So say you won’t be near an outlet for six days, but need your phone to take pics. Then you take eight rechargeable batteries = six charges! There are also solar panels you can buy to be completely sustainable! My advice is to also change all of your gears batteries to the rechargeable ones. Not only are you able to recharge when needed, but you are keeping the environment clean by not always throwing away used batteries!
In the rainforest, there are endless numbers of trees, and trees go along with hammocks pretty well! Hammocks feel much better than sleeping pads, and I can say that I have never slept so well! There are even some hostels that only have hammock beds! I purchased the ENO Pronest, which compacts super small, and takes up hardly any room in my gear! Ohm and the trick to sleeping are to lay in it diagonal, so you are flat!
13) Clothing: I’m going to be traveling all over, so I need to be prepared for all weather conditions! But at the same time, I need to remember everything I take I have to carry! So some rules of travel clothes:
1) Cotton is your enemy! It absorbs everything and dries at a snail’s pace! Go with synthetics and moisture wicking materials that dry quickly!
2) Layering is super important! It won’t be a large fuzzy jacket that saves you, but learning to layer properly! Your layers consist of a moisture wicking base layer, insulation layer, and outer shell. Layering lets you adjust depending on the temp, and is also ultra packable!
So here’s the clothing list:
– 1 Fleece Jacket (Northface Grizzly)
– 1 Rainproof/Windproof Jacket (Northface Venture)
– 5 Pairs of Under Armour Underwear
– 1 Pair of Long Underwear
– 6 Pair of Moisture Wicking Socks (Swiftwick)
– 1 Pair of Quick Dry Shorts (Kuhl)
– 1 Pair of Quick Dry Pants
– 1 Bathing Suit + Goggles
– 1 Ballcap (sunhat)
– 1 Belt
– 2 Pairs of Sunglasses
– 1 Bandanna
– 1 Pair of Sandals, 1 Pair of Trail Running Shoes, one pair of Boots (buy if needed when you get there! Better quality and cheaper!)
– 1 Warm Hat ( can purchase there)
– 3 Tshirts, three collared shirts, three sleeveless shirts, one long sleeve base layer
– 1 Pair of Jeans and optional khaki pants
– don’t take expensive jewelry, because the possibility of losing it is very high. Also take only your favorite jewelry, as buying new stuff as you travel is fun and makes for great usable souvenirs!
– Your free to take anything else, such as your favorite vest or sandals. Just be realistic about what your willing to carry!
14) Other Necessary Items
– Permetherin: spray all of your stuff with this, and it will keep mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers away for 45 days or 6 washes.
– Sunblock SPF 30 and insect repellent
– A Med Kit in a waterproof bag. Make sure you load it with Aspirin, Dramamine, and band aids.
– Lip Balm
– Basic Toiletries (soap, nail clippers, tweezers, hair ties, toothbrush, and paste)
– Contact Lens, case, solution, and glasses (know your prescription just in case!)
– Deodorant! Who knows when your next shower is!
– Journal (Even if you are recording everything on a blog or Facebook, make sure you keep a journal to look back on!)
– Ziplock Bags (perfect for wet clothes and any dirty nick nacks you happen to pick up)
– Waterproof bags for anything that needs to stay dry! i.e., documents, money and electronics
– Small very un-ostentatious wallet. I think the wallets round your neck marks you as a tourist, so just keep it in your front pocket and you’ll be fine! Know money conversions before you go or end up with an unpleasant surprise when you get back!
– Towel: most hostels either don’t have towels or you have to rent them! Either way, it’s good to have your own! I have the UltraLight XL Pack towel, which is super compressible and absorbs water like a beast!
– Toilet paper (precautionary measure so don’t take much and make sure it’s biodegradable)
– Pocket knife (beware that you will have to check your bag for flights)
– Locks for both your gear and for lockers at hostels! Make sure they are TSA approved or they might get cut!
15) Yoga Mat: I found my yoga addiction about two years ago, and now I don’t think I can go more than a few days without it! My Manduka Eco Mat is phenomenal, but a bit heavy. That’s when I found Mandukas Travel Mat, which can fold up to the size up a small book yet still has tons of traction! The perfect thing for an asana on the go!
Okay, so whenever you are traveling be aware that it most likely means shots. It’s a necessary evil to stay alive! So, check the CDC website and see what they recommend for immunization, then schedule an appointment with your doctor. DO THIS SIX WEEKS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL! Often you have to get a series of shots for it to work, so make sure you have time! At your appointment make sure you get a YELLOW CARD from your doctor verifying that you have indeed had your Yellow Fever Immunization, otherwise many countries can turn you away at customs for fear of you being a disease infested gringo! In this handy little booklet, you can also write the rest of your immunizations, so you have them on hand. Lastly, get your medication! If you have a chronic illness and take medication for it, make sure to check that you can both legally carry it into the country, and can refill prescriptions there. This means paperwork. For ordinary travelers there are three things to make sure you have, depending on where you are going.
1) Food Poisoning Meds (two different ones are useful for East and West).
2) Malaria Medication (Depending on areas you are going to).
3) Lots and lots of aspirin and motion sickness meds (self-explanatory).
First off have your passport! If you don’t have one, make sure to apply well ahead of your trip as they can take time to get. Make sure that if you need a visa for the country you’re visiting you also apply well ahead of time! Also, check and make sure that you have plenty of blank pages for stamps and your passport does not expire for at least a year. Next, have copies of all important health documents including immunizations, a photocopy of your passport, copies of flight and hostel itineraries, and all insurance information in both a small waterproof pouch and also uploaded online where you can gain access in the case of an unfortunate incident. Also, have about six passport photos in case of emergency. Lastly, if you plan to be driving or there is even a possibility, apply for an international drivers permit. They are $15 at AAA and take about twenty minutes to get. Know this does not replace your driver’s license, but merely conveys to someone who doesn’t speak English that your license is the real deal, so make you take both!
Now, go off and spend frivolous amounts of money!