Preparations for travelling is very difficult, saying goodbye to friends, boyfriends and family is one thing but packing is another. It’s hell. It is safe to say I found packing for backpacking around South America very difficult.
All of the blogs I read before I left were too earnest and geared towards proper travelling in deepest darkest places with no electricity, or hiking with all your stuff. In my opinion you can’t hype up what you’re doing too much – travelling is just a long holiday, only with less spending money. This guide is for normal gals doing normal travelling.
I went to South America for three and a half months and I wanted to share some of my wisdom as I now question many of the things I brought with me (a sequin crop top doesn’t come in handy very often). So here are my top 12 packing tips for travelling if you’re not taking it too seriously.
1. Get a great bag – a backpack/wheely combo is the one I envied the most. This Osprey Sojourn 60 litres is the perfect size. Everyone I saw who owned it looked very smug and comfortable.
I had a 55 litre Osprey Farpoint bag, which is light and has a detachable day bag. However, every backpacker in South America seems to have it so you may need to add some sort of appendage so you don’t take someone else’s.
2. Packing cubes are the best. I would have literally lost my tiny mind without them.
3. You don’t have to have a backpack to be a backpacker. This is something that no-one told me. If you’re only going for a few months and want to bring a suitcase, then just do it. Ignore all of the travelling snobs who assume you’re ‘on holiday’ rather than travelling. Travelling is obviously expensive and it can be annoying to spend £££ on a backpack you may never use again. You can always leave your bags in hostels when going on hikes/trips for a few days and bring a smaller backpack with you.
If you’re going trekking with all of your stuff then please ignore this, as having a suitcase will probably ruin your entire trip.
4. Don’t bring your best things. You’re going to lose things. They just disappear into the ether. Or in other people’s laundry. My friend acquired a rather racy pair of leopard-print pants in her laundry that she is now regularly wearing. We lost a sense of whether this is disgusting or not.
5. Don’t bring too many clothes – you are going to stop caring about how you look. It is very liberating. You’re going to wear the same thing one million times and sometimes look very odd when you cobble together your only clean clothes into a passable outfit. I met a girl who wore her gym leggings and top out to a club for St Patrick’s Day. She only realised it wasn’t totally normal when she uploaded a picture to Facebook. I saw the picture and thought she looked great, so there we are.
Anyway, I filled one big packing cube with clothes and think that was enough.
6. Don’t pack all of the ‘travel essentials’. They are not essential – it’s a conspiracy. It’s probably not a conspiracy but you’ll probably never use them and they take up a lot of space. I rarely used my headtorch, ziplock bags, first aid kit or top with hidden zips in.
7. Bring things you actually like: If you usually wear cargo trousers and fleeces – please ignore/don’t be offended by this. Pack what you’d usually wear as otherwise you’re not going to feel like yourself in your cargo trousers and hiking sandals. If you bring what you usually wear, it takes a lot less time to get ready. No one can make a fleece look stylish quickly or effectively. Saying that, I never thought anyone wearing one looked awful, they just looked warmer and comfortable than me. They win.
8. Pack the actual essentials: Don’t worry about getting your stuff stolen. I didn’t bring a good camera or laptop as I was worried about them getting stolen, but I wish I had brought them regardless of my fears. They might get stolen so backup and insure – obvs.
- Little day bag – this one has a zip to stop people rummaging around.
- Hat to protect your lovely face.
- Universal Travel Plug/Adaptor
- Laptop – This Asus notebook is perfect for travelling.
- Laptop/iPad undercover sleeve.
- Camera/GoPro (not the original GoPro – for Hero 2 and above you can use the app)
- iPhone leads (someone will steal one)
- Travel wash for those times when you are too poor or cannot find a laundry service.
- Locks – bring two or three.
- Deet – this one is the best as it’s above 50%. No-one wants Zika.
- Eyemask and earplugs (see no.12 below)
9. Buy big bulky things at your destination: We bought hiking sandals when we were in Chile as for the first 6 weeks we didn’t do any hiking. They were only £20 and we didn’t feel guilty about getting rid of them.
10. Throw stuff away: My parents are moderate hoarders so I have gone in the opposite direction where I have almost no attachment to material possessions. When travelling you have to dispose of the things that you will not use again, as otherwise you will not be able to acquire anything new. It’s also very satisfying to throw out an item you’ve used so much, and you begin to hate this inanimate object in a way you never thought humanly possible.
11. Buy enough make up and toiletries to bring with you before you go: You will not be able to find your favourite brands when travelling. Some local brands are brilliant, but some are not. You will have to use unfamiliar replacements, that may make all of your eyelashes stick together. Alternatively, you go to the MAC shop (they’re everywhere) and buy it there, but suddenly spending £30 on a bronzer doesn’t seem quite as sane as it did in London.
So there we are. Hope it helps someone out there having a mare. Travelling is great and will only be enhanced by feeling like you’ve got what you need and want.
I will do a little packing guide of clothes I wish I had brought next.