5 Essential Items For Backpackers Traveling In South America

Whether you’re heading to the Salt Flats of Bolivia or sacred ruins of Machu Picchu.

For backpackers heading to South America for a long solo trip, selecting the right items to bring is absolutely crucial to ensure a stress-free trip. It may sound counter to the backpacker mantra, but spending good money on high quality products is really important to bring on essential items on your trip and thus help minimize bringing excess items and saving space in your bag.

SEE ALSO: Going To South America? These 5 Excursions Are For You

Whether you’re heading to the Salt Flats of Bolivia and sacred ruins of Machu Picchu, to trekking in Torres del Paine, Chile and natural wonders of Galapagos Islands, here are five essential items every backpackers needs to have when in South America!

1. Merino Wool Clothing Is A Must

If I could only recommend one item to any backpacker it would be merino wool clothing, hands down. Simply put, merino wool is a unique wool fabric that’s anti-microbial, which means it’s naturally odor-resistant and won’t smell even after several days of wear without a wash. Multi-functional in any season, the natural properties of merino wool easily wick away sweat and moisture from your skin, which is perfect for backpackers on long hiking trips, trekking outdoors, or simply as a base layer to keep you cool in the heat and warm in the cold.

Super soft to the touch and highly durable, any type of apparel, whether it’s shirts and base layers, to beanies and gloves, is seriously the best travel apparel investment you’ll ever make. Not to mention, the more functional and durable your apparel is the less clothing you’ll need to bring, which helps to maximize the limited space you already have in your backpack.

2. Carry A Small Travel-Sized Wallet

When I’m traveling I personally like to carry just what I need for the day, which means traveling with the right wallet is really important to me. Sometimes I don’t like to carry a daypack, so I can travel light and be inconspicuous, and not bring any unwanted attention to myself and advertise that I’m a “tourist.” This is especially true in places like Rio, where pick pocketing or theft is known to happen especially during Carnaval.

A slim wallet or bi-fold wallet with zipper for coins or small items would be my top choice for traveling. Another great option is to carry a small sleeve wallet or cardholder wallet for day trips, which takes up almost no space in my pocket, plus I can slip in some folded money notes, my ID a few credit cards if I need any.

3. Always Use VPN When On Wi-Fi

Every backpacker knows the struggle of finding good Wi-Fi on the road or trusting whether your Wi-Fi connection is secure. Whether you’re at a local café or browsing online at your hostel, it’s really important to protect yourself from potential identity theft or someone stealing passwords and other sensitive information from your laptop on the road. For this reason, traveling with a reliable and secure VPN is absolutely essential for any backpacker. And for countries that have strong censorship laws and restrict internet access, VPNs are vital to connecting with friends and family on social media, uploading and saving travel photos to the cloud and securely browsing online for essential travel info.

4. Using Packing Organizers To Separate Clean & Dirty Laundry

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I backpacked alone for the first time was not bringing any packing organizers to separate my dirty and clean laundry in my bag. As you can imagine my clothes got mixed up quite a bit and were not always smell fresh even though it was washed. For my solo trip to South America, I made sure to bring some packing organizers and drawstring bags, which made things so much easier for me to not only separate clean and dirty laundry, but also organize, arrange and manage the contents of my bag.

I personally like to travel with several drawstring bags in my big backpack because the bags will easily confirm to the shape of the backpack helping to maximize space inside, unlike some packing organizers that are rigid in shape. Not to mention, drawstring bags are very functional and can be used as bags for grocery shopping at local markets, carry an extra pair of dirty shoes or as an extra daypack on the road.

5. Carry Your Bathroom Essentials In A Toiletry Bag

If you’re backpacking then chances are you’ll be staying at hostels, which ultimately means you’ll be sharing bathrooms and showers as well. Instead of carrying your toiletries in a zip lock or plastic bag, storing your items in a toiletry bag is a much better option. For Toiletry bags, also known as dopp kits, select one with a carry handle or loop to hang your bag while you’re showering. Vertical dopp kits are also great to organize your essentials without it falling over or spilling its contents on the bathroom vanity. Toiletry bags made of leather are ideal over polyester or canvas materials, because of its durability and easy-to-clean surface.


For every purchase, a portion of the proceeds will help fund East Bali Poverty Project, an initiative that provides school uniforms for underprivileged children in impoverished rural communities of Bali. For each item purchased, that’s enough to provide three brand new school uniforms and three happy hatis (Indonesian for hearts)!

Jerry Alonzo Leon


Jerry's favorite country to travel to is Spain. When he's on the road, he keeps it real simple with a pen and a pad. His travel style is spontaneous, easygoing, and always in search of a great adventure.

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