I had made this list for few Indians who were going to start their journey across South America but I am getting more and more queries by Indians who are going to go to South America soon. So, I thought I would put it up here to benefit everyone. Although this was written for Indians traveling to South America but this holds good for any trip that includes places with mixed weather and except a few items here and there everything holds good for anyone beginning a long journey.
I had left my rented apartment with following things in my backpack in late Oct 2016 and have been living on the same ever since.
This is by far the most important decision you’d make if you’re into backpacking. This is practically your house on the road which means it needs time and some looking around before you take a final call. Unfortunately we don’t have very many good backpack brands in India. Of the choices available, I would say try decathlon for some Quechua bags, or Wildcraft but before you make a purchase check some youtube videos on how to ensure the backpack is right for you.
• At least a 40 lt main backpack (I started with only one main backpack (Wildcraft) which was 35 lt but it soon gave away. Within a month the strap came off it’s place)
• A good day bag with back support (In some multi-day trek you would only carry your day bag so a good one will help)
• I also carry a tiny 10lt foldable bag to go to the beach or for grocery shopping (Reducing
• A rain cover for backpack (I had one but gave it away as I never used it). It’s good mostly to cover your bag when you put it in luggage compartment of buses
• Backpack plane cover (I had my heart racing each time I was standing at the luggage belt waiting for my backpack to arrive in one piece).
Remember the lesser you carry, lesser things would be to worry about.
• International power adapter
• Power bank that charges your phone at least two times
• Smart phone
• Camera with extra battery if possible
• A camera for underwater photography would be a plus
• Extra Storage space (I brought only a couple of extra pen drives. This is what I traveled with – Phone: 16+32 GB, Camera: 32 GB, Laptop: 128 GB, Pen Drives: 64+16 GB)
• Google translator (Download the language of the country you’re visiting so you can translate offline)
• Maps.me (download the map of first country before coming and bookmark the place of stay. You can ask your hostel/ host to send the location on whatsapp and bookmark it)
• Uber (This needs phone verification so download it while you have a functioning SIM card)
• Bla Bla car (Very helpful in the north of Mexico, few rides available in Brazil as well)
• Couchsurfing (Even if you’re not using it to find hosts their Hangouts feature allows you to meet people)
General thumb rule is 3 of everything (one that you’re wearing, one in laundry, and one fresh pair) but it’s difficult on the road esp. if hitchhiking is on the cards
This is what I carried and barely felt the need for more. Also, packing cubes are the best.
• T-shirts : 5 short sleeve ones (2 were gifted on the road and are completely unnecessary) + 1 long sleeve one for formal occasions like visiting the embassy
• Shorts : 3 (One denim, one cotton, one don’t-know-what material) 2 should be good here
• Trousers : 3 (I bought one in Bolivia when one fine day I got frustrated of my wardrobe that is limited to a packing cube) 2 dark color ones should be good but an additional nicer pair comes in handy for formal occasions
• Thermals: One pair
• Jackets : One light windcheater , one rain jacket that’s thicker for additional warmth, one fleece jacket. I bought the windcheater in Peru as it was drizzling all the time and my heavy rain jacket was not appropriate for it
• Socks: 4 pairs (includes two pair for hiking), two of them completely gave away 6 months into travel so had to buy two new pair.
• Underpants : you can decide for yourself. One tip is to buy synthetic ones if you find them as they dry really quick and that comes into good use.
• Swim wear: 2 (I started with one but had to buy another one as I stayed in some beach areas for more than a week)
Apart from this I brought
• dry towel (very useful as it dries really quick and takes very little space)
• scarf (I used it as scarf, bedsheet, sarong)
• A woolen beanie
• woolen gloves
• A light dress for club nights in warmer places
• A pyjama set (you don’t want to sleep in the same clothes you wore the entire day, trust me)
• A rain poncho (Very important while hiking in the rain)
• Hiking shoes (lighter ones that can be worn everyday)
• I would definitely recommend another pair of light sneakers for walking around in the city in warmer cities and club nights
• Sunscreen (I barely use it but it’s not a good thing. Please don’t be lazy and use sunscreen. I have been badly sunburnt a couple of times)
• Lip balm
• Toothbrush with its case
• Shower gel and small soaps
• A light laundry bag
• Washing soap in a ziplock bag
• Washing powder in case you find a washing machine at host’s place
• A small brush to handwash
I did not bring a tent but I would strongly recommend one for anyone doing a longer trip here. It reduces the cost marginally with many camping grounds available throughout for way lesser price.
• One person tent
• Sleeping bag
• Sleeping mat
Whenever I did camp (some places have camps for rent) I just used my towel and scarf But the sleeping mat is important for providing insulation from the ground.
• A big needle and a small one (i.e. for backpack and clothes)
• Black and white thread
• medicine for Cold and Fever
• Any other medication you require
Basic Indian spices if you intend to cook Indian food (It’s easy to get turmeric, cumin powder, and pepper in most countries I have been to)
• Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory (Need to get it at least 10 days before flying)
• Carry at least 2 xerox copy of documents like Passport, Visas, Tickets
• It’s a good idea to get a color copy of your passport and laminate it. It can be used almost everywhere within a country so you need not carry original everyday.
• A cap
• Torch (preferably head-torch)
• A reusable water bottle
• Carabiners to hang shoes or other random things outside the backpack
• Post its
• Small diary to document expenditure and keeping important information handy
• A journal
• A lot of currency in coin and bills to gift people as souvenirs
• Mosquito repellent
• Ear Pods (I never used them though)
• Padlock with a long shackle(Very important for hostels)
• Tampons (Some countries it was very expensive to buy tampons and they were not easily available either)
This may not be a minimalist guide but I try to travel as light as possible and this could be a good starting point for anyone attempting to do the same.
Do remember anything can be purchased on the road so don’t stress and the lesser you have in your bag, the lesser stuff you would be worried about.
I have a simple philosophy to keep it light – If I have not used it in a while, I probably don’t need it so I give it to someone on the road who needs it or leave it in hostel lost/ found box.
Did I miss anything essential? Please let me know if you have anything to add to the list.