Packing for long-term travel: our backpack contents for 6 months in Latin America

2 months into our sabbatical year we decided it is time to open our backpacks to you, hoping to bring some help into any future long term traveler’s packing process.

Before starting this, we thought it will be very easy, since we always used to travel light and share between us the things we have as much as possible. Regardless of this, we understood soon that doing it for half of a year and potentially more needs some planning behind and lots of online research to learn from others’ mistakes.

You will probably learn that both of us are huge fans of Decathlon for our travel and day to day clothing/accessories supplies, but this is for a legitimate reason. This is not a promotional article, but we’ve included some links to the products we use in case you need a starting point, things that are of great help throughout our trip.

Background info

Our plan from back home was to fly to Latin America for 6 months, and then, if hopefully Asia will open for visitors move there for another 6 months. Now I can tell you for sure that our plans got more fluid than this.

When it comes to our traveling style, we will always choose budget and backpacking VS luxury since it is the only way you will be able to get a longer trip and more authentic experience. Moreover, our itineraries include lots of open-air activities including hiking, thus some mountain gear is sometimes required. For this particular trip we packed for a minimum of 6 months that would include hiking, swimming, walking long distances, extreme heat and also very low temperatures (at high altitudes).

Although started gathering all the items one months before, we packed everything only a few hours before our flight (probably we were still in the denial phase haha and I can assure you that this is a mistake) in 2 big backpacks of 50L and 70L around 27 kg together, bought from Decathlon (totally recommend them, here is one of them) and 2 laptop backpacks for the electronic gear we carry. This was the result:

Some of our packing tips

  1. take 1-2 vacuum bags with you: very useful for storing bulky clothes, we took with us 2 similar to this  for storing the hiking and warm clothes and this saved a lot of space
  2. depending on the area you are travelling you might need a plug adaptor for your electronics, si better check this in advance
  3. you never know how your accommodation will look like, thus you might pack 1-2 pillow cases + 1 sheet (the most compact you got, preferably in a vacuum bag
  4. choose neutral colors and easily combining tops and bottoms
  5. roll instead of fold: we use this technique of rolling the clothes for a few years now and it only brought benefits. Your clothes will not get wrinkled and it saves a lot of space in the bag
  6. pack easy-dry and not so easy to wrinkle clothes as much as possible: we learned this was an amazing choice when we got to Mexico and due to the high humidity it took a T-shirt 2-3 days to dry outside
  7. pack clothing items that can be layered in case of cold weather/hiking trips
  8. dress comfortable instead of fancy
  9. do not over pack and leave some space for souvenirs/items you might need to buy on the way
  10. try not to pack accessories/jewelry: apart from the fact that these are heavy to carry, there might be regions in which it would be safer for you not to wear them anyway
  11. we use the Ikea zipper bags for all kinds of items and find them very useful in keeping a tidy backpack

Her pack

  • 1 waterproof jacket: I love this one since it is waterproof, quite warm and extremely compact
  • 6 T-shirts
  • 1 warm long sleeve shirt (link to it here)
  • 1 undershirt
  • 1 pair of long jeans
  • 1 pair of short jeans
  • 1 pair of long elastic leggings (you can find them here and I totally love their 2 hidden pockets for storing cash or the phone in shady places)
  • 1 pair of short elastic pants (link here)
  • 1 pair of flared pants (in case I need some fancy dressing)
  • 1 pair of indoor leggings
  • 2 deux-piece bathing suits
  • 10 items of underwear + 10 pairs of socks + 3 bras (different types)
  • 1 raincoat (link here)
  • 1 pair of water shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (never leave home without them, for shower and wearing indoor)
  • 1 pair of jogging shoes
  • 1 pair of low-ankle trekking shoes (the version for ladies of these)
  • 1 small compact backpack for everyday essentials (here is an example)
  • 1 money-belt (did not use it so far since it is somehow visible under the clothes, but here it is)
  • 2 journals to be filled with daily adventures and useful info

His pack

  • 1 waterproof jacket
  • 1 belt
  • 6 T-shirts
  • 1 warm long sleeve shirt (link to something similar here)
  • 1 long-sleeve zipper hoodie
  • 1 pair of long hiking pants (link here)
  • 1 pair of long jeans
  • 1 pair of elegant shorts
  • 2 pairs of water/easy-dry shorts (similar to this)
  • 10 items of underwear + 10 pairs of socks
  • 1 hat
  • 1 backpack waterproof cover (link here)
  • 1 pair of water shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • 1 pair of jogging shoes
  • 1 pair of low-ankle trekking shoes
  • quick Spanish conversation guide

Cosmetics & self-care & meds pack

In this category almost 90% of the items are shared between us, this making our luggage much lighter compared to one including separate men and woman cosmetic products. Moreover, I do not wear makeup, thus the only items of this type that I have in the backpack are 1 lipstick, face cream and face scrub.

Tip: do not buy any mosquito repellant solution from your home country because it might not be efficient for the insects that you will find at your destination.

  • 2 easy-dry towels (link here)
  • 2 pillow cases + 1 sheet (and used them already for several times unfortunately)
  • 1 compact umbrella
  • 2 tubes of face scrub (I have a preferred type)
  • 8 solid shampoo bars: 3 years ago we switched to this product and never looked back. Apart from its benefits as a product itself, it is quite light, easy to store on the way and helps relieving some weight from the backpack
  • 3 face cream tubes: after a long search I found this one a few years ago and being the only one that works well for me I had to leave home with a stash
  • 1 deodorant
  • 150 ml of the favorite body lotion
  • 35 ml of hand cream
  • shower gel for the first days
  • travel-size perfume: no more than 10 ml each of us
  • travel-size soap (just in case)
  • 1 compact hair brush
  • 1 lipstick (just in case)
  • hair bands/pins
  • 4 instruments for nails and eyebrows
  • epilator
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • travel size sewing kit
  • body sponge: not needed on short-term vacations though
The solid shampoo we use – Nala Cosmetics – works so well with the colors of the traditional Mayan blouse

Our “just in case” meds pack looks like this:

  • 1 electronic thermometer (because of the current Covid times)
  • 3 packs of surgical face masks
  • car sickness pills: unfortunately I was “blessed” with this, thus every longer bus/car trip I take requires one pill (he only one that works for me is Emetostop)
  • analgesic pills (e.g. Nuroren)
  • anti-mosquitoes patches (not very efficient though)
  • sore throat pills (a few, just in case)
  • stomach problems pills (e.g. Imodium)
  • Paracetamol

Our electronic gear

  • 2 laptops for working purposes: Asus ExpertBook (very light and compact) and Lenovo (heavier but more proficient)
  • Iphone 7 & Huawei P30 Pro as our personal mobiles phones. The P30 Pro is amazing for photos and easily replaced our camera in lots of situations
  • 1 GoPro Hero7 Black + several accessories
  • 1 DSLR Canon EOS 1100D camera
  • 18-55 mm Canon lens
  • 75-300mm Canon zoom lens
  • 1 waterproof phone case: nothing fancy, found at a supermarket back home, still very efficient
  • 1 worldwide plug adaptor: the number 1 must item in our bags
  • 1 external battery
  • 4 headphones: 1 for each phone(special plugs) and 1 for each laptop
  • 1 USB stick

What we should have taken and didn’t

  • 2 pairs of hiking gloves (ended up buying them in Mexico from an overpriced Decathlon shop)
  • 1 additional hat (same as above)
  • thermal pants: only in case you plan some high-altitude hikes with overnight stays (same as above)
  • 1 comfortable dress for the times with hot weather
  • 2 caps for the hot sun
  • 1 additional worldwide plug adaptor
  • sun protention cream
  • corkscrew (you never know when you might need it haha)

What we would eliminate from the above lists now, 2 months into the trip

  • external battery
  • 2 pairs of headphones: instead, you can choose to buy 2 adaptors for your phone so that you can use the regular Jack connection
  • both pairs of long jeans

Hope this article will help you with some packing ideas for your next vacation. Soon enough will tell you more about how we prepared for this sabbatical year from a logistical (and not only) point of view.  Do not hesitate to contact us in case you could use more info!

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