Alright, so I said I’d show you my backpacking packing list for my journey to Brazil so here goes.
But first things first: I didn’t have a backpacking backpack (who invented that term I want to murder them. Or shake their hand, I’m torn), so, instead of buying one, I borrowed one from my sister. If you don’t have friends or family who are willing to loan you one, make sure you go into the shop to try out different ones, as the fit is different in every model and they tend to sit differently on the hips as well. Find one that suits your preference!
My sister’s was on the medium side of backpacks, it fit a lot of things though. Unfortunately, I also had to carry around the protective bag, which is the environmentally friendly option, considering airports in South America will often wrap your luggage up in Plastic wrap.
I kid you not, it is actually a bonafide business model there. There are stations in every airport, selling luggage and special red tinted strong plastic wrap in which they will wrap your luggage to keep it from getting harmed (i.e. scratched. Like seriously, the luggage is there to protect our belongings. That’s its job…).
Unfortunately, the environmentally friendly option also weighed 3kg on top of the Backpack weight, which is a lot when you’re carrying that shit on your back for two months. So if you do not intend to fly much (or even at all) then you can skip that step and have some extra space for souvenirs! I ended up taking two domestic flights, so I got some use out of it at least.
I also used luggage organisers to be able to keep things where they were supposed to be. Highly recommend.
Now, getting into the actual packing list, there were several categories I packed for:
- important documents
- first aid
Alright, so lets break those down for a second here. First things first:
This included my passport, a credit card (should have taken two), my driver’s licence, my vaccination pass, my health insurance card, travel insurance info and some cash in Euros.
I also had photocopies of all of those and uploaded scans into an online location where I could access them in case I lost something or it got stolen. The driver’s licence I took with me purely as a form of alternate ID, so that I wouldn’t have to carry my passport around with me on the streets. As a German, I am used to having to carry around ID wherever I go, so this was a no brainer for me.
I would recommend bringing two credit cards, one Visa and one Mastercard, but only take one with you when you leave the hostel, so you don’t have a total seizure when one is stolen or gets lost. Having them from different providers (is that the word?) just makes you more flexible as some countries or just some shops don’t accept one or the other.
I only had a Santander 1 Plus Visa, which thankfully never got stolen and also always worked. Only at the end of my journey did it fail me, as I had reached the end of my credit. Turns out this one does not take the money from your account automatically. So guys, read the fine print!
Hot Tip (!) If you want to rent a car or drive in South America, you will most probably have to apply for an international driver’s licence. This will most likely not cost much, but will take a couple of weeks to be processed, so prepare ahead of time!
The general rule here is: make a pile of things you want to pack, then halve it, and maybe halve it again. You really, and I stress, really do not need as much as you think. Remember all those holidays you went on where you packed ten shirts, four pairs of trousers, two dresses and three pairs of shoes, but ended up living in one pair of trousers and maybe alternated three shirts? Yeah. So please. Halve it!
And remember: if you do end up needing another shirt, then, unless you’re going to the antarctic or similarly desolate places, you can buy one.
Did your jaw drop? Are you flabbergasted? I reap my applause from your emotionally destitute faces.
No, but seriously, you’re not going to suddenly need a shirt and not be able to find one, wherever you are. And if you’re broke and push comes to shove, there are always really nice people staying at hostels or even maybe the hostel has a lost and found bin. You’ll be fine.
This list still may differ from person to person, but I got along quite fine with 2 T-shirts, 2 Tank Tops, 1 loose crop top, 1 light jumper, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of light long trousers, 1 pair of sandals, 1 dress, some sleeping shorts, a bikini, one pair of velvet leggings for nights out, one medium light jacket (because it was sub zero when I left Hamburg) and some underwear and socks (I never wore the socks but lived in havaianas).
Now, I will say that I did buy two bikinis there, two pairs of havaianas, one cropped half sleeved shirt ( needed the shoulder coverage for burnt skin sometimes), one fancy top with a laced back, one crocheted beach dress and one pair of shorts. I still universally adore all of those buys.
I also ended up not wearing one of the t-shirts I brought very often, as it showed sweat quite quickly, and that’s the last thing you need in a hot, humid country. Fun times! I ended up using that one as my sleeping shirt more often than the others.
Hot Tip (!): If you plan on journeying around by bus a lot (and you should because it’s cheap), then it’s worth bringing some joggers and a jacket, as the bus drivers in Brazil crank up the AC like it’s no one’s business. Bus rides were one of the only time I ever wore socks and I wished I had fluffy ones. People actually take full on cushions and duvets with them when going on long bus rides because it’s so cold!
This is actually a relatively short list, as I, like many other people, was very afraid of things being stolen. So I took my phone, a Kindle Fire for books on the bus rides and Netflix in the hostels, a pair of wire headphones, a power bank, a polaroid camera and the consequent chargers. I also took two adapters as Brazil has two or three different plugs depending on where you are. Crazy people.
I also took an iBaby with me (a small old school cellphone that lets my parents check my coordinates). I know. They worry, ok? There’s actually a great story concerning it, more on that in my upcoming blogs!
Short little info about the polaroid camera: I used it maybe 5 times. I was too afraid to take it anywhere in case it got stolen. Honestly I should have just taken it everywhere. At the end of the day, it’s not a super expensive item and can be replaced, and I missed out on capturing some memories in a cute, whimsical way.
Hot Tip (!): Take a portable power bank with you, so you can charge your electronics on the go if you need to! Nothing worse than running out of battery in a desperate moment!
My mother bought me a small first aid kit when I moved to Uni, so I packed that, added a thermometer, a bucketload of plasters, electrolytes, an insect spray, some vitamins and some disinfectant.
I made sure to put some plasters into every bag and wallet I had, so that I would always have some. They’re useless otherwise. I mainly handed them out to friends 😀
Hot Tip (!): Get your insect spray in the country you’re travelling to, as it’s usually the most effective. Unless, that is, you have sensitive skin like me, and want something less chemical (which is why I bought mine ahead of time).
The obvious go in here. A shampoo bar, some tooth powder, one toothbrush, one razor, two towels (one big one small, both microfibre), moisturiser (normal and tinted), one tube of mascara, a nail set, a pair of tweezers and a hairbrush. I also took my epilator with me.
This will vary from person to person, but I think I took a bit too much. One thing I should have brought, which I thought I could buy easily in Brazil, was Aloe Vera Gel. That stuff can be expensive there. Most of the normal ‘pós-sol’ (aftersun) is aloe vera gel, though by mainly 95%. By the way, Aloe is called babosa in Brazil, boy did that take me long to figure out!
Apart from my backpack, I also took a smaller rucksack and a jute bag for my general excursions.
Alright, nearly at the end now, bear with me.
The last category is miscellaneous and basically covers any other bits and bobs I took. This one will require a short list.
- earplugs (OMG these were a lifesaver in hostels, on buses and planes)
- sleeping mask (again, lifesaver! never used one before, they kind of irked me, but I’ve been converted ever since)
- travel cushion (you could take a collapsible one. I didn’t. It’s worth bringing the one you find most comfortable)
- travel cutlery (my mom still had some camping cutlery so I took that. didn’t use it often)
- japanese towel (my parents lived in Japan for a while and picked up the custom of carrying around a damp hand towel in a little special tupperware container. Amazing when you have sticky fingers)
- a lunch box (waste of space. do not recommend)
- stomach pouch for concealing money
- a bra pouch that holds cards. You can clip it onto anything really. This one came in super handy, it was great!)
- sunglasses (duh)
- a pocket knife (never left the backpack)
- extra polaroid blanks
- 2 locks (for locking up my backpack)
- my (then) freshly minted bullet journal
Hot Tip (!): Get some locks! The locks are a must have, seeing as most hostels only have small lockers that will only fit a small daily pack. And even then, sometimes you have to bring your own lock to use the lockers. In some countries, there are kids that go through people’s backpacks. I seriously recommend getting one of those old fashioned bicycle locks that look like a small hoop, because that would have been super secure for my backpack.
Ouff! That was a long list. I hope you now have an idea what to put on your packing list for when you next go backpacking! If you want to read about my travels, check out my first post about it here! And remember: don’t let fear guide you. Just get out there and do your thing 🙂