Usually, traveling requires me very little time when it comes to preparing my backpack and I am proud to say I travel lightly. I once traveled Europe with less than 20 litters for a month and it went really well and in Eastern-Europe I almost filled a 45 litter backpack because of mountaineering. I felt like that was way too much back then. But for South-America things turned out to be quite different.
Going around Europe is very easy, climates don’t tend to vary and it’s the main reason you don’t need to carry so much around. Meanwhile, in South-America you end up passing through almost every different possible climate. We are landing tomorrow in Cartagena and the temperature will be around 55 Celsius. A few days later, we will be in the mountains before heading deep into the rainforest to afterwards visit deserts and Patagonia in the later months. So a strict minimum of materials, to face each of the meteorological conditions, is required in the backpack.
Getting the right bag
Getting everything ready for this 4 month trip took me many hours distributed over months of preparations. The first part was establishing what kind of backpack I should acquire. My estimation where pointing towards 60-80 litters and I consider it is important to get a bigger bag to always have some free space. Finding the bag was quite hard as I didn’t want to repeat my mistakes from the past and get a backpack that is not perfect for my body. After having tried over 200 backpacks, only two met my requirements. The first requirement was comfort and ergonomic (good weight distribution to prevent injuries and back pain.) I also wanted a bag offering several compartments easily accessible and it needed to be able to carry my laptop and camera gear without having to worry about them getting damaged on the road.
Deciding what wearable to bring
The way I decided what to bring is by making a list based on the different environments we might face. So I laid a small list:
- Bars and restaurants
- Plains and steppes
- Colder climate of Patagonia
So we did have quite a lot to cover and this is how I ended up with around 60 litters (31 pounds.) For me this is enormous and the opposite of my light travel habits. Also I packed 2 times as a test before deciding to remove some wearable: my Hoodie and sweat pants ( it will take a month and a Half before we get to regions where I might need those and I will buy the equivalent locally) You can find my list of things to bring to South-America here.
Laptop and camera
I decided to bring my laptop and GoPro camera for this trip. I really enjoy doing videos and sharing these unique experiences with my surrounding. I also have my Iphone to listen to music, connect quickly to Wi-fi and have an emergency call if required (it once saved my life in the mountains.) I end up carrying around 10 pounds of electronic material; but hey, this makes my trip a lot more fun!
Insurance and prevention in South-America
A lot of people in my surrounding keep telling me to be careful South-America because it is a “dangerous” continent. Truth is most of the places I got those kinds of warnings before turned out to be very secure and full of great locals; of course I took precautions to not run into trouble. What worry me in South-America are diseases you can catch if you aren’t careful. This is why I took the time to get vaccinated for 7 diseases and also took various oral shots to prevent flue and cholera. I also got water tablets and a filtration straw because a lot of diseases come from water. I am currently carrying Malaria pills for 6 weeks and a mosquito net. I also prepared a first aid kit with various drugs for different conditions: fever, Diarrhea, headaches, muscle ache and fungus. Sometimes it will take days before we reach a city and it is often hard to know the quality of some of the drugs sold there; it is better to be prepared. Here are more details about getting vaccinated and prepared for South-America.
I also made sure that I am covered with good insurances in case of a major injury. Going around the continent has its risks: dune surfing, biking the most dangerous road in the world, diving, bungee, climbing volcanoes and maybe getting attacked by wild alpacas (you can never be too careful.) I made sure I understood where I am covered so I can balance the risk and prevent incidents that would pretty much force bankruptcy and impede my future economically. Last thing you need when you are badly hurt is to have to worry about money.
I am currently in a Greyhound bus crossing the Appalachian Mountains in direction of New-York. We are ready to go!