This isn’t a packing list - it’s a list of items you probably never considered taking with you on your trip to Latin America (or anywhere else for that matter), but would be well advised to think about bringing. It’s a list mainly for backpackers, or those that might be travelling off the beaten track.
This list is all about offering “peace of mind” while travelling. Many of the items you might not need to use - but if you do end up using them, you’ll be damn glad you brought them with you. Prepare for the unexpected:
1. A Berghaus Rucksack - I’m not plugging this brand as they’ve paid me to do so or anything, but this is genuinely by far the best type of back-pack anyone could need. My one is over 10 years old but still rock solid. Make sure you get a rucksack (needn’t necessarily by a Berghaus one, though their designs are great) with zips that go down the side for easy access to all parts of the bag. There’s nothing worse than a rucksack with just one opening at the top, in which case you’ve got to empty out everything to get at a little item at the bottom of the bag. Check the backpack design for this.
My Berghaus rucksack - ten years old, 100’s destinations and it still is as good as new. Check out the design from this photo, and notice the ease of access to both the compartments. No emptying the entire contents necessary here - but many other rucksacks are designed without such thought.
2. Iodine droplets - a few drops of iodine in even the filthiest, bacteria ridden tap water means that you can drink the water almost anywhere without the risk of getting ill. Great for if you run out of bottled water for whateever reason (for me, normally after an all night piss-up).
3. Tropical hammock - unlike the traditional hammocks that the locals peddlers will try to sell to you on your travels, tropical hammocks are far more versatile. They are dead strong, ultra light-weight and take up less space than a pair of jeans. It takes one minute to string this type of hammock up - all you need is a couple of trees, poles, pillars or anything vertical and sturdy. It’s usually the first thing that I pack as a huge amount of peace of mind results knowing that I don’t ever need to find a hotel room if I have my hammock. On many occasions I’ve turned up in a town during high season and found it impossible to find a bed - my hammock strung up on a hotel porch, or between trees in a hotel’s grounds (or on a beach) has been my saviour. If I’m going somewhere tropical, rainy and mosquito ridden, I’ll often take a mosquito net and tarpaulin roof to combine with the hammock - such a “basha” is far more comfortable, lightweight and faster to erect than a tent.
Tropical hammock - you’re meant to have them strung tight, rather than loose as shown in this picture. It’s remarkably comfortable once one is accustomed to it - I’d pick this hammock over a tent anyday.
4. Immodium (or diarrhea tablets) - I’ll normally expect to get a bad case of the squirts every four to six weeks or so - that’s just how it is in Latin America. If I have to travel in such a state, peace of mind is offered by the fact that I can knock a couple of these pills back and block my guts up for 24 hours. Long bus or boat journeys and dodgy stomachs really don’t mix. You’ll never find these tablets when you need them (normally a remote, random place) - so take them with you!
5. Rehydration Salts - because after the squirts, you’ll need to replenish those lost salts and sugars if you don’t want to feel weak for an extra 24/48 hours.
6. Ear Plugs - as Latin America can be a very noisy place spoiling a good nights sleep. Often it’s the chickens waking up at 3am that really annoy me. Other times it’s annoying local people/markets or neighbours. Ear plugs are a must.
7. Plastic bags - because when you want a plastic bag, you won’t be able find one. Good for storing dirty clothes or potentially explosive devices such as sun cream and other liquids.
8. A photocopy of your passport - as if you loose your passport, a whole load of hassle will be saved if you’ve got a photocopy of it with you.
9. A yellow fever vaccination certificate - did you know that you’ll be refused entry to certain countries (eg. Brazil) if you don’t have a yellow fever vaccination certificate but have been to country with yellow fever areas (many parts of Latin America are yellow fever areas) within the last two years? Just get the jab and certificate.
10. Suggestions? Leave a comment if you’ve any further suggestions to add….