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profile member asked on Apr 2, 2016

What items to take in a backpack?

Hello all,

I am leaving in May for a trip in Ecuador and Peru. Right now I am not sure how long I will stay there, but I am thinking it will be from 2 to three months. As time to leave gets closer, I need to get a bag ready, but I then had some questions.

1. Would it be worth taking a tent? It takes up a considerable amount of space and I am planning on going to hostels on the first week or two so that I can meet other travelers, as I am travelling alone. What are your thoughts?
2. Shoes. This is a simple one, but I just want to hear form others. I was thinking about having a pair of sandals, a pair of sturdy shoes for hiking and some more simple running shoes.
3. Clothes. Reltaed to the above, should I take jeans, that have a thicker fabric, or more shorts and sweatpants because they are more comfortable? I was thinking about a 2 shorts, 2 jeans for the mountains and sweatpants, but it might be too much/little.
4. Anything else? Any suggestions are welcome. I will make s imple first aid kit with gauze, bandages, some ibuprophen, acetaminophan and band aids. I will get insurance, just in case, take some tank tops, some tshirst and a hoodie and a thick jacket for the mountains of Peru. I heard that some people take a small pressure cooker with them, but is it worth it?


8 Answers

answered on 4/2/16 by
a VT member from United States of America


Since you mention visiting both Ecuador and Peru, the first question which comes to mind is which parts of these countries do you plan to visit? Since you mentioned the possibility of taking a tent, are you thinking about hiking the Inca Trail or simply camping rather than staying in hostels for most of your trip? If you plan on hiking the Trail, you will most probably need a tent unless you meet someone else that has one.

I would add an oral antibiotic (CIPRO), an anti-diarrheal, and first-aid cream to your first-aid kit as well as mosquito repellent particularly if you will be visiting the Amazon. If going to the Amazon, I would seriously think about taking a Malaria preventative and even a Yellow Fever vaccination is sometimes indicated if you go to the Amazon. Also add to list of things to bring, a water bottle and water purification kit in case you don't have access to bottled water but always drink bottled water when available. Also, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen. It's easy to get a sunburn in the Andes even in May (as I did). I would not take a pressure cooker by any means -- take energy bars, trail mix, chocolate, etc., for energy. Take a small flashlight/torch, small towel, and anti-bacterial hand wash.

As for your clothes, what you've selected sounds pretty good. Shorts can substitute for a bathing suit in case you go rafting or to the thermal springs!

Hope this helps a little.

Have fun!

answered on 4/2/16 by
a VT member from London

Hello there,

quite a lot of questions here and I should say that it is many years since I visited Ecuador so my memory may have blurred a little. When I went (for amonth) Ilived out of a 65 litre Bergen (rucksack) quite comfortably but I only intended to stay in places with a roof!

A little more information about your plans would be useful as well as what you intend todo will greatly influence what kit you need.

1. If you ask about bringing a tent then that implies you are thinking about wild camping which means you willneed all the associated paraphernalia like sleeping bag, sleeping mat and some means of cooking (to answer a later question). This all adds weight and bulk obviously.

2. Shoes are also another bulky item so I would suggest a pair of sandals and a pair of walking shoes sould be sufficient. There are plenty of options on the market that will double as casual wear in the evening.

3. I virtually live in jeans and even now cannot forego having a pair with me when I travel but they are pretty impractical. You mention the heavier fabric which is obviously more weight and they take forever to dry out if you get wet. Pretty impractical for travelling really. I would suggest one or more pairs of "cargo pants" with plenty of zipped pockets to carry valubles etc. in. Bring a lightweight pair (or two for the warmer coastal regions and a lined pir (or two) for the Andes which can get really chilly especially at night. A couple of pairs of shorts with lots of pockets would be good and can double as a swimsuit.

Sweatpants are comfortable and gret for lounging around in of an evening but generally impractical for daily use as they won't have sufficient pockets. Again, more weight for not much return.

4. Just a few suggestions. Take a travel towel instead of aregular one, saes lots of weight. Take a universal sink plug as they are hard to find and an elasticated clothesline and some travel wash for laundry. An electrical adaptor plug is also a must. Take a few ziploc bags (various sizes) as they come in so handy for so many things and weighnext to nothing.

Hope this assists,


answered on 4/2/16 by
a VT member from North America

Hello, Good advice above already! During a one-year trip by bus from Ottawa, Canada to Ushuaia, Argentina, I travelled solo through Ecuador & Peru but avoided tourist routes (Inca Trail, etc.) so I won't address this.
Still, I travelled through Ecuador & Peru, along my way to Chile & Argentina. In most places, I never saw a tourist... (I willingly missed tourist centres.)
I found cheap lodgings everywhere (some youth hostels, mostly casas for travellers, very cheap & off the beaten path, including in the heart of Lima.)

(1) I would NOT take a tent for such a trip.
(2) Sandals & sturdy shoes are enough.
(3) One short pant and one jean or sweatpants are fine.
(4) Even travelling far from tourist centres, I was in basic villages yet never needed a pressure cooker. In South America, you'll find good street food everywhere & you'll be happy with that. Sometimes in casas for a few days, I took advantage of kitchen facilities to cook my meals & share them with friends there... but overall, I didn't "need" special equipment to be happy. On the contrary, I was happy with what I found. There's a culture of street food in South America, it makes travelling there a fantastic experience. I enjoyed not "having" to cook while travelling across South America.
Once I reached Argentina & rented an apartment, I cooked a bit... but it seemed like such a bother when I was done! I really did not need to.
I hope you'll feel the same & go with the flow. Have a great trip to South America!

answered on 4/2/16 by
a VT member from Provincia de Ciudad de La Habana

Leave the tent/sleeping bag at home, that's a tremendous amount of bulk and weight to drag around for no reason. Same as the pressure cooker, absolutely useless.

Here's my cut & paste rant about travelling light...


First of all, whether you're travelling for 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years your backpack size doesn't change - you're bringing exactly the same stuff for a short trip or a long trip. The only exception would be if you're camping or travelling in really cold climates, obviously that makes a difference.

In my opinion for a normal hostel/hotel trip anything over carry-on size (about 40 litres) is too big. Think light, efficient and mobile... you definitely don't need to be hauling around a boat anchor on your trip.

I travel independently for indefinite periods (several months at a time) via hostels/hotels through 3 climates with a carry-on size 46 litre backpack with LOTS of room left over - all the cinch straps are yanked to their tightest dimensions so the backpack is really only about 35 litres.

That's including a set of nice clothes to crash an Embassy party or high-end club, normal day-to-day casual and hiking wear, beach clothes, personal hygiene products and everything else you need to be safe/comfortable plus a laptop, digital still/video package and all the peripherals.

I have a separate daypack that fits inside the main backpack. I use it to carry all my essentials when the main backpack is in an overhead bin, etc.

It's easily doable and you'll see LOTS of experienced backpackers doing the same - and in warm climates going even lighter. Seeing other travellers - especially smaller women - struggle with 60-70-80 litre backpacks (usually with additional daypacks!) is (in my perspective) insane.

Going light makes sense to me because it allows me to keep my backpack with me (almost) all the time. It's carry-on size for aircraft, it doesn't need to be checked into the baggage space under the bus where it's out of my sight and out of my control - and it's obviously way easier/faster to navigate a crowded train aisle, keep with me inside the taxi, stow in a small boat, fit into a tuk-tuk, onto the back of a motorcycle and a million other off-the-beaten-path situations.

If this sounds interesting here's a couple of suggestions to get you started with your research on carry-on sized travel backpacks:

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Everyone's needs/requirements are different though... different strokes for different folks... your travel style might be completely opposite of mine, maybe you like having the kitchen sink along too, haha.

Have fun with your shopping/research.

Good luck and travel safe, you're going to a great part of the world. Try to fit in my favourite South American country, Colombia!

answered on 4/2/16 by
a VT member from Hengelo

Be aware that the Sun will be right above you and on higher grounds will easily burn your neck (and maybe your head; depending on how much hair you have).

For the the rest the advice to travel light is also supported by me.

You could look into what you can buy local. Can be cheaper stuff as your stay is limited.


answered on 4/4/16 by
a VT member

I'm going to echo some of the responses above, and recommended you leave the jeans at home and bring light weight-quick dry pants instead. You can find nice ones for not a lot of money at Eastern Mountain Sports (, or probably any other outdoors retailer. You might want to add a pair of thermal underwear (long pants) if you are planning to trek in the higher altitudes.

answered on 4/11/16 by
a VT member from London

rule of the outdoors is that jeans are never recommended as the heaviness that you mentioned might be warmer means when they get wet they keep you wet, and cold, and get even heavier.
whereas like already mentioned the focus is on lightweight quick dry maximum warmth and absorbing moisture and transferring it away from your skin.

answered on 4/30/16 by
a VT member from Victoria

Thanks everyone! I will take that in mind. It was pretty useful

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