Stuff It In

A guide to stuffing your backpack for an extended trip to South America.

From insect repellant to moisture wicking underwear, I believe I thought of everything I’ll need.

I figure the most important thing to think about before you go backpacking is if you’re really going backpacking. In Europe, I feel like you can call it backpacking but actually bring a small rolling suitcase because the roads are generally paved. I hear that this is not the case in South America, so I headed over to Eastern Mountain Sports during their end-of-the-summer sales and went HAM on some outdoorsy gear, everything from nearly toxic insect repellant to a portable water filtration system to SO MANY wool socks. But first I needed the backpack. After trying on a few adult sized ones ranging from $200-$300, the kind sales associate suggested that I try on the youth backpack, due to my short torso, whatever that means. It fit perfectly and was $100 cheaper. I stuck a pin on it, a gift that was given to me by my Australian friend who volunteered with me in Sicily, and proceeded to buy more things to stuff in it. Here’s my list:

Clothes: (the key terms we are looking for here are moisture-wicking and quick dry. Gotta keep all your junk fresh.) I hear layers are very important in South America, especially in countries like Peru where the weather does what it wants and you either have to remove to keep cool or put on to keep warm.

  • 6-7 tank tops in slimming black and gray
  • 2-3 t shirts
  • 2 long sleeved shirts
  • 1-2 sweatshirts (one stuffed in my bag, another around my waist)
  • 1 cardigan (in case I need to cover my shoulders in a church, or something)
  • 1 thin rain jacket (that my mom bought me from Costco)
  • 4 pairs of quick-dry (there it is again) leggings
  • 1 pair of SICK, SEXY cargo pants/shorts with scandalous removable legs
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 8 or so pairs of undies (if you can’t afford to buy 8 pairs of $20 underwear like the super-hot pair shown below, cotton is also a breathable fabric)
  • 3 sports bras, 1 normal VS bra
  • 8 pairs of socks (preferably wool)
  • 1 pair of sandals (I packed my $2 pair of Old Navy flip flops. Hope I don’t lose them in a swamp)
  • 2 pairs of shorts- 1 jean, 1 workout style (3 if you count my transformers)
  • 1 pair of pajamas (mine consist of a pair of boxers, flannel pants, and a large Irish Yoga tshirt)
  • 1 black skirt, 1 cute sundress
  • 1 pair of ridiculously comfy hiking boots that I will probably wear errday


  • fast-drying towel
  • a first aid kit/personal pharmacy
    • lip balm with spf, sunscreen 30spf or higher, cough drops, neosporin, PEPTO BISMAL, hand sanitizer, rehydration salts, PAINKILLERS, flu meds, bandaids, Emergenc-E, etc.
  • tampons and pads…amrightladies??? Also birth control packs…ain’t nobody got time for cramps
  • insect repellant with deet
  • some makeup- I’m mostly going au natural, bringing along a tinted moisturizer with SPF for smooth skin, mascara for my utter lack of eyelashes, concealer for my other bags, and some lipstick
  • Sunglasses and a hat (imma buy the hat down there so I look like a local)
  • eye mask and ear plugs (so I don’t hear myself or other travelers snoring and rustling with their plastic bags)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, razors…
    • I also bought some special pH soap that I can use as anything from bodywash to laundry detergent
  • flashlight, lock, money necklace (I still have mine from famous Long Island water park SPLISH SPLASH)
  • small messenger purse for my passport and other things
  • a sink plug so you can do your own laundry
  • universal power adapter
  • headphones, chargers, a good digital camera (mine is an Olympus E 420), iPad, and an iPad camera connection kit so ya’ll can see my pretty pics
  • notebook and pens (for the sentimental stuff I don’t want you all reading)

I’ll let you guys know how this worked out for me! Wish me luck.

my limited attire
my limited attire, rolled up to preserve space
bundle of bras (and socks and undies)
bundle of bras (and socks and undies)
ooh la la
these ExOfficio undies boast being able to last for “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear (ok, maybe two).” I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
fancy pants
fancy pants
a gift from a friend
a gift from a friend
a youth backpack
a youth backpack
“I open at the close.”


some other things
some essentials, including (whore) wipes, a waterproof bag, quick-dry towel, notebook, hand sanitizer, lock, mini water purification system, sink plug, first aid, and some games.
a great gift from family
the cash and journal were much needed gifts from family. the red thing is my money necklace from Splish Splash water park


by Rebecca Bellan

The One Way Ticket

If you’re as restless as I am, buying a one way ticket is the best way to start your journey.

Nothing inspires and ignites me like getting ready to travel.

A wise man at a sticky dueling piano bar in Boston once told me that there are two types of people in this world: those who know their culture and try to push the limits of it, and those who don’t know their culture, and explore unfamiliar worlds in the hopes of finding somewhere they belong. I suppose am the latter, absorbing the parts of different cultures that I like and rejecting those that I don’t. I consider myself to have a chronic and recurring case of wanderlust, otherwise known as “the travel bug”, which makes me hunger for new experiences. It all started when I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain junior year of college. I got my first taste of what it feels like to be an individual in a new society, and I became addicted, booking as many weekend trips around Europe as I could.

Last year, I felt it was time for another spontaneous adventure. I booked my first one way ticket to Sicily, Italy and decided to the figure the rest out once I got there. Of course, I wasn’t completely irresponsible; I frequented the site to find someone to host me in exchange for free labor. I find sites like this one, and (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to be great outlets to find people who encourage travelers to stay for a while and get to know their culture through mutually beneficial relationships. In Sicily, I worked for two months at CCly Hostel in Catania, where I slept in an 8 bed dorm with other travelers and volunteers and basically ran the hostel, doing everything from making breakfast to checking in guests to cleaning toilets. While I was there, I met so many awesome and inspirational fellow travelers, and I was able to really get to know the island of Sicily, while also taking a long weekend trip to Istanbul, a few weeks teaching English in Poland, terminating in a few more weeks touring the south of Spain (more on last year’s trip in another post).

Now, my restlessness has gotten to me again, and I feel the need to visit the uncharted (by me) lands of Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina. My bank account will probably only allow me to stay for three months or so, despite rarely having to pay room and board because I will be volunteering my way through the four countries. But experiences are worth more to me than almost anything else. As skeptical philosopher David Hume said, the self is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions…”  I intend to experience this trip hard and fast (thank god for adderall), absorbing as much as I can as quickly as I can.

Check out my next post to see what and how I packed my one backpack. I don’t want to call it a “packing tips” post just yet, because, as I’ve never been south of the northern hemisphere before, I have no idea if I’m doing this right. Trial and error, folks!

**UPDATE- Instead of Argentina, I went to Colombia, and couldn’t be more pleased by my decision. I felt that Argentina was too large of a country to try to fit into a few weeks, and I also wasn’t pleased with the idea of paying for an expensive visa to enter the country, an oversight in my prior research.

September, 2014

by Rebecca Bellan