Packing, the size and bulk of packing, the techniques of packing, the amount of stuff you pack – all of this is a hot, endless debate that I won’t get into here. It’s as individual as your bike choice, and however much (or little!) you pack, it will work out just fine.
However, if you are planning the Alaska – Ushuaia trip, there are some things to keep in mind that will help you pack for South America better.
Unless you plan to stick to the Panamerican highway all the way to Tierra del Fuego, chances are, you will be crossing the Andes mountains multiple times, at times dipping down into the Amazon. This means the weather will vary to a crazy degree. You’ll experience hot desert conditions, freezing cold and potentially snow and ice in the high altitude, and humid heat in the rainforest. Pack accordingly: have lightweight, moisture wicking layers, your thermals, and your heated gear or your winter thermals handy.
Sun and Bugs
Before you leave, buy the strongest sunscreen you can get your hands on. Sun gets very intense in the Atacama Desert, and getting sunburned is risky in both the short- and long-term.
Make sure you also have some strong insect repellent. While you can get shots for malaria before you go, diseases like dengue fever have no vaccine yet. So when you head out into the jungle, try and keep the mosquitoes at bay.
Even if you don’t plan to cook much, pack a couple of your favorite spices from home. In the high Andes and places like Peruvian and Bolivian highland villages, food can get pretty, let’s just say, basic. There, it’s not cuisine, it’s sustenance. Having a little Tabasco or some of your fave Mexican spices can be a fantastic way to make bland food taste better!
A few short notes on packing for South America:
- Always pack for your hottest day. In other words, make sure you have enough room for everything even when most of your clothing is put away.
- Pack tools or spares specific for your motorcycle. While there are countless expert motorcycle mechanics in each South American country, if your bike requires some extravagantly specific tools or spares, bring them with you (DHL’ing stuff down will cost you a week’s worth of gas!)
- Don’t overthink it. Lots of people think of exotic jungles and remote mountain regions when they imagine South America. And sure, there is a lot of that around – but all (ALL!) the major cities and towns across South America will have large shopping malls, ATM’s, Starbucks, H&M, Home Depot-style stores, versions of Walmart, and motorcycle dealership. So chill. If you forget to pack extra T-shirts, SD cards, tire irons, decent coffee, or battery chargers, you’ll just buy them on the way!