With landscapes ranging from glaciers to deserts and home to every adventure activity imaginable, it’s no surprise that Latin America is a prime destination for trekkers. If you’re planning a trip, you’re covered with this travel gear for Latin America list. Whether hiking on glaciers in Argentina, trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru, driving 4WD through the deserts of Chile, or swimming with sea lions in the Galápagos, you’ll be ready for any adventure.
We hope you love the travel gear for Latin America we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you make a purchase. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
What are the best months to travel to Latin America?
The best time to trek depends on the area you plan to visit, as the continent’s vast size leads to varying climates. However, a good time is generally during the dry season from July through November. During this period, river levels are low, and hiking trails are more accessible. There are a few standout exceptions. The ideal hiking conditions for the Andes are from May to October. This period offers cooler temperatures and a better chance of clear skies. The best months for hiking routes in northern Argentina, Chile, southern Brazil, Torres del Paine in Chile, or El Chalten in Argentina are generally between November and April.
Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack
First things first. If you’re traveling around Latin America you’ll need a worthy pack to carry around your clothes, electronics, and everything else that’s coming with you. Get a solid pack that’s built for backpacking and at least 40 liters in size. Backpacks go up to 85 liters, but if you can manage a minimalist lifestyle, your back will certainly appreciate a smaller size pack. Remember, you are the one who has to carry it all. Osprey is a tried and true brand in the backpacker community. Its packs come with a lifetime guarantee, with an emphasis on repair rather than replacement.
The Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack is recommended for trekking and general travel around the region. It’s big enough for your trekking gear, has plenty of straps for a tent and ground pad, and provides easy access to everything inside.
Price: From $179.95
Water-repellant shell layer jacket
If you plan to hike in the Andes Mountains or trek to Machu Picchu, especially during the rainy season, bring a water-repellant shell jacket with you. The weather in these high altitudes is unpredictable and can turn a hike sour if you aren’t prepared. The North Face Build Up Jacket is a great choice, as it’s fully waterproof and breathable, making it appropriate for most hiking situations. As a bonus, it folds into itself in one of the pockets, taking minimal space in your hiking pack.
Price: From $160
Patagonia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions in Latin America, but the further south you travel, the colder it will become. A puffer jacket adds some serious insulation to keep you warm and toasty whether you’re hanging by the penguins or standing high on mountains and volcanoes. You’ll likely need it when you’re anywhere above 10,000 feet, as well as at night when camping or relaxing in high-alpine lodges. REI’s lightweight, packable down jacket is a perfect option for your Latin America travel gear list. Its material is highly compressible and packs into its own left-hand pocket, so you can store it away when you’re in warmer regions.
Given the variety of climates you’ll encounter while trekking in Latin America, dressing in layers will become your best tool to manage all of the extreme temperature changes. SmartWool Merino wool layers are a great choice. This miracle fabric keeps you cool when it’s hot out or warm when it’s cold out. And when it gets wet, it keeps you warm while it dries. It truly seems like magic.
Price: From $34
Lightweight fleece sweater
A lightweight fleece sweater is an essential piece of gear for trekking in Latin America, whether you’re traveling in the dry or rainy season. It will keep you comfortable in moderate conditions and create good insulation when paired with a shell for chiller evenings and high-altitude cities like Cusco. The Patagonia Micro D Fleece Pullover is a solid option. The sweater is made of quick-drying 100 percent recycled polyester microfleece, the lightest-weight microfleece Patagonia offers.
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Latin America is home to some of the most epic hiking trails in the world, from the O Circuit in Chile to the Inca Trail in Peru. If you want to tackle some of these bucket-list treks, then you’ll need a solid pair of hiking boots. Ankle support is a must when purchasing hiking boots. Merrell is a well-known brand that makes long-lasting shoes that will get you through any terrain across Latin America. Matador writers and editors have used Merrell boots all over the world and highly recommend them. Grab a pair of Smartwool hiking socks to pair with them. The boots are designed specifically for trail use and will keep your feet surprisingly comfortable even if they get wet due to the wool’s natural moisture-wicking ability.
Price: From $129.95
A scarf is such a versatile travel item. Use it for extra warmth on cold bus rides, as a makeshift towel on the beach, or to wrap around your head for sun protection. There’s no end to the uses scarfs can have, so make sure to pack a light and foldable one. This Zero Grid Infinity Scarf for women even has hidden zip pockets to store your cash, cards, or phone. A perfect item to use when walking through busy cities if you’re worried about theft.
Sandals capable of long walks
Latin America is home to some of the world’s best beaches, so don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable sandals that you use to walk around beach towns. Get yourself a pair of German-made Birkenstocks, which remain comfortable throughout a day of walking and are great for beaches and cities, too.
Comfortable travel clothes
Aside from the items mentioned above, you’ll want to pack seven to ten days worth of comfortable and lightweight travel clothes in your bag. While this might not seem like enough for a multi-month or even two-week trekking journey, remember that laundry is available en route and that keeping your pack manageable is key. Also, you’ll be meeting new people all the time — so no one will notice the outfit repeats. Pack versatile travel clothes that can be used for both outdoor activities and in the city. Aside from your day-to-day outfits, you’ll want at least one pair of hiking or yoga pants, quick-dry shorts, and a bathing suit. A hat and gloves will also come in handy at some point in your journey.
For tops, we again recommend merino wool due to its ability to soak up sweat and remain clean enough to wear even after multiple uses. The REI Sahara Convertible hiking pant is our pant recommendation for trekking in Latin America. Available in both men’s and women’s varieties, these pants are durable in inclement weather, breathable, and can be turned into shorts on hot days.
REI packing cubes
Packing cubes will save your sanity when you’re living out of a bag. They keep your clothes organized, meaning you can separate your hot and cold weather clothes depending on the region you’re in. The REI expandable packing cubes are great because each can be expanded in size if you pick up a few new items along the way. Plus, each cube has a see-through mesh pocket with a card that lists its contents, so you easily find what you need without unpacking.
EPICKA universal travel adapter
While most Central American and Caribbean countries use US outlets, some South American countries use the European style, 120 volts to 220 volts. The easiest thing to do is pack a universal travel adapter, and you’ll be able to charge your electronics no matter where you are in the world. This EPICKA universal travel adapter has four USB slots so you can charge multiple electronics at once and save a fight when there’s only one plug in the dorm where you’re staying.
If you plan to do a multi-day trekking adventure in Latin America and want to keep your phone alive for photos, it’s essential to have a power bank. These are also helpful for those long, long bus rides where you play music and podcasts for hours on end. The Otterbank FastCharge Powerbank is great because it can store up to 20,000 mAh, meaning you’ll be able to charge your phone multiple times before needing to recharge the bank. It also comes with both USB-A and fast-charging USB-C ports that let you charge multiple devices simultaneously.
Travel filter water bottle
The tap water isn’t drinkable in many places throughout Latin America, so be sure to pack a travel filter water bottle in your bag. It looks like a normal water bottle, but the technology used in the LifeStraw Go removes 99.9 percent of bacteria, meaning you can safely drink water from anywhere. Not only is this much better for the environment than buying plastic water bottles, but you’ll save a few dollars each day which adds up fast when you’re traveling for weeks or months on end.
Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles
To make your trekking experience as enjoyable as possible, grab a pair of Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles. These trekking poles are perfect for long hikes and collapse to a packable size that can be strapped to the side of your pack. Trekking poles also help maintain balance during ascents and descents on steep patches of trail, keeping your movement as smooth as possible.
A good sleeping bag makes all the difference, especially if you have a big day ahead. When selecting your sleeping bag, you need to consider the temperature rating. This is ideal for summer backpacking conditions. The Big Agnes Sidewinder SL is available in men’s and women’s and is hailed for its comfort and easy packability. You can also add a sleeping bag liner for added comfort on cold nights.
Price: From $299.95
Illuminate the night with a headlamp from Black Diamond. Whether you’re reading a book in the tent, checking your route map for tomorrow, or getting up before dawn to make a summit bid, a headlamp is just as useful inside the tent as it is outside.
What is the most famous trail in South America?
The Inca Trail in Peru is the most famous trek in South America. This trail is also rated as one of the top five treks in the world. The trail spans just 26 miles and takes you to the historic site of Machu Picchu. Another popular trail is the W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park of Chilean Patagonia, which offers a scenic journey through the Ascencio and Frances valleys.
What is the hardest trek in South America?
Of course, the “hardest” trek can be subjective and depends on various factors, such as the physical condition of the hiker, weather conditions, and personal preferences. That being said, the Salkantay Trek in Peru is among the most challenging hikes. This trek is a high-altitude journey through diverse landscapes, culminating in a visit to Machu Picchu. The Cordillera Huayhuash trek, also in Peru, is another that’s frequently noted for its difficulty. It’s renowned for its stunning Andean scenery but requires a significant level of fitness due to its high altitude and length.