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  1. Quick facts
  • Total days on the road: 586
  • Currently in: USA
  • Miles Driven: 36821
  • Countries Visited: 17
  • Days Camping: 389
  • Days Indoors: 202

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Packing List: Central and South America Overland

Written by Jessica on May 4, 2012

Our PanAm packing planBelow is a huge list of all the gear for our 15 month drive from Seattle to Argentina. Please note that this article is being published in the middle of the trip, and we will continue to update as we travel and buy, sell, or break equipment.

We have also published more detailed breakdowns of what we packed. These sections include photos and sometimes more detailed information. Links are by section in the below list.

Great things we did

  • Really Useful Boxes (.com): Most everything in our car is organized into 10 really useful boxes. They are sturdy, stackable, and pack amazingly well.
  • Test pack, repack, and test pack again. We did countless trials of loading and unloading our gear. Organizing in different ways. Cutting things, adding things. Before we even hit the road, we had the organization down. 
  • Build in shelves. Jared put together a great back shelf system in our 4Runner. It allowed us to stow small odd shaped things, like tents and sleeping bags, while keeping food and bins on top. We could get to what we needed without unloading the entire car.

The List

Items Brought & Used Wished we didn't Bought along the way
CAMPING GEAR (the big stuff): More information here.
3 Sleeping Bags:
Western Mountaineering Anetelope for Jessica
North Face Mammoth for Kobus
X     Read more about sleeping bag choices here.
Sleeping mats
Thermarest Z-lite
X     So much more convenient and durable than the inflatable ones.
Sheets - Cocoon Silk Travel sheets X     Works well when it is too hot for a sleeping bag.
Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner X     Jessica sewed this. Amazing. Also available on
Pillows - Thermarest Small Compressible Pillows X     Jessica started with a down pillow and swapped out for one of these in Antiqua.
Tent - Jess & Kobus
Sierra Designs Lightning HT
    X Our original Kelty tent started leaking a month in. It was 6 years old. Sierra Designs Flash 3 FL Tent (Yellow)

Tent - Jared's
Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

X     Perfect size for a one-man tent. Great in hot weather. It's a bit spendy though.
Chairs from GCI Outdoors X     One chair has broken twice.
Aluminum folding table X     Works great, just don't fall on it when you're drunk.
CAMPING GEAR - The rest of it. Details on toletries here, and the extra stuff here.
Water Purifier - SteriPen Adventure X     Easy, but expensive to use. Cheaper to buy water than batteries.
First Aid Kit - beefed up a bit X     Stocked with extra Cipro. Full list of contents is here.
Lantern - LED X     Chews through batteries, but they all do. Light not as harsh as other options.
Iodine Tablets X     In case the Steripen packs up.
Sun screen and moisturizer X      
Spare TP X      
Insect Repellent X   X 2oz bottles of 100% DEET that we'll dilute as needed. Resupplied along the way.
Mosquito coils X     Super useful if there isn't much wind.
Paracord X     Mostly a clothes line, but you gotta have rope.
Clothes pins X      
Stove repair kits X     Absolutely necessary if you are going to be switching between types of fuel
Spare fuel pump X     Saved our butt in Mexico
Tent and fishing wader repair kits X      
Tent Mold Cleaner     X Central America rainy season. 'Nuf said.
Tent Seam Seal     X  
Tent Waterproofing     X  
Travel alarm clocks X     One broken and replaced in Guatemala.
Pot scrapers and sponge X      
Grill Brush X     Just brought a replacement head, didn't want to pack the whole thing.
Nail Brush X     Cleans potatoes and fingers.
2 Quick Dry Towels X     For drying dishes.
Consumables like soap, paper towels, bleach, and ziplock bags we also carried, but won't bore you with the details here. X      
Cooking Equipment: See detailed list here.
MSR Whisperlite International Liquid-Fuel Stove X     UPDATE: Stolen in Costa Rica, replacement below. Only has two modes, off and flame-thrower. Works well once you get used to it.
MSR Dragonfly International Stove X     UPDATE: Stolen in Costa Rica, replacement below. Noisy as sin, but at least you can turn the temperature down.
MSR Fuel Bottle 20 oz. X     UPDATE: Stolen in Costa Rica, replacement below.
Coleman Dual Burner Propane Stove     X Bought in Panama after our other stoves were stolen. Easier to use, propane tanks may be an issue in South America. TBD.
Propane Hose Adaptor     X Bought for when we can no longer find the 1 lb. propane tanks.
Pot set - Backpacking titanium pots   X   Replaced because non-stick was peeling off. No fault of the pots, they were 10 years old.
New Pots by GSI Outoors
1.5 L pot, 2L pot and a small fry pan
    X Amazing and excellent company. Sent a a new pot lid for free cause we lost it in Nicaragua!
Big fry pan with Lid by NOLS X     Probably 30 years old, we use it every day.
Small Fry pan with Lid by NOLS    X   Sent back home after we got out GSI set that came with a small non-stick pan.
Dutch Oven 5qt. cast iron     X After 9 months of nagging, Jessica finally said we could buy one. Even she admits, it's amazing.
Fire Tongs X     Used for tending fires, mixing coals and grabbing dead rats.
3 Knives
8-Inch Chef's Knife, a 5-Inch Utility Knife and a 4-Inch Paring Knife
Knife protectors Lamson & Goodnow KnifeSafes X      
3 thin plastic Norpro Flexible Cutting Board X     Highly recommended, packs small and instantly converts nasty picnic tables into workable surfaces.
1 regular plastic cutting board   X    
Lighters X     Where did they all go?
Estwing Sportsman's Hatchet X     Chops wood and drives tent stakes.
Plastic Dish Set – 4 bowls, cups and plates X      
Slotted Spoon, regular spoon, big spatula and folding spatula X      
Lexan utensils (4 knives, spoons, and forks) X      
Bottle opener & cork screw X     Stolen in Costa Rica, we now use our trusty pocket knives.
Pliers X     Used as a pot gripper.
Peeler X      
Cooking tongs X      
Cheese slicer X     Gift from Mom!
Can opener X      
12 bottles for spices X     Worth mentioning, because these packed awesomely and we use them constantly!
Folding Grill Rack by Texsport Medium Size X     We use this guy every chance we get, just the right size for three people.
Handpresso   X   Sent home in Baja. Not practical for long term travel and camping.
Aerobia AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker     X Very practical for travel.
Tupperware X     Two small square containers for leftovers. Excellent for lunches on long drive days.
Water jug X     Packs well since it's square. Very durable.
Electronics Equipment: More details on this page.
Smartphone - Sony Ericsson U20a Xperia Mini Pro with a spare battery X     It's small, Android, and has a slide-out keyboard.
2 Sager NP5165 Laptops from X     Email us if you are interested in these and want a promo discount code.
Macbook Pro 15" X      
Wacom Stylus Medium Wireless X     With case.
Acer Netbook   X   Four laptops was one too many, sent home with Mom in Baja.
Dell Streak 7 Wi-Fi Tablet X     Great for reading ebooks on the fly, and watching movies in the tent. Also bought the hard core RooCase
Hard Drive Backups - Western Digital 1TB X      
External DVD drive X     We took the DVD drive out of all our laptops in favor of having a second hard drive. Had to carry this drive in case we needed a to do a full reinstall of Windows.
GPS - Garmin 60GSX X     The older version. Cheaper and better than the new one.
Emergency locator beacon X     ACR SARLink, a gift from our parents in case we get lost in the jungle.
MP3 player - 32GB iPod X      
Electronic Spanish dictionary X     Very useful in Mexico, after that we hardly used it
Edgestar Refrigerator x     Read about the fridge install process here.
Power Inverter - Cobra brand 800W X     Read about the dual battery system install here.
Powerstrip with USB connection X     Used constantly. USB outlets shorted out early in the trip.
Standard extension cable X      
Zoom 3G Wifi router X     When we need to share connection with our USB modems.
Zoom 3G USB modem (unlocked) X     Worth buying just for Costa Rica. They don't sell cheap modems with free air time.
Wifi Extenders (by Alfa) for Jess & Kobus     X Highly recommended!
PC only
Wifi Extender (by Alfa) for Jared     X Highly recommended!
Mac only
Spare network cable X      
Screen protectors X     To keep our phone, GPS and camera screens for getting beaten to oblivion.
Olympus XZ-1 - Kobus' camera X      
Canon PowerShot S95 - Jared's Camera X      
Jessica's camera gear X     Way to extensive to list here. See this separate gear list for details.
Two-way Radios X      
Batteries AAA & AA X   X Resupplied along the way.
Plug adapters
(3 prong to 2 prong)
    X Picked up in Mexico because so many places didn't have 3 prong outlets.
Books, Maps and Paperwork: More details here.
Paper maps X     From Reise Know-How, a German map publisher and the most recommended and up-to-date road maps for the countries we're visiting.
Lonely Planet Books -
Mexico , Belize , Guatemala , Nicaragua , Costa Rica , Panama , Colombia , Ecuador , Peru , Bolivia , Chile and Argentina.Mexico , Belize , Guatemala , Nicaragua , Costa Rica , Panama , Colombia , Ecuador , Peru , Bolivia , Chile and Argentina.
X     We highly recommend investing in one book per country, whether you buy LP or another brand.

Also, we found the ebooks to be a total pain in the butt.
Life Remotely business cards X     An easy way to give info to travelers we met.
Passports X      
Money and receipt envelopes X     The only way to keep track of all the paperwork in the glove box.
Credit cards X      
Copies of everything X     Kept in a lock box, behind the seats
$500 emergency cash X     Hidden in a super-secret place.
Budget book X     Just a normal notebook for keeping track of what we spend.
Tools & Vehicle Spares: More details here.
Hi-Lift Jack X      
Locking cable X     Locks the hi-lift to our roof rack.
Recovery Strap X      
2 D-Ring shackles X      
Lift-Mate X     So we can use the hi-lift jack on our wheels.
Air compressor X     Runs on 12V.
Folding lug wrench X     Compact, but sturdy.
Safety seal truck tire repair kit X      
Warning Triangles X     Slightly modified so they aren't so huge. These are required in some countries (like Honduras)
Leather gloves X     For grappling seagulls.
Road flare X      
Spare fuses X      
Spare headlight bulb X      
Volt Meter X      
Duct and electrical tape X      
Two-part quick epoxy X      
Spare gas cap X      
Spare set of belts (fan, water pump, and alternator) X      
Shovel X     Use it all the time for digging grill pits.
Itty-bitty screw driver set X      
Regular screw-driver bit set X      
Hex keys / Allen wrenches X      
Wrench set X      
Regular and needle nose pliers X      
Vice grips X      
Adjustable wrench X      
Large and small, screw driver set X      
Lug nut key X     Fits our locking lug nuts.
Spare bolts X      
PERSONAL GEAR: More details here.
Headlamp with lantern attachment X     The lantern attachment worked well in our tent, but was useless when trying to use outside.
Wiley X Sunglasses X      
Bandana X      
Journal X      
Spanish notebook X      
MSR Packtowl, Medium X      
Swiss Army Pocket Knife X      
Mountain Hardwear WindStopper Tech Soft Shell Jacket X      
Marmot Precip Rain gear - Jacket and Pants X      
Patagonia Thermal long underwear X      
Fleece hat and gloves X      
2 pairs wool hiking socks X      
5 normal pairs of socks X      
underwear X      
swimsuit X      
Long sleeve button down shirt by Mountain Hardwear     X Brought in when we were in Guatemala for the bugs, not the cold.
3 short-sleeve lightweight button down shirts X   X Two more bought in Costa Rica.
4 t-shirts X      
4 tank tops X      
2 pairs shorts X      
3 pairs of pants X      
Hiking boots X     16 years old and holdin' strong.
Teva Sandals X      
Merrell Barefoot Mighty Glove shoes X     These sneakers are amazing! Small and comfortable.
Mountain Hardwear Lander backpack X      
Kindle eBook reader with wifi     X Bought in Mexico mostly so I could check email in remote areas.
Ear plugs     X Camping in Colombia sometimes means party to the break of dawn.
Pullover Fleece by Eddie Bauer X      
Black Diamond Headlamp X     Lost on day 1, replaced with a Walmart special.
Mountain Hardwear Long sleeve button down shirt X     Great for keeping bugs off.
REI Hemp Short sleeve button down shirt X   X Second button down shirt bought in Costa Rica.
5 wicking hiking t-shirts X   X New one bought in Costa Rica.
Mesh vest to go under the button down shirts X      
Zip-off pants 2 X     One died & went home.
2 pairs lightweight hiking shorts X      
Jockey underwear X      
LED flash light X      
Hiking sock liners - 4 pair X      
Regular light weight socks X      
eBags Medium Packing Cubes x2 X     Would have preferred the smaller size.
REI Fleece / latex gloves - fluffy but with grip! X      
Wigwam hat for cold nights X      
Duo Fold Thermals - Top and bottom X      
Sleeping shorts X      
Ball cap - I have 3 (shhhh don't tell Jess) X      
MSR Packtowl X      
Marmot lightweight rain jacket X      
Cabela's waterproof rain pants X      
Osprey Talon 22 backpack X     Sounds small, but worth it.
Wallet X      
Tag watch X      
Teva Tanza Sandals X     Starting to fall apart after 6 months of constant use, died after a year and replaced with Keens
Vasque Wasatch GTX Hiking Boots X     Still awesome boots.
Microsoft Ergonomic wireless mouse X      
Headphones X      
eBags Medium Packing Cubes X     Perfect size, doubles as a pillow.
Hats - One for the sun and one for the cold. X      
Softshell Jacket X      
Travel Pillow X      
MSR Packtowl X      
Belts X      
Rain jacket X      
Rain pants - Marmot Precip X      
Fleece gloves X      
Themal pants X      
Sneakers X      
Sandals X     Keens. 5 continents, 4 years and still going strong.
Lowa hiking boots X      
T-shirts - Five total, quick dry poly blends X      
3 pants X      
2 shorts X      
6 underwear X      
Socks X      
Hoody X      
Long sleeve t-shirt X      
Button down shirt X      
Kindle eBook reader X      
Headphones X      
Wallet X      
Watch X     Works great as long as I don't take it off for more than a day.

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#4 Richard 2013-05-24 20:16
Great list! I think I just spent too much money at Amazon though...
#3 James 2012-05-05 16:05
#2 Jessicam 2012-05-04 15:26
You know, we made this list before we left for insurance purposes. Figured that if our car was stolen we'd never remember all the crap in it. But, we decided not to publish until we actually put some miles on everything and could determine it's usefulness.

Just realized I forgot to add the Endless Breeze Fan to gear we wish we had...
#1 James 2012-05-04 15:15
damn, lots of time spent putting this list together. Will be helpful for future travelers.

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