LATAM 2019,  Travel

Packing a 30-litre backpack for 6 weeks in Latin America

Sooo, I’m about to go on a 6 week trip through the US and Latin America. That being the case, I’m currently packing my trusty Burton Cadet tropical print 30-litre backpack.

I chose this bag in particular, as one of the challenges I set myself for this journey was to travel light without any check in luggage. This not only kept my flight prices at rock bottom prices, but also means I won’t need to worry about losing anything on the way.

After days of searching, I decided on the Burton Cadet. It was literally the only decent bag I could find to fit the smallest of carry on luggage dimensions. That is, measuring a maximum of 25cm x 35cm x45cm and weighing less than 8kg.

Finding that is quite a feat I tell you!


Choosing the Burton Cadet tropical print Backpack

When I started looking for a bag, I had a few criteria in mind.

I knew the bag needed to be robust and sturdy. A 6-week trip is no joke. However, I was also going to be taking it hiking across some distances, so it needed to be light and comfortable as well.

I didn’t want it to stand out too much, since I don’t want to scream tourist all over. I’m already a walking, talking, white skinned, blue eyed target as it is.

However, I do like my things to be versatile, so I decided to look for something I might actually use at home too.

So, there you have it in a nutshell – the checklist:

  • Robust
  • Sturdy
  • Light
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Usable abroad and at home

The Burton Cadet seemed to fit all those criteria.

It weighs 0.7kg and measures 16.5cm x 30cm x 46.5cm.

(I’m really hoping the airplane attendants don’t come running with a tape measure to ding me for the 1.5cm in extra height. In case they do though, I’ll be making sure I don’t overpack and can squish it down easily!)

I really love the fun tropical print too. It makes me feel like I’m on vacation already just looking at it. Luckily the colours are dark enough to not raise too many eyebrows though.

When you look at some of the bright red, orange and green backs offered by hiking brands like Osprey and Quechua, this one is positively tame in comparison!


Deciding what to pack into the 30-litre backpack

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really thought too much about what I pack into my bags. I usually don’t have too many luggage restrictions and my Adidas backpack and Dakine Split Roller boast around 100l combined, so that’s plenty of space for longer trips.

However, when you try to pack your usual into a tiny backpack, it quickly becomes clear that you need to focus on one thing and one thing only – priorities!

Personally, I’ve been known to travel around Europe for a week or so with only a backpack anyways. That being the case, I know I can make do with very little.

Since I’ll be staying at hostels and hotels most of the way, I’m pretty sure there should also be some laundry facilities around. That should make it possible for me to wash my clothes as I go.

There are, however, some things that I can’t and won’t compromise on on this trip.

Those are as follows:

  1. I am going to take clothes and shoes for most weather conditions – Combining hurricane season, the switch between the hemispheres and hiking makes me think that’s a wise move.
  2. I want to save space to put presents in – I’m not about to trot up to different places empty handed.
  3. I’m only taking the bare essentials – If I needed anything desperately on the other side, I’ll buy it there.

I do admit the second criteria comes from a slightly selfish place. I figure the more space I use for presents at the beginning of my trip, the more space I’ll have at the end to buy myself some small souvenirs to take back too hehe. Gotta think smart when packing light, don’t you?

It does make the whole “what to pack” job a little more difficult though.

(I’m thanking the universe that I’m a pretty low maintenance kind of gal right now!)


Final list of items going into the 30l backpack

In order to keep my things organised in the backpack, I decided to invest in some Vespula recycled plastic packing cubes. I’ve been seeing packing cubes all over the internet. They’re all the rage it seems.

After some consideration (and some preliminary trial packing too), I then finally decided to take the following with me.

To be worn on the plane:

  • Earrings
  • Watch
  • Hair tie
  • Shirt
  • Capri sports trousers
  • Underpants
  • Bra
  • Socks
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking jacket (lightweight and works for both warmer and cooler temperatures)
  • Around the waist fanny pack (incl. credit cards, passport, phone, earphones and comb)

Inside the main compartment:

  • Rolled up dress
  • 2 medium packing cubes
  • Pair of sandals
  • Cosmetic facial wipes
  • Small umbrella
  • Miscellaneous items (in main compartment front pocket)
    • European and US USB charger
    • Iphone Cable
    • Disinfectant wipes
    • Cards
    • Vitamins
    • Lock
    • Medical stick
    • Portable battery pack and cable

Packing Cube 1:

  • Bikini
  • 3 bras (two standard, one sports bra)
  • 7 underpants
  • 3 sports socks + 4 standard black socks
  • 7 tops (2 sports shirts, 5 dress up and down t-shirts/tops)
  • Sweater top (warm like a sweater, but works as a top for cold weather too)
  • Baseball cap (Keep the sun out of my eyes hiking)

Packing Cube 2:

  • XL microfibre towel
  • 16 presents (varying from small to medium size)
  • Baseball cap
  • Dress
  • Sports trousers

Backpack right side pocket:

  • Jeans shorts
  • Black legging trousers 

Backpack left side pocket and cooler bag:

  • Lightweight jumpsuit (My favourite!)
  • 5 bars of Milk chocolate

Backpack big front pocket (bottom):

  • Handbag
  • Wallet (mostly empty)
  • Bathing suit

Backpack small front pocket (top):

  • Cosmetics in clear bag
    • Mini waxing strips and cleaning wipes
    • 2 eye gel tubes
    • Anti mosquito roll on and spray
    • Toothpaste
    • Suncream (Factor 30)
    • Cover up
    • Deodorant (roll-on)
    • Anti cold-sore treatment (in case I get run down)
    • 2 mini travel perfume pumps
    • Foundation 
    • Disinfectant

Backpack back pocket

  • iPad 2018
  • Logitech Pencil
  • Toothbrush


  • Mastercard
  • Backup visa card

Note: Unlike many, I don’t ever travel with cash in hand. Most places do take cards and if not then I prefer to pay the slight premium to withdraw abroad.

My primary card also has an easy block function, so in case it gets stolen I can block it immediately from my phone, without calling the bank. Very useful!

The final weigh in

Having put all of the things mentioned on the list above into my backpack, it was time for the final weigh in.

Admittedly, my first weigh in came in at 10.7kg – however, I had the clever idea to take out my iPad and weigh it again. The new weigh in came to 9.8kg.

Usually you can walk on to a plane with a bottle, iPad or book without any issues, so I figure this will be acceptable.

Considering most of my luggage is made up of presents too, I know I will be reducing my weight the minute I get to the US and Mexico. In those countries I have a 10kg restriction, so the 8kg is not so important.

By the time I get to Peru and Argentina, where regulations are stricter though, all the presents will have shaved off a good 2-3kg opening up space for more on the other end.

So anyways, that’s it. I’m ready to fly and about to leave the house in about 15 minutes (after one last shower).

Wish me luck – these next 6 weeks are going to be a blast, I’m sure!


// What do you think? Would you have packed anything differently? Let me know in the comments section below //


Explore the rest of the trip!

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