8 Essential Items To Bring For The Uyuni Salt Flats
Forgetting to pack just one essential item can throw a spanner in the works and ruin your salt flats tour. Luckily, the weather in the Altiplano where Uyuni is located doesn’t fluctuate much between summer and winter. It hardly rains all year round, so the only differences are day and night time temperatures.
Most of the rainfall is concentrated to summer months (Dec to Feb) so if you are visiting between this time, bring waterproofs.
Here are the 6 essential items you should bring for the Uyuni Salt Flats:
- Waterproof Hip Pack
- E-tip Gloves
- Phone/Camera Tripod
- Face Sunscreen
- Lightweight Thermal Layer
Just a heads up, there are affiliate links in this article alongside good advice!
1. Waterproof Hip Pack
Your big backpack will be stored safely on top of the jeep during the days of the tour, so you are going to need a smaller bag to carry your essentials when you are leaving the jeep to explore the salt flat.
Rather than a smaller day backpack (around 40L), a hip pack is a much better choice in my opinion. You are only ever leaving the jeep for 20-30 minutes at a time to take pictures and admire the scenery so there’s no need to be lugging around a day pack each time.
Having a fanny pack strapped to your waist or around your shoulders is much better as you can put essential items in there that you want to access quickly like sun cream or your phone. This means you don’t have to keep taking your bag off every time and search for items.
I am a big fan of the Matador range.
All their carry items are designed to pack down into small cases so they can be stored and put away easily when you aren’t using them. They are also waterproof, which is always handy, especially if you are travelling during rainy season.
Their waterproof packable hip pack is my favourite item when backpacking and perfect for tours to hold all my essentials that I want to access quickly:
2. E-tip Gloves
I skipped out on buying a pair of gloves for the Salkantay Trek in Peru and I got away with it. However, I wish I hadn’t skipped out on them for the Salt Flats Tour.
When you are outside of the jeep it’s just you and the open desert. Once the wind picks up (which it will) your hands will be freezing within seconds.
You might not see this as a problem you can just keep them in your pockets, but that defeats the point of going on this tour. You’ll need your hands to take as many pictures as possible of all the incredible sights throughout and this becomes difficult and painful if your hands are frozen.
I had to run back to the jeep a few times to escape the biting cold and rub my hands together to get the warmth back into them.
If I was to go back again, I would invest in some e-tip clothes.
Having a pair of these will come in handy not just on the Salt Flat tour but for most of the epic hikes and treks you can do in South America that will pit you against the elements. The great thing about gloves with e-tips is that you can continue to use your gadgets whilst out on the Altiplano. The e-tip, of course, allows you to operate your touchscreen devices with the glove on, making taking photos easy and efficient.
3. Joby Gorilla Tripod
While your guide will be an expert at taking the famous salt-flat perspective shots, they’re unlikely to become your personal photographer for the rest of the trip.
Also, if you plan to take your own perspective or reflection shots, then a tripod is essential. Getting down low to the ground is critical for both photos, so a keeping your phone or camera steady on a tripod is a huge help.
I used the gorilla tripod for both my phone and my DSLR camera as they are lightweight and easy to adjust.
The camera tripod was especially helpful when trying to get as low as possible to the ground to take better reflection and perspective photos. I could keep the camera off the ground but position it parallel without having to worry about it getting wet.
The long days on the Salt Flat tour mean you need to be up at the crack of dawn. And whilst your hotels do have electricity, outside it will be pitch black.
So having a cheap headlamp with you is always helpful.
It’s also extremely useful on the second night when going to the thermal baths for some star gazing. The path isn’t lit, and the gravel road is hard to navigate, so a torch helps. It also means you can leave your phone in the hotel instead of needing to use it as a torch.
A headlamp will also come in handy many times throughout South America if you are doing any early morning wake ups for trekking such as the Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador or Salkantay in Peru so this is a great investment if you are planning these adventure activities.
No need to break the bank with one. Klarus do simple and cheap options:
4. Roll On Face Sunscreen
At 3,000m above sea level, the sun is already intense out on the salt flats. But when it’s also being reflected off a perfectly white surface onto your face all day long, then it’s even worse.
Invest in a small, roll-on sun cream that you can apply to your face easily throughout the day. You can do it quickly, and it saves your hands getting oily every time, freeing them up to take photos.
As a rule of thumb – apply every time you stop and get out of the jeep.
We didn’t do this and got very burnt within an hour of being out on the salt flat.
Make sure you get SPF50. Nivea have the best roll on options in my opinion:
6. Lightweight Thermal Fleece / Jacket
The weather is constantly changing from hot to cold on the Slat Flats tour.
You will spend most of your time in the warm jeep, then stopping and stepping out into the desert landscape at 4,000m above sea level for 20-30 minutes to see the sights.
Here’s where you want a lightweight thermal layer that you can chuck on quickly over your t-shirt when you get out of the jeep, and easily take it off once you get back in. We didn’t have one of these at the time, so we used our hoodies which weren’t helpful in the slightest. Big cotton jumpers like ours weigh more, take up more space in your bag, don’t keep you warm and are just a faff in general to take off.
A lightweight thermal folds up neatly without taking up any room and keeps you warm. Also, if you get a zipped one, they slip on and off easily. They’re also great for wearing in the evenings when it’s colder.
7. Waterproof Boots
Summer (Dec to Feb) is the rainy season in Bolivia.
Whilst it doesn’t rain much on the Uyuni Salt Flat, it isn’t porous so the rain will build upon the surface eventually forming a small lake. The water will come up to ankle height in some places, so it’s best to purchase some good waterproof hiking boots.
The salt flat is remarkably painful to walk on barefoot as well (salt is pretty sharp) so avoid doing this. Get some waterproof footwear, preferably boots that you can use for hiking in other places; otherwise, you’ll have to face having soggy footwear for the trip.
I bought my trekking boots from Mountain Warehouse (the generic branded hiking apparrel store in the UK) and they served me brilliantly for the entire year-long trip in South America, from the Amazon in Bolivia to Patagonia.
These Isogrip Boots are fully waterproof and were tested in several ankle high puddles and rivers in South America.
8. Thick Thermal Layers
From June-August, daytime temperatures average day time temperatures of 13° Celsius and night temperatures drop below freezing.
For a Salt Flats tour, make sure you bring lots of layers including thermal base layers, a lightweight fleece and even a windbreaker on top. This allows you to continually put on and take off layers to match the temperature.
This waterproof windbreaker from the North Face is ideal and packs down easily into a hand-sized package:
Uyuni Salt Flats Tour Complete Packing List
If you are doing the full 3 day/2 night tour and getting dropped off at the Chilean border, then you will take your big backpack with you on the jeep.
It will be strapped to the top of the jeep for the entire day, covered in tarpaulin and tied down to protect it, so you won’t have access to it until you reach the hotel for the evening. Therefore, you should pack a day bag which you can take in the jeep, so you have easy access to some essentials.
Uyuni Salt Flat Clothing List
- Hiking Boots – the salt will get all over your shoes, and on the second day when you go into the mountains, most of the desert is loose gravel and stones, and you can also do some climbing over rocks when you reach the Dali valley – so best to have some robust shoes that can get dusty.
- Hiking Socks (x2) – merino wool, so they last a couple of days without smelling
- Separate pair of lightweight shoes – for the end of the day when you reach the hotel. It feels great to kick off the smelly hiking boots and wear some comfy shoes instead
- Pair of regular socks – to go with your change of shoes
- Hiking trousers or shorts – we took base layer leggings but didn’t end up wearing them. We feel more comfortable trekking in shorts, but many people were wearing trousers. Remember you spend a lot of time driving so you will want to choose something comfortable to sit in.
- Waterproof jacket/windbreaker – perfect for when you reach some of higher altitudes to keep the wind out and stay warm, or when there is a light drizzle.
- Hoody / Jumper/ lightweight thermal jacket – the evenings get very cold when you’re above 3,000m
- Woolly Hat/Snood – both are useful for keeping your ears/head warm when you reach those colder and windier places
- Cap – to keep the sun off your face/neck if you’re having good weather on the salt flat
- Sunglasses – if you have a sunny day on the salt flat, you will essentially be blind without sunglasses. The reflection off the white surface is incredibly strong so bring a good pair with UV protection
- Swimwear – for the thermal springs
- Flip flops – for making your way from the hotel to the thermal baths (about a 5-minute walk). You can also wear them in the evenings around the hotel if you don’t want to wear trainers, but it will be cold!
- Travel towel – not essential as both our hotels provided towels but always better to be prepared
Uyuni Salt Flat Toiletry Packing List
- Toilet roll – better to be safe than sorry
- Wet wipes – if unluckily you need a nature poo
- Standard items – toothbrush, deodorant etc
- Medical kit and medicine – you never know what can happen on the trip, be prepared
Uyuni Salt Flats Gear/Tech Packing List
- Water bottle – you can fill your bottle up each day at the hotel
- Portable charger – there’s electricity in the hotels, but there’s usually only one working plug socket which everyone uses, so bring a portable charger to keep your phone charged. One fully charged battery should last the 3 days.
- Camera – obviously
- Day backpack – This will be the backpack you carry each day on the trek and will need to look after your valuables like your camera, water bottle and snacks.
- Snacks – cereal bars etc., always handy although you are fed well and given snacks each day
- Extra cash – cash in BOB for when you want to buy snacks or water. On the morning of the second day, you visit a shop before driving into the desert. You can also buy wine and alcohol at the hotels.
Still unsure about booking a Salt Flat tour in Bolivia? Read our 6 reasons why you can’t miss out on this amazing trip.
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