When planning a backpacking adventure for the first time most people worry about what to pack. I know this because from February to June 2014 Jono and I were in the same boat. Excited about finally handing in our notice at work but slightly overwhelmed by the task ahead. So to assist anyone considering taking the plunge to experience the world here a some useful tips.
Step 1: Determine your type of travel & the season
Before you start buying camping stoves, fire lighters and any other crap you think you need after watching Bear Grylls its important to determine the nature of your travels and the kind of lifestyle you are willing to accept. This will allow you to make a good decisions on the most obvious and important piece of kit after your passport, your main rucksack.
In our case we are two 26 year old guys looking to travel light for an extended period of time.We therefore wanted a low capacity main rucksack which would not break our backs or take up huge space on the train and also fit the requirements for handluggage on flights if required. As we left home in June we also calculated that we would not require cold weather gear.
Step 2: Get the right rucksack
|Osprey Farpoint 40 still going strong after 8 months|
There are a plethora of baggage suppliers out there so I will just focus on our backpack. After checking some decent reviews we opted for Ospreys Farpoint 40. As the number in the name suggests this is a 40 litre sack. Its lightweight and extreemely robust and durable. We have been travelling for 8 months now and over the course of 13,000 miles its stood up to all kinds of punishment and so far the only thing thats broken off is a small string strap on one of the zips, thats it.
Osprey Farpoint 40 (Amazon)
Step 3: Essential kit to pack
There is a tendency at this stage to go out to your local outdoor and camping store and buy an array of gadgets from GPS trackers to solar panel chargers and from tablets that make the local water safe to drink to a pack of emergency flares. These items may seem useful and are quite possibly "essential" if your planning to maroon yourself for a year but for most backpacker trail these items only succeed in making you look like an imbecile. So if your just going around Europe think to yourself "if I buy that Indiana Jones hat and machete combo pack for a month in Prague will I look like a doofus?" and if the answer is "yes you will" don't pack it.
So here are a few essential bits of kit we have found extremely useful:
|Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quarter Cube & Half Cube|
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quarter Cube & half cube - these small zip up bags help you maximize your limited space by squashing your nicely screwed up clothing into an even tighter package.
- Lifesystems UltraNet Single Mosquito Net - For the first stage of our trip this was never used but now we're in the tropics it's a life saver.
|Trek Towel from Lifeventure|
- Lifeventure Hydro Fibre Trek Towel - most hostels nowadays have towels available for free or rental but if your intending to couchsurf or have to stay in guesthouses or homestays you will need a means of drying yourself. This version is super compact and dries quickly.
|The Silk Sleeper has been a life saver when staying in filthy hostels|
- Life Venture Silk Sleeper - Bedbugs are a backpackers worst nightmare and are sometimes unavoidable but this lightweight, easy to pack silk sleeping bag prevents the bugs from getting to you.
- Small Laptop or Ipad : essential for booking transport, blogging, contacting family, watching films on long journeys and storing/editing photos.
- "Waterproof"Rain jacket: We have been lucky with the weather so far but you never know when the heavens will open.
- Moneybelt: Ours tuck under our shirts but any type of belt is handy. The best way to keep your valuables safe is on your person.
|Eagle creek day sack|
- Eaglecreek Packable Daysack - Not the strongest bag out there but a day sack is useful for day to day exploring and its even more useful if it rolls up small enough to fit in you main bag.
- Sewing Kit: Things tear and rip and you cant always buy new ones straight away.
- Flash Drive - A flash drive with a couple of GB memory is well worth packing. Store electronic copies of your passport, driving license, travel insurance, visas and CV (if your intending on finding work). Most hostels and hotels have PC's for use or allow you to use a printer so its a great backup if you loose any important documents.
- International Sim Card - There are some great, cheap pay-as-you-go sim options out there now. We opted for an International sim from 0044 sim cards. You card purchase a basic card for £15 with £5 credit and it covers 190+ countries.
- Hard copies of important documents - Your passport and other important documents are your lifeline whilst on the roads and you shouldn't really trust them with anyone. Packing a plastic wallet with photocopies is always good practice. In most cases where a passport is required (except at borders) for example at hotel check ins or when hiring a scooter a photocopy should be sufficient along with a cash deposit. It's much safer than trusting people with your actual passport (In our experience corruption amongst government officials is always something to be aware of).
- Tough walking boots - not used much in Europe but handy for trekking in jungles.
- Wooden cutlery set - wooden chopsticks, fork, knife and spoon was extremely useful on the Trans-Siberian
- Notebook and pen - you never know when someone's going to give you helpful advice and its handy when making blog notes and observations.
- Roll of strong tape - handy for short term maintenance of gear and for fixing your mosquito net to the ceiling when there's no place to hook it.
I'm not going to list how many t-shirts, socks and underpants we packed or anything like that because it's your own decision. I also understand that women tend to pack more than men (not always) and therefore I can't comment on what is deemed "essential" but there are a couple of points everyone should be aware of when packing.
- You can always purchase supplies and items while your travelling.
- You can always throw stuff away as your travelling.
- If there are things in your bag you haven't used or seen in a few weeks you don't need them.
- If you haven't got room to carry souvenirs there is always the option of posting them home (A little bit pricey especially if you pay for secured delivery, but always an option).