There is a saying that the traveller who travels lightest also travels furthest. Maybe…..but one thing is for certain – the traveller who struggles around with a huge backpack crammed with non-essentials and just-in-case items quickly becomes a fed up, weary traveller.
Many travellers set out armed to the teeth, ready for all eventualities and with some strange notion that where they are headed people don’t use/sell this, that and other items…..an idea which hardly ever has any foundation.
Of course, a traveller might struggle to find modern comfort items and conveniences in out-of-the-way rural areas, but cities and towns all over the world stock exactly the same items or something very similar.
Shaving your backpack contents down to essential items only means you will be travelling as lightly as is possible. So, what exactly constitutes essential? Well, of course that will depend on the individual and to some degree also on the destination – no one size fits all. However, this list is intended to get you started.
Travel Adapters and Chargers
If you intend to take any sort of electronic device with you then don’t forget their individual chargers and country-specific plug adapters. Surprisingly, these things are not always easy to obtain once you have arrived at your destination and, even if they are available, can take some real hunting down.
The travellers’ watch words here are:
-anything but white
-clothes which you can layer are better than bulky, thick items
-if you are headed somewhere with mosquitoes then remember to include something with long sleeves and legs for evening cover up
-don’t forget to research any religious or cultural customs of your destination to ensure you have appropriate clothing
-roll rather than fold your clothes for packing which takes up way less space and creases them less
First Aid Kit
Although first-aid supplies are available almost everywhere it is always a good idea to carry your own basic kit so it is there ready, should you need it. It is far more useful to make up your own kit than buy a ready-made one because you can tailor it to the needs/risks of your specific destination.
[Also see our travel article “Global Health Insurance Coverage Choices: Travel Insurance Edition“]
There is a great debate that rages among travellers regarding insurance. Of course the choice is yours but travel insurance is relatively cheap and offers enormous peace of mind.
Horror stories abound of those folk who thought they could lighten their budget by avoiding this cost. Bear in mind also that should the worst happen, good policies aren’t just there to financially compensate you but are also there to assist you in times of crises – the very times when you need all the physical, mental and emotional help you can get.
If you are going to be travelling on a tight budget then you will probably be using dorms and using lockers for your valuables. Padlocks are sometimes provided but not always and those that are can be a little on the flimsy side. Bring your own good-quality option for greater security.
Photocopies of Essential Documents
This includes passport, visa, driving licence, work permits – anything in fact which could help you out if the originals of these important documents are lost or stolen.
One of the most versatile things you can bring along for your backpacking adventure and one which meets the backpackers’ essential criteria of being light and taking up very little pack space. Works as a towel, a beach spread, makeshift bag, convenient modesty cover up (particularly useful for visiting temples in Asia), light blanket, sun shade, sheet/pillowcase, laundry bag and a 1001 other things.
Sleeping Bag Liner
Although there are exceptions, it is normally a sure bet that if you spot a traveller carrying a sleeping bag he is a newbie. Experienced travellers have discovered that such a bulky item is both annoying and unnecessary because there are very few places which don’t provide bedding – even those in the super low-budget category.
However, a sleeping bag liner is something else. As a budget traveller you might well find yourself shown to rooms where the bedding looks uninviting to say the least and at those times you will be glad you have your own cocoon. A silk liner is the most useful as it will work to keep you cool when it’s hot and warm if it’s chilly.
The only thing you need here is a small, basic kit which will get you through the first couple of days – shower gel, toothpaste and toothbrush, hand sanitiser, razor, shampoo, deodorant, sun cream.
Don’t take your full bulky bottles from home – just decant a little into small travel friendly containers (plastic not glass), alternatively, invest in some travel sized toiletries.
Another item that is well worth packing is a microfibre towel. These towels are lightweight and compact, saving space that can be used to pack other essentials. Travel towels are also quick drying and often come with anti-bacterial protection to prevent mold and odours from developing.
Ladies – sanitary items can typically be bought everywhere but it is worth noting that tampons are not easily available in many countries.
Great for separating dirty/wet laundry, avoiding toiletry spills and for organising your backpack as a whole.