Whatever type of traveller you are or whatever kind of trip you’re taking, everyone has to take on the challenge of packing. Backpacking is the art of thinking ahead, anticipating what a place will be like and packing what you may need-usually in a stuffed down one single bag. Throw in some extra unknown variables such as various weather conditions and the length of your trip, packing becomes one big procrastination! In attempt to make this process a whole lot easier, ask yourself the question “is this essential?” when packing anything and if you’re unsure, it’s probably not! Also as a rule, aim to pack things that can be used for more than one thing, like a lot of our packing essentials in this handy guide.
When heading out on any adventure, the first thing you need is your trusty backpack! Spend some time and do some research. What bag will suit your needs best? A hardcore security bag with anti-theft features such as Numinous Backpacks or something more lightweight and designed for ‘everyday adventure’ such as Osprey Packs. Which ever you decide to go with, make sure you also invest in a waterproof bag cover! Whether it’s a rainy day in Europe or monsoon season in Asia, you will be thankful that all of your stuff is dry! I will be giving you general points but have also combined a nifty packing list (available for download at the end) which you can just easily print off to use as a guide when packing!
Clothes take up the most space in your luggage so it is really difficult packing for all kinds of weather, social occasions and adventures in the least space possible! But it is possible. The key is to pack a few high quality items which you can layer on to keep you warm if needed. Packing for layers is one of the best ways to prepare for any outcome! Another handy tip is to create a capsule wardrobe. This is when you have clothing that can be worn on your adventures which can also be made to look ‘dressed up’ with a scarf or different pair of shoes. Packing for a mix and match approach rather than individual outfits is a real space saver and is probably one of the best tricks in the backpacking book. If you’re looking for a sample packing list for hot weather climates, check out our Backpacker’s Guide: What to Pack for Thailand
Before a big trip, I like to go through my clothes to check if everything is in good quality and if there is anything I need to replace. Shopping on sites such as Tobi are great to buy those staple clothes items that you can reuse throughout your trip, so always check before packing that you have what you need.
With the other sections, you can view some items as essential while others may be luxury. However with outdoor gear, these will be more specific to the activities and adventures you plan to be doing. Tents for camping are essential to your safety and survival, and should be prioritised while packing. Different adventures will require different accessories depending on the season, temperature, geography, accommodation and means of transport. The first step is to decide what adventure or adventures you will be doing and packing accordingly. For outdoor gear, we usually shop in REI as they usually have the best online deals.
To save space in backpack you can buy toiletries at your destination. However, if you’re moving around all the time, it is worth having the basics to freshen up whenever you want. Always remember to keep your basic toiletries at the top of your bag to easily access them when you need them. It is also worth packing essential medications here too, so you can quickly take pain killers, allergy or travel sickness medication to make any long journey more bearable.
Insider Tip: Minimise spillages in your luggage by storing everything in resealable zip lock bags and only packing sample sizes of 50 ml bottles. Always try to keep your toiletry bag light and TSA-compliant (regardless if you’re flying or not!). This will you having to lug around large bottles and will also avoid accidental spillages.
Electronics & Chargers
All valuables should be kept with you so you can ensure it’s safety but also for your entertainment! That iPad, kindle or iPod will be heaven on that overnight bus or long haul flight without TVs! Just remember to always pack plug adapters, a multiple charger or a power bank towards the top as well. Nothing is worse than your iPad dying in a crucial part of a film! If you are taking a flight, pack all electronics and chargers in your hand luggage. When I lost my luggage in Spain, I had to give my home address as I was traveling around too frequently and I had to do without a laptop, camera or phone charger for the rest of my trip. Lesson learnt. Carrying spare batteries for your camera is also useful for long multi day treks. If you’re out camping for a few days, consider solar battery backpacks which you can use to charge your basic electronics.
Bring as much cash as you see fit. Whether that is enough to last your entire trip or just enough for food, transport and accommodation for the first few days, it is entirely up to you. Just be aware that there won’t always be ATMs nearby and if there are, there might be steep withdrawal charges. Look into your options of getting a local card, a multi-card or opening a local bank account if you’re staying for a longer period. If you’re backpacking around multiple countries, make sure to withdraw a bit of money in each currency before you leave for your trip. This way, when you rock up in each place, you can at least eat and sleep before having to plan anything or walk around for ages to find an ATM.
Use a travel wallet or plastic envelope to keep all your essential documents organised and dry! Keeping your passport, driver’s licence, student ID anything else you need all together will reduce the mini panic attack you get when you think you’ve lost something, as well as those awkward moments when you can’t find your passport when the friendly hostel man requests it. We also highly recommend keeping photocopies of your passport, driver’s licence and credit cards all in one place so that you have all of the information you need if one of them goes missing. It is also handy to keep a list of emergency contacts with you and a couple of copies of your passport photo just incase you need to renew or open anything new.
Water & Snacks
The holy grail and key to keep you sane on long haul trips is water, snacks and more snacks! To save you money on water we highly recommend the Water to Go bottle. Take it with you wherever you go and you’ll never have to pay for water again!
These are completely dependent on the type of traveler you are and what you consider to be essential to you. You will also soon find out what you use most and what you don’t need so you’ll adapt as you go along. For example, any traveller should always be cautious about pickpockets when traveling in a city. Carrying carabiners and padlocks would therefore be essential to keep your zips secure and give you peace of mind while traveling. These can also be used while traveling around hostels or camping, and are appropriate for anyone who wants to secure their bag next to them when they sleep.
Adventure means heading into a situation where we don’t entirely know the outcome, which can make packing a difficult task. But instead of hiding under the covers and avoiding the chore all together, take a deep breath and go through each item one at a time. Question whether it will weigh you down or allow you to go beyond your comfort zone to experience all kinds of adventure. If the answer is the latter, pack it, begin your travels and go have some life-changing adventures! Want to know exactly what we bring with us? Download our checklist and print it out to make packing easy and hassle free!
Interested in reading about more adventure articles? Check out the links below
- Beginner’s Guide to Trekking: Everything You Need to Know
- What the Hell Does Adventure Mean?
- Camping 101: Everything You Need to Know about Camping in the UK