Read here for our Guide To Choosing The Best Backpack For Travelling.
If you can't be bothered to read this detailed packing guide and checklist yet, try our more digestible Backpacking Essential Gear: 16 Things You Need To Take Travelling.
How Much To Pack
I was a bit concerned when I first started reading recommended packing lists. I really didn't think I could cope with so few items for a long overseas trip, and it seemed I would be washing clothes for most of my time.
Once you get into the swing of things however, you realise you really don't need much at all. You even start throwing things away because its weighing you down too much.
"every gram counts"
You really need to find the ideal weight for you, which does come with a bit of experience. For me weighing 70kg, I found 15kg for my main pack and 4kg additional weight in my day pack to be the perfect weight. Don't think the perfect weight is the peak of what you can handle - I can run for a train with 19kg on my back comfortably and walk for half an hour without pain, but even with just 1kg more I struggle. Somewhere between 10kg and 20kg for your main pack and 3 to 8kg for your day pack is the key - anything over 23kg total you are going to have a bad time and really need to start unpacking things.
The weight also depends on the countries you are visiting. Pack less in developing countries as there are very few lifts, escalators, transport links or well maintained footpaths - this means you will be carrying your bag a lot more.
|Other Reasons To Pack Light|
"Backpacking is the art of knowing what not to take." - Sheridan Anderson
What Not To Take And How To Reduce Weight
Keep in mind you can always buy stuff when you get there. If you find you could really do with an extra t-shirt, you can buy one a lot cheaper than back home at a local market.
Shoes are one of the biggest problems, particularly for the ladies. They can add up to a kilogram for each pair. For me you only need one very good pair of everyday shoes, trainers or walking boots, that you wear rather than pack. One pair of flip flops and one pair of smarter/ going out shoes. Once arriving, if you are that fashion conscious, just throw a pair out and replace them with a new pair, rather than adding another pair to your pack.
Remember, no one will judge you on what you are wearing when you are travelling, you probably won't be with the same people for more than a few days anyway. So don't worry about wearing the same clothes for a few days in a row, or having a small stain - no one cares!
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money." – Susan Heller
Avoid taking cases or packaging. When I first went I brought a lot of new things and kept them in the case they came with, like sunglasses and camera. You find out you never put them back in the case because you are always using them, so you end up having these boxes of air in your bag, taking up valuable space.
Books! Everyone goes and buys a Lonely Planet before they go. Leave it at home, they are great, but they weigh a ton. Better travel information can be found online and the best travel advice of all is from your fellow backpackers. If you are a keen reader, download books to your tablet, phone or kindle.
The same goes with a lot of things these days - you can put everything on your phone or tablet. You can take so many items off your checklist; such as an ipod, DVDs, maps, phrasebook, currency convertor, GPS, PSP/ Gameboy, even a camera - just bring/ buy a top line phone, they pay for themselves.
Laptop or not is a very big question for some people. If you are very IT savvy you know a laptop is much better than a tablet for almost everything, other than the key thing when travelling of mobility. If you are intending on undertaking serious work a laptop is a very good thing to take for finding jobs, updating CVs, etc. Though if you just want to browse the internet, skype your parents and post a few pictures to facebook there is no need; just take your tablet or even just your phone. I have travelled on separate occasions with a tablet and laptop and as an IT person, I much preferred travelling with my laptop. However my laptop is very light weight, if it was any heavier I would have never taken it.
Unless you intend on camping a lot, there is no need to bring camping gear such as sleeping bags or bed rolls. Tours that involve camping will usually provide all equipment or it can be cheaply rented. If you rent or buy a campervan, equipment is usually thrown in.
Appliances like hairdryers are usually available in most hostels. Most of these appliances (even travel versions) aren't meant to be lugged for 3 months in a backpack so often break anyway.
Guitars. It always baffles me seeing people trying to carry a guitar whilst hauling 20kgs on their back - you can see the regret etched on their faces. A vast amount of hostels have guitars available, often free to use.
A huge balancing act in packing is your toiletries. You can pack big bottles so you buy them less frequently - the bigger versions tend to be cheaper as well - but remember every gram counts. If you think your pack is too heavy then this is the place to start trimming by packing smaller bottles, A good idea is to get a 2 or 3 in 1 bottle of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Sorry girls, you may need to leave the makeup bag at home as well - a lot tend to rock the natural look whilst away.
Travel Packing List
When looking at packing lists online before I went, there seemed to be many things I was unsure would be relevant to me or not.
Therefore I have split the list into 3 sections; things everyone should take, stuff you can take if you have room or want to and stuff you might have to take in certain places or scenarios.
I would highly advise you check out multiple travel packing lists, as different people, pack different things.
Also remember to check out The 16 Things You Need To Take Travelling
Might Have To Take
How To Pack And Live Out Of Your Backpack
How to pack and prepare your backpack is obviously going to be very specific to your bag and belongings. With experience you will know exactly how you like it packed, but here are some general tips:.
Items you use regularly should be near to top - such as clean tops, underwear and toothbrush. I now take two separate toiletry bags - one for everyday stuff, like toothpaste/ brush, body wash and shampoo, that I place right at the very top of my bag. The other is for less frequent items such as my razor, after sun, etc. which is placed further down.
Things you may need in an hurry should be in designated compartments - i.e. first aid kit or rainjacket.
Keep similar stuff together in an assigned compartment or bag so you know where to find them, i.e. electrical equipment (chargers, adapters).
If your backpack doesn't have a dirty washing compartment, make sure to take large plastic bags to put them in otherwise your whole bag will smell.
Your daypack should usually contain, water, suncream, first aid kit, etc. However be aware most of these items cannot be taken on flights, so you may have to keep changing what is in there.
Think of packing like Tetris. Try to minimise empty space; fill those empty spaces with small or flexible items such as socks.