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Packing - skip to:

  • Packing List
  • 16 Things You Must Take
  • How Much To Pack
  • What Not To Take And How To Reduce Weight
  • How To Choose A Travel Backpack
  • How To Pack And Live Out Of Your Backpack

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    Travel Packing List:
    What To Take Backpacking Around The World

    Skip to: Packing List

    Packing For Backpackers

    How much you pack depends entirely on your backpack, but the advice you will hear across the board is don't pack too much.

    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
      Rushing. You will constantly be rushing to catch transport or to get the last bed in a hostel. You will get there a lot quicker without the weight on your back.
      Less things to lose or have stolen.
      Easier to find things in your backpack.
      Sweating. Walking around a hot, humid city like Bangkok is bad enough when carrying nothing. You will really notice every kilogram in your pack, usually in relation to how many litres you are sweating out.

    "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

          

    View printable travel packing list.


    Should Take
      Should Take Clothing
      3-7 t-shirts/ tops - more t-shirts mean less washing - in the tropics they smell bad pretty quickly - but remember the extra weight.
      1-3 shorts/ skirts - depending on climate of your destinations.
      Underwear and Socks - if you think you will be wearing flips flops all the time, take less socks.
      Swimwear.
      Microfibre travel towel. - perfect for backpackers. They fold up into virtually nothing, weigh very little and dry super quick.
      Travel trousers.
      1-3 jumpers/ sweaters - depending on climate of your destinations (maybe a fleece for some of the colder places).
      Flip Flops
      Everyday shoes, trainers or walking boots.
      Sunglasses.
      Hat - Sun or Woolly hat depending on where you are going.
      Lightweight rainjacket. (ideally a mac in a pack)
      Should Take Toiletries
      Travel Grooming Set i.e. nail clippers, scissors, tweezers, mirror, file.
      Suncream.
      Shaving gear.
      Body Wash.
      Shampoo and Conditioner.
      Deodorant.
      Manual toothbrush.
      Toothpaste.
      Should Take Items
      Mobile Phone.
      Wallet/ Purse - containing local currency, home credit/ debit card, prepaid currency card, ID.
      Camera & SD cards - read here for more about cameras.
      Chargers (Camera, Phone, Laptop, Appliances).
      Worldwide Power Adapter.
      Watch - You constantly need to know the time. A cheap, rugged watch saves you taking your valuable, breakable phone out of your pocket all the time.
      Earphones - don't take headphones.
      Water Bottle - no need to buy a specialist bottle you may lose, just buy a bottle of Evian with a sports cap and refill it.
      Notepad - for writing down addresses, travel ideas, etc.
      Pens.
      USB Stick/ Hard Drive - with documentation backup on (good for backing up photos/ storing movies too).
      EARPLUGS! - I can't sleep in hostels without them.
      Small Torch - great for using in dorms after dark without annoying everyone else.
      Locks - avoid locks with a key (which can be lost easily - one guy I met locked his key in a locker), go for the ones with a number combination.
      Travel Wash - for when you need to quickly wash a pair of socks or get out a stain.
      Should Take Medical
      First Aid Kit - should contain at least plasters, bandages, anti-septic cream, burn treatment gel and wound closure strips.
      Paracetamol, Aspirin or Ibuprofen.
      Diarrhoea tablets.
      Anti-septic cream.
      Should Take Documentation
      Document Wallet/ Folder.
      Passport.
      Insurance Paperwork.
      Tickets (flights, buses, tours).
      Visa Paperwork.
      Emergency numbers.
      Embassy Addresses.
      Immunisation record.
      Photocopies of documents - give one set to your parents or close friend and take another set with you - check here to confirm which documentation needs photocopying.
    Can Take
      Can Take Clothing
      Jeans - do not take if only going to hot countries.
      Belt.
      Long sleeved shirts.
      Smart shoes.
      Sarong.
      Can Take Toiletries
      Hair products/ Brush.
      After sun lotion.
      Wet wipes.
      Dental floss.
      Moisturiser.
      Multi vitamin tablets.
      Vaseline.
      Cologne/ Perfume (transfer to a plastic bottle).
      Makeup - can be the difference between 0 and 2kgs for some girls.
      Shower puff/ sponge.
      Hand Sanitiser.
      Lip Balm.
      Tissues.
      Contraception/ Condoms.
      Can Take Items
      Sleeping bag liner/ Sheet - if you think you may be staying in some grubby hostels.
      Travel Pillow.
      Travel Hair Dryer (or other appliances) - tend to break easily and take up a lot of space.
      Backpack rain cover - or just run to shelter.
      Rehydration tablets - not needed if you drink plenty of water.
      Tupperware - bulky, but can help you save you a lot of money when cooking food in developed countries.
      Re-sealable Bags.
      Laptop/ Tablet.
      Head Torch.
      Sink Plug.
      Discount/ youth cards.
      Phrasebook.
      Sewing Kit, Duct Tape, String, Super Glue - great for fixing things, taking one may be a good idea.
      Compression bags - put your clothes in them and they squeeze out all the trapped air, saving you space.
      Diary - great for memories and taking up time on long bus rides.
      Pen Knife - I never used mine, but you never know.
      USB extension cable - so your phone can reach your bed.
      Plug extension/ multiplier - plug sockets are always in short supply, having one of these could make you very popular.
      Money Belt - bit outdated now, most thieves know people wear them, and with a currency card you should never have too much cash on you. Don't look too cool when trying to make friends either.
    Might Have To Take
      Might Have To Take Clothing
      Beach Towel - if going anywhere with beaches. Can also be used instead of travel towel when staying in a place for a long time.
      Thermal/ winter clothing - destination specific.
      Job related clothing.
      Might Have To Take Medical/ Toiletries
      Female Sanitary Items.
      Malaria tablets.
      Insect Repellent (with high DEET %) - must pack for Asia, Latin America and Africa (malaria hotspots).
      Water purification tablets/ bottle - if you might not have access to bottled or clean water.
      Allergy Tablets.
      Glasses/ Contact lenses.
      Prescriptions/ Medications.
      Toilet Paper - some developing countries may not have toilet paper provided or even a toilet.
      Might Have To Take Items
      Camping Gear - if planning on camping for long periods of time only.
      Job related documentation.
      Rape Alarm.
      International Drivers License.
        There are probably plenty of things not on this list or any other list you have read. If you think you are going to use something often, then take it. If you think "that may come in handy", then you probably won't need it. If it is large or heavy, you need to seriously think about leaving it behind.

      View printable travel packing list.


      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.

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