Backpack Check, Hip Flask Check, Ipod Check. What Else?

When I first started backpacking I remember thinking, “what the hell do I take?” I asked my friend for advice and she said I can’t take any form of denim; I need to take a million and one pills for the illnesses I could potentially get, and then she sellotaped together any liquids I had to prevent leakage, so much so that I struggled to get in most of them.

I feel now that I've traveled enough to know what exactly I need and don’t need; and therefore offer advice to any new backpacker. Many factors will determine a different list of essentials for each backpacker, obviously because anywhere you travel will be extremely different. For example, don’t bother taking your mosquito repellent to the mountain treks of the Himalayas, but then again don’t take your hip flask around the mosques of Istanbul. I feel that I've gathered enough of a list to provide a new backpacker with the essentials of what to take, if you feel anything needs adding or taking away just let me know.

Firstly, the backpack –
I for one don’t have the best advice on this important item. Many travel blogs that I read argue that a 60 litre backpack is plenty, I have a 110 litre backpack and I’m still struggling. The size of the backpack will vary depending if you’re travelling for two weeks of if you've packed your whole life away, like me. All I’d say on the backpack front is make sure you leave with it half full or ¾ full as you’re going to pick up things along the way, especially if you’re just going on a short trip, then you’re bound to grab some souvenirs. Pick a sturdy backpack, with enough straps to alter, and I’d recommend getting one with different compartments and one that opens at the front as if it were a big duffle bag, it’s much easier to grab stuff quickly.

Documents –
I always take a photocopy of my passport, emergency phone numbers and two copies of flight tickets.

Clothes –
pack less! Advice I wish I followed. We all like to look good, we all like a new outfit but carrying a lot of clothes is more effort than it’s worth, plus you’ll probably ending up buying more on your travels anyway. All I’d say is take some kind of waterproof, and pack according to the season. Always take some kind of bathing wear; you never know when you’ll come across a pool, a beach or a hot spring.

Shoes –
flip flops are an essential for any country, mainly to wear in the hostel showers. Some people think this is really OCD of me, but some hostel showers are disgusting. A £2 pair of flip flops never goes a miss and they’re pretty small to pack. Secondly, a good pair of trainers/sneakers/plimsolls is useful for the amount of walking you will do. And girls, don’t bother taking heels, you’ll be the only backpacker in them and they take up a lot of room.

Toiletries –
to save room use shampoo as shower gel, and an even better saver is to use combined shampoo and conditioner. Might seem obvious to some, but as a female traveler my toiletries were probably my biggest downfall. Use after sun lotion as body moisturiser (two uses!) and always take hand sanitizer. And, if you’re going to the right countries then pack your suncream. For girls, take a supply of your ‘monthly-friends’ -you may find yourself a bit lost when stuck in the middle of Vietnam, trying to explain to a male shop assistant what you’re after.

Medical –
pack a small first aid kit, which I recommend to include just plasters and paracetamol. If you’re going to a mosquito country then don’t be a fool, make sure you get malaria tablets. Also, take some insect repellent with at least 50% of the deet ingredient (should be read easily on the packet.) I’ve never needed much else, but I have friends who are insistent on taking every tablet under the sun. You can buy these things abroad, they often can be pricy but it saves having to buy them and carry them round in the first place.

Towel –
go on eBay again and buy a travel towel, there are plenty of sellers who provide them. They are a great deal smaller than a normal bath towel and they dry much quicker.

Small bag/rucksack –
make sure you have a bag to take around during the day, and girls remember you’re bound to want some kind of ‘night’ bag. Make sure it has a secure zip and enough compartments.

Padlock –
always important for lockers in hostels and even your bag.

Notebook and pen –
always useful to jot down where you've been and other travelers' recommendations. Also safer to use than making notes of your phone.

Purse –
leave all unnecessary cards at home. Buy an international student card if you can, worth every penny for the amount of discounts you get.

Travel book –
sometimes a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet has saved the day, for example when arriving in an unknown city in the middle of the night it’s easy to point to a hostel in your travel book than having to explain to a taxi driver what you're after. However, these are heavy and can often limit your travels I find. I’d say download some apps to your phone that can be used without the internet and maybe just buy a travel book if you’re staying in one country for a long period.

Book –
can’t beat a good book, and useful for when your iPod runs out of battery in the middle of a 36 hour bus ride. I usually find a dusty copy of George Orwell for 50p in a charity shop, pretty light and easy to throw away when done. Don’t take a hardback obviously, and if you’re a keen reader then maybe worth investing in a kindle.

Sunglasses –
don’t be ‘that’ person like me and take about five pairs of different coloured sunglasses. And don’t take expensive ones; they’re just likely to get broken.

Washing powder –
useful in the more expensive countries. However, if in places like South East Asia then pay for laundry. It’s crazy cheap; they’ll dry it for you and even tag your socks together.

Teabags –
maybe just me…

Cards –
a pack of cards never goes a miss, and can be played universally with pretty much any language barrier. Also a great way to start a drinking game with new friends.

Travel sewing kit –
useful for long-term travelers, and really compact and cheap.

Cutlery –
may seem odd but I always take a fork travelling with me. You might grab a quick meal from a convenience store, and then find yourself without any cutlery. It’s pretty small, but can be also used to undo knots and prize open packets.

Adapter – look on eBay for a universal adapter, and perhaps one with a USB charger to charge your iPod. They should be about £5.

Laptop –
only take a laptop if you’re travelling for a while, which if you are then invest in a travel size one. If you’re just doing a few months or less then don’t bother. Most hostels have computers with free internet, and if not then internet cafes are really cheap. Basically, judge the situation. For example, my friend did a ski season in one place for four months and was lost without his laptop. However, whilst on the move it’s just an unnecessary and heaven burden.

Camera –
some travelers love a good SLR with fancy buttons, fair enough if you do, but prepare for the damage costs and the expense it carries. I bought a normal digital camera, and broke it two weeks later drunk…so now I use my phone which actually takes pretty good pictures. I’d say take a digital camera, which can be purchased pretty cheap these days. Also remember the charger, maybe buy an extra battery off eBay, and take a memory stick so that you always have enough space for more snaps

Chargers –
camera, phone, iPod

IPod – upload a ton of music, films and podcasts.    

This list might seem obvious to even a new traveler, but it doesn't harm to always have a checklist. Overall, my main bit of advice is to pack light. I’m no good at this and it’s the biggest burden of travelling. No one looks good as a traveler, so leave your fashion, accessories and shoes at home. Also, leave your valuables; it’s really not worth the hassle.   

By Becky on
About Mirfield
Tagged with Beginner Travel and Travel Essentials