So you’ve finally graduated from uni or found the nerve to quit your job and it’s time to pack up your existence and hit the road in search of some adventure and life experience!
If you are a first time backpacker then statistically there is a high chance you are headed for South East Asia and you can find great flight and hotel deals for this region if you research carefully. Once your flights, visas and vaccinations are sorted though it’s time to pack.
So what should you take?
- A Backpack
Suitcases are for tourists not adventurers. Backpacking is called backpacking for a reason and it is completely impractical as well as totally uncool to be lugging a gigantic suitcase around a whole continent with you.
Our advice when buying a backpack is not to cheap out as this will effectively be your home for the next 6 – 12 months. You are now turtle and this is your shell so you need to make sure it is fit for purpose and durable.
We recommend a 65 litre pack with minimal side pockets. Make sure it fastens around the waist and shoulders and can be adjusted to your height. Try to ensure the zips are sturdy, made of metal and can fit a mini padlock through. Also ensure that it has a waterproof fly sheet. Finally, look for a reputable brand such as Berghaus or Osprey.
First up we recommend you carry these in a hanging toiletry bag which will prove to be one of the smartest things you can buy. Try to pack as minimally as possible (no hairspray or face packs) and remember that toothpaste, deodorant and even soap can be bought abroad (usually cheaply) so only bring the little travel cans and tubes. Unless you’re headed to Venezuela in which case you may struggle to find any toiletries whatsoever…
Whilst it is imperative to live in the moment rather than experiencing reality through a lens, it is also important to record your adventures for the folks back home. Unless you are a serious photographer we recommend something such as a Lumix DMC-TZ0EB as it is easy to use and a decent enough quality for all eventualities. It is also suitably compact and won’t weigh your bag down. If you have an iPhone 5 or 6 then the picture quality on that is also pretty awesome and will suffice for most situations. Be sure to insure these items though as theft is a constant concern out there in backpakistan!
Yes, you will need clothes. I am not going to tell you how to dress as it’s a personal choice but I will say take as few clothes as possible (2 vests is enough vests and 5 pairs of underpants is 4 too many). I wholly condone getting some North Face trekking pants as they are breathable, quick drying, comfortable and can often be fashioned into pants, shorts or 3 quarter lengths so they are like 3 pairs of kegs in one! Also be sure to bring some kind of buff/bandana which can protect your head from sunburn and mouth from dust and a thermal base layer which will come in useful if you head up into the mountains (it gets very cold at night above 500 feet).
- Water Bottle with Filter
Tropical climes and backpackers excess can make it very easy to get dehydrated. Bad water sources (which are commonplace in SEA) can make it easy to get diarrhea or far worse. The answer to both problems is a water bottle with a built-in filter which will ensure you stay hydrated with safe water at no determinant to the environment! Here’s what we recommend.
- Universal Adapter
This will mean that wherever you go in the world you can plug your phone charger in. Again, we advise not cheaping out on this and it will last you for years and years.
- A Book
Bring something to read on long bus journeys and beach days. Killer tomes such as War & Peace are not recommended as they are heavy so go for something between 300 – 400 pages. You will be able to trade this at most hostels and most markets. We don’t really recommend guidebooks as the reality is that you will find a copy in most guesthouses which you don’t have to lug around with you.
You want a few mini padlocks to fasten the zips on your rucksack together and a bigger one to use on lockers and even your bedroom as many hostels and guesthouses do not provide these. Combination locks are recommended as little keys are far too easy to lose.
If you take prescription medication make sure you bring this and a prescription you can use anywhere in the world. Other than that, just bring a box of plasters (mixed sizes), some Ibuprofen, Paracetamol. Imodium and probiotics are useful for that inevitable bout of the trots and some alcoholic handwash will mitigate the number of times you get the trots. Finally take some good strong mosquito repellent.
- Day Bag
You are going to need a bag to take on little excursions with you. If you can find a decent 30 to 35-litre rucksack this can act not only a day bag for trips to the beach but will even stand you in good stead for camping trips and treks. I managed to live out of one for 18 whole days on the Annapurna trek in Nepal ( I didn’t needlessly waste space with things like underpants!)
- Microfiber Travel Towel
A mini sized, quick drying towel is one of the smartest things a traveler can invest in because its mini in size and dries quickly…
- Swiss Army Knife
No adventurer should be without this. It’s a knife, bottle opener, screwdriver and nail file all in one. The best bit is that once you get out of Europe and the West it’s perfectly legal to carry knives!
And that’s all you need. You may have noticed we have left travel iron, hair dryer and laptop of the list and that is because you don’t actually need them (unless you a travel blogger like me in which yes, you need a laptop). The key really is to travel light and come to realise that material possessions are really not all that important!
So please follow our advice, get packing and go out have yourself some great adventures!