My packing list changes slightly depending on where I am going, what I am doing and the terrain and climate I will be in, but there are always some things I have to take with me regardless.
In general I travel quite light when I’m backpacking, most of the time I use up about half of my pack space. The rest invariably gets filled up with gifts, souvenirs or things I pick up along the way depending on how long I’m travelling for, but in general I start off pretty light. Apart from my clothes and toiletries, which to be fair isn’t much, I view pretty much anything else as disposable or replaceable. I can pick up most things I need along the way as I need them, (and yes I’ve grabbed one or two of those traditional backpacker beer logo singlets from a market when I’ve been in need of a laundrette!)
Saying that, there are just a few things that I always take with me regardless of where I am going or how long I am going for, so in no particular order of importance, I thought I’d share them with you. This isn’t my full packing list of course, a more extensive suggested packing list for backpacking trips or gap years can be found here, these are just the personal things I always like to have with me whenever I go away and can’t do without.
Yes I know eReaders are lighter, can hold a ton of books and are infinitely more practical, and I do have one on my phone which I use a lot now. But I just think you can’t beat a good old paperback! Call me old fashioned but I still love the weight, feel, smell and experience of a good, traditional paperback. It’s just an instinctive, visceral comfort thing, I can’t help it. I always have to get a new one before I set off, and besides, I never have to worry about leaving my paperback on the beach with my towel or in the hammock when I decide to go for a swim!
First Aid Kit.
I know this item isn’t on the top of everyone’s list, but believe me it is an absolute essential! Even filled with just the absolute basics of plasters and antihistamine cream, one small item can save you a lot of bother and a potentially costly trip to a chemist or clinic! Many basic ones like these are small enough to fit in a pocket and have all the basic essentials, so there really is no excuse not to have one. My own to be fair is slightly larger than average and filled with a lot more than basic kit, but then I am a charge nurse in my working life so I know how to use it and I like to be prepared. I really wouldn’t recommend most people carrying round a load of unnecessary kit they don’t know how to use. Despite this however, in all my many years of backpacking around the world on various continents, trekking through jungles and deserts, climbing mountains, clambering through cave systems and even braving crossing the road in Delhi, I’ve only ever had to use it on myself once (despite a few close calls!) I’ve used it tending to other backpackers scrapes and sprains more than I have my own!
For those of you who don’t know what a pacsafe is, they are essentially a slashproof, tamperproof steel wire net that wrap around your backpack and can be secured to a fixed point with a steel cable and padlock.
This may seem like a strange addition to a must have list from a devotee of travelling light, but believe me I really would not do without it. I know there are plenty of disadvantages to these, they’re bulky, they add weight and they are an absolute pain to get on and off your pack in a hurry, but I think the security and peace of mind that they offer outweigh any of that. I certainly don’t use it all of the time of course, but in certain situations such as transit, or when I need to secure my pack under or to my seat on overnight coach or train journeys, or even as extra security in hostel lockers, they are an absolute essential.
Pad and Pen.
I know this is another unusual one and certainly not on the top of most people’s lists, but hey, I’m a writer, and an old fashioned one at that, what do you expect? I always buy a new one for each trip, almost ritualistically really, just to scribble down my thoughts, ideas and disparate chapters for my next novel. This can be a useful addition to anyone’s packing list though, as you are not going to remember the name of that amazing hostel you found or the location of every fantastic little food stall you came across that wasn’t in any guidebook, and quickly scribbling down the name and a few details can come in handy if you need to remember the name later on in your travels or if like me, you want to write about them at some point. Yes I know a stupid iPad does the same, but I already told you I’m old fashioned that way!
Now this is something almost everyone will have on the top of their own lists. I’ve always tried to make a conscious effort to try and not see the world through the eye of a camera lens, but I love photography, and this ideal has always been in constant, bitter battle with my desire for taking photographs. Over the years I think I have got a half decent balance between taking enough photo’s and seeing a place through my own eyes, but one thing is absolutely certain I would never be able to travel without my camera.
I think carrying a good camera is absolutely essential on your travels, it can be the difference between an amazing memento of a treasured memory or just another half blurred snapshot. You don’t need a massive DSLR camera with all the tripods, lighting rigs and other professional equipment, unless you are actually a professional of course. No one wants to be THAT guy (you know who you are) lugging all of that unwieldy, bulky kit into the most inappropriate or awkward of places and advertising to every thief and con artist in a twenty mile radius you are a tourist with a lot of expensive kit! A good spec digital camera that fits into your pocket is often more than enough to suit your needs and get some great pictures! Personally I have always used the Sony Cybershot cameras, as they get great pictures but can slip into my pocket easily, unlike a huge DSLR.
* This post is not in any way a sponsored post. Although affiliate links are used to help pay for the upkeep of the site, I received no compensation or incentive for mentioning these products in this article, they are simply products that I have used myself over a period of many years travelling and am happy to recommend them to you.
So what do you all think of the list? Are these essentials on your own list? Or do you have your own must take items that you can’t do without? Let me know in the comments section below.