Packing for your gap year or backpacking trip can be a daunting task, with so many first time travellers taking far too much stuff, and almost nothing of what they actually need! This is a list of some of the essential items that are so useful on any gap year or round the world adventure that most people don’t even think to pack!
Choosing what to pack in your brand new and coveted backpack is an important part of the planning process for your first gap year, and many first time travellers go overboard and pack as much as possible, including half of the stock of their nearest outdoor survival shop! But what most people don’t realise is that you don’t need all those fancy gadgets, you don’t need an entire wardrobe that covers you for every social situation and then some, and you don’t need to completely fill your pack up either!
What you do need however is a few absolutely essential items, some of those very basic everyday things that everyone always forgets about but at some point on their journey will wish they had!
Small packs of tissues.
You will come across a wide variety of toileting situations when travelling the world, from flooded squat toilets and holes in the ground to doorless toilets and even computerised Skynet enabled wonder machines in Japan. Suffice it to say not all of them will have toilet paper and you really don’t want to be caught short. Just carry a pack with you.
For pretty much the same reason above, but can also be really useful on long overnight buses and trains or extended jungle or desert treks to maintain basic hygiene standards. Don’t be one of those stereotypical stinky hippy backpackers.
Alcohol Hand Gel.
Good hygiene is ultra important to stop yourself picking up the dreaded Delhi belly or any local variant. There are a lot of travel illnesses and diseases that are transmitted by poor hygiene standards and not washing your hands, and you really don’t want to hear about the fecal oral route of transmission! Trust me I’m a nurse! And since it isn’t always possible to wash your hands properly all of the time, this is a good substitute until you can.
First Aid Kit.
Never underestimate the value of a good – and well stocked – first aid kit. You don’t need too much stuff, especially if you don’t know how to use them, but the basics should always be considered essential. Read here to find out how to pack a professional first aid kit with advice from a qualified travel nurse!
You have no idea how much you will love these things until you are woken up in the bottom bunk by the clumsy fumblings of the couple in the hostel bed above you. You will never get the words ‘not in there you ****er’ out of your head, believe me.
A journal or a notebook and a pen.
I’m a writer, I always have been, and I’m a traditional one at that so I love the tactile feel of traditional good old pen and paper. I use it to constantly scribble down ideas for my next novel on those long layovers or write down my thoughts for the next awesome post on Bemused Backpacker, but even if you aren’t a writer yourself it is still worth bringing one of these along. They are handy to keep a list of all the important phone numbers you will need in the back in case your phone or your wallet goes missing as well as a few scribbled notes for your own makeshift travel journal.
I’m not talking about the waterproof pack liners or stuff sacks you can buy (although I totally recommend those too), I’m talking about the smaller wallet or pocket sized sealable bags. These things are absolute lifesavers in more ways than one, whether you are simply travelling through a really humid envioronment or are plunging yourself into heavy rivers on a jungle trekking adventures, these will ensure your phone or passport and other essentials are kept safe and dry.
This is basically a long piece of cloth with a fancy name, it’s that simple. To be fair most female travellers I have met have carried a variation on this anyway, and they can be used as a scarf in cooler environments, head and neck protection in the blazing sun and even as a small blanket if needed. More importantly they are really useful as head, shoulder or leg covers (as needed) if visiting various religious buildings or sites.
If you are staying on hostels at any point on your travels, and if you are travelling long term on a budget then at some point you will be, then a good padlock will be essential to secure your stuff in the lockers, and no keys means one less thing to lose.
Swiss Army Knife.
Since people in general have an irrational fear of a real knife, these generally have to suffice. This really goes without saying but tools are always useful to have around. Just make sure you don’t keep it in your carry on!
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