Ok, so you’ve got your e- tickets, you’ve sorted out the all important travel insurance, and you are just waiting on your final visa to be approved. (heres hoping my passport makes its way back to me from the Vietnamese Consulate on time!) What next?… what to pack…
Here is the backpackerbird’s checklist. All you need to know about what you definitely do need to take and what you can afford to leave out… non of this sales pitch at Millets or over cautious travel guide talk. This is the stripped bare version. The real guide…
Ok there are a few things you categoricaly must take.
Travel documents: You dont want to get to Heathrow airport check in desk and realise you have left you tickets or passport behind. This however is a minor issue provided you have a willing parent or friend to dash back and get them. This is what the 3hr checkin time is for… isnt it!!! However it is a very different story if you find yourself rifling through your bag at the Brazilian border trying desperately to find the all important Yellow Fever certificate you were sure you packed. No documents, no entry. Remember to pack: Tickets, insurance documents, passport, vaccination certificates, visa documents, and always have a few spare passport photos for the visas you will get on entry to some countries. They usually ask for 2 photos with your application. Consider taking your references, if you are wanting to find work along the way it is always useful to have these to hand.
Medication: You mustn’t leave home without your pills. You dont want to be visiting the local Balinese backstreet doctor for your medication. Take it from me you would rather go without. Although if you do manage to forget anything there is a Boots on Ko San Road, Bangkok (assuming you are flying to Thailand 1st, most do)
Padlocks: All guide books like The Rough Guides 1st Time Around The World (a very enjoyable and informative read for those of you who have not travelled before) will advise you to take a lot useful and some unnecessary items, padlocks however are an essential. You have your life in your backpack, everything you need to survive. You dont want anything to go missing. From experience I have found that the majority of the backpacking community are extremely honest and are more interested in getting stoned and having a good time than stealing their fellow travellers belongings. It is not here you need to be too worried about, it is when you are passing across borders and flying to new lands that you need to be more vidulent. Always lock your bag at the zips and use a wire to attach your bag to the leg of your bed on any sleeper trains you go on. You will relax more if you know your belongings are safe. You dont want to be sleeping with one eye open.
Lighter: Always useful be it for lighting the fire on a Thai beach,getting the BBQ started in Australia or for use in recreational past times!
Penknife: If it’s not the knife you need it’s the scissors or the bottle opener. a very useful tool. Dont leave without it.
Sleeping bag and sleep sheet: If you are only visiting hotter climes a sleeping bag will not be needed. Take a good all round sleeping bag if you are going to be experiencing cooler weather e.g. Australian winter (yes it does get nippy). A sleep sheet however is a must have travellers essential. I have a silk one but cotton sleep sheets can be easier on the purse. Benefits to silk are, it will roll up much smaller and it will keep you cool in hot weather and warmer in cold. Not a night went by where i didnt use my sheet. If you find yourself in a grubby hostel with not so clean beds (it happens often) you can sleep easy knowing you are in your clean sheet. You can also line your sleeping bag with your sheet for extra warmth in those cold Andean Mountain passes.
Deet: By far the best insect repellant ever. You can find it in all good camping stores. Opt for 50+%, the higher the % the better. Mozzies hate the stuff. dont get caught out, bites are itchy and not too attractive!
Sun cream: Protect your skin. The sun is more damaging than you think, even if its cloudy. A burnt nose is a real turn off! go for high SPF. I always use 30 when Im travelling. Your not on holiday, you dont have to sun worship and get wrinkled skin, you are going to be in the sun for months, build up a good tan safely.
Travel towel: There is no room for a fluffy white towel. Go for a small anti-bacterial travel towel (available in all good camping stores). They are small, granted, but you only need it to dry the nooks and crannies, most of the time you will drip dry. Think about buying a sarong in Asia for all those trips to the beach. A brilliant cover up (even for you guys) and doubles up as a towel to lay on on the beach. I have discovered sares.com, the sarong dressed, very useful ( if you are a girl).
Ear plugs: Staying in dorms in hostels is such good fun, I think the best way to meet people, but you will always get a snorer. Equipt yourself with a set of good plugs and you will sleep easy.
Torch: Vital for midnight pee’s on camping trips in the outback where light is hard to come by once they have turned the generator off. You dont want to be peeing on the a neighbours tent. Also useful on over night bus trips in Asia when you can’t sleep and fancy reading a book.
Mac-in-a-sac: (other brands are available) It is a given that you will, at some point experience torrential rain, be it in Asia, in the north of Australia and most likely in Europe. Keep your mac handy rolled up in the bottom of your day bag ready to whip out in a second for those equally as quick showers.
Washing line: What? I hear you ask… I have always taken a Lifevendure washing line. There are usually washing lines available in communal areas of most hostels but I like to hang my underwear in the private of my room. Dont fancy everyone seeing my smalls thanks. It works on a twisted elastic basis. You simply hook the line up and trap your knickers in ech twist of the elastic, no need for pegs. Genius. Try outdoorkit.co.uk good for all the travel essentials I have mentioned.
Electricals: Dont forget your iPod and phone and more importantly dont forget the chargers. Those 12 hr bus journeys will seem like 24hrs with no music to listen to and a phone is always useful. I tend to get a new sim card for each country I go to that I’m staying in for a while. Excellent for keeping in touch with fellow travellers. Vodafone have fantastic sim only deals in Australia and New Zealand. Consider taking a Mini laptop (notebook) I didn’t take one last time but I have head times have changed. WiFi is readily available in most places. Using your own laptop is far better than the computers you can come across is some backstreet internet cafes, trust me they are old and very slow.
Travel guides: A good tool to refer to to double check border opening times, hostel phone numbers and train times. Most information you need you will get from other travellers who have been there, done that but a guide book is always useful for planning ahead.
Aside all the above dont forget your clothes and wash kit will you. You will not get too far without these!
A more detailed kit list will follow. I will write as I pack.