Backpacking essentials

Now, obviously what you pack for an adventure depends on the time of year you’re going. For example, I should definitely have packed a rain mac for my RTW trip…how wet can it get in monsoon season right? Perhaps I thought that I’d be miraculously spared the rain on my trip and could easily procure a rain mac while I was away if I needed one. I went through several very flattering plastic bag-esque ponchos soon learning that although they were alright when they were on, providing you hadn’t snagged them and that once you’d taken them off, you’d become incredibly static and 9/10 times be unable to put them back on.

Kim did bring one from home but it didn’t survive the monsoon-style rains…so one particularly rainy day, while wandering around the temples in Cambodia, we were unable to hide our woes any more…

Poncho hellPoncho hell

I think I’ve made my point…anyway by the time we got to Vietnam, I’d had enough and bought a “North Face” waterproof jacket. Yes the pockets are way too high (only useful for adjusting pesky bras) and the zip is now broken but it served me well!

So what to pack? It really depends where you’re going and what kind of adventure you’re going to have but these are the things I found essential and also a few things I’m taking on my next trip that I wish I’d taken around the world.

As mentioned in the last post, I’ll be taking my rucksack, The Beast with me. We’re staying in lots of different hostels on this trip so first things first, I’m packing my silk sleeping bag liner. Although I didn’t use it much on my RTW trip and I don’t expect to need it in Japan, it did come in handy in some of the Hostiles…sometimes you might not trust the sheets provided or want extra protection against bugs. It’s also a good size for a makeshift pillow on buses etc.

For any trip where you’re staying in a dorm, it’s a good idea to pack several sets of earplugs and an eye mask. There will almost certainly be nights where some of your less considerate dorm mates will stumble in drunk and turn the light on before trying to make as little noise as possible and subsequently making a lot more! I took a penknife with me on the RTW trip and I’ll be taking it to Japan too, it’s one of the ones with a corkscrew and tweezers so it’s bound to come in handy somewhere along the way! A lightweight, quick dry travel towel is always a good investment too, yes it’s akin to drying yourself with a large chamois leather but they do dry very quickly and fold down nice and small. It’s useful to bring a few resealable plastic bags with you too; you can use them to put your wet swimming stuff in if you don’t have time to dry them, put food in them, blow them up and use them as a (rubbish) makeshift pillow if you’re desperate…whatever you choose to do with them, they’re pretty handy to have. I also took a lot of elastic hairbands with me – not just useful for tying up unruly hair but also for keeping your clothes rolled up (if you’re a “roller” not a “folder”) and hairgrips which doubled as paperclips and proved very handy when I fashioned an anti-mosquito device in Koh Phagnan…which reminds me, you might want to take some kind of sticky tape with you. Useful for lots of stuff, including fixing things, sticking things into your journal, aiding with anti-mosquito defences etc.

Anti-mosquito device

One of the stranger items that you should consider taking with you is a squash ball or spare bathroom plug, both for the same purpose…if you’re going to be doing any clothes washing when you’re away, a lot of hostels don’t have plugs in their sinks. For some reason, people steal the plugs…possibly having noticed that other places don’t have them? Anyway, better to be prepared. I took a squash ball and it barely took up any space in my bag. It also makes you feel pretty smug when you finally spot a plug-less sink. On a related note, even if you’re planning to use local laundry facilities, it’s a good idea to take a small bottle of travel wash with you. Handy for emergency spillages or if you’ve underestimated the number of pants you needed to bring with you…my bottle started leaking halfway through the trip – hence the usefulness of the ziplock bags (see, method in the madness!)

Other essential/just plain useful items

  • travel adapters
  • tiger balm (useful to dab on the tip of your nose in questionable toilets…and for its actual purposes…)
  • packs of tissues (or a toilet roll if you have space)
  • photocopies of your passport, visas, driving license, travel insurance etc. kept in a separate wallet to your hard copies
  • travel washing line
  • plastic fork, knife and spoon
  • headphone splitter (if you’re travelling with someone else, it’s sometimes nice to watch a film together or listen to music together)
  • antibacterial hand gel
  • a first aid kit (either you can buy these pre-made or make your own!) – I’ll probably do a separate post about what I took in mine for the RTW trip and what was and wasn’t useful.
  • a small umbrella
  • rain mac
  • a decent plastic water bottle

If I think of anything else, I’ll add it on. I hope you find this list useful, let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed that you think should be on it!

Happy packing!

L

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