How to Pack Your Backpack

The first time you go backpacking you inevitably end up with things you never use and others that you left at home but wish you hadn’t. Below are a few tips I picked up along the way:

#1. Combination locks

Hostels generally provide lockers for you to keep your valuables safe. This is great for peace of mind so that you can go out for the day and not continuously worrying that your passport has also gone walkabout. You don’t really want a padlock with a key in case you lose it but a combination lock solves this worry as well. Just don’t forget the code.

#2. Guidebooks

They can be on the pricey side but they’ll prove invaluable when you’re stuck for ideas; they’re great for suggesting activities other than the typical sightseeing ideas (although these are good too). Investing in one which comes with useful phrases is helpful if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the native language. It’s always nice to be able to say a few words. It’s also helpful when you’re trying to decipher a menu!

This blog post was actually written for one of my old blogs, based on what I packed for my gap year in 2010. Nowadays, you can get lots of inspiration from travel blogs instead of guidebooks and so can save some room in your bag! Having said that, I do still love books. 

#3. Spork

A spork can also come with a knife bit too. They’re great for camping and hostels don’t always provide cutlery so this ensures that you will always be able to eat that delicious dinner you have of course cooked.

#4. Journal and some glue

Keeping a record of your time away is a lovely thing to look back on. It’s also a really useful way of stashing all the leaflets, wristbands, tickets etc. that you’ll end up collecting along the way and want to keep as souvenirs.

 #5. Camera with AA batteries.

There’s nothing worse than finding that perfect shot and then having your camera die on you. Keeping a couple of new batteries on you at all times means that you’ll never miss that shot. It’s also pretty handy when you find yourself in an area where it is not convenient to charge up all your appliances.

 #6. An actual iPod.

This may sound obvious but, going with the ‘no wires’ theory, I invested a whole £3 in a mp3 player that took an AAA battery. Let me tell you what I learnt- uploading songs not using iTunes is a nightmare. Treat yourself to the cheapest iPod you can find- if you’re worried about losing your nice one- or upload a selection onto your phone, although make sure the battery is not going to die. You’ll be grateful for the multitude of tunes when you’re stuck on a bus journey for 10 hours. I know I would have been…

#7. Smartphone

Again this might be obvious but I got a bit paranoid about losing stuff when I was away so I invested in a standard, plain, simple Nokia. It was a great phone and Nokia is one of the most reliable brands I have used but it turned out that having wifi access would have been a great advantage. A lot of places offer free wifi which I couldn’t make use of and so I inevitably spent a lot of money on internet.

#8. Aloe vera cream/gel

In the interest of packing light, this acts as both a moisturiser as well as an after-sun- which chances are you’ll need. You don’t want your skin becoming too dry and flaky.

#9. Jeggings

One for the girls. At first, I decided I was going to need a lot of stereotypical, lightweight (typically beige) travelling clothes that packed down small, acted as a mosquito shield and had many pockets for storing lots of things. However, after realising that for my particular trip I didn’t need specialist clothing, I still wanted a quick-drying alternative to jeans. Jeggings pack down much better and they look pretty much the same. If you are between climates, they are thinner when it’s warm and you can easily wear tights underneath when it’s chilly. Also, try not to bring any clothing you wouldn’t be happy to throw away- you will want more space for shopping.

 #10. Fold-up pumps

Another one for the girls. On a night out you are going to want an alternative to your everyday, hard-wearing shoes. These are easily stuffed down the side of your bag and although mine were not the most well fitted shoes, they were fine for a night out.

#11. Gladiator sandals

Continuing on the shoes theme, my gladiators were brilliant. If you don’t need hiking sandals then these are more comfortable than flip flops and hold onto your feet well. Having said that, if you’re visiting temples wear flip-flops; undoing and redoing the straps continuously was a nightmare. Sadly, after they did so well for so long, I destroyed mine when I decided they were appropriate footwear for tubing. They were not.

#12. Wheelie bag

The best thing I learnt was that if you don’t need a backpack then don’t bring one! I had a wheelie bag as my trip was ultimately a string of city breaks. Whilst others lagged, dragging their bags across town, I was at my leisure to take in the sights. My bag actually had wheels as well as zip-away straps which I highly recommend. In places like Vietnam, a wheelie bag can be problematic. The roads are packed with scooters and the pavements are filled with parked ones. This means that maneuvering is much easier with your bag on your back. But for places like New Zealand, Australia, America, Europe etc. wheels were the way forward. There is a kind of stigma attached to ‘flash-packing’ and something about backpacking that’s credible, but I got the straps out at some point, so that counts.


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