** EDIT ** I’m currently on Qatar Airways with WiFi, having been moved due to my turbulence induced panic attack. I wrote this post two weeks ago. I am nicely content after some lovely Gin and Tonics, ALL IS WELL.
It’s 00.02. Am I currently writing a blog post when I really should be sleeping? Yes. Do I have a hike to get up at 7am for? Yes. Did I have two double shot coffees and a tea today therefore possibly leading to said awakeness and blog posting? Yes. Do I ever learn from my caffeine related mistakes? You’ve guessed the answer to this, give yourself a gold star and a shot of espresso to make me feel better.
I’ve actually been wanting to write something of USE that may or may not help fellow wannabe travellers who are as useless as I was trying to prepare for a big trip.
What gave me this idea? Well I always wanted to write something like this, but recently I came across a travel blog post, entitled ‘Things that you MUST (emphasis on the caps lock here) take whilst travelling’. When I started reading this I thought fantastic! Maybe I’ve missed something out in my list, but as I continued reading through the intense caps lock articles, I realised actually, this is the most unhelpful article ever – has this girl even BEEN travelling or just through the most expensive department store? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice, pretty standard travel blog similar to others I’ve read with gorgeous pictures and nice colours, but literally, had I had read this 2 days before I flew to Colombia – as I did, with different other travel articles 2 days before I flew to Colombia – I would have emailed her saying THIS IS USELESS, HELP ME WOMAN. I do not need expensive £70 face cream as a ‘MUST’ in my backpack, I can barely fit my passport in there let alone cream that I can’t afford. On the other hand, I do agree that you sometimes need a moment of luxury on your travels but for the sake of MONEY AND SPACE (now I’m the one using caps lock) you can also buy the face masks for a pound that you can buy in Poundland that fit very nicely into your coat pocket, buying cucumber and slicing it above your eyes. But anyway, no judgement, perhaps expensive face creams are a necessity for some people, who knows.
Anyway, I digress. After reading this article, I decided to write my own, and write the top 11 things I think EVERYBODY should have on a backpacking trip, as well as COMPLETE itinerary checklist you can just print off at the end. These might be incredibly obvious to you guys, but actually, 2 days before my trip, some of them weren’t so obvious to me so here goes.
TOP 11 ESSENTIAL ITEMS
1. Padlocks – X 3 – buy here
YES. I am so glad I bought a few padlocks – technically I bought 2 and it’s not enough – but they are super SUPER useful. 1 for your big backpack, 1 for your day backpack and 1 for your locker in the hostel. Having had quite a bit stolen from me over the last 5.5 months, I am happy to say I trust absolutely nobody – nobody in my room, nobody on transport, nobody loading or unloading my things on and off planes, the list goes on. A lot of the time, hostels don’t have lockers to place your valuables, so having a few padlocks on your bags are very handy.
Boom. Thank you, next.
2. Carabiner Clips – buy here
Many thanks to my ex boyfriend for introducing me to these bad boys. They’re perfect for holding things onto everywhere that you don’t have extra room for. These have helped me carry my water bottle, flip flops and bikini that didn’t have time to dry (lols). I made the mistake of buying rubbish ones that broke quickly so pay extra for heavy duty ones that will last better.
3. Money Belt – buy here
Yes, you’re all geniuses who know that you need a money belt, but I didn’t want some funky one that I could wear on my outside like some boys I saw wearing them as a fashion accessory with mullet hair cuts in the north of Peru. I wanted something I could hide under my top, flat enough that it looked like I had nothing on me when out in slightly dodgier cities like Quito and Lima. This one is brilliant and you can’t tell I’m wearing it, although don’t make the same mistakes I did and put your entire life in it because it can only carry so much.
4. 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
SAVES ROOM DUH
5. Anti bacterial Micro Fibre towel – buy here
The first time I used one of these was when I was 16 travelling around Israel and I was blown away by how GREAT it was. I mean, probably worth buying a new one after 10 years because it’s most definitely more bacterial than anti, but I’ve grown attached to it, seeing as it’s been everywhere with me. Dries super fast, without doubt one the handiest things to take with you.
6. Headlamp (and batteries for said Headlamp) – buy here
Useful in every situation. Hiking in unlit conditions? Headlamp. Packing in a dorm room in the dark and need both hands? Headlamp. Need a pee in the forest/hostel? Headlamp.
7. Powerbank – buy here
This one time, not in band camp, I was on a night bus, I had run out of phone battery and data and I was freaking out. But never fear, the power bank is here and minus the fact I still hadn’t a clue where I was going or what I was going to do, I had battery and peace was restored. Oh, and also iphone batteries suck, so get a powerbank. Smaller ones are great to fit into your pocket but larger ones can charge 2 devices at once.
8. Travel Adaptors (and 2 plug sockets that you can just slip your USB wire into) – buy here
Sometimes in hostels, they have really annoying sockets that don’t fit your travel adaptor – South America they sometimes have the 3 pointed socket or the 2. Therefore I have 2, one which is around the world, and 1 for specifically South America (thank you other ex boyfriend for this useful device). I also have 2 English plugs that can fit in my different USB wires. This is a very useful piece equipment I’ve seen people have and wished I’d bought myself, allowing you to charge a billion things are once:
9. Inflatable Travel Pillow– buy here
DID YOU EVEN KNOW THESE EXISTED? (Sorry, influenced by the caps lock blogger now). I’ve never had a travel pillow because they’re huge and they look super lame hanging off your backpack, touching the toilet floor and everything else before you sleep on it on a plane – major ew. Then, when I was in Sweden I discovered the BLOW UP TRAVEL PILLOW. You can inflate and deflate it and put it away, flat in your bag. Yes I know, your life has now changed for the better. I bought another in São Paulo by a company called “Travel Blue” but have a look at this:
10. Order 2 Travel Credit Cards in ADVANCE of your trip to get them delivered in time
Or take 3. And hide them. I’ve got a Monzo card which I personally think is the best out there, complete with a handy app and great, quick customer service which I use as my main card. I’ve got a Caxton card hidden so well in my backpack that I actually haven’t got a clue where it is (do not do this, because I genuinely don’t know where it is and this article has just reminded me to look for it) and my debit card somewhere too. I actually wanted to get the Revolut card but was too late for it to get delivered in time, so order in advance.
11. Windbreaker/Bandana – buy here
This is easily the most useful thing I’ve ever packed. It’s great for hiking because it stops the wind hitting your neck and making you cold. You can also put it over your ears and nose and stop THOSE from freezing over. You can wrap it over your hands for warmth or over your mouth if you just want to scare someone. (Joking, don’t do that). You can buy these in any outdoor shop but mine is from Decathlon.
12. Packing Cubes – buy here
I wish I had known about packing cubes before I started my trip. Every person – and I mean every person – has had to sit on my backpack in order to close it, because even rolling my clothes didn’t make a difference. Half way through, I bought packing cubes and they made such a difference! They compress your clothes to give you more space and it’s easier to see where you’ve put everything. You can buy different sizes and I would recommend Ospray’s ultralight cubes! Very durable unlike ones I previously bought on Groupon that broke after I unzipped them. You get what you pay for.
Now for the extras!
See below a complete list of what to take with you on a backpacking trip. I found this super helpful, printed this off and ticked it off one at a time.
Write a kit checklist
Think well in advance about what you want to take and write a list. Have a look at weather conditions in every destination you’re visiting at the correct month – seasons vary, sometimes it’s the Monsoon season and sometimes it’ll be the hottest season of the year. Have a think about the activities you’ll be doing – Hiking? Take hiking trousers (sometimes they unzip into shorts) and hiking boots AS WELL as trainers. Partying? Take sandals with a strap around the ankle (some clubs/bars don’t let you in without this) AS WELL AS flip flops for the hostel showers (no one wants Atheletes foot now) and the beach. Havaianas have come in handy for both occasions. (Amazon or Ebay do great deals on them too). Beaching? Take a sarong to double up as a towel – meaning you don’t need to take two towels with you.
**TRAVEL TIP** Pack your 100ml liquids in a small plastic zip up bag before, to stop you wasting time at the airport and allow you more time for a chilled coffee.
Use the packing checklist below to help you:
1. Essential Documents
Don’t forget to take any of these essential travel documents:
• Passport and visas
• Vaccination certificates
• Travel Insurance Policy with Emergency Contact Numbers
• Flight tickets/Download passes to the “Wallet” application on your iPhone if you have
• Booking confirmation for any trips/accommodation etc – and ENSURE you know what you’re doing at the other end of the airport. Many hostels/hotels provide airport transfers with advance notice, otherwise check out the bus/train routes to the city beforehand so you’re not panicking when you arrive
• Driver’s licence
• Photocopies of all the above
• Credit and debit cards
• Cash in local currency
• Prepaid travel card(s) distributed in hand/hold luggage
TRAVEL LIGHT AND DON’T BE LIKE ME
I was once the girl that attempted to take an insane amount of tampon boxes to Africa under the assumption there would be a lack of pharmacies. This is untrue, most places have what you need. Important things like water purifier tablets and rehydration sachets however I would always buy in advance.
ANY outdoor shop. But my favourite is Cotswold.
Cotswold: Outdoor Shop for Backpacks, Hiking socks, Hiking boots and Hiking essentials
Amazon: Sometimes cheaper than the Outdoor shops but I’d get measured first! Also packing cubes will be online
Suggested OBVIOUS Checklist:
• A sturdy backpack – Osprey are by far, hands down the greatest backpack manufacturer to man kind. Have a look at your nearest Outdoor shop to ensure it fits you correctly (someone at the store should help you)
• A daypack – Osprey
• A waterproof cover
• Travel document wallet – I received a lovey personalised Passport holder from my best friends as a going away present. This has literally helped me keep my passport, boarding passes, yellow fever certificates etc safe from harm
• Travel laundry bags – for your dirty washing and also Travel Wash. (You can buy this all on Amazon). Make sure you’ve got some spare plastic bags with you for anything else that gets dirty
• BPA free water bottle – meaning you can just fill it up and not waste plastic
• Sleeping liner – I once slept in the desert, on a bed covered in every insect possible. I felt a lot better knowing I could at least put down a sleeping liner so my body wasn’t touching them. It’ll come in useful for any sleeping situation where you don’t want to touch the bed/covers/sheets. TRUST me
Look after yourself! Make sure you’ve researched the countries you’re visiting and you’re up to date with all the jabs. Things like Yellow Fever, you need to remember to take your certificate with you everywhere, otherwise it’s likely you’ll be rejected at Check In. Don’t forget to take daily medications you might need, and have a doctors letter allowing you to take them with you. The length of time I’ve been away, I’ve needed to make sure I can buy my Anti Depressants in different countries so have needed my prescription and also proof that I’m allowed this amount with me in case I get stopped by security. (Valium prescribed for Anxiety is sometimes illegal to take through countries).
I have 2 medical bags. 1 is smaller – it fits in my day bag and has 1 of everything so in case of any emergency, I’m covered. The other is the rest for my trip, in my main backpack.
Superdrug: Get all your jabs here for cheaper than the doctors! All medication and items for your first aid kit can also be found here for cheaper than Boots. Purchase a Superdrug card and get all your points whilst spending.
Poundland: If you have the time and need to budget, buy some of your first aid kit here, you can usually buy around three packets of Paracetemol for £1.
Suggested MEDICAL Checklist:
• Prescribed medication (if any)
• Insect repellent – Deet as high as you can get. Although a lot of these countries provide Insect Repellent better than the version we can buy in the UK
•Afterbite pen – The absolute best branded product you can buy for treatment of Mosquito bites
• Sun protection and after sun
• Lip balm to protect against the sun
• Malaria tablets (check if needed, and buy through Superdrug which are cheaper than through the doctor). You will need these in advance and you can book an appointment online
• Mosquito net (buy from Amazon)
First Aid Kit with the following items:
• Waterproof plasters
• Antiseptic cream
•Burn cream (I had to use this after I burnt my face to a crisp after hiking Machu Picchu and it was a blessing in disguise)
• Antihistamine cream
• Small nail scissors
• Water purification tablets
• Re-hydration sachets to use after diarrhoea / sickness
• Sterile needle pack
•Throat spray and Strepsils
• Cold tablets – Day and Night
• Baby Wipes and tissues
• Sanitary towels/tampons (women)
Once again, don’t take the universe with you, you can buy the majority of things there.
Sports Direct: Trainers, also Hiking Boots, Sportswear (cheap!)
Decathlon: Cheaper clothing for any outdoor activity
Charity shop/ Primark/ H&M: For basic wear/clothes
Amazon/EBay: Havaiana Sandals are really comfortable
Suggested CLOTHES Checklist:
This is all dependent on how long you’re travelling for. For me, this works for a 1 year long trip.
• T-shirts x 3 / vest tops x 2
• Long sleeved tops x 2 (including 1 for pyjamas)
• Trousers (I only took leggings, and mountain trekking trousers but jeans are a good thing to consider)
• Shorts x 1 hiking / x 1 general wear
• Skirts x 1
• Waterproof jacket
• Sarong (doubles up as a beach towel!)
• Underwear and socks x 5-7 depending on how long your trip is
• Something to wear in bed/ comfortable lounge wear – consider the weather conditions (I’m always cold so Harem pants and PJ shorts/vest top/long sleeve top are my go to lounge wear)
• Trainers/flip-flops/sandals to go out with a strap
• Hiking boots
• Hiking socks x 2
• Sun hat/ hat for cold weather
• Bandana for your neck and ears
I don’t want to scare you, but don’t be foolish. With as many kind people that you meet, there are also people who are not so kind. After losing a lot of things to people who have taken advantage in my OWN dorm room, be friendly but don’t be stupid. Don’t trust anyone with your belongings. Do not forget that a lot of countries have different scams to try and grab something, so be wary of strangers coming up to you, accidentally spilling something on you and “helping” you clear it up as well as people in your room. Look up different scams, not to be scared off but to be aware.
Amazon: They have everything!
Suggested SAFETY checklist:
• Money belt (hidden money belt you can hide under your clothes)
• Padlocks (for every bag. I never even take these off in dorms anymore)
• Personal alarm/ whistle
• Door wedge (in case your hostel door has no lock)
• Old mobile (in case you need to hand over a phone, you’ve got a rubbish one for them!)
• Some girls I’ve met have carried Pepper Spray. You’d have to check the legalities of this as I don’t know too much about it but I’ve never felt a need to use it
Basic toiletries always a must!
Poundland: Another reason to visit this shop of dreams is because everything there is a £1! All the same brands you’d find in the chemist, so stock up!
Superdrug: Anything you can’t find in Poundland, you can find in Superdrug
Amazon: For anything else, my go to, absolutely last minute place!
Suggested TOILETRIES Checklist
• Wash bag (ideally one that you can hang on a hook) unless you’re cheap like me and then a plastic bag will do
• Shampoo and Conditioner 2in1
• Shower gel
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Hairbrush / comb
• Baby wipes, handy for freshening up when you’re out hiking/ need the loo and there’s no toilet paper/ you can’t shower for a few days
• Antiseptic hand gel
• Toilet tissue – you can buy handy, small packets
• Toe Nail clippers
7. *Female travellers*
Ok ladies, let’s not the forget the important things.
Suggested LADIES Checklist
• Tampons / sanitary towels
• Femfresh wipes (handy when you’ve just got off a plane)
• Caneston Thrush internal and external cream (seriously, this has saved me)
• Small mirror
• Make up
• Tweezers – handy for some first aid kits too
• Nail scissors/emery board
• Cystitis medication – you do not want a bladder infection in another country
8. Other Useful Items
Just in case, here’s some other useful add ins, depending on your trip!
Suggested OTHER USEFUL ITEMS Checklist:
• Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner
• Small mirror
• Contact lenses / glasses (take spares if you use them)
• Camera and plenty of memory cards (take a spare battery)
• Electric plug adaptor/voltage adapters (see country descriptions). It’s really important to buy these before leaving the UK, as it may be difficult to locate UK compatible adapters once abroad
• Batteries for torch/camera etc
• Torch / head torch
• Travel games eg. Playing cards, travel chess
• Duct tape (useful for mending rucksacks, covering holes in mosquito nets and for sticking up the nets)
• Universal sink plug (useful for washing clothes)
• Travel wash
• Pegless clothes line WITH pegs
• Ear plugs (a blessing in dorms)
• Eye mask
• Reading book/Kindle with books downloaded
• Spotify/Netflix downloaded OFFLINE
• Travel guide
• Small note book
• Journal and pen
• Laptop or smart phone WITH charger
Why not print these checklists out, and tick them off whilst shopping for your exciting trip? Keep it by your luggage so you know you’ve not missed anything out 🙂
Any essentials I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy travels !