Basically, the less you take the better you will feel while traveling. Do not forget that you will have to carry all that stuff, sometimes for quite a while. Besides, you will have to pack and unpack your backpack many, many times! So each piece of “stuff” that you take – no matter if it is clothes, shoes, medicine, electronics, books or whatever…will cost you time, energy and nerves!
If you are really serious about packing light, then check some of the “gurus” on that subject. Erin and Simon from Never Ending Voyage not only wrote but also made videos about this subject – Have a look at their inputs (Part 1 & Part 2).
We would divide what you need in 5 categories:
Nomadic Matt made a very good video about how to select a Rucksack. Worth checking if you plan on buying a new one …
A small backpack for walking around is also essential. We both always have one with us. For water, camera, extra clothes… Moreover, you want to have the more important valuables and electronics permanently with you, not somewhere on the floor (that is when scams / tricks happen) or on top of the bus…
Clothes and shoes
- Pants with lots of pockets that you can close – are most important, as you will want to have credit cards, money and passport always on you, and be safe from pickpockets.
- Clothes must be light and dry very quickly – we never take jeans for example!
- Don’t forget warm clothes – It can turn cold, even on the Equator, at times even close to the sea level! Gilles got sick arriving in freezing Lima with no warm clothes
- Good, comfortable semi-trekking shoes and some light sandals for very warm days are absolutely necessary.
- More elegant stuff? We hardly ever used them. Bring one multi-purpose outfit that makes you look decent…
Health and Hygiene
Our credo is: bring a minimum for immediate use – bandages for cuts, headache pills, pills to fight diarrhea for a day or two. When we travel in very remote places (mountains, deserts…), we generally are with a guide, who always have good first aid kits with them. This is at least our experience… In less remote places, you will quickly find everything that you need. Believe us!
Malaria prevention? We do not take any. We believe the chances to get sick from the side effects of this medication are higher than the chance of falling sick with Malaria. We do carry a box of Malarone, “the pill after” on a long trip through Malaria regions. We never needed them, though.
Do you wear contact lenses or glasses? Bring the description with you. Just in case new ones have to be made somewhere…. From experience, having your local optician mail things to you via DHL is not an option. Heidi tried that when her day bag was stolen, with extra lenses and glasses inside. Eventually she chose an optician in New Zealand… She is still on his mailing list.
- Head lamp – This you will need on a very, very regular basis. There are places without electricity, sometimes a few hours, sometimes all day! You will sometimes want to read in a dark and quiet corner (there, a Kindle might help)… Walking back to your hostel in the dark, you will want to know where you step… So bring a good one!
- Silk sleeping bag – We bought some in Vietnam and love them. They are very light and very small. Even if you are not on a tight budget, at some points, you will be faced with a not so really clean bed and it can keep you warm on some buses. To make it short: Silk sleeping bag will be a safe heaven of cleanness…
- Ear plugs – Quietness is a luxury… Believe us! Barking dogs in India, thumping music in Venezuela, roosters on Pacific Islands, traffic in Buenos Aires, neighbor having a karaoke Indi Rock night in Columbia or a nightly 9 hour bus ride with blasting music in Mozambique – we have HEARD it all.
- Airline mask – If it is not always quiet, it is neither always dark… Hostels without curtains, airplanes / busses you want to sleep on …not a lot of weight! Just bring one along.
- Poncho – At some point you will experience heavy rain. A good poncho will not only protect you from getting soaking wet, but also your daily backpack, with all that it contains.
- Extra Wallet – We always have two wallets while traveling: one with the larger amount of money, credit cards, driving license, etc… and one with small bills for immediate usage. You do not want to flash a wallet full of money, maybe with the equivalent of several months of local salary in cash. The second reason is not based on experience (and we hope it never will) but on common sense: if someone tries to rob you, this second wallet might appear “sufficient” for your aggressor to disappear. We add a no longer valid credit card plus approx. 10 Euros, so that it appears “more”.
- Universal Plug Adapter & Multiple Plugs – There are different standards of electrical plugs throughout the world. In many countries we had first to run to a shop to buy an adapter to be able to charge our cameras / computers / electronic devices… SKROSS have a great universal adapter for almost any country of this planet. Moreover, in some remote areas, like National Parks, electricity is not always available and plugs can get high in demand. With a multiple plug, you will be highly popular with your fellow travelers helping out charging batteries.
- Swiss Knife – You don’t want to be in front of a nice cold bear or a nice bottle of wine, because you decided to splurge a little… and not be able to open it!
- A lock? – Many say it is important, but we never needed one. Our Dorm-Days are over, though…
- Anything else? – You can buy or rent or will not need it. Of course, we are not addressing specific needs, like mountaineering, long hikes, …
Electronic & Photo
Please look at “Travel Photography”