So, you’re heading off around the world. You’ve got everything you need – tickets, passport, your parents’ approval … Maybe. But do you have the gear to make your trip as enjoyable as possible? Run an eye down this list and make sure you’re sorted.
1. A good backpack.
The definition of “a good backpack” will certainly vary, but your best bet is to go for a 45-50 litre stuff-down pack. Any larger and you’ll be carrying way more than you need, any smaller and you might not have all the essentials. Choose a dull colour so that you don’t stand out as much as a backpacker, and personalise with a patch or coloured ribbon so that you can identify it on the luggage carousel. A Berghaus Linteus 45+7 is a good all-round pack, but it doesn’t padlock so you might need an overbag for security.
2. Good shoes.
You’ll be on your feet a lot, carrying a heavy backpack much of the time. So finding suitable footwear should be high on your agenda. I’d recommend anything by Meindl or with Vibram soles, but you really need to go into your local hiking shop and try a few pairs on for size.
3. A sleeping bag.
You won’t need this everywhere you go, but some hostels don’t provide linen and you’ll be cold without it. Choose the smallest one you can find with a comfort rating of at least +15 degrees. Don’t get a huge bag, it’ll just weigh you down. Mountain Hardwear’s Ultralamina 15 is pricey but tiny and should serve you well.
4. A rain jacket.
Definitely don’t skimp on this one. It will rain during your trip and you will have to go out in it. Choose one that’s stylish but waterproof. A dual-layer jacket like Mountain Hardwear’s Xenon is a great choice for flexibility and warmth.
5. Thermal underwear.
Layers are the key for warmth. Don’t take big bulky jumpers, instead invest in several lightweight ones and some thermal underwear for the bottom layer. Merino wool is one of the best insulating layers but sadly, outside of New Zealand it can be prohibitively expensive. It’s gorgeous though. If you can’t stretch that far try polypropylene.
6. A money belt.
If you want to keep your money and passport safe, the best way is to always keep them on you, out of sight. And the best way to do that is to buy a money belt. Choose a skin-tone pouch, and wear it at all times. Don’t take things out of it in public places – keep it secret, keep it safe.
7. A camera.
How else are you going to record all your experiences? Choosing a camera can be a challenge, but if you choose one that takes SD cards you’ll probably find it easier in the long run – it’s the current standard, so it is easy to buy replacement memory cards, and you can get memory drives that accept SD cards for when you need to transfer the photos on to a computer.
8. Travel adapter.
No matter how much people recommend leaving all the electronics behind, it just isn’t happening. You’ve probably got three or four items that will need to be charged while you’re on the road, and you’ll possibly pick up more as you go. So you need an adapter that suits them all – and the Swiss Travel Products adapter will do it. One version even has a USB charger, so you can charge your ipod and other USB devices directly.
9. A padlock.
Seriously, don’t leave home without at least one of these babies. You should lock your bag when it’s not on you, including when you check it on to a plane or leave a hostel. If you are flying to, from, or within America, make sure you have bought a TSA approved brand. Most top-stuffing bags don’t make for easy locking, but do your best. In a hostel, you can often use your padlock on a locker to keep your stuff safe. Just don’t give anyone the combination.
10. Ear plugs.
Loud bus trips, snoring dorm mates … you will definitely get your money’s worth out of a pair of ear plugs. Pick up three or four pairs in your local pharmacy or supermarket. I recommend a disposable soft foam set whilst my husband often uses his in-ear noise-cancelling earbuds for the same effect.
11. A travel towel.
One of the largest items many travellers have with them is a traditional beach towel. But you don’t need all that weight, especially when you’ve just dried yourself on it and it’s soaking wet. So grabbing a travel towel from your local camping or travel store will certainly be worth your while. McNett Micronet is one of many brands that will give you what you need
12. A travel clothes line.
People don’t usually think about laundry when heading off on a short trip, but when you’re away for a while clothes-washing assumes a new importance. You might not be able to find a place to hang your damp undies though, which is where the travel clothes line comes in. You just have to find somewhere to hang it – whether in your hotel bathroom or across your host’s yard, and then you can squeeze your clothes between the two strands of elastic.
13. A good personalised first-aid kit.
You never know what might go wrong, and having a first-aid kit is a definite must. Buy a basic kit from the pharmacy and stock it with extras such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, diarrhoea tablets, plasters, insect repellent, condoms and hand sanitizer. Also add any medication you need. You can’t trust some of the medication sold over the counter in many third-world countries, so take as much as you can imagine needing, and a little more as a back up. Check that the drugs are legal in the countries you’re going to though – for example coedine is illegal in Greece.
14. A journal.
Your experiences will be amazing – don’t run the risk of forgetting it. A moleskin notebook is a stylish place to record your adventures, and the pocket at the back can be used to store tickets, stickers and other mementoes. Don’t forget to pack a pen as well.
15. A pack of cards.
Don’t underestimate the value of a pack of cards. They are a great way to get a group together in a hostel lounge on a rainy afternoon, and if all else fails, you can always play solitaire.
Most of the products on this list can be purchased on Amazon.com.
We’ve changed our opinion about some of these items, so check out our updated podcast on this topic.