Because this is just what the internet needs….
If you have ever thought even remotely seriously about going away on a gap-year, or an extended holiday you will likely have come across one of the literally many packing lists that wash around the web. This number could be taken as a sign that there is no need for another one, or alternatively that this is what people actually want to read about. In the event its the later, here is a page about what I’ve chosen to take on my trip.
Important point to note – this is broadly speaking what I have packed and the philosophy I followed in putting it together. However given that I’m writing this from my parents house a few days before I actually set off, it is not altogether unlikely that I may have packed badly. If I feel later on my trip that I messed up by bringing or not bringing along a particular thing, I will look to update the post. But in the mean time….
Choosing a bag.
This is where you need to start. That might sound silly, but its not because it rather dictates what you can bring and how you can pack. Choose to buy a massive 70litre plus bag and you can quickly fill it with numerous changes of clothes, shoes and a maybe even a hair-dryer. On the down side you will probably get back ache lugging it around and start to dread travelling days when you have to squeeze onto public transport with the equivalent of a medium sized person clinging on to your back, thus earning you death stares from the locals.
The alternative option is to go for a smaller bag, something around the 35-45 litre capacity, although some chose to travel even lighter.
I chose a 40litre Osprey bag. Its front opening, like a suitcase, which is handing for getting to your stuff, and it is apparently carry on size for most airlines. Not that thats a lot of good for me….A bag of this size gives you much more freedom to take it with you when getting on to coaches etc, you look slightly less like a pick-pocket target and packing and unpacking is much quicker. At the same time though I can still fit a great deal into it so I don’t need to make quite as many “Sophie’s Choices” about what to leave behind. That said, it probably would be nice to fit a bit more stuff in it…
And another bag…
Unless you going extremely light with a tiny main bag you really should take a day bag along as well for after you’ve dumped your main pack at the hostel/hotel. That said when it comes to travel days you don’t really want to be left carrying two bags around, so if you can, get a collapsible day bag that will fold up into itself and fit in your main bag. You can get some really tiny ones, but they didn’t look very strong to me and had awful fabric straps. Instead I chose a slightly more bulky, (but solid looking) Liveventure one.
Time to Sleep.
A sleeping bag takes up loads of space and most hostels etc provide more than adequate bedding. Sometimes though, it maybe dubious. For these occasions I got myself a Silk Liner from Liveventure in a sale. Very light, packs up tiny, and has anti-mossie treatment. Also for sleeping, make sure you pack an eye mask, as you will inevitable have to sleep at some point in full sunlight or in a dorm where people seem to think theres nothing wrong with turning all the lights on at half 3 in the morning. An eye mask will be invaluable in these situations. Also, for fairly obvious reasons bring a collection of ear plugs. You’ll sleep so much better for it. I’m not bothering with a pillow. Fleece/jackets can double up if needed.
Unless you are the naked rambler, you will need clothes. The key rule here is basically to get things that can be layered and avoid big bulky items. And if your taking a small bag get things that will dry quickly so you can easily wash everything frequently without having to wait a week for it to then dry. Obviously what you need to back for clothes depends mainly on where you are going. If you are going somewhere exclusively hot, it makes things much easier. For my Middle East trip, I didn’t bother with trousers, or trainers, making do with ¾ lengths and sandals, and thus saving loads of space. This time the climites I’m going through will be varied, and start pretty cold. I’m probably taking more clothes than I need, 2 long sleeve t shirts, 1 short sleeve, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 light down jacket (it compresses very nicely and even in hot countries it can get chilly at night) a waterproof/windproof jacket (its an old one so once I get past Europe and things warm up a bit I might get rid of this and pick up a new one when I get to Winter in China/S. Korea.) a hat, some buff type headwear things, that were gifts from my old work colleagues, some light weight trousers, a pair of jeans, 3 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of underwear. The underwear and socks should be fast drying so washing them every other night shouldn’t be a problem. (Be careful when buying them however, announcing that you need underwear that dries very quickly can give the shop assistant the wrong idea about you….) The jeans are a bit of a controversial choice for travelling. Most people advise not to take them because they are heavy, they take ages to dry and they get hot. However I would counter this by saying, its not too difficult to not get them wet, that they are massively hardwearing and shouldn’t break, that people in almost every country in the world wear them so they can’t be that uncomfortable, and that they just look so much better than typical “travel” trousers.
Ok so previously I’ve travelled with nothing more hi-tech than an iPod and a phone that you could play snake on it. This time I’ve upped the tech factor somewhat, with a small (and relatively cheap) laptop and a basic kindle. The fact I have a small bag and should hopefully find it easier to keep an eye on it should hopefully stop it getting nicked, but its a good general rule to have that you should be prepared to lose/have stolen, anything that you bring with you without finding it so devastating that it ruins your trip. I’ve also tried to make my laptop look less appealing to thieves by decorating it with stickers. Unfortunately the only stickers I could get my hands on were primarily smiley faces and teddy bears. So whilst my laptop might now be less likely to be stolen, it does rather look like I’ve already stolen it off an 8 year old girl…
Oh and I’m also taking a camera. I went for a compact one in the end to save space, although I am happy it will take good quality pictures.
Other random stuff
Pack a health kit, unless you are an idiot, and make sure it actually has useful stuff in it. Washing line, a sewing kit, some duct tape, and a multi-tool have all also find their way into my pack. I also have contact lenses and spare glasses. I don’t want to end up temporarily blind in Turkmenistan. And finally packing cubes, and dry-bags are useful for keeping your stuff organised and waterproof. Also it goes without saying to pack insurance details, emergency numbers etc, and a record of vaccines and blood type and any other general piece of information that might be of help to someone should you suddenly and unexpectedly end up in a foreign hospital.
So there you have it, if you are thinking of going away, don’t just base all your thoughts on my thinking, there are lots of other blogs out there listing different approaches, and you want to read a good selection of them before deciding which one will best suit you.