Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Thu December 10 2015

10 Essential Items for Every Backpacking Trip

Features & Advice | Will Hatton | December 10, 2015

10 Essential Items for Every Backpacking Trip

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

We all know that there are dozens of different types of backpacking adventures to be had around the world. Some require nerves of steel, others, little more than a decent sense of humor. When hitting the road, you can go for two weeks, two months, two years or indefinitely. You can disappear (figuratively, I hope) into the wilderness, you can learn new skills (fire poi anyone?) or you can check out cities, towns and cultures you have dreamed of visiting since you first saw a world map. You can live in caves, in hostels or in tents (let’s bypass the luxury hotels).

But the question that always comes up, no matter the trip, is: what the heck should I pack?

To answer that perennial question, I put together the ultimate backpacking list of essentials for the first-time backpacker a while back. Whenever I hit the road, I have a glance at my list and work out what I am going to require based on the type of adventure I am heading out on. Do I need gloves and my trusty ice axe or flip flops and a bathing suit? Assuming that your passport, toothbrush and underwear are already packed, here are ten things from the list that always come with me, no matter my plans:

1)  First Aid Kit

No matter how careful you are, I guarantee you that there will be blood. Backpacking is blood, sweat and tears — of happiness obviously! It doesn’t have to be dramatic; it could be something as simple as tripping and falling while walking … or while drunk. There will also be insect bites, and, probably, the prevalent intestinal foe of all travelers: diarrhea. Stuff your kit with the following:

• Band-Aids, gauze, alcohol solution and an antiseptic cream, because cuts can get infected very easily.

• Mosquito repellent with 40 percent-plus DEET, because no one wants malaria or dengue fever.

• Imodium and rehydration powder because there is nothing worse than being struck down with a bout of Bali belly before a ridiculously long bus journey, or becoming dehydrated afterwards.

• Suntan lotion and moisturizer for sunburn: heatstroke sucks.

2) Money Belt

Never fashionable, always handy, the money belt keeps your dollars secure and discrete, and saves you from having to fish around in your bag for your wallet. If all you need with you is money, it saves you from even having to take a bag out with you.

3) Day Pack

You might think you don’t need a small backpack along with your big one, but you probably will if you decide to rent a bicycle or a motorbike or go for a trek in to the steamy depths of the jungle or… well, the possibilities are endless! This is just a super practical thing to have and it’s also more secure than a man bag or handbag.

4) PacSafe

This anti-theft backpack protector is a bit pricey, but it’s awesome, and worth it to know that your stuff is just about impenetrable wherever you put it.

5) Copies of Important Stuff

Passport, bank cards, insurance info. Keep them separate from the originals, it’s not easy to get these replaced from abroad.

6) Trekking Footwear

Ideally they would be grippy, padded ones that will support you when you go trekking or are happily stomping around muddy, unpaved roads (and where’s the fun in pavement?). Invest in a good pair before leaving home, they can last years.

7) Microfiber Travel Towel

These are the lightest, the most compact and the quickest drying. Indispensible.

8) Head-Mounted Flashlight

Even if you’re not an intrepid jungle trekker, it’s just a fact that some places get dark at night and don’t have streetlights. Your dorm mates will also thank you for not turning the light on in your quest to locate your pajamas after a drunken stumble home.

9) Small Sewing Kit

Your stuff will fall apart, but you don’t have to!

10) Pen and Paper

If you really go off the beaten track, drawing what you need is often better than miming! It’s also handy to write down the names and addresses of places you want to go, in case locals don’t speak English (or understand your accent).

With these ten essentials packed and your flight at the ready, the time has come, ditch your desk, head on out that door and start exploring… 


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