Buying travel equipment

Once you’ve completely finished your packing list, it’s time to actually buy the needed gear. The best stores to go to are travel outdoor adventure stores. They have a lot of different sorts of equipment, the employees know a lot about backpacking and they can help you with everything. It’s always wise to discuss your travel plans together, in that way you will find the most useful travel equipment for your trip. A useful tip is to stick to simple, sturdy and decent -yet light and compact- gear, this will serve you best on the road than new-fashioned gimmicks, for those will break more easily. Life as a traveller is intensive, not just for you, but also for your equipment.

Budget tip: Backpacking gear is expensive. A cheaper option to buy your travel equipment is buy it in a second hand store. Another possibility is to borrow it from friends or family, or to buy some items of your gear when you’re already on the road. In foreign countries they do sell clothes, travel equipment, etc too, and it can be a lot cheaper than back at home, depending on the region you’re planning to travel to.

Backpack

Make sure to bring some adjustable straps. If necessary, you can strap stuff on the outside of your pack.

Advice on buying a backpack

Most important point: make sure your backpack is comfortable to wear. After all, you’ll be carrying it on your back a lot when you’re on the road. The volume of your backpack depends completely on how light you want to travel and how much gear you need to bring with you. A normal backpack is around 60 litres. However, if you can travel light, a daypack of 30 or 40 litres will do easily. The best advice is to simply go to an outdoor travel gear shop and discuss your travel plans and backpack requirements with one of the employees. It’ll help your decision making process a lot to actually see and try out the backpacks that are out there. Read on in: Backpacks.

Guidelines to buying a tent

Backpack tents are available in all sorts of shape, size and weight categories. Concerning the shape, a tunnel shaped tent is the best type for backpackers. Thanks to its construction, they are relatively light to carry, easy and quickly to set up, and offer enough space inside. The weight of these tents ranges from about 2 until 4 kilogram. The weight factor depends on how large your tent is (1 or 2 persons), its designed comfort temperature, and its fabric. If you plan to go backpacking with more than 2 persons, it’s best to buy two smaller tents than one large tent, since you can hardly share the weight of a tent.

Advice on buying a sleeping bag

These factors are most important: the filling of your sleeping bag and the comfort temperature. Which comfort temperature will serve you best, naturally depends on your destination and its climate at the time you’re there. The lower the comfort temperature, the more expensive and less compact sleeping bags are.

There are 2 fillings available: down (duck and goose feathers) and synthetic. The main differences are that sleeping bags with down filling have much better insulation and have a longer lifespan. However, they need a lot of special care when you’re on the road (for example: you shouldn’t keep them rolled up for too long, and can only be washed with a special laundry service), they aren’t water resistant, take a long time to dry and they are more expensive than sleeping bags with synthetic filling.

There are also different shapes to choose from when it comes to sleeping bags: mummy and rectangular shaped. The mummy shape is definitely preferable, because it has a hood for your head and thus minimizes the amount of warmth that will escape. If you’ll only be sleeping inside, a simple rectangular shaped sleeping bag will probably do as well.

Sleeping bags can be strapped on the outside of your backpack, so you’ll have more room for your other stuff. If you have a bulky sleeping bag, you might want to consider buying a ‘compression sack’, which can greatly reduce its transport volume.

Guidelines to buying a mattress

Foam mattress

Foam mattresses can’t get punctured.

There are 2 kinds of travel mattresses: self-inflatable and foam. Self-inflatable mattresses are comfortable and can be packed reasonably small. They can get punctured though, and it’s a pain in the ass if that happens. It’s wise to bring a small repair kit with you. Foam mattresses are quite cheap, insulate well and can’t get punctured, but they’re less comfortable to sleep on.

Advice on buying a stove

There are 3 kinds of stoves: gas, gasoline and multi- & omnifuel. Gas stoves are very cheap to buy and easy to use, but the availability of the gas cans in foreign countries isn’t that good everywhere. Gas burns very cleanly, but this type of fuel is expensive.

Stoves on gasoline are more expensive and usually come with a rather long manual to operate it. Gasoline however is easily available everywhere and is very cheap to buy.

Multifuel or omnifuel stoves can handle several types of fuel. Gasoline, alcohol (even vodka in some!), and more. Fuel costs are low, and this kind of stove has a lot of advantages when you’re on the road. The downside is that they’re a big up-front investment of at least USD 100.

Travel gear resources

  • BackpackGearTest.org
    A site where backpackers evaluate new gear in the field over a six month testing period.