What to pack

“Decide on the minimum of luggage you want to bring on your travels, and the amount of money you think you’ll need. Now, when you’ve got everything together, pack only half of your stuff, and double your money!”

Always make a packing list, well before you leave. Composing one that lists every item you bring will take time and might give you a headache or two. But don’t worry: if you find out you’ve forgotten something, chances are quite high you’ll be able to find a replacement in a store abroad.

A packing list is different for every trip, because every trip is different. The contents of your backpack depend on a lot of factors: the climate, where you’ll be sleeping, how you’ll be travelling, how low you want to keep your daily expenses, whether you’ll be making your own meals, how long you’ll be on the road for, and so on, and so on. If you plan to go camping during your trip, you’re probably going to need a tent, a mattress, a sleeping bag, perhaps even a travel stove, pans and silver wear / cutlery. But if you only plan to go hostelling, you’ll be able to pack much lighter. If your itinerary includes cold countries, you’ll need more clothes than a trip to a warm region such as Central America.

It’s best to travel as light as you can. The advantages are obvious: you don’t have to lug around with a lot of stuff, you get more mobility, you can more easily keep an eye on your possessions, it simply makes travelling easier. A backpack is of course the only way to go (hence the origin of the word ‘backpacker’), because a suitcase or duffle is a lot harder to move around with. And backpacks look way cooler too of course.

When composing your packing list, ask yourself with every item: do I absolutely need this, or can I leave this at home? Travelling light isn’t as easy as you’d think, and it’s very easy to overpack. But don’t worry: once you’ve hit the road you will without a doubt find out soon enough how good lightweight travelling is, what you really need and what you might just as well toss away.

Remember that you don’t have to stock up on things if you’re going on a trip, for you’ll find almost anything you need in foreign countries too. The rule of thumb is: if you’re not going to use it on a daily basis, don’t pack it (of course there are some exceptions to this guide-line, your passport for example… dah).

Also, remember that you can find and buy virtually every item you wish to take with you in other countries as well. At times it can actually be a very good idea to postpone buying your travel gear after you leave home, simply to reduce initial travel costs. For example, if you’re going to Thailand, you’ll find that it’s extremely cheap to buy clothes there.

To help you get started with composing a packing list for your own trip, this website provides you with an example packing list for you, which lists all essential items you’ll need to bring with you on your travels. There’s also a collection of useful packing tips.

Packing resources

  • OneBag
    The art and science of travelling light.

  • Backpacking gear
    Walkabout Travel Gear provides travellers with a wide range of backpacking gear, of which all items have been personally selected and field tested, both for quality and usefulness.

  • Discussion and more information in the Backpacking Gear Forum!