Well, since people kept asking me over the years what I usually take with me, I thought I might as well start with my planned packing lists. Note: There are a few things I did not include because they are obvious; such as personal documents (passport, information about travel insurance, vaccination certificate, emergency contact details, international drivers licence, credit card – if you really want to be on the safe side, make copies and keep them in a different piece of luggage or even better: scan those documents and keep them in your Dropbox!), spare cash, clothes, toiletry items, …
I guess my 15 must-pack items vary a little depending on the duration and destination of the trip but the majority of the things listed below accompany me on ALL journeys. Make sure that you bring yours 😉 P.S.: This account might bore the seasoned travellers among yous but help some noobies…
It was hard to limit myself to only 15, since I immediately wrote down additional stuff like running shoes, rain coat, hair ties etc. All this and more will be part of more detailed packing lists tailored to various needs, promised 😉
Why those items!? Read for yourselves…
1) Headlamp: sooner or later you will need a torch – when camping outside as well as when rummaging through your backpack in a city hostel while your roomies are already snoring softly. Also, power failures could happen more frequently than back home. A normal torch is useful; a headlamp is gold since your two hands remain free. I bought a cheap, yet decent one at Decathlon.
2) Basic Medi-Kit (CLICK HERE (coming soon…) for another article about what meds I recommend): I’m barely ever sick, but there’s nothing worse than getting sick e.g. on a long bus ride in a remote area with nothing in your backpack to make you feel better. When trekking or travelling developing countries, it’s an absolute MUST!
3) Baby-wipes: Who claimed they were for babies only? Wet baby-wipes are magical, especially in combination with hand sanitizer. When camping, they replace showers when there is no stream close-by. I also use them as face- and hand-wipes a lot. They will come in handy sooner or later, trust me.
4) A travel towel: Just so much lighter and faster drying than normal ones. I hate stuffing a damp cotton towel into my bag, it gets so smelly. And you cannot always rely on hostels providing (clean) ones.
5) A travel-toothbrush: Always have it in your hand luggage along with some travel-sized toothpaste. You will feel so much fresher after a long-distance journey.
6) Tampons: Of course. I’m a woman grown after all and you never know what funny things a jetlag and stress will do to your usual cycle. Gals, check out THIS LINK (coming soon…) for a packing list I drew up especially for my female readers!
7) Spare wallet: I always bring a simple cloth zip bag with me, it’s much smaller and fits everything you need for a night-out since I usually prefer to leave my credit card etc. in a safe place. Also, you can use your spare one as a dummie-wallet (stocked with some run-out cards and little money), so in case you get robbed you get to keep your real valuables. Professional traveller-style!
8) A rain cover: Most backpacks have one included – if not, get one. You will need it and you will hate it if you ever have to run through rain and arrive with all your clothes – and electronics – soaked. Personally, I use waterproof packsacks in addition, especially on trekking trips. They will keep your stuff dry AND well organized. Trust me, the autumn drizzles back home are peanuts compared to tropical monsoon downpours.
9) An unlocked phone: You will want to tell your loved ones that you arrived safely. Personally, I love my INdestructable old Nokia phone which has an immortal battery and is so old that no one will be tempted to steal it. But I also appreciate the advantages of Wi-Fi… sometimes, I even take two phones with me, it totally depends on the destination. My Nokia for festivals, hikes and the like and a newer phone for more “civilized” trips. I mean, there’s no point in taking a fancy phone to the outback if there will be neither Wi-Fi and nor a chance to recharge it every night, right?
10) MP3-Player: Yip, I’m that old-school. I never had an I-pod and my phone is too ancient for that task, too. I always make sure to stuff my MP3-Player with tonnes of new music and never forget to include calm stuff that will help me sleep. I much prefer soothing music to earplugs when in a noisy environment. Also great against boredom: audiobooks!
11) Camera: I’m a big fan of capturing memories… Don’t forget to bring a spare set of batteries or a portable charger with you, it is SO frustrating when your camera runs out of battery in exactly that second when light and scenery are absolutely perfect. Also, a portable charger comes in very handy upon arrival in case you forgot to bring a necessary net adapter.
12) External harddrive and/or USB stick: exchange music, movies and photos with fellow travellers and keep a backup of your data (additional option: invest in a cheap cloud storage such as Dropbox or Backblaze). I saw backpackers weeping hot tears when someone stole their laptops…
13) A good read: In fact, I’ve come to love my kindl e-reader. Yes, I also love the unique smell of REAL paper pages and a digital version will never be able to completely replace a proper book; but when you travel, every inch and every gram counts. And in that respect, an e-reader clearly wins, you can even download many books for free – plus the battery lasts forever!
14) A little travel diary and some pens: some sheets of paper will also do. You might need it to get locals draw you a map, exchange numbers or take notes for your travel blog, write to-do-lists and the like. I usually have the addresses of my closest friends and family in there too, they all love receiving postcards!
15) A tote bag: Call me a hipster if you like. But I hate that plastic bag madness…
One last note: Better safe than sorry!
Make sure to pack your most valuably items in your hand-luggage when flying, and I mean those of monetary AND personal value like important meds, diary, irreplaceable souvenirs, … Just ask yourself when packing: What are the things that money will NOT be able to replace upon arrival? I also made it a habit to pack a travel toothbrush and a second outfit in my carry-on baggage; at least some spare underwear and a T-shirt. Sooner or later, most frequent travellers get into the awful situation that their checked luggage gets delayed or – worst case scenario – lost. It happened to me on my flight to Vientiane and it was a lesson learnt for life. In addition, I recommend that you use either a luggage tag or a simple piece of paper with your contact details put into an easily accessible pocket of your checked luggage. This will make is easier for the airline to track your bag. Now you should really be on the safe side.
Oh and one last thing: Don’t fret too much about packing, most things you will be able to buy abroad anyways. Enjoy your trip! 🙂