I wrote this article after less than a month on the trip. Because I already had a couple of shorterbtrips behind I was confident I can share advices. However, after half a year I already changed the content of my backpack quite a lot. It was obvious that also this article needs an update. I kept the original text and just strokethrough the unnecessary things. The new comments are added in green colour.
One of the first question that appear in you mind after you choose a destination of your next trip is: “What should I take with me?”
Of course it depends what way you plan to travel. If you’ll backpack you want to carefully choose every gram of luggage because you will have to carry it on your shoulders all the time. But if your plan is to fly to US and rent a car with which you’ll roam around the states, then you have more freedom filling your baggage.
Content depends on destination, time of year, weather conditions, duration of stay, personal needs etc. Therefore, there is no general answer. But in any case you should pack as less as possible. Besides a few exceptions you don’t need anything spare. Ok, you probably need two shorts, so you’re not naked when ones are wet. But you definitely don’t need spare phone charger. If you use phone with USB connector for charging (like most of modern phones), there is no country on earth where you couldn’t buy another.
When I started this journey I had no time frame any other idea about the duration of it. I hit the road with backpack only. Let’s check what was in it:
At first divide belongings to logical groups:
small lamp/light torch (useful for overnight trips)More or less every cell phone has a flash light. There is no need for duplicates. sunglasses (useful for overday trips)I won't say they're useless but as much place they take :)
- daypack (when I make a stop somewhere for a couple of days I leave bigger backpack at the hostel or host. Then I use smaller daypack to which I put only things that I’m going to need during the day)
padlock (it doesn’t take much space and you can lock your things at the hostel)Haven't use not even once in half a year.
- sleeping bag (probably I’ll need to sleep somewhere. Don’t count on clean sheets)
tent (I thought a lot about whether to take it with me or not. If you choose to take it, find something light. Mine weights less than 2kg, and can be packed to size of 40cm, but still offers enough space for two with backpacks. Of course it’s not comfortable but it is an emergency exit when all other options of getting place to sleep fail :))Never used.
- compas (consequence of my love to geography and navigation :))
mini gas stove (because the cheapest way of eating is cooking your own food - especially in richer countries)Useful in Russia, Mongolia and China. But in SE Asia the food is just too cheap to cook for yourself :) lighter (necessary for starting gas stove :))Although without stove, lighter still comes handy.
- food container with lid
- mug with lid
- two sporks (it’s a problem if you can not eat prepared food because you forgot on spoon)
- duct tape (very useful for quick repairs on the go) sandals, even Teva's are grateful I have it with me.
- universal liquid glue (similar function as dust tape) This one I used on shoes. Twice already!
- small ALU flask (filled with local liquor - in the countries with lower hygienic standards it’s necessary to regularly disinfect body from inside :))
- Shorter piece of rope. Haven't use, but still insist.
- minimal sewing kit (some needles, a couple of meters of thread and two buttons)
- swiss army knife (always in my pocket) On chinese train it's forbidden. As a consequence they took me away three. Currently I use one bought in Thailand.
multitool pliers (if you don’t know what it is, don’t need it)Also took away in China. water bottle (think about those with built-in filters)Got broken in Vietnam. Now I use just regular plastic bottles.
- walking shoes (if you find such that look smart casual you don’t need other footwear)
- shorts (in combination with swimming shorts you don’t need additional)
- swimming shorts
- socks (
x8x5 - sounds a lot, but believe me it’s necessary) Number reduced when I arrived to areas with warmer climate.
- underwear (x4 - sounds not enough, but it is)
- sweater (in combination with multiple layers of t-shirts and waterproof jacket you can create winter jacket effect :))
- t-shirts (x4 - in environments without much sweating you can wear them for a week or more and people around you won’t even notice)
- waterproof jacket (rain can surprise you in the middle of the dessert)
- cap (sun can surprise you in the middle of the storm)
- collar shirt (for situation when you must look decent)
- sporty trousers (for periods when jeans are in laundry)
- jeans (for periods when trousers are in laundry)
- trouser belt (for periods with poorer food)
- shemagh (google it - there is no situation where you could not use it. I might write another article about it)
- documents (I won’t list everything. We all know if we travel abroad we need passport and other documents, certificates of vacinations...)
- digital camera with mini stand, spare batteries and SD cards (actually the only spare thing in my bag)
- camera battery charger (it’s sloppy if you can not charge the camera)
external hard drive for photo backups + USB mini cable.SD cards are much more handy.
- USB on-the-go cable and memory card reader (necessary for photo backing up)
- cell phone
- tablet (or smaller notebook. About this dilemma you can read in article: Electronic issues)
- micro USB charger (2x - necessary for simultaneously charging phone and tablet)
- mouse and keyboard (Because I chose tablet instead of notebook I write those articles on tablet. Additional peripferals are needed to avoid finger injuries…)
- power plug travel adapters (EU, english, american, australian)
- Hygienic accessories
- tooth brush and paste
- towels (google “travel towels”. They are thin, light and get dry quickly. I use one small and one medium size)
- Bags for dirty clothes (more important as it seems)
- comb (unless you’re bald)
- nail cutter
- razor (Instead of shawing foam which takes a lot of space you can use regular soap)
- solid soap (less space taking and lighter alternative for liquid shampoons for body and hair. I use one for both. You can even find such for sensitive skin)
- moisturizing skin cream
- insect repelent (for trips to tropical parts it’s especialy important to buy one which contains 20% DEET or more)
- Travel pharmacy (Again I won’t list everything because it’s topic for another article. But we some bandages, dressings... Something for fewer and and pain. Something for diarrhea and the opposite. Disinfection liquid, termometer… Depending on destination - antimalarics.)
All this sounds a lot, but many of things listed take less space in backpack than their description on this list. But when you stack everything to a pile you notice that clothes are far from being majority of it. I considered the weight and space when choosing what to take with me. Of course when on the road, the contents are varying but most of the time my backpack really looks like this. I learned that the backpack must never be totally full when you depart. There must always be place for something more. Things must be filled systematically. What you’re not going to use often you probably won’t put at the top.
Th backpack by itself is also important. The best are those bigger, which can be reduced with built-in belts. For example, in my backpack I can theoretically fit 75 liters. But with those belts I can modify it so I can put in only one bottle of water and it’s still comfortable to carry.
There are backpacks which has smaller removable daypack already embedded at the outer shell. In such case you don’t need additional daypack mentioned above. Anyway, when I was buying mine those were quite expensive. If you want to save some money buy smaller one separately. With some inventiveness any smaller backpack can be somehow fitted on the bigger one.
Things that are not sensitive to weather conditions (like tent, shoes) can be hanged outside of backpack. Those you don’t want to find soaked at any case (clothes, electronics) is good to place in additional waterproof bags inside backpack. It’s a good practice to split clothes and put it to different bags. Those bags then slide into middle part of backpack (at the bottom usually sleeping bag, shoes… at the top smaller things.) I found this the easiest way to get clothes in a backpack and keep it minimum crumpled.
But sooner or later anyone finds it’s own way. I normally make a list quite some time before departure and then try to fit everything in (find the optimal way.) Usually at that time I start to think if I really need all the stuff I put on list :)
So, what have I prove with that? At least two things. First, for different destinations and ways of travel you need different stuff. Taking a long term trip and visiting many countries, even continents, your backpack content will vary. It's impossible to pack universally. And second, no matter how minimalistic you pack before the trip, always there will be some things you will not need :)