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Essential Items for Backpacking Around the World

July 25, 2020

Whether your global backpacking adventure takes to you to Bondi Beach or the Champs Elyse, you will need to plan your trip carefully. One of the first things you should consider is; where am I going and what are the climate and culture I will be experiencing?

By exploring these questions, you will discover the type of traveler you are.  Are you the type of person who can tolerate riding in the back of a crowded, hot, sweaty bus that keeps breaking down every few kilometers? Or do you need a more formal and structured itinerary to ensure a happy trip? Can you live off canned food or do you need a proper meal at the end of each day?

Once you determine these things, you can create the right itinerary for you, budget, vaccinations, travel insurance, and get your passport and visas arranged.  And, you can begin to make your list essential items.

What to Include

There is no shortage of items to consider and choose from, and deciding what to take is an important part of planning. When determining what items to select, consider the following:

  • Weight & Size: You have to fit everything you take into a backpack and carry it for weeks or months
  • Multi-purpose: Does the item have single or multiple uses,  for example,  the Ulti-Brush toothbrush is a brush,  toothpaste and floss all in one unit.
  • Durability: Will it last? It might make more sense to spend up on an item rather than have to replace it in a foreign country.

The Backpack – A Major Decision 

First up, find a strong, durable and multi-purpose backpack. I like ones that have a detachable daypack so you can leave the large section behind and use the smaller daypack for short excursions. It helps if the straps can be stowed inside; a must when checking your luggage at airports and going through security scanners.

When choosing a backpack, think small and light. If you go with a big bag, you will be tempted to carry more than you need. You don’t want to be lugging unwanted stuff around the world. If you’re buying souvenirs, ship them home rather than carry them. They will have a better chance of getting home in one piece, and maybe sooner too.

As I mentioned earlier, selecting essential items depends a lot on the climates you are going to encounter. A trip through Asia may take you through the hot, humid days of Thailand and the cold, wet nights of New Zealand. Do your research and think about choosing clothes you can wear in layers. As a rule of thumb I like to include the following. Try to get clothes made from quick drying material when possible:

  • 2 pairs shorts
  • 3-4 t-shirts
  • A long sleeve shirt
  •  Jeans or chinos (1 only)
  • Swim trunks or a Speedo
  • A sweatshirt or sweater
  • Sweat pants (1)
  • 1 pair of long underwear bottoms or leggings
  • 10 pairs of underwear (cuts down on the laundry days)
  • 10 pairs of socks (socks are easily lost)
  • Sneakers, hiking shoes and flip-flops (1 of each)
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • 1 rain poncho, small and compactable
  • 1 lightweight windbreaker

When packing roll the clothes up rather than fold them to prevent wrinkling and better stuffing into your ‘packing cubes.’ These cubes are a must. Often translucent and available in a variety of sizes, these zippered pouches help keep clothes separated and easy to find.

Useful Stuff To Remember 

Okay, we have the clothes sorted out, now let’s think about the practical items needed. Things like a laundry bag, portable clothes line, headlamp and eating and cooking utensils. One of the better flatware kits I’ve found is made from bamboo and included a fork, knife, spoon and a set of chopsticks. Bamboo is strong, light and cleans well in water.

A small can-opener, paring knife and vegetable peeler are good to have, especially if you have to grab food from a roadside grocer and jump back on the bus. Remember, to stow them in checked bags at the airport. A padlock is a good idea, especially when staying in hostels.

Regardless if you’re sleeping in a hammock on the beach in Costa Rica or a hostel in Berlin you need a quality sleeping bag.  You cannot put a price on a good nights sleep.

Your sleeping bag has to be light, compactable and versatile. Check out the Suisse Sport Adventurer Mummy Ultra-Compactable Sleeping Bag, it’s super light and compacts down well so it won’t take up a lot of room in your backpack.

A microfiber towel that dries quickly and a beach towel are handy to have with you. And when it comes to toiletries, don’t buy the travel size unless you want to buy stuff every week. Get the large size, they’ll get lighter as the trip goes on. Sunscreen and bug repellent are essential, but you may want to avoid the full strength bug spray like Deet or Off! They often have a strong scent than can be off-putting to you and others. Milder scented repellants will work just fine.