First time round, I guess the most frustrating thing for me was trying to pack for four seasons with no idea of where I was actually going. I knew my environment would vary from tropical beaches to snowy mountains and with all the tricky cultural dress codes in-between. So here is a few tips I’ve learnt after years of lugging around my backpack. Keeping in mind, I do the usual backpacker stuff, with as much trekking as I can fit in also…

Starting with the backpack
I would never travel without an amazingly comfortable harness. The number of occasions I have found myself walking for a few hours (or 10 days while wild camping in Patagonia) and reflected on how happy I was to have purchased my quality bag. Make sure you shop on sales and save yourself 50% – I did! BUT… that being said. Work out your needs and buy what will suite your style of travel.

Keep it light!
You will be happiest with 10kg or less. But if you are struggling then keep it to a maximum of 12kg. Anything more and it will weigh you down. To be honest – if you’ve hit 12kg or more, then it sounds like you have packed too much. CULL!

Packing cubes
These are amazing, quick and efficient for rummaging through your bag. I use a combination of packing cubes and thin but strong bags. Hubby didn’t need them as much as his boy clothes were larger and stacked better in the main compartment. Also, consider using a material mesh bag for your dirty clothes, it will allow them to breath a bit more.

Head torch
THIS IS IMPORTANT!! Don’t even think about it. Just get one. For trekking it is a must. But even around the hostels after dark it is incredibly handy. Our’s have red light settings too which is great for middle of the night needs. It makes for a much more courteous light option in dorms too.

Clothes

  • Pack clothes you can sweat in without the wet marks being seen.
  • Patterns are great because they can get dirty and still look clean (well… backpacker clean anyways).
  • Take something to keep the mozzies off (translation: keep the mosquitos from biting you). I literally had a ‘mozzie skirt’ that went to my feet. Best thing ever and I wore it every night.
  • Take something you can feel a bit nicer in. You will find yourself going out for dinner at some point. But don’t go overboard. As a guide, you’re nice outfit should also be something you can wear out to any daily activity.
  • Have items that will cover your shoulders and your knees. In places like India, Africa and the Middle East, this is a must. It’s always a good idea to investigate cultural expectations around clothing before you go strutting down the streets with your knee caps showing. Otherwise things could end very ugly.
  • Anywhere that you plan to go trekking there will be people selling trekking gear. You can always pick up anything you need once on the road. So don’t over pack this stuff, it’ll just weigh you down.

Thongs (“flip flops” if you’re not Aussie)
Get a good pair and hopefully they last the trip. Mine never do so I just pick up some new ones along the way. Thongs can be purchased anywhere.

Shoes
Ahhh the darn shoes topic… lets face it, no one wants to lug around a heavy pair of shoes, but when you need them, you are damn happy to have a good pair.

You’ll have to make your own call on this one as you know what type of activities you’ll be needing them for. But keep in mind, if you’re in Asia, they are a petite build so larger sizes are non existent. East Africa, I purchased a pair that I wore on two separate day treks before the sole burst open. To be honest I loved my hand me down black nike runners with the foam sole. Lightweight and super practical. Can’t go wrong. I always had a sturdier sneaker or trekking shoe for longer treks through. And I always purchased these right before a trek. Do yourself a favour and learn from my mistake marked by copious amounts of blisters. Just take a pair you are happy with.

And as a final little piece that I never travel without… a sarong!
This versatile piece of material is nothing short than amazing. Use it as your beach towel, shawl, bed sheet, blanket, overnight transport cover, beach skirt and the list goes on.

Ok, now for things you don’t need…

Pillow
Ditch it, you don’t need it. Besides – you can roll up a jacket or some other clothing item for a makeshift pillow.

Sleeping bag
Hire one when trekking, and use a locally purchased blanket or shawl if you ever get cold.

And anything you can buy while you’re travelling… This actually includes absolutely everything! You need to remember that if your entire backpack was stolen, you could actually replace everything you had in it while away, including the backpack itself. So if in doubt, just leave it behind. Keep it light. And buy cheap things along they way, use them for their purpose and then donate them to a local once you’re done.

This is one of the best realisations you have whilst travelling… Everything you own and need fits into one small bag. Tangible items become all the less important. And once you truly realise this, materialism just fades away. So don’t freak out – just embrace it. And cut your packing list in half!…