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A Backpacker’s Essentials…

March 02, 2015 | Holli Sodomlak

Your backpack is not ready to embark on a great adventure until it contains these absolute travel essentials!  This list is compiled based on 12 years of personal back-packing experience.  Trust me, years of trial and error have gone into this list.  These items will make the difference between your travels feeling like home-from-home, compared to feeling lost and alone without the things you need!

I’m assuming here that you have already packed obvious things like documents, clothing appropriate to your destination, toiletries etc.  This list steps beyond the obvious, helping you prepare for every event.  These items are sometimes hard to find in foreign countries, so pack them before you go!

It may seem like lots to think about, but most of these things will actually fit into one small drawstring bag.  Pack it once, throw it in the top of your pack, and be prepared for almost every eventuality in every corner of the world…

I never leave home for an epic trip without:

  1. A multi-tool knife with corkscrew, tin-opener, scissors, and of course a knife blade. You don’t need a huge heavy one, just something that can help you crack that well-earnt bottle of wine or open the packaging on your new purchases.
  2. A sturdy headlamp because the power isn’t always reliable in hotels in far-flung regions of Asia or up in the mountains. Headlamps give you security walking at night, help you navigate unfamiliar hotel rooms, and can even be used for reading under the covers.  Back up your headlamp with spare batteries, and also a small candle and box of matches, just in case.
  3. Length of strong cord. Why?  Because nothing is as useful as a piece of string!  Use it to fashion an instant clothes line, or strap items to the outside of your pack, or support loose connections in the world’s crankier electrical sockets.
  4. An obvious one, not just because sunscreen has well-known benefits for your health and comfort, but also because there are many countries where sunscreen can be hard to find, expensive, and often out of date.
  5. Basic first aid kit. Nothing fancy, have some iodine tincture for instant antiseptic, a few band-aids and blister pads, some pain killers, and of course immodium and rehydration salts for any bouts of traveller’s tummy.
  6. Basic fix-it kit. Following on from the basic first aid kit, the fix-it kit is pretty much a first aid kit for your gear.  All you need is a couple of zipties, a small roll of tape, paperclips, safety pins, and a needle and thread to be ready for anything.

*Travel Tip* Hotels often have mini sewing kits available free of charge, just ask for one and stash it in your wallet.

  1. Travel Adaptor. I recommend an ‘everywhere to everywhere’ adaptor.  There are some really compact ones on the market these days.  They work almost everywhere, even if you buy a new electronic item on the road, and the best ones even have a built-in USB port.
  2. Zip lock bags. Not a whole cupboard of them, just a few.  If you forget these then you can even just grab a couple extra from the security check in the airport!  Instantly you can waterproof your small electronics, pack yourself a picnic lunch, have a little travel garbage bag for when there’s no sign of a real one, and so much more.  Absolutely essential!
  3. Pen and paper. Yup, the humble writing tools can be amazingly hard to find when you’re chatting with a local and they just told you about this incredible spot that isn’t in any of the guide books and are now giving you complex directions that you need to relate to a taxi driver…. need I say more?!
  4. Lightweight small draw-string bag to pack all your essentials in. This will not only let you find any and all of your essentials really easily when you need them, but it also becomes much easier to pack for your second, third, fourth back-packing trips.