So you’ve booked your tickets and it is getting close to your departure day. Time to start getting your packing list under control.
If you’ve read any blogs or travel websites, you will be aware of a phrase along these lines “take half the gear and double the money”. While this statement is true in part, it is more important to be packing smart so you are taking the stuff you need and nothing more.
This guide will show you everything you need to know to make a better decision on what YOU will need to take and assumes that you have already purchased a backpack and/or day pack. If you haven’t, jump on over to our Backpacker’s Best of section and browse our top picks for backpacks and daypacks of 2016.
1. What Should I Pack?
There are many factors that will determine what you should be taking. For example:
- What type of trip is it?
- How long will you be away?
- Are you traveling alone or with a partner?
- Where are you traveling? Is it easy to buy the things you need?
- Are you traveling to a hot or cold climate (or both)?
Type of trip
How and what you pack will be heavily influenced by the type of trip you are taking. Here are some different trip types that require different approaches:
- Long weekend getaway (a day pack will do fine)
- 1-4 week trip (carry-on bag at most)
- Long term travel/RTW trip
- Working Abroad/Moving Overseas/Gap year
If you are off around the world or looking to work abroad, be sure to pack ONLY the essentials (don’t forget those important documents you might need).
Remember, most items can be bought along the way or at your destination.
It is pretty obvious that the weather will play a huge role in the clothing that you need to take. If you are simply planning a short trip to a warm climate there is no reason to be packing a heavy jacket, gloves or thermals.
If it is a combination of hot and cold climates then it is even more important to follow a good protocol. It’s all about layering your clothing. Why take a heavy jacket that can only be used in a cold climate when you could pack a fleece jacket and a thin weather-proof jacket and have 3 separate uses!
2. Packing Method
With the onus on packing light, you would probably think that there will be a lot of gear left behind. While this is true in part, you might be surprised to see just how much stuff you can pack using the right techniques.
Stop wasting space
Don’t leave it to the last moment to pack!
You will end up just throwing all your gear in and that wastes space.
It has been proven that folding your clothes leaves too much empty room.
Don’t vacuum pack!
Many people swear by this method, but we have found that you tend to pack too much and often find yourself over the airline’s weight limit.
There are a few tips that will ensure your bag is fully optimized and ready to go.
- Start by rolling your clothes and packing them tightly together with the heavier items (such as jeans) placed at the bottom of the pack
- Wear your shoes when you are in transit. If you decide on taking more than one pair be sure to fill the space in your shoes with socks or other items
- Keep all important documents and other valuables like cameras and electronics with you at all times in your day pack
- If you are checking your luggage, make sure to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on pack. That way if your main pack goes missing you still have a spare set to change into
- Separate and label small and commonly used items, then store together
We have put together a visual look at some of the items you should consider packing
Here is everything you might need to stay clean and fresh while on the road. Due to restrictions on liquids we recommend you purchase the clear bottle pack. This will also reduce the amount of product in your pack and make it easier to find things.
Consider packing smaller portions into small sealable containers to reduce space and weight.
1. Hand sanitizer
2. Roll-on deodorant
5. Baby wipes
6. Sunscreen lotion
7. Contact lens fluid*
8. Eye drops
9. Hair brush
10. Hair gel
11. Shaving butter
13. Toothbrush & toothpaste
14. Dental floss
15. Clear case & bottles kit
17. Nail clippers
* If required
4. First Aid & Medications
When you are out there exploring the world, there are certain precautions that you should take to ensure your health and safety. Our list compiles the most common first aid items and medications to consider packing.
Remember that many of these items can be found overseas on your journey, though the brands might differ and language barriers can be an issue at times.
1. Imodium (for diarrhea)
2. Motion sickness tablets
3. Ibuprofen (for pain relief)
5. Sleeping tablets
6. Hydrocortisone (itch relief)
7. Prescription medication (from your doctor)
8. Plasters (for cuts)
9. Neosporin (for burns and infections)
10. Gauze bandage
11. Insect Repellent
12. Rehydration salts
13. Cold & Flu tablets
15. Constipation relief
16. Malaria tablets
17. Anti-fungal cream
5. Important Documents
One of the worst feelings is being stuck somewhere without the right paperwork. You will most likely only need a few of the items listed below as many are specific to working holidays.
While many of the items listed can be found electronically these days, it is not a bad idea to retain printed copies. You never know what can happen at a border crossing!
1. Passport (with 6+ months validity)
2. Passport photos x 4
4. Boarding passes
6. Travel Insurance policy
7. International driver permit*
8. Credit card(s)
9. Drivers licence
10. Diver’s licence (PADI or similar)*
11. Foreign currency
12. Vaccination/Immunization certificate*
13. Prescription medication certificate
14. Travel voucher*
15. Bus or Rail pass*
16. Birth certificate* (1)
17. Marriage certificate* (1)
18. University degree* (1)
19. University transcript* (1)
20. Qualifications/Licences* (1)
* If required
^ Remember to bring any expired passports if they still have a current visa in them
(1) May be required if you are planning on working overseas
6. Men’s/Unisex Clothing
Clothing is a very discretionary choice when it comes to packing. It will depend a lot on how long you are traveling for, the type of trip and most importantly the type of weather.
Remember not to pack too much, as you will be carrying it all along the way. The most basic items can be purchased during your trip if need be. The following clothing items are rather generic and mostly unisex options.
1. Collared shirt
2. T-shirts x 4/5
3. Weather-proof jacket
4. Fleece jacket
7. Board shorts/Swimming costume
8. Jeans (or cargo pants)
11. Sunglasses (pref. polarized)
12. Reading glasses (or contact lenses)*
14. Thermal underwear^
15. Underwear x 5 pair + 2 pair boxer shorts
16. Socks x 4/5
18. Flip flops
21. Pillow case
22. Micro towel
^ Only when traveling to cold climates
* If required
7. Women’s Clothing & Extras
While you will find many of the essential clothing items for both guys and girls, here are some more specific pieces for the lady traveler.
1. Fitted singlet
2. Summer dress
3. Long skirt
4. Light-weight cardigan
6. Sanitary pads*
7. Birth control pills*
9. Hair clips
10. Travel makeup kit
12. Lip balm^
13. Shampoo & conditioner^
14. Flat casual shoes
^ If you don’t want to take Vaseline pack some lip balm. Soap can also be used in place of the shampoo & conditioner
* If required
Some people feel the need to be connected at all times while others prefer to get off the grid and remove themselves from all devices. Whichever you prefer, here are the more common electronic devices that you might need.
We have included just a taste of the photography gear you might need. For a more detailed account on what photography gear you should be considering see our guide – What Gear Do I Need?
9. Micro SD card
10. SD card
11. Spare battery
12. Battery charger
13. External hard drive
14. Noise-cancelling headphones
9. Miscellaneous Items
The following items all have their place depending on the type of trip you are taking. These might not fit into a certain category but you will find them plenty useful that’s for sure.
1. Collapsible water bottle
2. Pens x 4
3. Permanent marker (1)
5. Rubber bands*
6. Zip ties*
7. Duct tape*
8. Travel pillow (2)
9. Ear plugs
10. Chewing gum (3)
11. Multi tool*
12. Sleeping mask
13. Hammock (4)
14. Ziploc bags (5)
15. Pacsafe bag protector (6)
16. Fabric softener sheets (7)
17. Travel organizer
18. Safety pins*
20. Travel clothesline*
21. Waterproof cover
(1) Great for making signs when hitchhiking
(2) While a little bulky, your neck will thank you
(3) Everyone likes fresh smelling breath but this will also help equalize your ears during take-off and landing
(4) A good hammock can be used in many ways, as a sheet replacement, a blanket, a towel, for privacy, to carry things and of course as a hammock
(5) This is a MUST. Use them to separate smaller items and label each bag to make it easier to find things. They provided a waterproof and stink-proof environment too
(6) Good for peace of mind when leaving your bag in hostels etc.
(7) Place a couple of sheets in your pack to keep it smelling fresh
* Great for repairs and other general Macgyver uses