Packing light is key when backpacking. Again this is much easier for a casual adventurer like myself. One day I shall graduate to more hardcore backpacking, but for now my list of essentials will suffice for most travelers.
Essentials for the Trip
My trip to the Philippines and Malaysia was a learning experience, especially in what to pack and what not to pack. Here is my list of essentials:
- Versatile clothing: think durable pieces that can be layered. Lightweight, sweat wicking fabrics are best for tropical countries. Cotton holds sweat like a sponge. Gross. Shorts should be light and even better if they can double as swim shorts. Consider a long sleeve or hoodie for plane rides and if you will be hiking in higher altitudes
- Quality flip-flops: let me ask you this (the Kines in me speaking now). Would you walk around in $1 shoes for 12 hours and be surprised when your feet are sore and blistered at the end of the day? No. Absolutely not. So what makes you think that your $5 Old Navy flip flops are suitable for all day activity?! Let me be very clear! Sandals/flip flops are footwear and as with shoes, they must provide support and comfort both for your health and sanity. I personally wear flip flops for 3 months of the year so if you’re anything like me, invest in a good pair and think of it as a shoe (priced accordingly), not a summer foot accessory. Mine are the Sole Men’s Casual Flip. Priced more in the shoe range but my oh my, I’ve even gone hiking in these. I’m told Birkenstocks are very reliable as well.
- A portable hard drive: Back up all your media and dump your files in here to free up space in your media cards
- Extra batteries. Just do it.
- Rain jacket: ideally something lightweight and packable into its own little pouch. I, appropriately, got the Vancouver Jacket by Helly Hansen
- Comfy, funtional shoes: no, not your converse all stars, toms or vans slip-ons. Something with good support and a solid sole for trekking. I wore Reeboks with soft soles last time and you could feel every crack and crevice during the hikes. I nearly rolled my ankle a couple times!
- Power bar: depending on where you’re going you might be sharing 2 sockets with your buddies. Compact power bars are handy to charge all your devices at once. Mine is from Belkin. If your aren’t carrying many electronics then no need to worry about this.
- Detergent and rope: Depending on how remote you plan to go, laundry service may not be available. With detergent you can do a quick load of laundry in the shower or in the sink. Rope for a clothesline is really handy if you need clothing or towels to dry overnight. The last thing you want to do is pack up damp clothes in your pack.
- Sleeping Bag Liner: cotton, polyester or silk, they’re handy to have especially if you aren’t sure about the cleanliness of your hostel bed. No one wants to bring back bed bugs. I got mine from eBay
Best Left at Home
- Laptop: Now a lightweight ultrabook, tablet, or compact netbook you can bring it along. However, remember that most countries or hostels have computers readily available for you to email, browse and transfer files. A portable hard drive is much lighter than lugging around a laptop. Believe me. I know. I brought mine because I had lofty ideas of media editing and working on my grad school applications while traveling. Didn’t happen. Probably busted it out 3 times the whole trip. And its a behemoth! My final weigh-in before my return chimed in at 19.5kg. Never. Again. So again, unless you fancy yourself a pack mule, leave the computer at home.
- Valuable Jewelry: I know some people might identify with their nice gold necklace or ring or whatever, but why risk it? I wore my gold chain during Malaysia only to have it snatched by a motorcyclist driving by. Not fun and puts a huge damper on your trip. I’m lucky there wasn’t any violence but the whole situation could have been avoided had it just left it at home.
- More Shoes: I don’t know what made me do it but I brought sneakers in case we went to a nice bar or something. Let me tell you. I wore my flip flops everywhere in Asia, be it market, restaurant, bar or pub. If you know you’ll be going to a nicer place, consider if your runners can be pulled off. Only bring extra shoes if absolutely necessary. I never even opened mine out of their baggie.
So remember when you’re packing your bags to ask yourself “is this absolutely necessary? Can I not get this at my destination if needed?” before you put it in your pack. Happy Travels!