My suggestions are based on two key points:
- There are already people living in the country you are going to. There are shops there where you can buy stuff if you need it. You do not need to carry with you everything you may need for every imaginable scenario.
- An important aspect of backpacking is to leave your normal life behind for a while. A little simplicity and basic living is no bad thing for a while.
I once spent three months travelling round the Philippines. I travelled only with hand luggage. I had one pair of trousers, one pair of shorts, one shirt, one raincoat, one pair of socks, two pairs of underwear, a pair of shoes, and my flip-flops.
I had to wash my clothes in the sink at night. I look identical in every single photograph from the trip. But the experience was so liberating. Towards the end of the trip I began giving away all the items I needed no longer. So I landed at Heathrow with only the clothes I was wearing: shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops and a conical straw hat that I had swapped for my shirt. By the time my train home arrived in Yorkshire I was very cold and looked massively out of place. But those days of travelling light are still some of my fondest travel memories.
Here then is my alternative kit list for a backpacking adventure. It matters not whether you are going for a week or year: you still need just the same amount of stuff. Let’s assume you are going to a warm part of the world and are not planning to do any hardcore trekking etc.
Here is all you need to take. It’s cheap and it’s simple. Sexy, it ain’t! Remember: you’re going on an adventure, not planning a military invasion and siege!
- 1 long-sleeved shirt. Roll the sleeves up and unbutton the front when you are hot. Do the reverse when cold
- 1 rain coat. Also acts as an extra layer if you are cold
- 1 set of underwear.
- 1 swim suit (can also double as underwear).
- 1 pair of socks.
- All-purpose shoes
- Flip flops or sandals
- 1 pair trousers that convert into shorts, or 1 dress
- 30 litre backpack
- Silk sleeping bag. Packs down tiny, keeps bed bugs away, very warm for its size
- Mosquito net
- Basic toiletries. Suncream and mosquito repellent
- Diary and pen
- One reading book. Swap it when you’re done
- Guidebook. If you must
- Map of the country
- Penknife (though if you plan to fly with only hand luggage you have to leave this behind)
- Mug (great for eating breakfast cereal from too)
- Water bottle and water purifying tablets
- Passport, credit card, cash etc. Back your files up online before you fly.
That’s it. Recover from recoiling in horror at my omission of laptops, special outfits for partying and vast first aid kits. Internet cafes can be found worldwide and party frocks don’t belong on an adventure blog. And think about what citizens of the country you are in do should they suddenly get haemmorhoids, a bee sting, or a sore throat: they go to a chemist and buy a medicine. Don’t feel the need to carry with you a treatment for everything you might never catch.
Although I anticipate that you will probably carry more than this on your next trip (and so would I), I hope that it has provoked you to question what you really do need, and what you can live without for a few weeks or months.
What do you think? Am I a stinking hobo, or do I have a point? Let me know in the comments…
Shed a load and hit the road.
This piece first appeared in Wanderlust.