First of all, start with LESS. Just. Pack. LESS. Whatever you think you’ll need, you’ll actually need less, so do yourself a favor and lighten your load a bit at the beginning. Trust me- when you find yourself having to hoof it through a border crossing in the sweltering heat and humidity of SE Asia, you’ll be glad you did.
Now that we’ve got that straight... What else? What to pack? Well, again, this totally depends on what kind of trip you’re going on, but there are a few basic principles to follow here:
-Leave the cotton behind- it’s bulky, it’s heavy, it gets dirty easily, it’s harder to clean, and it takes MUCH longer to dry. Stick to synthetic, ‘dri-fit’ type materials whenever possible- socks and underwear included.
-Trekking pants are a good idea- yeah, the ones that zip off into shorts. Save some room in your bag by combining two articles of clothing into one. Again, no cotton, no canvas. Get a heavier pair and a lighter one for varied weather and activities, and look for those that have at least one pocket that zips shut in order to keep your valuables safe in crowded areas.
-Get a pair of good shoes- don’t skimp on your footwear. Honestly, you don’t know what kind of terrain you may have to take on along the road, and a good pair of shoes will ensure that you’re prepared. Thick soles, preferably GoreTex, comfortable and BROKEN IN. Don’t start a trip with a brand new pair of shoes on your feet.
-Pack in layers- short sleeves, long-sleeve pullovers, additional layers- the weather can change in a matter of minutes, and having additional layers to add or subtract will make your life easier.
-If you must have them, limit yourself to one pair of nicer, multi-purpose pants/jeans- and thats IT! Jeans are COTTON (Bulky, heavy, and IMPOSSIBLE to get dry), and are less than ideal for traveling.
-Be prepared for the elements- A lightweight rain-proof jacket and an emergency poncho can make all the difference, as you never know when the skies will open up.
-Bags within ‘The Bag’- make it easier on yourself by trying to stay organized. Get some smaller bags to pack like things together in within your larger backpack- one for shorts/pants, one for shirts, one for socks/swimmers/underwear/miscellaneous, etc. Also, throw in a few plastic trash bags for wet/dirty clothes and shoes.
-Get a travel towel- packs much smaller than a traditional towel, and dries much faster. Helps to avoid the mildew stank...
-Documents- Copies of your passport, travel and health insurance policies, any ATM and/or credit cards, emergency contact information- anything and everything important that you might possibly need copies of should you happen to lose the original.
-An assortment of pills- pain relievers, ibuprofen, allergy meds, sleeping pills, antacids, antibiotics- a good smorgasbord of medications in your toiletry bag will help deal with any minor sprains, stomach bugs, and headaches along the way.
A quick note about packing your clothes- FORGET FOLDING, and get to ROLLING. Rolling your clothes into tight little bundles is much more efficient when trying to maximize the space in your backpack.
When packing your backpack, try to keep similar things together- i.e. pack all your shirts together into a smaller, color-coded bag inside your backpack, same for shorts/pants, and socks/swimmers/underwear/misc., keep your electronics together, have a smaller bag for your toiletries, etc. Once everything has its own ‘home’ within your backpack, make sure to pack your bag the same way at every stop- this will allow you to locate specific things when you need them, and will help you keep track of everything along the way.
Surprisingly, many people have asked us about doing laundry while traveling- obviously, your clothes will be getting dirty along the way. Don’t worry- most hostels will have laundry facilities, and many guesthouses will have a laundry service, so no, you won’t be stuck washing your clothes in the sink (At least not very often...). Still, you’ll want to pack enough to make it through about a week w/o having to do a wash, but not so much that you find yourself going for weeks on end without thinking about laundry (A sure sign that either you’ve packed TOO MUCH, or that you have poor wardrobe hygiene. Maybe both...).
Don’t forget to consider the amount of electronics you plan on taking with you. Cameras, music players, eReaders, laptops, shavers, etc.- these, along with their requisite chargers, cords, extra batteries, and cases, get heavy quick, and take up space in your backpack. Something to be aware of...
Back to ‘PACK LESS’- remember that, if you are like most travelers, you will want to buy some souvenirs while on the road. T-shirts, sarongs, mini-statues, local crafts and artwork- all these take up space in your bag. If you find yourself straining to cram that last shirt, that last pair of pants, that last charger cord into your bag while packing for your trip, you’re cooked already, as you’ve got ZERO room for picking things up on the road. Take everything out, prioritize, and start again, leaving some things out to make room for purchases made while traveling.
So, those are some basic tips to get you going. Remember to check the annual avg. temps/weather in the regions you will be traveling through, and pack accordingly.
Also- check out the 10 Essentials page for a few things you might not have thought of...
There you go- GET TO PACKING!!! Your adventure awaits...
Next Course: Planning Your Arrival...