When looking at a worldwide adventure, how do you know what to pack to prepare for everything that comes your way? This trip I’m sporting a lot of gear but I have the great fortune that I can leave things with family to change between my summer and winter kits; swap out the fun toys so that I can get out into the wild. I sacrifice a large number of wonderful fashion outfits to go simple and easy, and have more toys to carry with me. Most travellers won’t need half of the things I carry, but it does allow you to realise how little you can travel with.
First things first, you’re going to need clothes. Socks and jocks are pretty standard and take as many as you’re comfortable having. I for example have tons of socks (great for double socking in the Arctic) and a reasonable amount of underwear. You can always buy more as you go if need be. I carry one set of jeans, one pair of board shorts and one pair of casual shorts as well as 3-4 tees, all beautifully rolled and rammed into the pack (as can be seen on the right). I recommend picking pretty simple and dark clothes, that way you can rewear them a few times and it’s not too noticeable. You can also buy new shirts for dirt cheap anywhere you go. I also carry a nice shirt for those rare moments people expect me to look respectable, and thus far haven’t had an issue finding an iron for it. For my summer kit, I’ll replace one of the tees with the singlet and sport that instead.
I try to spend as much time as I can out in the wilderness and this next lot of gear is what helps me do that. I have a lightweight hiking shirt, as well as zip off pants (better to have long pants which can become shorts than to cut your legs up or get stung by stinging nettles), a set of thermals and a pair of lightweight and very compact waterproof tops and bottoms. I did carry a second set of thermals in my winter kit but they did get very little use.
Layers are awesome to travel with because they allow varying levels of warmth and they’re a lot easier to pack than a big thick jacket (see winter coat on the left). For summer, the red microfleece gets left behind whilst my lightweight merino hoody is satisfactory enough to survive those chilly nights, or the thermals get called out if it’s very chilly. The winter jacket was picked up to help me survive the Arctic temperatures, is waterproof and has a great insulation layer inside. Layers, layers, layers is the best way to travel and also the most adaptable.
Everyone needs something to transport all their junk around in and these are my two weathered stallions. My day pack is 32 litres whilst my big pack is 65. I use the smaller one mostly for valuables and things I need ready access to, while the larger one I’ll take on multi day hikes and carry everything else. They’ve both seen some love over the years; besides, who wants a shiny new backpack anyway?
Old faithful sleeping bag and a lightweight, inflatable air mattress. The air mattress replaces a lot of the big blue foam mats you see a lot of backpackers with and allows me to sleep in comfort not only in the wilderness, but also in a small spaces when crashing with friends.
The small orange contains a sleeping bag liner, in case it gets very cold when out adventuring to reinforce my lighter sleeping bag. It’s not necessary but is a very nice thing to have if it is needed. I recommend having a water bottle with you as you travel as it allows you to save a ton of cash if you’re happy drinking water all day and you remember to actually fill it up. The clippers also help me to save some money by allowing me to cut my own hair and have an easy shave. You can always ask for the time or find a local clock but I prefer trusting my watch as it is often more reliable than strangers and your smartphone. I also carry it as it has a barometer, altimeter and a compass in it for when I go off adventuring. The last thing in this picture is a universal travel adaptor, of which I actually have several of to charge all my fun toys.
Next up is my headwear. I like to rock some ridiculous headwear and it all stems from my cap. When I decided to leave uni and embark on more fun and adventurous times, I purchased my “adventure hat” as a talisman for all the fun times to come. So far, it has yet to disappoint and I’m sure that will continue to be the case. It will warrant its own post in coming weeks accompanying my thoughts on why I think a travel talisman is a must have. The beanie stems from the adventure hat, and the smaller one is simply an extra layer for when it is very cold. Shoutout to Sterk for the awesomely rude beanie!
Gloves and the buff come with me everywhere I go, you never know if you’ll have a cold night in the forest or have a terrible breeze and want to protect your face in the mountains. The scarf is part of my winter kit and was definitely appreciated this past winter but will be left behind again as we move back to summer.
Toiletries bag, don’t need to elaborate.
Some people will purchase a proper laundry bag to separate their laundry from the rest of their clothes. I’m more than happy with a heavy duty plastic bag; they’re easy to come by and not too difficult to replace if you break them. Plus, if worse comes to worst, you can put things like dirty shoes or whatever in there to isolate them from your pack.
Thongs (or flip flops for everyone who is not Australian) are a staple – they’re comfortable, you can sport them around a hostel, rock them to the beach AND they can fit nearly everywhere. If you’re not going to go hiking, just bring a normal pair of shoes, it’s just not necessary. I spend a lot of time out in the wilderness so the support, waterproofing and sturdiness of the boots is a must for me. If you do the same, go for it but the number of people I see rocking walking boots just to stroll around London is plain silly. My other pair is actually a recent purchase and I like to find a balance between something kind of smart and comfortable so I can happily spend hours walking around a new city in them or wear to a party. Plus they’re flexible and I can easily fit them in my pack during transit.
Now come some of the toys. It might seem a bit overkill having both a tablet and a laptop but I already owned both before I left and they each serve alternate purposes. The tablet functions solely as my book library with over 500 books I can access offline, and add to as I please. As much as I prefer real books, I find the books get trashed in my packs and they’re a bit of a nuisance. My laptop I use to watch films and TV shows off of my 1.5TB HDD, add to my blog and write job applications but most importantly, to play NBA 2K14 and FIFA 14 using my PS3 controller on long bus trips on boring motorways. It’s just a nice small comfort I brought along with me. Finally, I have my iPod and decent overear headphones, to block out crying babies on long flights.
Here are a few of my fun toys, but a lot that most people would not need to go on a backpacking trip. Starting at the top I have three prussik cords, in case I need to tie anything, work on my tent, replace shoelaces or get bored and make a bracelet. Moving from left to right we have a Leatherman, folding Humvee knife, a Fox40 whistle, a strobe light (I got this for free and can make any hostel room a great nightclub!), sunscreen, sewing kit, compass, a personal locator beacon (PLB), wilderness first aid manual, headtorch and replacement batteries in a waterproof ziplock bag. A lot of these are safety things in the event that while off solo hiking, if I were to come into any trouble, I should hopefully be able to get myself out of it.
If you’re going to go an adventure of a lifetime and visit places you may only visit once then you’re going to want to document your journey along the way. I strongly believe in enjoying the moment and so you shouldn’t spend your entire time looking down the lens but I also thoroughly enjoy photography – it’s all about finding the balance. I’m currently sporting a new Sony A6000 which has impressed me greatly so far as it is a massive upgrade on my Olympus Tough camera which has served me well over the years. However, the Tough camera will still get a gig in my gear as it has proven itself in places I wouldn’t even think of taking a more expensive camera. Then you have the camera everyone has these days, the one on your phone. Quality photos and always handy, why wouldn’t you use it?
The last thing I carry that belongs in both my winter and summer set ups is my First Aid Kit. Bandaids, bandages, medications, creams and swabs, you name it, it’s probably in there. Nothing massive but again, enough to get me out of trouble whether it be a nasty gash during a hike or having an upset stomach in South East Asia.
A lightweight one man tent for those nights out under the stars, walking poles to assist my terrible knees and ankles and a trowel to deal with my own lovely contributions to nature whilst on the trail. For air travel, I need to make sure it all fits inside my pack which can be fun but once you’re back to buses and trains, life is a lot easier. These three all only join me in my summer adventures, as do everything else from this point on.
A lightweight MSR cooking stove that utilises white gas and the cooking and cleaning equipment to go along with it. This is all leftovers from my time with Outward Bound Australia, and again, like a fair few things, probably don’t apply to everyone. However, if you are interested in hiking and exploring solo, I strongly recommend all the gear listed in this post.
Fire can be one of the most important things when out in the wilderness. Lighters are an easy way to go but back ups upon back ups can be the difference between a cold and miserable night, or a lovely toasty one. In my fire lighting kit, I carry two lighters, a flint, matches, some waxed cardboard (burns a treat!) and a firelighter. This is all kept inside a waterproof ziplock bag and old Gatorade powder tub, to make sure it stays nice and dry.
I carry a small little tarp with me to help waterproof and keep things dry if need be. If I get a rip in my tent during a storm, I can tie the tarp down over the top to get through the night then deal with it when the weather improves. It is small, lightweight and has lots of uses. I carry two lots of lashing, both between five and seven metres long. They work wonderfully to tie things down, hang things up and anything else you would use rope for. I often use them for clothes lines as you can string them up between trees or bunk beds with ease. The final thing here is my camelbak, a water bladder you can leave in your backpack and drink without having to stop. A very handy accessory for any hiker.
A pack liner and several dry bags to help keep everything nice and dry whilst out hiking. The clear perspex is a map holder, to keep a map nice and dry as well as being able to view it at the same time. Pretty useless without a map but the nice thing about all of these is they fold up small and take up very little space.
The one item every backpacker should carry… a basketball! When you love something so much, you try and get it in when you can. I unfortunately managed to lose my pump the last time I used it in Stockholm but that won’t stop me replacing it. When you carry so little, you can indulge in your own toys. Another guilty pleasure and have yet to see anyone else carrying one.
Finally, the old snowboard get up for when I get a job on the slopes somewhere. At this stage, it has cost me more money and effort than it has warranted just lugging it around the place it but I’m pretty certain it will pay off if I go boarding in Japan or Canada next winter.
Of course there are some small other bits and pieces like my passports, charging cables and copies of documents such as my travel insurance details which I haven’t included in great detail. I would hope these are things you certainly wouldn’t forget on a trip. The one that does slip minds and is great to have from the word go is a little notebook and several pens; they come in handy nearly anywhere and are far more reliable than your smartphone with terrible battery life!
When most of this is packed away, my small pack weighs in about 7.5kg and my large one closer to 18kg. Wearing them both at the same time was a little uncomfortable at first but as your body gets used to it, it becomes a breeze to get around with.
There certainly are a lot of components to my travel gear but a lot of it is how I choose to burden myself. Again, I do have the added luxury of people I can dump stuff with but I’m sure I would try this even if I were somewhere completely foreign (like Canada). It just involves making friends with a good person with a little bit of space and planning on returning eventually. This guide should hopefully help you pick up on a few things you may have forgotten as well as a few additions you might like to add to your pack and hopefully enhance your own adventure!