When I first went backpacking, I was luckily only going for a month, to see what it was like, and whether I should quit my job, and go for a couple of years. So it was also a chance to test what to pack. I read blogs, spoke to friends, and somehow still managed to massively overpack. Here are some things I learnt that I should/shouldn’t have packed:
- Denim shorts
I took about 4 pairs of shorts with me when I went to Thailand, all denim. Big mistake! With the heat, I lasted about an hour in a pair of them, before I went and bought some lightweight cotton shorts. (Yes, they had elephants on them!) I only wore my denim shorts a couple of times, because it was far too hot for them and lived in my cotton shorts for the rest of the trip. The denim shorts were also quite heavy, so just became a pain to carry around. My advice is if you’re going South East Asia, where it’s quite humid even when the weathers poor, avoid packing denim, or stick to one pair. I usually live in denim shorts, but definitely not over there! Invest in some lightweight cotton shorts and pack them instead.
- Invest in a lightweight microfibre towel
I tried to find a small towel that was lightweight, which I managed and thought it was great. Hardly took up any space, and I still had the luxury of a proper towel. I soon began to realise this was a huge mistake. Only staying in a place a few days at a time, meant sometimes I didn’t have enough time or nowhere to dry my towel properly before I had to pack up and leave. Packing a damp towel in my backpack, just meant my backpack smelt damp and horrible, and my clothes all felt damp. Invest in a microfibre towel, as these are quick drying, so less likely to leave you with damp clothes, and a smelly backpack. They also take up minimal space, so bonus!
Best thing to do is lay your toiletries out on your bed, and think are they essential? Can you cope without them? I took hairspray, realising soon enough, with the humidity, it was pointless. Within minutes of stepping out, I was hot, sweaty and my hair looked undone, but nobody cared! I ended up chucking it after a few days. I took full sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. I thought it would save me a job keep buying stuff out there, but honestly, there’s supermarkets on every corner, and they stock the same brands we have in the UK and they are just as cheap, if not cheaper. Save yourself the space and weight, and carry travel bottles, then just buy when you run out.
- Pack a backup money plan
I took some cash, plus a travel card and my bank card. I had no intention of using my bank card, it was just a back up incase my travel card stopped working/lost it/it got stolen. I’ve never ever lost a bank card before and luckily never had anything stolen, so did question whether to take it or not. Within 2 weeks, I had accidentally left my card in an ATM machine, something I had never done before in my life. Luckily I had my second card as a backup and access to money, so what could have been a major problem, was minor. I met so many people on my travels that had run out of money, or lost their bank/travel card and was stuck for cash. It’s worth taking, it takes up no room, and you can slide it into somewhere safe where you never have to get it out. (Hopefully!)
- Taking too much crap
In general, taking too many clothes etc. I ended up wearing pretty much the same few outfits during my travels. Mainly because they were comfy and lightweight. There are laundrettes everywhere, and they’re easy enough to use. Just bag up your clothes, take them and leave them, then collect the following day. Or it’s easy enough to wash your clothes yourself in the sink/shower. Nobody cares if you wore that same outfit a few days before. I was told this beforehand, but still found it odd, so didn’t listen. Trust me, you soon get used it, and it’s one of the things you actually miss when you get home. You can look like a tramp 24/7 when you’re travelling and nobody judges you! Take one pair of flip flops, a pair of sandals (some restaurants/bars don’t like flip flops) and some sturdy shoes for walking, such as trainers and you’re good to go! Don’t worry what goes with what, and what’s trendy. It really doesn’t matter, and you really don’t care when you’re having fun. One of the great things about travelling!