The definitive guide – what to bring on your trip

A good friend of mine is headed to Colombia for two months and asked me for advice on what to bring with her. I thought about it for a bit – what was in my backpack at the beginning of my travels was pretty different from what I brought home. I wish I didn’t go crazy at REI, because half of my purchases were left behind in different countries or given to others. Looking back, there are only a few items that I would consider essential:

THE BASICS

  • A good backpack – Your backpack and you will become one by the end of your travels. You’ll both be dirty and a little stinky. Invest in a good one that is comfortable and SMALL. Trust me, if you go bigger, you’ll just fill it up with more crap. We loved our Gregory packs – TD had a Z55 and I had a Jade 50.
  • Steripen – This little guy got used daily to purify all our water. Basically, it’s a UV light that you stick into a water bottle to eliminate the bugs. I even used it on sketchy Delhi tap water and remained diarrea-free. Win!
  • Camera – To capture all those beautiful memories.
  • Leatherman/Swiss Army knife – So many uses, I can’t even name them all.
  • Headlamp – You won’t be caught off guard when the power goes off for 12 hours (I’m looking at you Nepal)
  • Rechargeable batteries – Better for the environment and sometimes you can only find cheapy ones that only last for 15 minutes.
  • Universal adapter – For charging all your electronic goods.
  • Silk sleep sack – Only when traveling in Asia. They’ve got some insane bedbug issues there, yo.
  • Rain fly cover – Keep the contents of your backpack dry!
  • Quick dry towel – Never pack it away wet or you’re in for a serious case of stank bag.
  • DIY first aid kit – Pack some bandages, antiseptic ointment, gauze and some pain relieving pills in a bag. Done.
  • Inflatable neck rest – The only reason why I was able to sleep on long plane, train and bus rides.
  • Earplugs/eyemask – A good night’s rest is important!

CLOTHES

Don’t get too crazy with clothes, especially the ladies. New, stylish wear can be purchased in any country and oftentimes for cheaper prices. If you travel long enough, you’ll get sick of your clothes (or they’ll disintegrate) and you’ll purchase some stuff. The only things I would probably buy at home would be…

  • Convertible hiking pants – They’re pants, they’re shorts, they’re capris. Super versatile and quick dry. 
  • Hiking shoes – The quality is better back home than abroad.
  • Quick dry, wicking T-shirt and tank top – Just one of each.
  • Rain jacket – We used microlight jackets that could be easily stashed away. They doubled as windbreakers or as a layer for when it got chilly.

ELECTRONICS

  • Laptop/netbook/tablet – We blogged during our trip, so having a laptop was key. We also used it to watch movies when we were too tired to venture outside. It’s definitely not necessary because there are internet cafes on every corner. Alternatively, you could opt for a…
  • Smartphone – You can download Skype and call using a wi-fi connection. Check your email and facebook. Make sure you have an unlocked phone so that you can buy cheap SIM cards abroad to make calls.

Or you could say, fuck it, and not have anything. There is a beautiful freedom in not staying connected.

TOILETRIES

Everything can be purchased abroad. You can’t even take more than a few ounces of liquids on to a plane anyway. I even bought my contact lenses in Thailand, without a prescription, and it was cheaper than in the States.

HEALTH

We went to the clinic, got all our shots and purchased all the suggested medicines. Ended up not using our malaria pills (Malarone) and only a hardcore antibiotic (Cipro) once. Use your best judgement depending on which countries you are visiting. Medicine can easily be purchased at any pharmacy.

CAMPING GEAR

Only necessary if you will be doing lots of outdoor activities or hiking. We bought gear for Patagonia and it also helped us save a ton of money on hostels in Argentina and Chile. If we didn’t rent a van, we would have used it in New Zealand. Other than that, our camping gear was annoying extra weight.

Overall, the most important things to remember are…

  •  You can buy nearly everything you need on the road
  • What you pack should be adjusted depending on your activities and climate
  • Ditch, donate or ship things that you don’t need
  • Less is more

Happy trails!

 

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