Planning to travel and packing a bag : where to start?
If you are thinking of a long-term journey, there are a few important questions you may want to ask yourself before getting your credit card out to start filling up your bag.
- Where do you want to go to?
- What's the climate like?
- What's your travel style : do you see your self as a backpacker ready for wild adventures or comfort is something you don't wish to let go of?
- Are you traveling on a shoe string, willing to stretch your budget a little more for the big occasion or wish to spoil yourself with some luxuries along your way?
Once you have answers to these in mind you can start doing some research and window-shopping but don't spend the money just yet! Sale shopping is a fantastic way to treat yourself to good things yet protect your budget from exploding. I was able to save 40% on my gear yet afford myself the things I wanted just because I didn’t rush into the shops right away but did the research first and then waited for some sales in different countries. I was collecting gear for my Grand Escape into the World over the span of one year and purchased items in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, UK, Latvia and Norway while I was traveling.
Be open minded about colors : sometimes there are great items on sale just because they are the last of the series. Be ready to experiment! My personal experience: the eBags backpack in “Sinful Red” color was 25 euros cheaper than the "Blue Yonder" or "Tropical Turquoise" colors so why pay more?
So here is what I packed in my bag along with a One-Way-Ticket to Nepal. Perhaps my choices can help you make yours when you decide to pack up your bag and travel the World.
1. The Bag
- One of the really important decisions you are going to make is choosing a backpack. On a long-term journey it can become your best friend or your worst enemy. I was actively searching for mine during some 6 months until I found a perfect one. Surely our compatibility will be tested on the road but this pack ticked all of my criteria boxes. Besides the fact that a backpack has to sit comfortably on your shoulders and be well fitted, there were a few things I was picky about:
- Front load - very convenient access to your stuff
- 45l - 55l
- Airplane/bus carry-on sized
- Multiple organisational pockets
- Lap-top compartment
My choice: Mother Lode Weekender 50l by eBags.
- I love trekking and am sure to use the opportunities to go up the mountains in Nepal therefore a day pack was necessary. I chose the McKinley KINETIC 20l day pack, foldable into it’s own pocket. It is lightweight and compact, although you may find even smaller options on the market. However this bag has padded shoulder straps, a nice hip belt with pockets, is compatible with a hydration system and has compartments to store things conveniently. I have used this day pack for a several days hiking trips and it was just perfect for the job.
- I thought it was a good idea to have a few waterproof packing pouches to store my electronics in.
- Along with the backpack I decided to get the packing cubes of the same brand, this way I knew they'd be perfectly sized to fit inside. Packing cubes are a great tool to divide, group, compress and compartmentalize your belongings within the volume of your bag. eBags have various shapes and sizes to choose from. Again, I was very pleased with the quality of this product and would recommend it.
- Belly money pouch will prove itself, I am convinced, a useful accessory, keeping the passport, the money and the credit cards safe.
- Moroccan leather shoulder bag is my favorite. I could have selected a better option, slightly bigger and lighter one with a zipper inside but despite some of it’s minuses I have a sentimental attachment to it. It was a gift from my brother and I don’t get spoiled by him every year 🙂
1. The Clothes
- The scarf is probably one of the most useful and versatile pieces of clothes you should have in your bag. There are a few good reasons I packed this one with me. It is pure viscose, large enough to be used as a sarong or a blanket on a bus or a plane, yet very thin, light and compact. It is double printed : half of it is dotted and the other half is covered with blue flowers - it’s like having 2 scarfs in one! I often use the scarf as a hood to protect me from rain, wind, cold or sun. Here are some fun videos to get inspired on using a scarf.
- I am taking one Long sleeve T-shirt.
- A blouse is 100% viscose, soft and breathable.
- Merino wool half zip turtleneck is one of technical items in my bag. Merino is an ancient breed of alpine sheep and garments made out of this material are naturally breathable and thermal. This wool regulates your body temperature, keeps you warm even if it is wet in the cold weather and cools you down if it’s hot. This base layer garment is part of my ski gear but is fantastic for traveling too, especially thanks to it’s antibacterial qualities - it naturally controls odor and does not stink.
- I am taking 5 tank-tops and T-shirts that can be easily combined with everything else I am wearing.
- One soft warm cardigan.
- A hat I found hanging on the wall of our summerhouse, it didn’t belong to anyone so now it belongs to me. It is foldable or rollable so is a perfect travel hat to pack in the bag.
- This dress deserves a few extra lines about it! I found it on a Sunday market in South of France. It was produced in a small factory in India in collaboration with young French designers. They create long and short dresses, skirts and blouses out of recycled saris and bring them to France to sell. All the pieces are unique, made out of silk and thus are light, breathable and foldable (the whole dress fits into my fist). The designers made a fantastic job with the design - this dress is reversible and can be worn in four different ways - just a perfect solution for traveling when you can be quickly tired from wearing the same things all the time!
- One pair of stretch trousers
- Jean-like stretch trousers
- Hiking pants easily transformable into shorts
- Thin free-flowing trousers
- A pair of shorts
- Peak Performance stretch running leggings
- I am taking 4-5 pairs of underwear and socks of which two pairs are merino wool. Those are important for antibacterial and thermal qualities of the merino wool.
- Norrona outer shell is a high performance alpine climbing GoreTex membrane - a breathable, waterproof windstopper. Unlike most of the winter mountain gear it is extremely thin and light and can be easily worn as a raincoat in the summer.
- Pure down jacket extremely warm and light. In combination with merino wool base and middle layers and the GoreTex membrane is a perfect all-weather ski/mountain gear. Also fits into a small pouch so does not take up a lot of space in the backpack.
- This down vest is a fantastic example of a thoughtful gift from a dear friend! Fits into an even smaller pouch and weighs nearly nothing yet will serve as a warm layer on a cold day.
- These Bobs from Sketchers are made from cream fabric material and will probably become dirty-grey very soon, but I can not stress enough how comfortable they feel on your feet, it’s like they are not even there. Extremely compact and lightweight too.
- Brutting Comfortex semi-tracking shoes are water resistant and breathable. Despite the rather sporty appearance they are still quite discreet and may be worn in the city.
- Bright orange Havaianas would have probably not been my first choice but some friends brought them directly from Brazil for a price of just 5 Euros.
- I bought these sandals in Athens and I can assure you - Greeks know something about making them! These are leather sandals with a sole that is made for walking! I have had a pair just like this for some 5 years and walked a few hundred miles in them - they still are in a fantastic shape.
5. Useful Things
- Microfiber towel large enough to wrap myself into it - Decathlon
- Ultra compact summer sleeping bag.
- Silk sleep-sheet is a practical and essential item for your personal hygiene - staying in hostels or while couchsurfing sometimes you may not be fully convinced by the cleanness of the sheets you are given. Besides, silk sheets have thermal properties - cooling you down when hot and adding up-to 5 degrees to your comfort limit level (for example, a sleeping bag that has a comfort limit of 12 degrees Celsius in combination with the inner sleep sheet can keep you warm at 7 degrees Celsius )
- Firs aid kit to my opinion should be personalized to one’s needs and preferences. I packed some homeopathic medication, tiger balm, band aids, elastic band, vitamin C and Smecta for the stomach.
- A practical foldable and hangable toiletries bag must have a few pockets and compartments to store your necessities conveniently at hand.
- Following the advice of other travelers, I purchased an all-in-one Dr. Bronners bar soap - a sustainable eco soap that can be used for face, body and hair or as a deodorant.
- Inflatable neck pillow can assure your comfort on plane trips. I like this particular IKEA pillow since it has a soft outer shall that can be removed for washing.
- Sugru is a mouldable glue - a little fun thing that can be quite useful when you travel and things start to break. You can read more about it and watch the videos on how to use it on the web page of the product.
- I do not require glasses all the time but need them at night and when driving.
- Cheap replaceable sunglasses are my choice since they can be easily lost or forgotten somewhere.
- Cord combination lock may proof itself to be useful when you want to strap your bag to your bed for security to make sure it does not leave the dorm room while you are out.
- This tiny key chain flashlight is a mechanic one - no batteries needed. Spin the wheel and shine the light.
- Half of the functions of the Swiss knife I do not understand but it has a sharp blade, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, tiny tweezers and scissors, and most importantly - a toothpick!!! I wonder when would that be useful?
- An emergency whistle.
- A Spork is a Spoon + Knife + Fork - little useful thing for hiking and traveling.
- VERY IMPORTANT - Passport, copies of passport, vaccination certificates, a few of your passport photos, insurance information and any other important documents you may need on the road. Also, I suggest taking a copy of all the documents and leaving it with your family or friends just in case you may be in trouble one day and need help.
- Credit cards, Driving licence and a European ID card (may not be necessary but it is just a plastic card so take it just in case).
- Travel journal and a pen to keep notes and travel sketches.
- Plastic multipurpose zipper bags.
- GoPro Hero4 Session - my choice of an action camera for the price vs quality of this product.
- A few extra mini-SD cards (32 and 64 GB).
- USB charger.
- Canon PowerShot S110 is a rather good point and shoot compact camera. This is my second choice since 2 years ago I lost the camera I really believed was the best compact camera - Sony RX100! If you are looking to buy a good compact camera, I would definitely suggest the Sony RX100, you will not be disappointed!
- Battery charger and an extra battery for the camera.
- Mini tripod - been using it for ages and it has proven itself to be a useful little thing.
- Swatch watch has been my choice since the day I was mugged of my pretty white ceramic watch in the streets of Naples back in 2012. I love the fact that Swatch watches are waterproof and have rubber straps in many different prints and colors.
- Earphones for running and sports.
- Earphone multi-port is a little thing I won in a lottery once and have never used so far but perhaps I may find an application for it while traveling.
- PocketBook with hundreds of books on it.
- Samsung Galaxy S3 is a good enough smartphone to use while traveling but I wouldn’t be devastated in case it gets broken, lost or stolen. I got it second-hand from a friend, had to get a few things fixed and it’s ready to travel with me. I am also taking a second double-sim card phone with me to keep my Latvian SIM always working for emergencies.
- Portable mini-USB charger.
- External hard drive to keep photos and movies on.
- A few USB drives.
- While choosing a travel lap-top I did an extensive research of the market. Personally I am a convinced Mac user, my MacBook Pro has been my right hand for the last 5 years and I had 2 other ones before that. I do not like working on Windows much but everyone knows MacBooks are expensive and on the road one can become an easy target for theft. I needed a small, light, compact lap-top and I learned about Surface Pro. This is a tablet that can replace a lap-top.
- I also decided to get a pen for the Surface Pro - it’s more of a toy but perhaps I’ll be inspired to draw with it. In any case it can be used instead of the mouse.
No matter how well you prepare yourself before you set off to travel, keep in mind these few facts :
- Things can get broken, lost or stolen while you travel! Accept it.
- You do not have to be prepared for everything at once, you are sure to find shops, pharmacies and anything else you might need on your way.
- You will be tempted to buy things as you go, be those clothes, souvenirs or gear. Leave some space in your backpack for those!
- You need a lot less than you think! Girls, I bet you always have a feeling that those 20 pairs of shoes you have at home are not enough to go with the 30 dresses in your closet. Well, I can assure you, you will not be missing them while you are backpacking!
- Travelers often say : prepare a pile of things you wish to pack with you along with the stack of money you have saved up. Now, before you pack it in your bag, leave out half of the things you prepared and double up the stack of money. Follow this advice!
The gear I selected is to be tried and tested on the road and I shall do a followup later to give an honest opinion about the items I have chosen.
Did you find this information interesting or useful in any way? Share your opinion in the comments below!
You may also like this video about packing technique that allows to maximize the capacity of your backpack and fit more things into it.
Thank you for reading this.
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