Choosing what to pack when fitting your life into a small rucksack for the foreseeable future is never easy. Having never been out of the country for more than 2.5 weeks before our round the world adventure started, we really struggled with packing.
After reading what felt like millions of blogs, watching tons of videos on YouTube and talking to friends and family who were more familiar with long term travel it was still pretty confusing.
For every person who swore by retractable washing lines, someone would scoff at us and tell us we’d never use it (true, as it turned out). We were on a pretty tight budget as well as being clueless and many of the more established bloggers recommend items that cost some serious cash. Again, it makes sense in many cases – no one likes buying twice if they can avoid it – but what’s really worth buying and what’s a waste of money?
- Water To Go Bottles & Filters – these are awesome water bottles that have in built filters so you always have fresh drinking water. Great for the environment if you’re avoiding plastic bottles and for long term travel far cheaper than buying bottled water. Each filter lasts up to 3 months, and we used them in all of our South American destinations with no issues at all.
- Waterproof Watch – just a cheap one we picked up in decathlon, but we’ve worn these every day and found them so useful. From trekking to snorkelling they’re durable and reliable.
- Decent Hiking Socks – we’ve ended up doing an awful lot of hiking so far and have very luckily managed to avoid blisters altogether. This is definitely due in part to the hiking socks we picked up before leaving – just a few pounds per pair they’ve been awesome, especially on our trek to Machu Picchu
- Waterproof Jacket – we took a while to decide on these as they can take up a fair bit of space. We weren’t sure whether to go for really thin poncho style but decided on something a bit more substantial in the end and have been grateful for them on many many occasions.
- Combination Padlock – pretty self explanatory this is more or less vital if you’re staying at any hostels and want to store passports / valuables etc in lockers.
- Ziplock Bags – no link needed, these are awesome to have around, from protecting paperwork to stopping shampoo bottles leaking everywhere I’d advise taking at least 5/6.
- Lip Balm / Good Moisturiser – travelling ages you, it’s a fact and this recommendation isn’t just for female travellers. From altitude to high wind, strong sun and brutal air conditioning, many of the conditions you’ll experience make good moisturiser a life saver.
- Hand Gel – simple but effective, we’ve used this pretty much daily, especially in countries like Peru and Bolivia where hand soap in bathrooms is rarely provided.
- Universal Multi Plug Adaptor – really handy for us as we’re visiting so many different countries, one simple adaptor with USB connectors as well as multiple plug sockets so you can stay charged at all times.
- Spare Glasses – so our reason for adding this is probably a bit tenuous, but when we were robbed in Peru my glasses were taken, and I don’t know what I’d have done if I hadn’t chucked a spare pair in my bag minutes before we left the house. Always take spare glasses!
And what we still haven’t used 3 months down the line or really didn’t need to bother with:
- Retractable washing line… as above, we haven’t actually taken this out of the bag yet, maybe it’ll come in handy down the line.
- Detergent / soap leaves – like the washing line, not really used these as it’s pretty affordable to get laundry done and most hostels have a laundry service. We’ve paid no more than a couple of dollars for a load of washing even in the US.
- Sleeping bag liner – maybe we haven’t stayed anywhere really grim yet, but haven’t needed this yet and because we went for the cheaper cotton option instead of silk they’re pretty heavy to lug round.
- Money belt – another one still in the compartment we packed it in we’ve found it easier to just limit walking round with lots of valuables / cash in dodgy places and to stay vigilant. When we were robbed it was from our hotel room so it wouldn’t have helped here either.
- Crazy amounts of toiletries – they sell pretty much any toiletries you need everywhere you’ll go. I read this before we left and ignored it for some reason but I definitely had too much shampoo / conditioner etc weighing me down for the first month or so.
Finally, a few things that we should have brought and didn’t. We haven’t necessarily bothered to buy all of them on our travels so far but they definitely would have come in useful along the way:
- Solar charger – handy for the times you’ll be without power, including our time in a storm on Ilha Grande, a 3 day excursion in the Bolivian Salt Flats and our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu amongst other occasions.
- Eye mask – we’ve been on a lot of night buses, eye masks would probably have helped us get a bit more sleep en route.
- Extra cables, as many as possible – around 4-5 weeks in both of our iPhone cables had broken and we had to pay $25 for a new one in Buenos Aires – stock up before you go!
- Decent phone case – both of our phones have ended up with a few extra scratches and dents along the way, we’re still intending to buy some phone cases when we find some at a reasonable price.
- Go Pro / Digital SLR Camera – we committed before leaving to just using iPhones for pictures as the quality is so good nowadays and we figured we’d probably just lose or break an expensive camera. On many occasions we’ve looked longingly at go pro footage from our snorkelling trips / professional close ups of various wildlife and we kind of wish a little bit that we’d splashed out on some gadgets.
There you have it – you’ll notice most of our gear is fairly cheap and cheerful but it’s all been reliable so far and we’ve been glad of every item in our top 10 at least once!
Have we missed anything that you always take on backpacking trips? Let us know in the comments below 🙂