Packing Tips: My Must Have Items

The adventures of packing. The smallest detail which can make or break a trip. That small charger you forgot, or that extra pair of shoes you never needed. We’ve all been there. I know each time I go on a trip I play a small game of tetris with my backpack, hoping to make the most of my 55L Eagle Creek Truist backpack. After a few solid trips, I feel comfortable to share my 5. The items that come no matter where I go, hot or cold. Long or short. A trip is an adventure!

Stuff sacks.

In this day and age, most travellers will have some form of packing system. Some use packing cubes, but as I’m not travelling with a rectangle suitcase I find the stuff-sacks work better for backpacking. I purchased my Me°ru’ ones at the local outdoor outlet center for a bargain, with 5 different sizes (S-XL). I usually split them into the following categories; undergarments, t-shirts and light pants, jeans/sweaters, one bag for the trainers/hiking boots (this is always the same bag, in my case a red one, so I’m not fussed about dirt from the shoes getting on my clothes.), and dirty laundry. It works well for dirty laundry as the fabric of the stuffsacks is breathable so the clothes don’t stink a lot when put together for a few days. Unlike packing cubes, the stuff-sack pack completely flat to save space when I’m not using one of them!

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Two padlocks and a Swiss Army knife.

Although most will travel with some sort of padlock, I have found it easier to always have two. On a not-so-recent trip to Thailand, I found that my main padlock didn’t fit in the hostel lockers. My friend’s luggage lock, with a smaller shackle, fit perfectly. I now always have two, also allowing me to lock valuables away and keep my other belongings locked in my bag if necessary. When my whole bag doesn’t fit into the storage provided, I will typically leave everything (minus valuables) in my bag, as to save ‘unpacking’. The second lock is also perfect as my small packable day bag can also be locked as neccessary. Locks don’t take up a lot of room, and are definitely worth it. A Swiss Army knife is pretty standard I believe and with I use the keyring clip from my bag so as never to accidentally pack it in my carry on!

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USB retractable cable.

With technology enriching our lives (and travels!), we all have the trips where we bring wayyy tooo many cables. My first recommendation is to have everything charging with the same cable! I have never travelled with my laptop (tablets all the way!) so this eliminates the biggest hassle. My camera, phone, and battery backup all charge with mini-USB. With minimal space taken up, I usually bring the small cable with my carry-on so I can charge my phone while on long-haul flights. Most hostels (and hotels) will have USB charging points nowadays although I do still bring an international travel adapter. Battery backup is perfect for my camera, as I never want to run into having a flat camera battery!

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Rayon Sarong.

A towel, blanket, scarf, skirt, curtain, quick drying… need I say more? I got mine on my first trip to Asia and it hasn’t left my side since! They pack small and are light. With darker colours, they show less dirt too!

Add It To Your Packing List!

  1. Passport Photocopies; digital and paper versions!
  2. US Dollars; perfect for emergencies and every country exchanges them! Preferably only new notes, as countries are becoming sticklers for old, creased ones.
  3. Sewing kit. Making your clothes last that little longer! Mine is super basic.
  4. Flip-Flops. Compact and comfy, can be worn in the evenings instead of your walking shoes (even with socks when its cold 🙂 ). Although I’ve seen Crocs as a substitute, they take up more room and are fashion suicide (more so than socks and flip-flops!).
  5. Digital Watch with alarm clock. Mine is an old Swatch model that also can do two clocks, one usually set to my home timezone.

 

Happy Packing!

Travel’s Biggest Lesson.

It’s a funny thing to travel out of a backpack for a limited (or unlimited time!) and realise that any human can live on very little material goods. I know I felt very insecure about it the first time, setting out for Thailand a few years ago. I had packed a lot, by my standards today. By the time I came home from my last trip, I had just two of everything- two pants, two t-shirts, two jumpers, and two tank-tops. I had a few extras due to the trek in Nepal (like thermals and gloves) but I don’t count them as being anything over the top as they got used every day for two weeks 😀 Travelling on such a limited packing list clears the mind. I found that I easily adjusted to having an organised bag- I have little Meru packing sacks and my bag becomes a ‘personal best’ at Tetris. The challenge is pushed with a sleeping bag or hiking boots in the bottom of my bag. My 55L rucksack becomes seemly small!

I made the conscious decision on my first trip that I would not travel with a laptop if I could help it. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to embrace the smart-phone era and for me, the mobile does everything I need. On our longer trip in South America, I did take a Samsung Tab2 (the 7” one). It was enough for the emails and photos that I used it for. I like the Samsung products as I was able to move my memory cards around to fill my desire for new music on my phone every few weeks. On my last trip to Nepal, I didn’t even take the tablet though and, along with my goal of not using Facebook for a full month, I really felt like I didn’t miss anything. The largest benefit of travelling with no large valuable items, also means I stress less about my rucksack and its location whilst travelling. My day-bag doesn’t a spot for a laptop and I’m certainly going to keep it that way.

With the small space I have to take advantage of while backpacking, my other benefit I have learnt from travelling is to minimise on the souvenir-collecting. As a woman, I always get attracted to stores. I can almost always find something that will get my attention and pull my in… even if it is just to look for a few moments. Khoa san road in Bangkok is a good example; my first time in a tourist market and I ended up spending way too much money, way too soon. I had no idea that I would see the same things all through Thailand and some of the items I wouldn’t even wear more than once or twice. Anything I did manage to hold onto usually fell apart before I got home. While I was on my longer trip in South America, I stood close to my shot-glass collection. They were small enough that I could always have a few in my bag, and half way through I sent a small package home. I refrained from purchasing large, unnecessary display-type objects. While they are gorgeous to look at, they hard to travel with and we didn’t have the luxury of sending things home all the time or space to store them until our arrival!

Having limited myself on overseas bargains, I learnt to look after what you have. It could be cheap or expensive but a little love-and-care goes a long way. One of my pre-trekking purchases in Nepal (there wasn’t many!) was a fake North Face insulated jacket. The first time I put it on once I got back to our accommodation, the cord that tightens around my waist broke. It was the simple issue that the stitching wasn’t spot-on and when I pulled on the adjusters, it came out of the stitching near the zip. Instead of taking it back (no receipt to prove anything!), or throwing a 20 fr. Item away, I decided to give it 10 minutes and sew it back together. The jacket, made of questionable quality, survived the trek and is still going strong today! I don’t ream on the zip, and I wash it with an extra dose of love, but it should hold up for a while longer. And I didn’t need to spend 200 fr.!

In terms of having fewer material things in my life, I do appreciate quality. One of my biggest purchases in the last year has been my laptop. I had to finance it, within my means, but it allowed my to have something nicer and hopefully have for a few years. I had always the smaller, 10” compact units and, as convenient as they were, I wanted something that was more powerful and nicer to use. My older computer I donated to my dad- I knew I wouldn’t be using it and I wanted someone to get use out of it.

All in all, I don’t like collecting things I don’t use. Travelling has taught me that everything will last if you look after it, and that you don’t really need a lot to survive. Even though our lives are centered around technology today, 50 years ago there wasn’t even mobile phones. Life was simpler, and some of that quality and simplicity still exists around the world. I would rather give away things I don’t use to, making no financial gain, then to hold onto it for the mere sake of it. There are a few things in my life that I have a second one, like a day bag, but we have that sometimes that is just useful for friends to use! We, personally, don’t need these products to live our daily lives to the fullest.

What has travelling taught you? It’s always interesting to get other’s insight!