Preparing for Backpacking

Visas? Check. Vaccinations? Check. Bank account stuffed with cash? Check. So you're all set to go off backpacking to some far-flung corner of the world, be it traveling in Europe or trekking through South East Asia. Great! The only thing left to do is to pack your backpack for your long trip.

So where on earth do you start?

Traveling Light

It's one thing packing for a beach holiday in the sun - a week in Mexico in a nice holiday villa, for example - but a different thing entirely to pack for a backpacking trip that could last for several months, even up to a year or more in some travelers' cases. You're going to be always on the move. Your home - everything you will ever need on the road - will be on your back. You need to pack efficiently yet thoroughly.

One List To Rule Them All?

A quick skirt around the internet will find any number of ultimate packing lists for backpackers. They're commonly written as if they are the gospel truth. You must bring this; you must bring that. No-one backpacker in their right mind would bring those...

Unfortunately, these lists miss a vital point. No packing list is perfect for everyone. The great thing about traveling is that everyone does it their own way. Traveler's destinations vary; their way of traveling differs; and so what any given backpacker should have in their backpack is also likely to vary.

Having said that, it is possible to draw fairly wide generalisations based on what the average backpacker will be doing. The following list will give you an idea of what the average backpacker - say, someone about to undertake a 12 month round the world trip through both summer and winter environments - might take with them in their backpack. Tailor it to your personal needs, and you'll be well on the way to coming up with a decent packing list for budget travel.

Clothes - one pair of trousers (made of tough fabric; jeans are a poor choice for hot climates, but bring them if you must). One pair of short trousers/fishermans' pants, or a skirt for the ladies. Four or five t-shirts/tops; four or five changes of underwear/socks.

Footwear - one pair of comfy everyday shoes (sandals for a hot climate), one pair of walking shoes/boots for those who plan on being more active.

Washbag - soap (or shower gel), shampoo, comb/brush, lipbalm/moisturiser if you really must!, washcloth, toothpaste, toothbrush. Condoms (oh yes). Throw a sports towel in with it too (really thin, absorbent, quick-drying material).

Electricals - digital camera for those priceless memories, iPod or similar mp3 player for those long journeys. Plus all the relevant cables, power supplies, batteries and international electrical adapters for them.

Everything else - passport, credit card, ATM/debit card, simple first aid kit, swiss army knife or other multitool, small sewing kit, padlock and key, emergency backup currency (US dollars are best), sleeping bag liner (not an actual bag, but the cotton or silk liner instead - small and good to use on nasty mattresses), guidebook.

And remember... aything else you need that you don't have (or you forget), you can buy on the way! Safe travels! And above all else, have fun!