Travelling with a backpack can be a strange and daunting experience if you are used to having a big wardrobe and access to hundreds of items of clothing, toiletries and anything else you might need. There are hundreds of sites out there which give you advice on how to go about packing a backpack, but these tips are from my own personal experience. They are the techniques and products that were real lifesavers when travelling, and I definitely would have struggled without them. I hope they are useful to you!
1. Big Ziploc bags are your new best friend
You can buy all kinds of fancy compression bags to pack things in inside your backpack, however I find that the very best thing to use is a few large Ziploc bags. It depends what you’re taking with you but at the height of my Ziploc usage I had one for each of the following: Knickers, socks, toiletries, tops, trousers (yes they really do fit in nicely if you buy the biggest size and roll appropriately), bits and bobs (journal, pens, swiss army knife etc.), wet swimming costume & towel, whole outfit (for when I was leaving somewhere very early and wanted to be completely packed and have the storage emptied – a whole outfit will fit in a large Ziploc and then you can just get up, get dressed, shove the bag in your pocket and go).
2. Ladies, you don’t need as much make up as you think
Let’s face it, you’re probably going somewhere hot – in a few weeks you will have a tan and won’t need foundation anyway. Also, you don’t know anyone where you’re going, so if you’re particularly reliant on make up why not try a new start with a more natural look? I reduced my make up down to an eyeliner, a mascara and a tinted lip balm (lip balm is a must. Sunburnt lips are nasty.)
3. Don’t trust waterproof backpack covers
Most backpacks come with a waterproof cover. These are fine for a quick shower but on the one occasion I got caught outside in a torrential downpour for about an hour, the waterproof cover actually made the situation worse. The drawstring round the bag meant that the cover filled with water which soaked through into the main compartment of my bag. Unfortunately at this point I did not have my Ziploc system in place so everything was a lot more vulnerable! One way round this is to line your backpack with a binliner – cheap and cheerful, and exactly what I did after the aforementioned incident.
4. Squashable water bottles are really cool! (and incredibly useful)
If you’re buying new stuff to go away this is something I would really recommend. Basically it’s a sturdy bag with a sports cap, which means you’re not filling a litre of space once you’ve finished the litre of water, it’s only as big as the amount of water you have left.
5 . Don’t just coordinate outfits, coordinate your entire wardrobe
As you don’t know when or where the next laundry opportunity will be half the time and chocolate ice cream always heads directly for white tops, it’s worth having as many clothing options as possibly. I took mostly old clothes away with me and abandoned them as I decided I didn’t need them, or they got holes in. I ended up with a perfect capsule wardrobe – 7 pants, 7 socks, 2 bras, 3 tops, a lightweight fleece, 2 pairs of trousers, one pair of shorts. Some backpackers would say that’s quite a lot, but compared to what I wear at home in a week it’s nothing! The trick is having neutral bottoms and a neutral fleece/jacket so that anything goes with anything else. I learnt through experience that it is the biggest pain in the neck having a top that can only be worn with a particular pair of trousers. Navy things did not earn their keep very well in my backpack, and were abandoned very quickly.
6. And finally, one for the Brits - Take proper teabags. Meet other Brits. Find new friend
Basically, there is nothing wrong with taking a little treat from home if you think you’re going to miss it, as long as it’s small and will keep.
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