How to prepare the perfect backpack and don’t miss anything (important)

This is an article about how to get ready for backpacking and not to forget anything you would need. First, mind that backpacking is synonym of adventure. The most enjoyable way to do that is without planning too much. To feel free on the go you must travel light. Less weight, more fun.

A bridge in Malaysia
A bridge in Malaysia

Once we could be on the wild again, probably, it might happen that you will need to walk miles again, when you would not expect, or you will catch some strange transports in order to get farther. Carrying a heavy backpack is not a nice idea.

Tip: You always should travel with a maximum of 5 kilos weight and 40 litters of capacity backpack. You don’t need more. A light backpack is fine with the handbags terms and conditions of many airlines. That may make your ticket cheaper and you can bring it with you in the cabin and avoid the baggage claiming.

On the other hand, you ought to know that you could find yourself being in some places, especially jungles, mountains or deserts, where you barely could replace what you will need or getting proper supplies. Therefore, you have to carry with the essentials to get through any situation even with the necessary to survive.

On a truck in Mauritania
On a truck in Mauritania

We know that priorities are very personal and what is important for us in case of travelling, it is not necessarily the same for you. What is important is to think and make a list in order to set a light backpack. Under these lines you will find an example list of the necessary things that you might need on a travel based on our own experience.

Tip:  Prepare your own list and based on that put all the belongings together to an empty place where you can oversee them all. When you have all, double check that you don’t miss anything before packing. It´s also recommended to download all your itineraries, booking reservations, offline maps, your own documents, insurance, emergency contacts, and whatever electronic cdocuments you could need, and for fun your favourite series as well might be a good idea for the boring airport times.
Backpacks in T1 Barcelona Airport
Backpacks in T1 Barcelona Airport

Basics

  • Passport

You might cross a border naked but not without your passport. I know, the humankind has not evolved so much. Once I forgot my passport on a sack of chickpeas in Jerusalem and I ran along a maze of streets for a while, trying to locate again the owner of the small shop that gently kept my documents for me. The consequences of losing your documents in an unappropriated place could be tough. So watch out. I met an English guy in South America that got illegally into Ecuador by mistake. His Facebook profile let me know that he had really serious problems to get out of there. Do you remember Ronaldinho’s case? Just bring your passport and always carry it with you.

  • Money & credit cards

With money, you almost get everything. It is universal, there is nothing better to open hearts and change wills than an old president face on an official edged piece of paper.

  • Cell phone

A cell phone nowadays is basic for communication, deal on-line with many of your travelling matters and ask for help. On your cell phone you can carry with secondary documents portable as multimedia documents like flight tickets, reservations, contacts, the pictures you take, books, series or travel book guides.

These above tree are the Holy Trinity you must never forget. When I hesitate if I am leaving something important behind, while leaving a hostel or jumping off from a night train, I always check if I have with me these sacred three. All the rest you could bring is replaceable or expendable. Believe me.

Passport with stamps and visas
Passport with stamps and visas

Clothing

  • Detachable long pants (1)

They can be found in Sport stores and they are very practical since they can be used as long or short pants too.

  • Shorts (2)

Only needed for summer adventures. You can forget this and add one more long pants for cold weather.

a van bus in Gambia
A van bus in Gambia
  • Short-sleeved shirts (5)
  • Pullover (2)
  • Waterproof jacket (1)
  • Swimsuit (1)
  • Boxers or panties (6)
  • Bra (2) – In case you decide or if they are needed. They are light and occupy a very small space.
  • Socks (6)
  • Palestinian or any kind of big scarf (1)

This is very personal. I know. But it can be used for everything… as a blanket, as a towel, to tie things, to grab or cover anything, even your face from the dust, as a sunblock and even for catching a boiling cooking pot in the wild. It’s up to you.

  • Boots

You usually will wear them so they can be heavier or lighter depending on the destination. With proper boots you will not need three pairs of different kind of shoes.

  • Flip-flops

On this plan, you will need to wash your clothes every three or four days the latest. Along your trip, you may find laundries on the go. Otherwise, there are spaces and solutions to wash in hostels and other kinds of accommodation.

If you are planning a winter trip, the weight limitation will be challenging. Try to lower the weight of the stuff you are not wearing constantly like the pullovers, the sandals or the waterproof jacket if you plan a summer trip.

Hygienic and first aid kit

  • First aid kit: Antihistamines, antibiotics, analgesics (painkiller), intestinal regulator, sterile bandage, plasters and iodine.

In some countries, you cannot easily find antibiotics, painkillers or some pharmaceutic products easily reachable in the western world. It is very important to check customs restrictions for med on your destination country. If you need especial medication, bring with you a medic release for your meds. For instance, in Gambia, the authorities deem a simple common homeland-legal pill as a drug bond to some years in prison so you can get a fright because of misinformation.

A boat in Borneo Island, Indonesia
A boat in Borneo Island, Indonesia
  • Toiletry bag: toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, shower gel – shampoo – soap  (these three are replacable) deodorant, any kind of heavy cream (for dried skin, lips, elbows, etc.) nail clippers or nail file, preservatives, razor blades, sanitary napkins and tampons – if needed.

Some of the stuff here can be speared depending on if you are a woman or a man. Mind that in some countries some very popular things from your country can be very barely found. For instance, in some Asian countries is very hard to find blades or anything to have a shave since they don’t have beards, in many countries of Africa and Asia shampoo or condoms are a luxury. Personally, I forgot at home my contact lens solution and once I was in Ethiopia it took three weeks until I found the only optician in Addis Ababa who had the awesome magic product.

You can add some other non-heavy things if you don’t overcome the weight limit. If you doubt just leave it at home.

Fixing a car in Uyuni Salar, Bolivia
Fixing a car in Uyuni Salar, Bolivia
  • Towel

Bring one for sport. Some ultralight and thin versions are available, easy to pack and they get dry very soon.

  • Laundry soap
  • Mosquito repellent (tropical if needed)
  • Sunscreen (travel size)
  • Water treatment tablets – to make any kind of tap or natural water drinkable

You will never use them, until you do. Then you will thank God for remind you to carry with.

Crossing a river in Senegal
Crossing a river in Senegal
  • Toilet paper

Do not carry with a complete reel! However, pack a bit just in case.

Toilet sign in Atacama Desert, Chile

You can prioritize here some things rather than others. Probably you will think that is very different if you are male or female, young or old. For sure, that is true. What I kindly assure is that I checked many times you will not need more.

Of course, in case of especial medic needs, you must carry with you the needed stuff.

Inflating wheels in Jordan
Inflating wheels in Jordan

Logistics

  • Second small backpack

There are very light versions in the market that can be even fold in a very tiny space. To bring a secondary bag may release you when you could leave your bigger backpack somewhere else.

  • Sunglasses
  • Compass

Because of a communication misunderstood, I needed to walk once 17 km on the Sahara desert at 45 degrees under a fully shinning sun. With no reception and no clear roads, a proper small old school compass is a gift from God.

  • Waterproof and submersible waist bag

This is very important for safety reasons. Carry always with your passport, money and cell phone (Your Holy Trinity always with you). No matter what… if you are swimming, diving or sleeping on a bus.

  • Tent

Choose always an ultralight version if you need a tent. It could be a very romantic and cheap way of sleeping but a limitation in terms of weight.

  • Cap
  • Inflatable pillow

Only if you are one of those that cannot sleep on long distance buses, trains of flights.

  • Electric adapter

Especially if you are from UK and you use those very annoying plugs.

Nomadic camp in Kyrgyzstan
Nomadic camp in Kyrgyzstan
  • Transparent hermetically sealed bags (zip locks)

You can even pack all your toilet products inside and help yourself in the airport liquid controls.

  • Utility knife

Only in the case you are not carrying your backpack as a handbag on the plane.

  • Padlock

Sounds rare but they are useful for lockers and even to tie somewhere your backpack.

  • Clothesline

It has many uses besides hanging the clothes to dry and occupies very small space.

  • Headlight

This is a very smart solution since they are light and small and can be used as a regular torch. Besides being nice to have always light for reading or packing in buses or hostels, Mind that in many countries in Africa, Asia or South America the street pavement conditions are very tough, including holes where you can easily break a leg, mud, etc. and the street lighting is almost non-existent.

Train tracks in Bolivia
Train tracks in Bolivia
  • Waterproof backpack cover
  • Cell phone charger, batteries
WI-FI sign in Chile
WI-FI sign in Chile

If you think that we have missed anything, please feel free to share your must-have travel accessories and we will consider to include them into the above list.

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