My Ultimate Packing list is here, but there are also other useful things to pack for your trip depending on what you might be thinking of doing. Here are a few tips:
1. Hiking Gear
If you’re doing any walking, then good reasonably priced, non-fake hiking equipment will be best bought before you leave. Cheap fakes are abundant in all hiking destinations but are sub-standard in quality. I’ve seen too many travellers get caught in the rain with leaking fake waterproof jackets, and struggle in the cold with fake down jackets. There are genuine North Face shops in some destinations, but the selection will be smaller, and the prices are the same if not higher then what they are in the US/Europe.
If you’re short on space and are only interested in a couple of days trekking, then consider buying things when you get to your destination, otherwise buy your own stuff in advance.
Think carefully about where and when you might be hiking. If you’re visiting in the winter or will be at altitude then you’ll probably need thermals and a good down jacket will be useful.
Consider how much hiking you expect to do. If you’re only doing a few days, you might want to try and get away with some decent trainers as opposed to boots. If you’re going to be doing a few multi-day treks then your hiking boots, despite being heavy, should be worth taking. Think about taking gore-tex as opposed to a leather pair as they are usually lighter, like the excellent Solomon range of boots.
2. Sleeping Bag
If you’re going to be doing lots of camping then take your own sleeping bag. We were camping for over three months of our trip so definitely needed one. I loved mine and used it quite a bit in freezing cold hostels too. You can always send the sleeping bag home if you only need it for part of your trip.
Good sleeping bags are best bought in your home country as the fake ones you can buy are sub-standard in quality, and are often much bigger and heavier than what you can get at home.
If you’re only doing a couple of treks in places where you can easily hire a decent sleeping bag, then don’t bother – it’s not worth the space or the weight.
3. A Pillow Case You Can Close Up
If you’re going to be camping or taking lots of overnight bus journeys, take one of these. Travel pillows are useful but take up a lot of space, and the blow up ones can puncture. Some sort of light pillow cover is useful if you want to create a makeshift cushion by stuffing some clothes into it, or even using it over grubby looking pillows, or save your dribbling over your usual travel pillow.
Unless you’re flying straight out to a freezing cold place, you can usually buy these wherever you are heading. They also make good souvenirs.
5. Hairdryer and Straighteners
I’ll be honest. I was pretty terrified about not taking these but couldn’t afford the space. It was less traumatic than I thought it would be. They are a massive “nice to have” if you’re going out somewhere flashy, or mainly hanging around western cities, elsewhere (Asia/Africa/South America), you are probably not going to need them. If you really want to blow dry your hair, consider checking into a nicer hotel that provides hairdryers, or consider borrowing or popping into a hairdressers.
6. Medical Kit
To be honest, you’re probably not going to need half of the things in the standard medical kits you can buy, and even if you did, you probably won’t know how to use them. If you end up cutting yourself badly then you will probably have to go to hospital to get stitched up anyway.
However, if you’re travelling off the beaten track, doing any hard core expeditions, then it might be useful, so take it.
If you’re just going to fairly touristy places then I would just take a few plasters, pain killers, cold and flu medicine, and maybe some motion sickness tablets (if you’re prone).
Most countries have decent chemists that can supply you with ibuprofen, cold and flue medicine, and even antibiotics over the counter in some places. Lonely Planet guide books often have a decent health section in the back where they suggest various antibiotics you might need if you have certain symptoms – says me, Dr A who self diagnosed herself with Giardia and a Tinidazole much to my GPs amusement.
7. Heels/Nice Shoes
I know they make a massive different to your outfit, but unless you’re going to be doing lots of office work, or going to lots of expensive bars and restaurants, then you won’t need these.
8. Random Things That Look Useful – like universal sink plugs and washing lines…
We bought a few of these but hardly used any of them, although the line was a little useful when camping.
The universal sink plug was useful to rinse out socks in places where laundry was expensive, but if you’re in a cold country, things can take ages to dry without a heater or a dryer
In developing countries, you’re better off giving all your clothes to someone else to wash. It doesn’t cost much and you’re supporting the local communities.
9. Pocket Knife
Think about what you need this for. We used the blade on ours while camping a couple of times, but mostly used it as a corkscrew – we had our priorities!.
If you don’t drink much then you probably won’t need one, and to be honest, most places where you can buy decent wine have corkscrews which you can use, or just buy a screw cap!
If you’re intent on getting one, don’t take one with every existing gadget – they weigh a ton, and you won’t use half of the features. Just get a simple one with the bare essentials i.e. a knife, bottle opener, and corkscrew.
For my Ultimate Packing List, click here. Here’s also my list of things you think you might need, but you really don’t! You might also want to check out my list of crucial things to think about before you go on any trip.