There’s always people saying “YOU SHOULD PACK THIS” or “LEAVE THIS AT HOME” and sometimes I think these people have never traveled, or never done long-term, non-wilderness backpacking.
This list, is not geared to weekend jet-setters, or 3 week trips up a mountain side. This is my list, from experience, for people who backpack for a month or more, in cities and countryside, and who probably will be doing more sleeping in hostels than in a tent on a cliff in the middle of some unmanned forest area, and who are likely to hit a few different weather areas/seasons.
I don’t care what everyone says about jeans. They are not that bulky, they are comfortable, and you will fit in much better with the locals – oh EVERYWHERE. Your anti-microbial, quick dry, stupid expensive, zip-into-shorts, pants you bought at REI or wherever SCREAM ‘tourist’.
You wear jeans almost everyday at home right? So why would you not want to wear them traveling.
Plus, you can’t always find fitting jeans abroad. Especially if you have hips and a strong dislike (aka: abhor) for skinny jeans. Pack a pair of jeans. You will regret not bringing them.
DON’T PACK RAIN GEAR
Rain gear is bulky as hell, and you will likely misplace it/have it stolen along the way. Especially when it is sunny, and you don’t realize, until it rains 2 weeks later, that you don’t have it anymore. (Did you leave it at the last hostel or did someone skeeve it from under the bed?)
It’s going to rain. Pack an umbrella. They are lighter, smaller, and much easier to carry and replace. Better yet, you can buy an umbrella overseas. Or buy one of the LED umbrellas from ThinkGeek and look super-awesome!
These things come in so much handy it is unbelievable.
-hook things onto the outside of your bag
-clip your hostel keys to your person (or inside your walk-around bag so you can find them easier)
-clip your bag/purse strap to your belt loop”
-use them to hook 2 belt loops together to hold your pants up when you can’t find/broke/um… ‘misplaced’ your belt.
A couple carabiners, maybe one small and one large are cheap and you will cherish every moment you have them. You can also get locking ones, that don’t unclip with a simple push.
Chap stick can be sometimes hard to find. It’s so much easier if you always have your own spare.
DON’T PACK YOUR WHOLE MAKEUP BAG, (but bring a couple of things)
I don’t really wear makeup, but no matter how much we say “I’m backpacking! I don’t need to dress up!”, at some point you will eventually want to. I pack clear mascara, a lip stain, and maybe one eyeliner. That’s pretty much all I ever wear, but it is just enough to make you feel pretty after you have been in the jungle and sweaty and dirty for the last week.
Please don’t pack your entire makeup kit.
You will hardly ever use it, and just get made fun of by pretty much everyone else. You don’t look like a supermodel, you look like you have pancake batter on your face. Especially after walking around all day.
If you are a tampon user, bring a bunch with you. Throw them in Ziplock bags in your backpack. It’s not that it’s hard to find them overseas, but when you do, they are so expensive to buy, and are the kind without the applicator. Which are fine, but sometimes can be a pain in the ass to get in. Bring your own. Save them for when you can’t stand the little OB ones anymore. Plus, you will have some when you suddenly realize that you need them NOW.
You are traveling. You are so not paying attention to that shit.
DON’T PACK HIGH HEELS
Seriously, it is not worth lugging around a pair of high heels for the 1 night you decide to use them. Not because you actually want to, but because you feel you need to make the pain of carrying them around purposeful, at least once. If you end up somewhere you need high heels, you can find them cheap enough anywhere you are.
(Note: if you can’t find high heels, you are probably in a place you don’t want them, like the Amazon jungle, or African desert).
PACK SOME SUNSCREEN
You can usually find sunscreen any major city you go to, but if you like a certain brand, bring it with you. You will need it immediately, and you may also not be able to find your brand abroad. If you, like many people, may have issues with certain scents, or skin reactions, having your own ‘safe’ sunscreen offers protection while you are out in the sun, hoping store to store, to find a local brand you like/can use. You don’t need a huge bottle though.
Just a little one to protect you for the first day or two until you learn the city and can get to the store.
DON’T BRING YOUR CELL PHONE
If you are from one of those countries already on the GSM network and using SIM cards, you can ignore this. If you are from the USA, most of our phones are not on the GSM network (ATT is pretty much the only one, but even then, there a different frequencies of GSM networks.) Its technical.
Basically..if you are from the USA, there’s a really good chance your phone wont work abroad. BUT, even if you have said phone, you probably didn’t know you must have it unlocked first. So you awesome phone is suddenly nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Also, that iDroidBerry system you are using is pretty much useless, unless you have the intention of buying an international cell plan while traveling.
And even if you have a SIM-slotted, unlocked iDroidBerry… just try using your data on a $10 SIM card. You have about 2 minutes.
Just buy a phone overseas if you really need one. Or ask the hostel if they know anyone with an old phone. Or just use Skype.
DON’T PACK HIKING BOOTS
You won’t use them. Except for maybe that one day, during Altavoz festival, when it rained and was cold, you used them, for 2 hours.
Unless you plan on hiking the majority of time, hiking boots are a totally, pointless, waste of space.
And if you think you will need them for possible jungle expeditions you are wrong. Also, if you think you will actually have the desire to hike up Cotopaxi, in the cold, and the rain, you are probably also wrong. Or you’ll just wear sneakers because they are lighter.
DON’T PACK A SEPARATE OUTFIT FOR EVERYDAY YOU ARE ON THE ROAD!
There are these cool machines they have overseas. You put your clothes into them and a little soap. Then you shut the top and push a button and in about an hour, your clothes magically come out clean and smelling good. It’s Cah-ray-z! But seriously, there are sinks, there are laundromats, there are ways to wash your clothes.
Put what you want to bring in a pile. Now put half of that pile back in the closet. What is left is STILL more than you need.
You are a chic; you know your going to buy shit. It’s genetic.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.