Backpacking across different regions of the world is increasingly popular. If it's for a few weeks or a few months, preparing for such a trip can be confusing and stressful. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you prepare for your adventures.
The information in this Instructable refers to interrailing type trips. If you plan to be in the mountains for weeks/months at a time, this information might not be relevant. But if you're traveling around a lot of cities, which will most likely be the case unless you've specifically planned a hiking/ trail excursion, this information could be useful. Have a look at the comment section for more good advice! Lots of travelers here with good ideas:)
*If you wondering where that picture was taken, it's at the Machu Picchu, Peru.
DON'T FORGET TO CHECK THE COMMENTS FOR MORE GREAT TIPS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS!
Step 1: EARLY PREP
A few weeks or months before your departure date, put a basket somewhere in your room (or where ever suits you really).
Every time you find something you might want to bring on your trip just stick it in the basket. You don't have to be particular selective (that part comes later). Don't worry about taking things you use out, just try and put them back in eventually. The point of the basket is that when you start packing your bag, most of what you need is in one place.
This is a good way to avoid forgetting little things, or things that are so obvious you just don't see them in the chaos of packing.
You should also already be sorting out your VISAs, MEDICATION & VACCINATION if you need them.
Step 2: BAGS
For this kind of trip, it is useful to have two bags. A Backpack (Surprised, eh?) and a Daypack.
Choosing the right Backpack (if you don't already have one) is an important part of planning. See my other instructable for more details on shopping for a Backpack.
Here is what I find useful in a Backpack:
30L to 36L
2 access points to the main pocket
mesh back system for maximum ventilation
For your daypack, the best is to choose a bag that is versatile and easily storable. It doesn't have to be a rucksack; it can be a messenger bag or a purse. This is the bag you will use when you want to go touring without carrying your big backpack or on a day hiking trip. Choose something that can be stored in or on your backpack when not in use. Carrying two bags gets annoying pretty fast.
Practicality is very important, but pick something you also like. I'll come back to this a little later.
*If you do use a rucksack, I’m begging you: don't wear it in front of you. It's like wearing a fluorescent pink and fluffy hat with glittery letters screaming I'M A TOURIST. The best way to avoid being robbed when in touristy areas is to blend in. Now this doesn't apply if you're in a big crowd or transport system, just if you're generally walking around the streets.*
Step 3: CLOTHES
OK. So let's get one thing clear, no matter
what major city you go to in the world it will be modern. If it's Europe, Africa or America, they will have proper streets, electricity & Internet. This might sound obvious to most, but some people don't always realize that the "third world" doesn't mean jungles and huts if they haven't been there. Lifestyles might not be exactly like you are used to, but it's not primitive. So note that the novelty of looking like an explorer wears off fast. Especially in an urban environment.
You don't need to get everything in specialized hiking shops. H&M, Primark, Target, etc. suits just fine. Bring stuff you think looks good and that is really comfy. If you are planning a long trip, you will realize that along the way you get absolutely sick of what you have. Ditching a 5$ T-shirt doesn't hurt as much as throwing out a 60$ High-Tech Ventilation Micro Fiber Extra Super light one. Plus you might want to adapt to the style of the people around you to blend in a little more.
Specific things to bring:
As my mother always said when we were going on any kind of trip: "Do you have your WARM JUMPER and SWIMSUIT?" Yes mom, I do, ALWAYS.
ONE NICE OUTFIT. It's always handy to have something nice. You never know where you will be invited to go, it might be a club or an Indian weeding (This actually happened to a friend of mine while in India). It should be small & light enough to carry at the bottom of your bag. Don't bring anything to skimpy, not being prude or anything, but if you are invited to a formal event in a different culture, you want to respect their social norms. It should be adaptable. Personally, I always go for a little black cotton dress and a pair of tights.
3-4 TOPS. You really don't need much more then that unless you're exceptionally sweaty.
2 BOTTOMS. I recommend one pair of short & something long, avoiding jeans because there pretty bulky and are horrible to dry.
UNDERWEAR FOR ABOUT 6 DAYS. Learn to hand wash your underwear. You don't need that much if you wash it regularly.
SOCKS. For some reason, I met loads of people who forgot to pack socks. 3 pairs are generally enough if you wash them regularly.
WINDPROOF JACKET. They are usually pretty light and easy to store and are good enough for a bit of rain.
If you are traveling in the wintertime I recommend a coat where you can take out the lining instead of a windproof one.
SCARF. Scarves are very versatile. If it’s windy in a sandy region, they can protect your face, you can tie them up & use them as a sling, they can cover you up if ever you need it, etc.
Step 4: SHOES
You don't necessarily need proper walking shoes for city adventures. Even if you think you might go hiking for a day or so at some point, regular runners will be more then suitable.
Your shoes should be: SUPER COMFY, good sole & lace ups.
Personally I always bring converse or something similar. I bought brilliant soles and use them everyday. Investing in good soles might be a little expensive, but it means that even if you buy cheap shoes and they don't last you the whole trip you can ditch them and just keep the soles. I've had my soles for over 3 years and they are still going strong. They were about 40$ for reference.
Flip Flops. They're small and easy to pack. Handy for the beach, but also if you are in public showers that you feel might be a little dingy.
Don't bring more then 1 pair of runners, 1 pair of flip-flops and possibly 1 pair of sandals you can walk in.
Step 5: USEFULL THINGS
PILLOWCASE: this might sound a bit random, but it's super handy. If you're somewhere without a pillow, just stick some clothes in it and VOILA you have a pillow.
It's also handy to put all your dirty clothes in it to keep it separate in your bag. You can just trough the pillowcase in with the washing.
TENSION CABLES: These can be useful for loads of different things. Usually hanging up stuff on your bag. They're also handy if you're camping outside to hang up your bag to a tree and keep it from the possibly wet ground.
WIND UP FLASHLIGHT: This is pretty self-explanatory but not enough people bring them. When you're in a dorm room and you have to get up early or in the middle of the night, you can use your flashlight to find everything you need. People who turn on the light when other people are sleeping piss everyone off. Obviously sometimes its inevitable, but a flashlight will diminish the number of times you will have to do so. A wind up one will avoid you having to bring/find batteries.
KINDLE: Yes hard cover books are still the best. But a kindle is incredibly handy for Tourist Books. Have you every seen Lonely Planet Asia? It's about 2" thick. I still bring hard cover books to read. But no more tour guide ones. A tourist Ebook is cheaper, easier to carry and they have incorporated links to useful websites. You can also go online to check your emails and stuff. The battery last forever too.
REUSABLE BOTTLE: I like to bring a big 1L tine one. It's easy to tie to my bag and I have enough water for a good while. Places like Rome have public fountains everywhere, so no need to buy bottled water. FYI the water in Rome is incredible, cold & tasty. Find out what the water situation is in the areas you're traveling before consuming it, though. Keeping your bottle in a plastic bag will also make it stay cold a lot longer.
LIQUID DEODORANT: Believe me, cleaning up a melted bar of deodorant from a packsack is not fun (though it smelt pretty fresh afterwards). You're better off with the role ones.
PEN KNIFE: Again pretty self-explanatory, just be careful at costumes.
PLAYING CARDS: Its fun and a great way to make friends. If you're spending a night in at the hostel or a camping site, you will find loads of buddies willing to play. You don't even need to speak the same language, go fish is pretty international.
HAMMOCK: It's a great alternative to a tent. It's easier to carry & set up. See this instructable for more info about how to use a hammock.
SMALL NOTEBOOK: You can see the toothbrush for size. A lot of people like to make a diary of there travels, but if you are like me and that's not your style, I recommend bringing a small notebook. It's good to write down names of people and places. You might have done a lot of research, but people you meet will always have useful info to give you. No guide book can compare to the knowledge of the locals!
DRY-FAST TOWEL: Well this pretty much says it all. It's a compact towel that dries really fast. Dead handy.
SUNSCREEN: Bring some or buy some there, but wear sunscreen!
There are loads of other useful things to bring, but these are a few I particularly like.
Step 6: DIVA CUP
I think this one deserves a Step of its own. This is for anyone who menstruates. If the though of periods still turns your stomach or you are still trying to deny that it's something that happens naturally to every woman in your life, just skip this step.
So ladies, this part of traveling is something a lot of prep guides forget to talk about. Depending what your preference are it's not always easy to get tampons in some countries and facilities to dispose of them aren't always available. Plus serviettes and tampons can take up a lot of precious space in your backpack. Don't forget that being far away from home can also play with your system and change your cycle, even if you are usually super regular. Being unprepared in the middle of Marrakech can be somewhat stressful.
The DIVA CUP is a brilliant alternative. It's not for everyone though, so you are better off trying it for a few months before your trip to make sure it suits you.
First of all, lets break some stereotypes
1. Emptying it in public places: It most likely will not happen. You can keep your Diva Cup in for up to 24h though it is recommended to empty it at the minimum every 12h. So you don't have to go to a public restroom to do it. Wait till you are in the shower or in a private bathroom.
2. Cup overflowing: The cup can hold up to 1oz of liquid. Most women will only release 1-2oz for their entire period. Tampons & serviettes just make it look like a bloodbath. Get to know yourself though; maybe you will need to empty it more frequently.
3. It's to big, it will be uncomfortable: It's not, vaginas are made of muscles and the Diva Cup is made of silicon (don't use it if you are allergic), it's all flexible. You need to fold it to put it in, but once it opens up inside you won't even feel it if its places correctly. You need to figure out the right technique for this, but once you got the twist, you are set for life.
Advantages while travelling
1. No tampon hunting around cities you don't know
2. You can go swimming, no problem
3. It's small, discrete and no one knows what it is when they see it (unless there fellow comrades and then they will just go on a monologue about how awesome Diva Cups are and how its changed their menstrual lives)
4. Save loads of money
5. No toxins to be absorbed
6. It doesn't dry out your vagina. Who needs that kind of discomfort while traveling? NO ONE.
7. It's cleaner & diminishes smells (If you take care of it of course)
How to keep it clean
There are some proper soaps for Diva Cups, But I've never used them
1. Wash it every time you empty it if possible. It is recommended to use non-perfumed soaps, but if you don't have access to some make sure to rinse it really well
2. When your period is over, boiled it in water for about 5-10 minutes to kill all possible bacterial
If you feel that its getting a little discolored, just brush it clean with a toothbrush (keep one specifically for this), water & soap before boiling
3. Keep in a clean & dry environment. They often come with little pouches, if not make one.
It's always a good idea to give it a little wash when you start using it the next month
Being up to date with the cleaning will avoid any infection or irritation.
I always bring a few of OB tampons with me just in case, but generally the Cup is more then enough.
Step 7: PACKING
Oh, my flight is leaving in 6 hours? Might be time to start packing...
You shouldn't pack your bags to early. The night before you leave is more then enough time.
When your basket if full over everything you want to bring, spread it out on your bed or floor.
TRY AND TAKE AWAY HALF OF IT. This might sound excessive, but I can pretty much guarantee you that you will still bring some useless things. It's hard, but just do it you will thank me later.
What NOT to bring:
- Straightener/ Hair Dryer/ Curlers
- Excessive toiletries
- Beach towels
- Loads of gadgets (a smartphone, if you have one, is more then enough)
Pack your bag and start your Adventure. DON'T FORGET YOUR PASSPORT!