When packing for a long trip, many of us agonise over what to fill our bags with. I had the added pressure when packing because I was about to become a backpacker, AKA trying to fit my life into a small vertical tube. Here are some of the things I should never have bothered with, and some of the things I couldn’t have done without. In part 1 of Suzy’s Suitcase, here’s just a few of the essential packing items I would recommend taking on a long trip.
What To Take:
Portable USB charger: Mine was amazing. Not only was I able to charge two things at once if necessary, it also had a torch on it just in case. It was specially designed for hiking and activities, so was pretty damn durable, and waterproof too! The best feature was that it was solar powered. While it didn’t charge that fast through sunlight, it provided a decent back up when on a sunny day I could just attach it to my bag and let it do it’s thing, and top up the charge on it.
I generally got 1-2.5 charges of my phone (I barely charged anything else on it) which was always great. Of course it’s annoying still having to charge that too, but for my first week when I seemed to be miles away from a working power socket, it saved my bacon and meant I could charge things under my pillow while I slept (bonus: also meant I had my phone nearby when waking up halfway through the night thanks to jet lag).
Snacks: Seems kind of weird I know, but there was something very reassuring about always knowing I had a pack of dried cranberries tucked in my bag. They weren’t going off or anything, but if we were completely stuck or if I was struck down and needed instant sustenance, I knew I’d be ok. Maybe that’s just my weird frame of mind, but honestly you’ll be grateful you thought to plan ahead! I’d suggest getting this item when you’re at your destination, just to avoid any problems going through customs at airports.
As a side note, I also had a weird snack that stayed with me for the entirety of my trip. My dear mum had left me at the airport with a few snacks for the long long flights (not that I needed MORE food, boy they stuff you silly up there), and one item happened to be a bag of Percy Pigs. For anyone unfamiliar with these, they’re gummy grape/raspberry flavoured sweets that are heaven on Earth and a national treasure in the UK. I decided that these would be symbolic for my home in Surrey, that I would not open the packet until desperately homesick and miserable. While I did get sad at times, I never caved in because I knew if I can make it through this tough time, I’ll be fine. And I did! So, on the flight home, I ceremonially cracked open the packet to find a congealed ball of weird mush, attempted a few bites and realised I should have definitely opened them months ago…
Notes from home: My family are awesome, and left me notes to open during my trip. At times it was so lovely to read a card or letter from my favourite people in the world, and it reminded me of my life at home. It’s so easy to get detached, and I’m guilty of that big time because I loved the freedom and selfishness of travel, however sometimes you have to remember what you came away from, and what you’re going home to and how loved you are all the way across the world. It’s a good way to remind yourself to send that email, or WhatsApp etc. just to let them know what you’re up to, they’ll really appreciate it. I kept a few things like this tucked in a folder deep at the bottom of my bag, and it’s where I slowly added silly mementos from my travels such as ticket stubs, guide books, and so on. This made quite the collection of heartwarming things to read when feeling down!
Kanga: This one is not an item I myself brought, but Emily brought with her and I sort of stole. These large and very portable rectangular garments popular in Africa make great towels, and dry so quickly they beat the microfibre travel towel any day. They don’t retain the weird smell like other towels do, their bright colours and patterns make them extremely identifiable and they can honestly be used for almost anything. We used them when sleeping in the car/on a bottom bunk as curtains, as blankets on a bus, towels after showering, beach towels, a dress to look modest in temples, the list goes on! Of course, a normal travel towel is fine, but definitely consider something cheap and cheerful because these items will be used SO much when travelling.
Music: A fairly obvious one, but often people don’t realise that 60% of their time travelling will LITERALLY be spent travelling. Either by train, bus, car, plane, boat you name it, and as amazing as many of the views are you WILL get bored. There’s only so many cows and farms and fields you can look at on an 8 hour bumpy ride between towns. Some people can read when travelling, but for the most part I think people often like to do something a little more mindless. I tried to write on journeys, but there’s a limit to how much time can be spent looking at a screen.
Some people download movies, but for the same reason this isn’t always a great idea. However, music, audiobooks, podcasts and other audio mediums of entertainment are great! You can still enjoy the scenery, or take a nap, but you’re also letting the time fly past. I would listen to a few of my favourite podcasts and if each episode was around half an hour, after 4 episodes a couple of hours would already pass.
Music is wonderful too, it has the power to match our mood and sync up with memories, which I did a lot of while travelling so now certain song immediately remind me of places or people. Unfortunately unless you’re super into symphonies and operas, most pieces of music are going to be relatively short, so time can almost go slower unless you enjoy having a playlist on repeat shuffle for a few hours!
Google Drive: Not technically an item I know, but Google Drive or similar online storage such as iCloud or Dropbox are AMAZING to clear up space on your phone or device, keep everything safe, share with others and know that it’s waiting for you when you get home. I tried to upload my photos maybe once a week (I took a lot, other people could maybe do it less frequently depending on upload speed of their Wifi) and with so much capacity I never had to worry. It also meant I kept a few vital documents in case of emergency such as a copy of my passport, medical/vaccination info, important passwords and travel information, basic itineraries and so on. I then shared this folder with my mum and brother so they knew where to look if needed!
Flip flops: you will live in them. Enough said. Wanna know how far they’ll stretch? Mine I’ve had for around 5 years, and I wore them nearly every day for 6 months and only JUST were they beginning to wear through completely. I love them and can’t bring my self to throw them out, but boy are they gross now. So maybe invest in a decent pair (Havaianas are usually the most popular) and save yourself the worry of the dreaded toe-post snap.
Colour Catchers: Juuuuuust in case there’s a risky item that runs in the wash, these will make sure your greying, tattered clothes don’t get even uglier after being cleaned. I never thought to use these, and sometimes it seems like an unnecessary expense but it actually did the job on numerous occasions, especially if you buddy up with people to share a load, you never know if they have a rouge pair of socks where the colour runs that turns everything blue!
Berocca: Also may seem unnecessary, but these can do wonders if you’re feeling a little off, a bit unwell, or a bit hungover. Full of vitamins and energy, you’ll be ready to go in no time, and they take up virtually no space. On a similar thought, if you’re like me and just want a bit of sweetness on occasion, on-the-go squash sachets are great to make the drinking of litres upon litres of water a little bit more interesting!
Spoon/general cutlery: The final item of my backpacker essentials list is a strange one. I got laughed at for my cutlery, but who was laughing when they bought a yoghurt and didn’t have a spoon? That’s right, me. Right before I offered you my spoon. We had plenty of times when we spread jam with our hands, and used anything you can find as crockery, but if you can get a little foldable spoon or fork it’ll be so handy. Same with a knife, we ended up with one by mistake, and it just gives that little bit more flexibility so you CAN buy bread and make a sandwich, or you CAN cut up a piece of fruit or veg on the go.Such luxury.
And there we have a small sample of the things that made life that little bit easier on a big trip. Of course there’s the obvious few others, like my cameras, sunglasses, toiletries, oh… and clothes! But these few items certainly stuck out more for me!
What are your backpacker essentials? If you have any ideas or tips about what’s great to take away with you, I’d love to hear it! Next time on Suzy’s Suitcase: What NOT To Take…
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