I still remember the day I was struggling to unload my 11-kilo backpack from the top of a shared taxi in Manali. My co-traveller was a German girl who had been travelling for 8 months and her backpack weighed just 8 kilos! I wondered how on Earth it was even possible. Absolutely couldn’t believe it!
Two years and many travel months later, I have learnt to pack my bags better. Time has taught me that like real life, I owned way more than I really needed. Simply because I was taught to think that I needed more. I’m grateful that this has changed with travel and I am slowly becoming a minimalist carrying just the bare necessities, both in my backpack and in real life. ;)
For all you solo backpackers ready to hit the mountains, oceans and everything in between, this is a comprehensive list of things you are going to need. You can always choose what you need and how many as per your requirements. So read on, this might be just what you need!
Clothes and layers
Your clothing choices will primarily depend on the weather condition of the places you’re planning to go to. If you’re going to be on the road for months together across different terrain, it’s best to carry an assortment of clothing suitable for all weather types. I would suggest carrying a few t-shirts, tops/ shirts, pants, shorts, skirts and dresses.
For colder weather, make sure you carry your rain/ wind jacket, fleece jacket/ cardigan along. And if it’s the mountains that are calling you, you will need Polaroid or UV protected sunglasses.
Carry at least 3 pairs of socks for your use. If you know that you’re going to a region with sub-zero temperatures, carry a pair of woollen socks along with your usual pairs of cotton socks. And a pair of thermals to keep you warm. I would recommend at least 5 sets of undergarments for long trips.
Personal care and hygiene items
Make sure you carry your soap/ body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, sunscreen, sanitary napkins/ menstrual cup (they are eco-friendly too!) and every other personal care item that you need while you’re travelling. Hotels offer most items for free or (if you forget it) you can even buy most of these items from the local store. But unless you’re in a big city, you know that the environmentally sustainable way is to carry these products yourself and take them back.
For your long backpacking journey, all you really need is a pair of sturdy shoes. Make sure you also add a pair of flip flops/ Hawaii slippers for quick casual use.
Though I’m an advocate for “Positive mindset attracts positive experiences”, I know that it’s (quite) difficult to stay positive all the time. Especially when you’re on your own. For these situations, it’s better to feel brave in your head knowing that you’re prepared for and protected against any possible mishaps. I carry a Pepper Spray most times and though I’ve never had to use it, I feel stronger with it. A Swiss knife can also come in handy, as it can multitask as a knife, scissors, bottle opener and more.
At all times, carry a power bank especially if you’re travelling into remote regions.
If you’re on medication, ensure that you carry sufficient amount of tablets and supplements as necessary. Carrying a few first aid items, especially if you’re doing something adventurous can also be helpful.
Staying in backpacker hostels means exposing your belongings with several other strangers. If that feels uncomfortable or unsafe to you, it’s better to carry your own lock. Lightweight number locks are available online and at local Decathlon stores.
Travelling long and far means that you have to stay hydrated and you definitely need a water bottle along. Why not invest in a steel water bottle, which means getting rid of plastic water bottles forever plus saving some extra cash?
Also if you want to get food for takeaway while you’re on the go, you can carry along your own steel box and cutlery. It’s so much safer and healthier to store food in steel rather than plastic. And of course, environment-friendly. If you’re a fluid lover like me, consider investing in a steel/bamboo straw.
Camera, gear and that favourite book
If you’re your laptop and camera, it’s better to pack them in a separate laptop bag. Most backpacks have the provision to keep laptops inside and I’ve even experimented travelling that way – worked out pretty well. Except for the constant worry at the back of my head, every time my backpack rolls over during a bumpy ride!
Investing in a decent laptop bag means you can store all your gadgets and go to things, like that favourite book of yours. No trip is ever complete for me without a book, and the best part is giving it away or exchanging it with another travel buddy I meet on the way! I chose this burden for myself, and for you, it could be something else. Or better yet, just a lighter bag.
In case you aren’t carrying any gadgets (lucky you!) all you need is small sling bag which can hold in things that you can quickly reach to like your passport, ID, and earphones. If you are carrying your laptop bag, then you can put these items in the mini/ side compartments of your bag.
Packing as a minimalist would mean that a 45-litre backpack will suffice for your long trip. Backpackers who carry tents and sleeping bags and travel for at least a year, usually opt for the 80-litre backpack. Backpacks are available across different brands and you can buy a decent one starting from about INR 1500. Most popular backpacks are from Wildcraft and Decathlon. But if you tend to do a lot of trips, then you can consider investing in convertible shoulder-friendly backpacks like the ones from Osprey. If backpacks aren’t your thing, simply go for a suitcase or luggage trolley. It’s available in most modern retail stores. Who said you can’t travel without a backpack?
Tips to pack:
- If you want your backpack to be more organized, you can segregate all the items mentioned above and pack them in separate luggage organizers. This way it becomes super easy to locate and pack what you want in minutes. You can buy these luggage organizers on Amazon or even in local sports stores like Decathlon. If you’re a super budget traveller, using old plastic bags lying at home will also do the job!
- Heading over to a tiny mountain village would most probably mean no access to an ATM. Make sure you have sufficient cash with you from the nearest city.
- Always ensure that you read the luggage rules for cabin and check-in luggage for the particular airline you’re flying in. Usually, your electronics and gadgets are safe in the cabin luggage and items like Pepper Spray and Swiss knife fit into your check-in luggage.
With all that said, when are you booking your tickets?
Author: Lalitha Mahaadevan
A curious soul who quit her job to travel, Lalitha has spent the past
two years exploring different parts of the world outside along with her own inner world. Apart from running her own travel blog 'Happy Shoes', Lalitha is keenly involved in conversations about Self-Love, Nature and Environment. And is on a quest to spread Good Vibes wherever she goes. You can follow her Journey through Earth on her Instagram and Facebook handles.
For any queries and special travel tips, shoot her a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org