Heading out on a journey can be difficult. Saying goodbye to family, friends, comforts of home and what the hell do I pack?!
If this is Round 1 for you, in the battle of "What To Pack, What Not To Pack" then let me simplify it all for you, with a few tips of how many of each clothes you will need, a few tips to save space, things you think you will need, but probably won't and things you may not have thought of yet!
LESS IS BEST | First thing to know, is you need less clothes than you think. If you stay on top of your laundry, you will end up cycling through a few shirts, shorts, pants etc. I have never heard someone say "I wish I packed my leather pants!" Also, reality is, where ever you are, will sell whatever you feel you are missing, so you can just pick it up on the way if you simple cannot make due without it!
ROLL UP | When you are ready to pack, lay everything out before your bag, and place the items you use less regularly, at the bottom of your bag. When you are packing, roll your clothes tightly before packing. This way you can manoeuvre clothes into into all areas utilising all the space in your bag.
NOTHING SENTIMENTAL | That jacket your grandpa gave you. That t-shirt signed by a celebrity. Whatever it is, if it has sentimental value, don't bring it. When I left to Australia, I returned with 1 t-shirt that I left with. Everything else was ratty, ripped and replaced when I went through Thailand. You are not a global fashion show, you are travelling. Think basic. Nothing of personal, or monetary value.
ITEMS TO PACK
T-SHIRTS | Bring plenty dark, plain, simple shirts that will not show the dirt, or stains as easily as something white. I like to bring about 5 - 7 t-shirts that can usually get 2 days of wear out of the before they need to hit the laundry bin. Dri-Fit or workout shirts are always good to stay "fresh" after a day of exploring.
PANTS | Two pairs. A pair of jeans that will be your all purpose pants. A rugged pair that you can take hiking, walking, on tours, planes, but a pair you can also rock and look stylish, for a traveller, if you are going out at night. Another pair of thin sweat pants, for relaxing, bus trips, that can function as your back up pair to wear around if your jeans need a break. Don't wear them out on the town though, you're a traveller, not George Costanza!
SWEATER | No matter when or where you are going, you should always have at least one thin sweater and obviously a thicker one if you are headed somewhere cold. Even if you are headed to the tropics, a lot of overnight busses crank the air conditioning and without something that is at least long sleeved, you will be frigid when you arrive at your destination!
JACKET | Nothing that takes up too much space, but if you are bringing a sweater like listed above, you can bring a shell or thin jacket to wear over your sweater if the cold will be an issue. Also, the tropics are tropical in large part to downpours so you don't want to be stuck out in the pouring rain unprepared no matter where in the world you are! Being wet sucks!
SOCKS & UNDERWEAR | Largely depends on where in the world you are going. Tropical destinations, you may only need 1-2 pairs as you will probably be in sandals for most of your trip. If you are heading somewhere colder, pack 3-5 pairs of different kinds. A nice pair or two for hiking and the cold temperatures and a couple sport socks for day to day use. Nothing quite like walking on a new pair of socks! As for underwear, since it takes up such little space, I err on the side of caution, and pack more than I will probably need. I always buy a nice pair of boxers that I know, and love, prior to leaving, because underwear styles are not consistent around the globe, and I do not want to be uncomfortable "down there" and I am not talking geographically.
It's the little things in life!
Knowing what to leave behind when you are packing for your trip, is almost as important as what to take, when you are packing your bag. Somethings, you will be certain you will need on your trip, but in the end, you will realize you forgot they were hidden at the bottom of your ruck sack the whole time. Leave them behind. Make due with what you have. Save space, bag weight and shoulder pain.
SHOES | More difficult for women than men, but leave your shoes behind. No one will know if you are wearing the same shoes all the time, other than yourself, and no one would care anyways. You're travelling! A pair of cross trainers that you can wear day in day out, that are comfortable for walking, offer good support, and you can use if you want to exercise and hike. Would suggest a very plain design so you can wear them with anything and even out at night. If you are headed somewhere warm, you will spend most of the time in your sandals anyways, so save space and weight, and just survive with just 1 pair of shoes.
JACKETS | As mentioned above, you need a versatile set up when it comes to staying warm, and a big jacket, will take up too much space, and be impractical, unless you are hiking in the snow. A sweater, and a thin shell jacket will allow you to stay as warm as a normal jacket if you wear them both, but will allow you the ability to mix match the shell, the sweater, or both, to get the perfect body temperature.
BOOKS | Reading is a terrific way to pass the time on the long bus trips or boring waits while on the road, but bringing even 2 books can add pounds to your bag and take up a lot of space. Get yourself a Kindle, download PDF books to your computer, or simply take part in the common book exchanges in hostels along the way. Leave a book, take a book. Simple.
VALUABLES | This does not relate to maximizing space, as much as minimizing headaches. Bring a phone for maps, photos, internet, your computer if you work from it, and a camera if you are a keen photographer, but leave behind the unnecessary things. Watches, rings, necklaces, extra camera lenses, accessories etc. This will simply give you more things to lose, forget, or have stolen.
You will quickly learn on your trip, what things you will be reaching to use daily, and things you could do without. The littlest things on the trip can become your biggest allies.
EARPLUGS | This seems like common sense, but it surprises me the amount of people on the road, who think that dorm life is like sleeping at home. "I am a deep sleeper" does not do enough when drunk people are coming in and out at 3am, and ear plugs will be your best friend. I suggest the wax, translucent, moldable ones that you can press into your ear. They will cut out almost any noise, and let you get into a deep slumber.
SLEEP MASK | On busses, in dorms, on planes, or just kicking back in transit somewhere to catch a few needed Z's, a sleep mask will block out most of the light and let you relax your eyes. You might look a little funny sometimes, but you can't tell if people are laughing at you if you are sawing logs!
SLEEPING PILLS | Some people can sleep anywhere, and may not need them, but not being able to catch any sleep on a 10 hour overnight bus will drive you nuts. Have a couple sleeping pills, sleep aids or even Benadryl to help you relax and sleep on overnight busses, long flights or just after a long stressful day of travel. Rested traveller, happy traveller.
SD CARDS | Having a back up SD card for memory, is much easier than uploading photos, and deleting photos every once in a while. Also, you can back up photos and videos onto the back up SD card to cover your butt, if you don't end up using it for new photos. Keep those memories alive!
CHAP STICK | Moving through so many different parts of the world, or even just through different parts of a country, you could encounter many different climates. This can take a toll on your body, especially your lips. Having chapped, red lips, looks ridiculous, but pails in comparison to how uncomfortable it feels. Have a chap stick somewhere in your bag that you can grab when needed is essential. It may only be needed once or twice on your whole trip, but you will love your former self for packing it when the time comes.
This should help you decide what to pack, what to leave out of your backpack, and things you may have overlooked when packing for your trip. If you are travelling with someone else, or know someone going travelling, share this with them and ensure they are packed properly!