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This week's dilemma:I am going backpacking for six months trip through India, Thailand, Australia, Mexico and Cuba. I've just bought a 50-litre Karrimor backpack, but my friends say it won't be big enough. Need advice on this and also on how and what to pack.
Our readers said:
Travelling with a small backpack is a GREAT idea. It makes a life of travel so much easier. You can hop on and off buses and trains with little difficulty. You can always find a place/rack for your backpack once on a crowded bus/train without annoying everyone else. You can amble down a road or around a town/city without getting tired or having your shoulders hurt after two minutes. You have less concern about things being stolen, as you have less for people to steal in the first place AND you can take your backpack with you if you don't want to leave it somewhere. You can pack a small bag much quicker that a larger bag, so you don't have to worry about leaving time to re-pack and you can spend more time sightseeing! The advantages are endless... Not least that you quickly realise how few material possessions we really need to be happy in this life!
One challenge of a small back pack is travelling in colder countries as it is harder to travel light when you need warm and bulky clothes. Judging from your planned destinations though, the weather should mostly be fine during the months you will be there. June/July in Mexico and Cuba may be the rainy season but it'll still be fairly warm. (Of course, this all depends on where you go in these countries as some areas can be much colder. However, if you are not planning to spend weeks in mountains - the Himalayas or Ladak, for example - then you should be fine.
Anyway, tips for turning the hot weather to your advantage include:
- Packing light clothes which fold up and can be squeeted into small spaces. You only need to take one or two heavier jumpers and warm socks for cooler evenings.
- Taking fewer clothes and washing them by hand in the evening as they will be dry the next day. I once travelled for two months in India and Sri Lanka with only two pairs of knickers and the daily ritual of undies washing!
Other tips, not dependent on hot weather, include:
- Buying clothes as you go along. If you are going to be in one place for a few weeks, you can just buy a couple of items of clothing while you are there, wear them and then leave them behind. Clothes are cheap in the countries you are going to so this won't break the bank.
- Make sure you have a sarong. By packing this single piece of material you have at your ready a skirt, a bed sheet, a shawl, a head scarf - many of which will come in handy while travelling!
- Cosmetics - don't take huge bottles of shampoo, creams etc. All these things can be bought in small packets and can be restocked as you travel around. and DON'T bother with a hairdryer. It's better for your hair anyway.
- Buy a travel towel that dries quickly and doesn't take up half your bag.
- Don't bother with a big camera. It's a theft risk, makes you look conspicious and the little ones take great pics nowadays. A lap top is a no no. There are cheap internet cafes for all things computer
- Books - these are a must for long journeys, but why not just take one or two with you at a time and then swap with fellow travellers when you have finished? Some hostels have places where you can do this too. Another book tip (that I know may horrify booklovers) is to tear out the useful pages of info from travel books and leave the rest behind...
- Shoes - you really don't need too many pairs! You can pick up cheap flipflops/sandals as you go and buy new ones when they wear out. The main footwear to make sure you take is a good pair of walking shoes - especially if you are planning some hikes. However, I usually tie my walking boots to the front of my backpack to save space and to stop mud going on all the clothes inside.
- Souvenirs - the main problem I used to face was wanting to take lovely souvenirs home, but not having trouble to carry them around with me. One thing to do is post them home as soon as you have bought them (if they are not too too huge). The other option is to limit yourself to one small souvenir from each country - if saves space AND money and really makes you think about what you will appreciate the most when you get back.
- Share the weight with friends. As you are travelling with friends, you can carry things for each other and divide up who carries what. You don't ALL need a camera, i-pod, tube of toothpaste, didgerydoo, mossie repelant each...
You should be fine with a 50-litre backpack. It sounds like you'll be spending six months in the sunshine and for a start, summer clothes are much smaller and take up far less space than warm-weather ones. You can get by on a lot less than you think - after being on the road for a while, you'll realise that re-wearing the clothes at the top of your pack is a lot easier than digging deep to find a clean pair of shorts and you'll probably end up with one set of 'travelling clothes' that become your staple on public transport and long journeys.
Give up any notions of taking 'going out' clothes - although on a shorter holiday you might have favourite dresses and wedge sandals you'd wear to a bar to show off your tan; when you're backpacking, flip flops, a skirt and vest top really will suffice. Invest in some local jewellery (lightweight and portable) if you do want to jazz up your outfit.
A few days away from home, neatly ironed trousers and tops will be obsolete - the general rule of backpack-packing is to put the biggest items in the middle then scrunch smaller items into any available gaps around the edges. It's always good to leave a few essential items - perhaps a clean set of underwear, pyjamas and flip flops - in a side or bottom pocket for easy access.
You should be able to survive six months with just one pair of jeans if travelling in hot climates - lightweight cotton, linen or combat trousers (good for hiking), plus shorts, will be more useful the majority of the time. Having said that, a warm fleece or hoody is always a good idea because in some parts of the world they do like to crank up the airconditioning. In terms of what else to take, a small first aid kit is a good idea (plasters, aspirin, rehydration tablets, scissors) and a sarong or cheap pashmina could be your most useful item - use it as a towel, a scarf, a blanket or a pillow. Earplugs (trust me!), a padlock and a small torch are also essential items.
The final thing to remember is not to panic - you will be able to buy along the way anything you may not have brought from home. Try and leave space for those backpacker favourites you'll want to pick up along the way - the fishermen trousers from Thailand, surfer-label bikinis from Australia and cowboy hats from Mexico.Kate
I have just returned from travelling overseas for the last 12 months. I took a 55-litre rucksack which was more than enough - and I had to take thermals and trekking gear as I was going to Nepal in spring. More important than size is that it fits you and has good back support. As to what to take this will depend very much on what you are doing. If you are planning to go trekking make sure you have good boots that are light and worn-in (I took Brashers). Other than that the most invaluable items I took were: a pair of lightweight trousers that you can unzip to be shorts (The North Face do good ones in slate grey so you can avoid looking like a safari explorer), two bikinis (if you take one then it gets ruined faster but any more is unnecessary), a sarong (no need to take one of those travel towels as most places you stay in provide them and a sarong for sitting on the beach), ear plugs, blister plasters if you are taking hiking boots, eye mask and lavender oil to sprinkle on the mask and help you sleep on flights/buses etc, a small medical kit and a silk sleeping bag liner (don't bother with a sleeping bag unless you are going camping as the places you stay in will almost certainly have bed linen and if not the liner
will be more than enough). If you go to www.gapyear.com they have a comprehensive packing list but remember to tailor it to what you are doing. Also there are not many things that you will not be able to find on the road so don't overpack!
Have a great timeSarah
After about three or four days you will be very glad that you pack is only 50 litre. Depending where you are going in India it can be quite cold at this time of year, so have one set of clothes that can keep you warm. This doesn't need to be a set of warm clothes though, layering is the key: a thin 'thermal' type long sleeve top can be worn under a lot of things and later on its own at night. The thing to remember is anything you can buy in the UK you can buy in Asia for half the price, especially clothes for warm weather. The exceptions to this might be any specialist gear, decent trekking sandals, thin anti-mosquito hiking pants etc. Also if you are tall you may not find you size. People nearly always travel with more stuff than they ever need, it's a 'security' thing. BUT whichever land you are going to you won't see many naked people or lands with no pharmacy, or books etc.
50 litres... you'll be fine,
I bought a 50-litre rucksack for my travels a few years back. However, while it was expandable to 70 litres, stuff was bursting out of it at the end of 20 months, and I could barely walk with it on.
Packing wise, I am a fan of rolling clothes, and also of flat pack rather than top loading bags. You will buy stuff as you go; souvenirs, clothes etc. so you should allow room for expansion. Lay out everything you want to take and then cut it in half. You won't need as much as you think, and you can get clothes etc. washed anywhere you go. Don't take anything you love clothes wise, as things have a tendency to come back from laundries different sizes, shapes and sometimes colours. A laundry in India stole most of my black knickers.
Fortunately you can always buy stuff wherever you go. But ... you don't need 15 t-shirts. What you do need is clean underwear, stuff that dries quickly (think walking trousers etc., not jeans), waterproofs, and to keep warm. For India and temples in Thailand you will need to cover up to ankles and wrists. Think of the seasons you will encounter, and obviously how rough you will be going, and what you want to do. Trekking requires different gear from laying a beach.
Once you have packed, walk around with your pack on; if you can't carry it for 20 minutes without your spine snapping, rethink. The point of a backpack is that you carry it.
First aid kit
Sheet sleeping bag
A decent quality fleece
Walking shoes of some description, the lighter the better
Toiletry organiser things - they often have a hook on the so you can hang it up over doors etc.
Anti mosquito stuff
And somewhere really safe for your passport and money. Take photocopies of important documents.
Finally - rehydration salts. They are disgusting beyond belief but vital. Get your doctor to prescribe some antibiotics for diarrhoea, and keep them safe. There will be a time when they are the most precious thing you possess.
I've been an adventure training instructor with the Army cadets for five years. Nearly every year I get hit up for suggestions for what to carry on a gap year jaunt.
This is my suggested list, lots of people have a different one. The basics are pretty much generic though.
A thought to remember, the more you pack, the more you're just going to throw away, when you discover how heavy it is, and that you never really use it!
50-60 litres is more than adequate. The bigger the rucksack, the more you'll be tempted to stuff in it. Simple law of physics; the more you have in the sack, the more it'll weigh. A good back system is more important than lots of extra outside pockets (security!). Try it out before you buy. If you're looking at one on eBay, go to Blacks/Millets etc. first and try it on. A mesh pocket on the side will allow a water bottle/hat etc.
Get a strong pack that will carry everything you need for a day out. 15 or 20 litres is normally enough. Keep in it:
Sunscreen - for the sun
Insect repellant - for insects
Camera - for photos
Notebook - in case you need to jot down something important
A little local currency - in case you find something unexpected
Tissues or toilet paper
Alcohol hand sanitiser
Waterproof if it's going to tip down ... unless you need a wash of course !
A small waterproof wash bag. Fill it with:
Soap - it's easier to carry than shower gel. You can also use soap to wash clothes. Pears lasts forever.
Flannel - to wash yourself with when the showers don't work or there is no water. Put your soap inside the flannel to keep the inside of your wash bag clean.
Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste and all the normal stuff. Don't forget sun screen though.
If you wash them regularly you really don't need many.
One pair of trousers - lightweight trousers for hot countries(south Asia), two pairs if wearing them everyday in cooler environments (e.g. Europe in winter) Women need to cover their legs in certain countries, and in some religious sites.
One pair of shorts - two pairs for hot places, don't bother for cold places.
Two t-shirts - for casual dress
One long sleeved shirt - for smart dress, visiting temples and covering up from the sun
Four sets of underwear, just in case you can't wash them everyday.
Just one pair of socks for hot climates.
Jumper or fleece - even in hot climates there are cool evenings.
Rain coat - thin storable item for hot climates, something warmer for cold places.
One pair of shoes - a comfortable pair with grippy souls for long walks. Even in hot climates shoes are useful for trekking, cycling and cities.
Avoid jungle boots (despite being the best in the business), some countries frown on 'military looking' gear
One pair of sandals - flip flips are best as they double for wear in showers.
Double bed sheet and a pillow case - much budget accommodation has less than great bedding. The pillow case doubles as a pillow if you fill it with clothes. A great alternative is a silk sleeping bag liner. A tenner well spent. Makes a sleeping bag go further in the cold as well.
Towel - travel towels are compact and dry quickly, but you only need a small or medium size.
Guide books - get a good guide book for every country you visit.
First aid kit - essential for any trip. Include any prescription medicines in original container. Talk your GP into a prescription for 10 PenVk. Imodium
Penknife - for picnics, opening tins and bottles and for making repairs. NO Rambo substitutes, the local police don't like them.
Torch - for dark alleys, power cuts and huts on the beach. Head torches are a good option.
Candle and lighter - in developing countries power cuts are common.
Toilet paper / wet wipes - the majority of the world's population do not use it. Go native, or stock up any chance you get, the choice is yours!
Notebook and pen (black ink) - for important information and filling in visa forms.
Padlocks - for you backpack zips, hotel rooms and lockers. Combination locks are generally better as you can't loose the keys. Also good for couples as no keys are required.
Spare prescription glasses and a copy of your prescription.
Mosquito net - if there is a risk and you are staying in budget accommodation.
Swimming gear - something to go swimming in.
Sleeping bag - provided bedding is often not enough. Unless it's freezing, lightweight is best as it packs small. Avoid down, it'll stink within two weeks, and is useless when wet or damp.
Kip mat or Thermarest ... perfect for airport floors as well
A few luxury items can make a big difference
Knife, fork and spoon set - for picnics and when cutlery is not customary or trustworthy
Small plastic cup - for the hotel room
Camera - a digital compact camera is the best option for most.
iPod or MP3 player - fill it with music before you leave home. Make sure you can charge it. Useful for storing photos
Travel speaker - for sharing your music with others
Book - for long bus rides or lazing in the sun
Washing line - for drying your washing in budget accommodation
Power adapter - if you have any mains powered items. It's normally better to buy locally, especially in Asia
Inflatable pillow - for long bus journeys
Small roll of Gaffa tape, it's fixes EVERYTHING!
I have several times gone travelling for three to five months at a time with a 35-litre rucksack and found that ideal. Yes, many people take huge rucksacks and think I must be mad when they see mine. But I think the winning advantage of a small-ish rucksack is that you can carry it pretty easily. It's far less stressful arriving at an unfamiliar train station and trying to find a hotel when you can easily walk out on your own two feet. And know that you can walk around for miles if necessary, with minimal discomfort.
Once you have to fit your stuff into a small rucksack you just manage it. It's easy to get caught up in thinking of all the things you might need and overpack, but they do have shops abroad! If there is something you realise you need then you can buy it. And you don't have to carry around the jumpers you brought for the mountains when you are hanging out on beaches. You can give stuff away if you don't need it any more. And if you find yourself loading up with souvenirs you can post them home.
The essential things to pack (in my opinion) are:
One pair lightweight trousers
One loose skirt
Six pairs pants
One waterproof jacket
Medical kit and any medicines you need
Survival blanket for emergencies (never needed to use it)
Small collection of 'handy things' - shoe laces (can be used in all manner of ways), plastic bags, safety pins.
Obviously there's other stuff you'll need like soap and shampoo, but you can buy them anywhere, so there's no point in worrying about it. Most of the things above you can buy anywhere in fact. All of the above will easily fit into a 35-litre rucksack with room to spare.
I know it doesn't seem like a lot of clothes, but you'll want to buy clothes there - local clothes are perfectly suited to the climate etc. and anyway your old UK stuff will look really unexciting once you've been in India a few days. I just take one pair of shoes - a pair of trekking sandals - so they are on my feet and don't take up room in the rucksack. You may need walking boots if you are going to do serious walking. You'll also then have to pack socks.
The one thing it's difficult to find in lots of places is English language books, but you can always find a backpacker hostel and do some book swaps. I'm hoping that soon ebook readers will be cheap and work great so that for my next trip I can take hundreds of books - ah the bliss! My 35L rucksack is usually half full of books, which gets a bit annoying.
Yes. 50 litres is not that small, and besides, you shouldn't be carrying more than about a third of your body weight anyway.
What to take:
All these countries are pretty hot, so you really don't need much in the way of clothing, plus you can easily pick up stuff for literally pennies along the way. I would recommend taking a sturdy pair of trainers/ walking shoes, flip flops, bikini, shorts, two pairs lightweight cotton/linen trousers, a bunch of cheap t-shirts/vest tops which you can replace along the way (try to get ones that are mainly cotton - synthetic materials make you sweat more!), a hoodie or similar for air-con bus rides, and some kind of cotton shirt as a beach cover up/temple visiting modesty-preserver. You should also buy a cotton scarf and sarong once you get to India. The scarf for covering sunburnt shoulders, protecting your head in the sun, covering your head in mosques, etc., and the sarong for covering up when bare legs are inappropriate, using as a spare sheet in dodgy hostels, a pillow, etc.
How to pack:
Buy several small-ish waterproof bags from a camping shop, and pack by clothing type into each of them. Roll all your clothes, don't fold them (rolling means they take up less space). Having all your clothes in separate waterproof bags means they won't get wet if your pack gets rained on (it's common practice in most of these countries to store luggage on the roof of buses, so if it starts to rain, your bag will get wet), and it also means that you can find your stuff more easily if you have tops in one bag, underwear in another, etc. (especially useful when the electricity fails and you're doing things by torchlight - in India, this tends to happen at least once a day). And you should bring a torch - I'd recommend a Maglite one - small and powerful.
Only take small size toiletries, you can buy replacements along the way, even things like contact lens solution. Bring a travel towel, they take up far less space and dry really quickly. Take a length of thick string to act as an impromptu washing line if you want to hand wash stuff. Don't bother with a sleeping bag, it'll never be cold enough, but bring a silk sleeping bag liner (silk is lightest and is the most breathable material - make sure you don't get one with any synthetic material content). Bring a basic first aid kit with oral rehydration sachets (also widely available in Asia), antiseptic wipes, hand sanitiser, a shitload of bug spray with 50% DEET, and sting/bite relief cream - but pretty much all medicines can be bought over the counter on route, and cost much less than in the UK. The only thing I've ever had trouble getting is oral contraceptive pills, so if this is an issue, take enough supplies with you. And bring earplugs and an eye mask, key to sleeping in bustling Asian cities. The only problem with having a 50 litre bag is that if you want to buy gifts/ handicrafts, etc. along the way (which I would totally recommend doing, especially in India) you don't really have room to carry them, but luckily it's fairly simple and very cheap to send parcels to the UK from all these countries, so you never have to carry extra weight.
OK - I'm done with the advice giving. Oh, except padlocks. Lots of padlocks. That's key.
Guardian people, you better pass this on! And just in case you're wondering why I have the time and inclination to write such a detailed response, I'm meant to be writing my PhD, and I am the Queen of Procrastination. And
I am a mature 50-year-old well seasoned traveller and I can tell you that 50 litres is more than adequate. Considering that most countries you are travelling to are warm - I reckon most clothing will be thin cotton type materials. Fold clothes, then roll them into a sausage roll, it makes for easier packing. Five or six shirts or blouses and always something special to wear for an evening, should be included. You never now when you may be invited out for a posh do. For heavens sake, don't pack your wardrobe inside a rucksack. I've seen young people really struggle with their luggage and don't seem to be enjoying themselves with their heavy rucksack. Everything, and I mean everything, should be lightweight. Toiletries etc. included.
Every place I have been to you can buy cheap t-shirts, flip flops, toiletries etc. When they become dirty either give them to the poor, or wash them. IPods, cameras and phones are now so small that they really should take only a little space up inside your hand baggage. Carry a spare t-shirt and nicks inside as well in case your luggage becomes lost, and possibly some small toiletries. Remember liquids must be in 100ml containers. I can tell you the lighter you travel, the more time you will have to enjoy yourself. As for myself, I have been using a 35-litre rucksack for the past six years and there's room at the top still ! A good saying a friend told me many years ago was - “pack half the clothes, and twice the money”. It's never failed to let me down.
Having travelled for 18 months on four continents, I can safely tell you that 50L will be fine if you are smart. Firstly it is important to note that you will have to carry that bag onto and off of buses, to the airport, on trains, etc. and so you want something that won't be too light or worse still, prone to ripping. That would be a disaster. Secondly you find that you buy and throw away clothes all the time. The bag I took had entirely different contents to when I got home. If you really need something like an anorak, then just buy it instead having to lug it around the globe. Hope this helps.Darren
As an experienced backpacker, the 50L rucksack that you have just bought would be adequate for your travels, but only if you kept your equipment/clothes etc. to the very minimum. I would advise that you upgrade to a larger 70 + 10L rucksack which would serve your purposes a lot better, leaving room for all those necessary purchases you make on your travels. This type of rucksack can be obtained from as little as £34.29 [Argos Lichfield Explorer 70 plus 10 litre Rucksack] this is an excellent choice which I have personally used.
When you pack a rucksack the key thing to remember is to roll your clothes into bundles. This will prevent creases and maximise space in your rucksack. What you pack is entirely dependent on your personal preference, although I would advise that you check the climate data for the countries that you are travelling to, to ensure that your clothing will be adequate.
We backpacked this year around India, Laos and Thailand. 50 litres is fine, but you need to be a bit disciplined. You'll get very variable weather, and while you can top up on clothes locally, not everything will be to your taste. Take something warm and pick up vests and shorts cheaply when you get to Thailand - they'll just get you the wrong kind of attention in India. In India, our best and smallest bit of packing was a silk sleeping bag. The laundry services everywhere were better than we could do in the sink, so you don't need heaps of clothes. With hindsight, I wouldn't have taken trekking boots to India; two pairs of flip flops would have been fine, but there was the odd Himalayan night when they were welcome. We took too many books - there were second hand book shops and swapping to be done everywhere. Posting souvenirs home is a fun experience in India - and getting the amazing parcels that they make. For India, you'll need travellers cheques, as many ATM's didn't work for us. Have fun and pack heavy stuff at the bottom of your sack.Rachel
I travelled round India for months with a 65-litre backpack and found it both too heavy and too bulky. I came across plenty of other travellers staying for as long, or longer, with 50-litre packs. You will inevitably fill what ever size you sack you have and so a smaller bag makes you think harder. Pack a silk sleeping bag, a big travel towel and some good hiking shoes for sure. Even if you don't plan to go hiking, the shoes are a must. Getting good quality western size shoes can be tricky in Asia outside of major cities but cheap sandals wont be a problem. Take one set of clothes with you, the clothes you travel in, and then buy a new set in India. These clothes can be replaced as you travel around, as they wear out, at no expense at all. Add to the above a water bottle, a small medical kit and a mosquito net and you're ready to go. Really anything else you need can be picked up as and when you need it. If you find your belonging are accumulating, box things up and send them home. Traveling light really is the way forward for stress free travel. Enjoy!Victoria
The question should really be: how much are you willing to carry on your back? A full 50L rucksack will be pretty heavy, and lugging it round could be a pain.
In my experience, a 50L rucksack should be more than ample. We travelled for four months through Australia and New Zealand and we coped fine with less than that (a 35-litre rucksack, I think) - although we were always in summer. Looks to me as if you'll be in different seasons. If you buy stuff en route, just ship it home on a slow boat, it'll be there when you return to the UK, and be realistic when packing stuff.
Why not pack your rucksack with your ideal packing list ? Put it on - if it's too heavy, start removing items. Don't forget to check the maximum weight airlines accept for hold luggage. If you exceed this threshold, you'll have to pay excess and it will be excessive.Ewan
A 50-litre rucksack is more than adequate for your needs - in fact, it might be too big! I remember my first backpacking trip around China and southeast Asia: at 5'9 I thought I could easily handle my 20kg, 50-litre pack, but struggled to carry it for more than a few hundred metres. Now I get by very happily with a 35-litre Deuter pack which I love. Maybe you're really strong, but before you go, pack your rucksack and walk 3km with it to see if you can handle it. There's no point taking a 20kg, 50-litre pack if you need to put it on a trolley every time you get to the airport. Have fun!Lenny
I spent nearly three years hitchhiking around Asia, Europe and Africa with no more than an ex WW1 British army backpack, probably around 15 litres in size. The more you have, the more there is to carry (in the heat, when you've got the runs), to get lost etc. etc. If travelling in Asia, DO NOT carry heavy clothes from Europe, they are too hot, too much trouble to wash etc. Buy locally, and junk as they get battered, you end the trip with a few souvenirs - anything you really love you can send home sea mail.
You can buy clothes, toilet essentials etc. everywhere, carry the bare minimum. In fact I would suggest bringing virtually NOTHING from Europe, stock up with clothes etc. suitable for the climate when you arrive. Maximum two books, you can keep swapping with other travellers but the only other 'real essentials' (IMHO) are a blow up pillow, a nailbrush and nail file (hard to find half way up Everest, or even in some quite big cities), some chopsticks or an aluminium knife and fork (if eating in roadside cafés where the washing up is none too good), a comb, spare pair of socks and pants (one for wearing, one for washing) and that's about it.
Buy everything else while travelling. It supports the local economy, will get you into all sorts of interesting situations (just what IS the Hindi for boxer shorts?) and increase your understanding of how the natives live (if you can't get something you've always thought of as 'indispensable' then the locals probably do it differently using something else. Find out what they do and copy, it will certainly be more in keeping with where you are and might be so much better you bring the habit back to the UK with you.)
Incidentally, the French hippies used to travel with no luggage at all (just always seemed to be the French). If you don't mind sitting around in your underpants waiting for the laundry to dry, that's the way to go, 'cos you're always packed and ready to go.
And if you must insist on travelling to India with a ridiculous amount of baggage, do as the Indians do and transport it in a series of tin chests. There are always porters around willing to balance such chests on their heads and trail after you. It gets a bit pricey though.
And finally, if you've only got hand luggage, you can sell you luggage allowance to another passenger on the trips out and back (DON'T let the airline see you do it). That will buy you a good selection of clothes when you arrive.
I have seen plenty of people laden down with huge rucksacks, i have also done it in the past - it just is not much fun, specially in crowded places and hot climes.
I'd suggest that you really don't need a lot to go round the world, the most important thing is probably your wits and open mind to experience the wondrous cultures, colours and people.
The rest you can always find on the way. If your first stop is Bangkok, you can buy all your needs much cheaper than in the UK - clothes, toilet goods, guidebooks, etc.
What to pack?
1. Sheet sleeping bag for your size. You can find silk ones in Bangkok but if you are tall it won't fit.
2. Credit card
3. Digital camera
4. Guide book for Bangkok - you can buy the others when you get there
5. Bug repellant
6. Health insurance
If you do want to take clothes you are comfortable with:
1. Two t-shirts
3. One pair of trousers (wear it on the plane).
4. Flip flops
Hope this helps. Good luck, good trip, bring back the memories and pictures.
No one who ever went on a long round-the-world trip has come back saying I wish I'd packed more stuff!” I've finally gotten my longer trips down to one bag (plus my SLR camera bag) that you can take as carry-on.
I'd recommend the website onebag.com/checklist
as the place to see you get your stuff down to what you NEED (not what you think you could need).
An extra tip which saved me space - to cover your winter needs without the bulk, buy some merino-wool clothing which rolls to nothing but keeps out the chill for times when you go hiking in the mountains, or just arrive at the wrong time of year. www.embersmerino.co.uk
is a good place to start, or any outdoor store.Andy Greenwood
I've recently returned from an eight month trip backpacking throughout India and a large portion of southeast Asia.
I'd never been abroad for such an extended period and went to my dad for help packing my 75 litre bag. He'd spent a few years vagabonding around the States as a Dylan fan in the seventies, so I assumed he'd have a few tips. I just couldn't comprehend how I would fit everything I may need in eight months into such a small space. Expecting a long lecture, I was surprised when he stuck his head around my door and said:
Only take the bare essentials. Then left.
I proceeded to spend hours changing my mind over how many t-shirts I would need. Jumpers? Who knows. Sterile needles? Blimey. Rehydration sachets? Seriously?
Once I had finished, I could just about fit everything I needed into the 75 litres - providing I sat on top of the bag while I struggled with the zip. Proud, I called my upon my Dad to take a look. Once more, he popped his head around the door:
Well done. Now take half out.
I dismissed this as madness and took my 75 litres. It took me a matter of days in India to realise he was right. It's human nature to accumulate and a small pack will prevent this to an extent. Looking back I think I needed roughly 25% of what I took with me.
The essentials are:
Good footwear (you get what you pay for. The one item I would not skimp on)
Waterproof wallet for travel docs.
Mosquito spray (this is a luxury in southeast Asia and India. The locals won't use it and hike the prices for westerners)
Lip Vaseline (the yellow pot is great - it includes sun protection)
A reasonably sized first aid kit (basics - blister plasters, pain killers).
You can pick up everything else while you are away for a hugely reduced price to the UK. Try to remember these places are all well developed and provide everything the locals need to live - you won't need anymore.
Best of luck on your trip. I'm jealous!Patrick
Ignore your friends, 50L is ample; if you take a bigger rucksack you will fill it and then struggle to carry it in the searing heat and humidity you will encounter. My rule of thumb is put everything I want to take with me on the bed, then 'third it'. If you need anything you haven't packed, you can easily buy what you need in India or Thailand at a minimal cost and get a souvenir to boot. Sarongs double up as skirts, towels or shawls for extra warmth and dry very quickly. A universal sink plug is invaluable for when you want to do hand washing but have no plug in your sink. Most countries sell little individual packets of washing powder for a few pennies, which will do a few washes. A couple of stick-on hooks (can be found in camping stores - the ones that you lick and fold down to create a vacuum) can provide hooks for drying wet towels or anchors for the piece of string you have brought to use as a washing line or to secure doors/shutters closed. Four or five small clothes pegs will keep clothes secure on outdoor washing lines. A combination cable lock (size 8x5x2cm) prevents opportunists grabbing your pack when you're sleeping or can be used to secure packs to bus roofs when you can't see them. A couple of sealable freezer bags to keeps all documents dry whatever the weather. Finally, always take a guidebook (Lonely Planet is my favourite) to give you the location of important places such as bus stations but also a few words of the local lingo - a few words in their language will get you the greatest smiles! This sounds like a lot of equipment, but in actual fact will take up about 1/10 of your 50L and prove to make your trip much, much easier. Happy travels.Tina
50 litres is too small if you bring everything.
I went off with an 80 litre back pack (half empty) and a 35 litre day pack (totally empty). I was away for seven months and I came back fully packed with only one small box shipped home.
You are going to India first, so you can by some mash up day packs there and loads of clothes that you can throw out if you don't wear them. Ditch the day pack (and maybe the clothes) when you get to Thailand and get something a bit more comfortable. Try the MBK shopping centre in Bangkok. It has EVERYTHING you could ever want.
As you are going to such a cheap country, bring hardly anything with you apart from any medication you may need.
As for what to pack, bring walking boots that you have broken in. You will not find them anywhere apart from maybe Bangkok. Malaron malarial tablets, a sense of humour and be sure to leave any sense of hygiene at the check in desk. You can check the back of a Lonely Planet for a full set of requirements for a hypochondriac. Two things are very useful: earplugs and a head-torch.
Don't plan much, as you never know what or who you might meet. Be flexible, ditch assholes immediately and enjoy the trip!Dermot O'Reilly
I imagine that what your friends really mean is that 50 litres will not be sufficient to carry all the stuff that you buy. If this is your first trip you'll be in reasonable danger of returning with enough scarves/bags/purses and bits of random jewellery to kit out a small army of women. Fear not - you can always send things home. Since my first trip (when I bought every kind of textile in sight, in several colours) I've limited my purchases to one per city/country/market depending on the length of trip. It also means you're far more likely to like what you buy.
In terms of packing, make sure you've got DEET, a mosquito net and a (silk) sleeping bag liner. For everything else I tend to do sets of three. Exceptions are swimwear - one set is enough - footwear and jumpers. One bikini/swimsuit is enough and a pair each of flip flops and trainers should do unless you're planning on doing proper mountaineering. Also, don't be tempted to take more than one jumper. I sincerely doubt you'll need it.Ellen
I would ignore your friends' advice and say 50 litres is more than adequate.
You are travelling through what are essentially hot countries (I assume you will be arriving in Australia for summer) and, therefore should not need many clothes.
I went travelling through Asia, Australia/New Zealand and USA with a 60 litre and I wish I had taken a smaller back pack. I took too much with me and carried around clothes I never wore and in the end I posted all the stuff I hadn't used home. Essentially you should pack clothes to mix and match. You should be able to get away with a selection of summer clothes and a pair of trousers, a long sleeved top/jacket and just get them laundered as you go. Also, if you find you are missing things - buy them there as they are usually far cheaper than at home.
And finally, when you buy all your souvenirs, send them home rather than carting them around with you.Mike
50 litres is fine. There is complete truth in the dictum: bring half the amount of stuff and twice the amount of money. The five must have items, even for a two-year stint in Africa, are: a pair of sandals, a Swiss Army knife, a headlamp, a water bottle and pictures of home. Everything else is negotiable/purchasable on the spot. Yes, even sanitary items, though tampons aren't always the best quality, so check out moon cups (diva cups), they are fantastic.Alice
I would suggest that a 50 litre backpack is way to big.
The first time I went travelling I took a 99-litre backpack for a year travelling through Latin America thinking that I would carry everything I needed for the year on my back. Soon I realised that, strangely enough, I could buy most things I wanted in Latin America here cheaper then at home and all I would end up with is back ache.
Now when travelling I don't take anything more then a 25-litre backpack at the most. The only things I take are a few changes of clothes, a few essential washing items and shoes (you do find out that if your feet are over size 10, in a lot of countries outside Europe you haven't got a hope of finding a pair that will fit you). You'll find laundries are often cheap and will return your clothes the same day washed, drier and ironed.
If things brake, replace them. If clothes rip, repair them or replace them. You can always find a market or thrift type store that sells cheap clothes. These may not be fashionable or stylish, but who cares? You can even swap clothes with other travellers if you get tired of them.
My advice is to pack as light as possible. It will be easier to move about and less cumbersome, especially when jumping on and off local buses that often charge for putting bags on the roof.
Good luck. Have fun and you'll be one of those lucky travellers who get to mock all those poor backpacks dragging around the entire contents of their house.David
I spent two years travelling the world and to be honest, the less you have and the smaller your backpack the better. Trust me, all you need are the essentials to get by and the less clothes the better. Shorts, one long pants, some t-shirts and underwear and a light pullover fleece top is all that you need. In the end, the more you bring the more you throw away. The less you have, the more liberated you are and the less you worry about things getting stolen. Anything you need you can buy.
P.s. India rocks! And if you want anymore info, I'm happy to help.Brian
The first thing to do is make a pile of everything you plan to take with you. Chances are you will be left a massive pile of stuff that you will never use when you get there. Now consider the climate of where you're going and what you will be doing once you get there, and take out the things you don't need. Finally reduce this pile by a third. Now go to an outdoor shop. A good one will allow you to try out the rucksack for a month at home. Fill it with everything in your pile and see if it all fits. If so your sorted. I would advise starting with the 50L first and if it's too small try the 60L, then 70, 80 etc.
Good luck.Chris Blyth
I did 18 months travelling with a 55-litre and although you do find yourself struggling for inspiration as to what to wear sometimes it well outweighs any negatives from lugging about anything bigger. You can carry it yourself which helps a lot when over-zealous locals try to 'help' you with it and there's no danger of being charged excess baggage on smaller airlines. It also means you're more selective as to what souvenirs you buy as it's all too easy to get carried away. It's worth taking a good day pack as well that can help with any overflow or to be used as a carry-on bag on flights. Take some funky jewellery and scarves to jazz up your outfits.
Hope this helps!Chloe
It really depends on what you plan to do on your travels. I flip flopped around southeast Asia and China quite happily for nine months with a 55L bag which was rarely full. But if you want to do a lot of trekking or going to cold areas you may need something a little larger. All the counties your going to sound nice and warm so you could get away with just packing a few changes of light clothes, a medical bag and a few toiletries. Travel light, anything else you need you can buy on the road. If you end up filling you pack with crap you don't need you can just post it home.Rich
I found my 45L backpack was easily big enough for a two month trip to Nepal and India, and included enough space for a sleeping bag which proved unnecessary. Take the minimum of spare clothes as washing them or having them washed is easy and quick and they are cheaper to replace overseas than in the UK if they fall apart. Having souvenirs shipped home is usually fairly cheap and focuses the mind on what's worth bothering with. Swapping books with other travellers or at second-hand bookshops stops you accumulating too much. Ditch the excess baggage and enjoy your trip!Robert
My girlfriend and I spent six months travelling around India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos - with a 50 litre rucksack each.
We packed only for hot weather, which meant that when we were in the North of India (in Manali) we bought local shawls which are cheap and very warm. These also doubled up as blankets when we were on coaches / trains. When we arrived in the south of India we posted our blankets home.
Other than the blankets we packed one pair of trousers, one pair of shorts, one pair of trunks, one hoodie, one long sleeved t-shirt, five t-shirts and five pairs of underwear. This doesn't seem a lot, but it really all you need. We didn't need socks, as we only packed sandals. Make sure that you don't take anything that you would mind throwing away, as items of clothing might need to be replaced - in a country like India, which seems to have a tailor on every corner, this isn't a problem. Something my girlfriend found really useful was a shawl, for more conservative areas of India, but this can easily be picked up when you get there. I also carried a padlock and light chain, so when we were sleeping on trains we could lock our bags up. We also took water purifying tablets, as there is are growing mountains of plastic water bottles discarded by travellers everywhere you look.
Packing light made so much difference to our holiday. It meant we could walk to hostels rather than having to get taxis / rickshaws, it also meant we could take out bags on buses - as they fitted under our seats (the alternative is putting it on the roof). We even took them on the plane to Sri Lanka as hand luggage, so there was no wait at the other end. We met so many travellers who said they wished they had packed as light (normally said whilst red-faced and sweaty, struggling under the weight of an enormous bag) and I'd definitely do this again.
Have a great holiday.Adam
50 litres?!? You will be positively swimming in unnecessary bulk. I recently completed a three month journey through China, Tokyo, the USA, Mexico and Canada and could have got by on a 30 litre.
In China didn't change my jeans once. At most you need three sets of trousers. Two pairs of sturdy jeans and maybe something lighter for the more temperate climates. Four things to put on your top half (t-shirt, polo, formal shirt, strappy top - whatever!) plus a hoody and a snug jumper and you will be set. For evenings out it may be worth putting in something a little dressier, but if you plan on properly roughing it you won't be spending more than $3 on dinner on any particular night. A weeks worth of underwear will last you for two weeks (it can be turned inside out)
Beyond clothes you need one towel, basic washing kit, notebook and pens, camera, ipod and maybe a mobile. If you plan on being in any one country for more than a month invest in a throw away pay as you go phone, you will quickly see the benefits.
I over packed and regretted it. You want to be able to pick up your bag at the drop of a hat, not struggle and begrudge it every time it is hoisted on to your back. Lay your kit out and then chuck half of it, you won't regret it!
I've never heard anyone say they wish they'd brought a bigger bag. I've heard plenty of people struggle with too big a bag.Onebag
Well, there are far too many variables for a definitive answer, it's yes or no depending on your plans and requirements. I've known people to do it successfully using smaller rucksacks, but it depends on what you're prepared to put up with; a bigger pack gives you more options, but has it's downsides.
Assuming you're going to be staying cheap hostels you can get by without a sleeping bag, though personally I prefer having one as you'll probably encounter some less than desirable bedding. A tropical sleeping bag can pack down into a very small volume. Mosquito net may be sensible, but again depends where you're going in each country and where you'll be staying. Footwear is bulky if you pack it in the rucksack, but you're unlikely to be comfortable in all situations with one pair. A few recommended essentials would be a warm (micro fleece or similar) top to wear on flights or in air con buses. A good hat for sun protection. String. Needle and thread. First aid kit including rehydration formula. Waterproof compression bags for clothes and camera.
A last comment, is a lot of people don't pack their rucksacks very effectively, and waste space. Hanging things on the outside of the pack is an invitation for them to fall off or be stolen.Francis
50-litre rucksack will be fine if you are not camping. And even if you are I think mine was only 55 litres and we managed fine for a year (first three months on bicycled with panniers, next 9 months on foot / bus train etc with backpacks and we were camping). Doing without stuff is part of the freedom - and the heavier the bag the less happy you will be lugging it around on trails or onto and off buses.
What to take - less than you think: and everyone will have their own list. But ignoring the camping equipment :
Rohan trousers / t shirts / blouses: incredibly light, pack down and cope with being worn for a year (though I got bored with the look)
Posh underwear i.e. Helly Hansen or similar, essential for avoiding the itch and they too cope with being washed out every night; good socks
Camping towel; swimming costume
First aid kit
Second aid kit - painkillers, sun screen anti histamine, Savlon cream, zinc oxide tape (for blisters etc. as well as taping on dressings), comped
Sandals (Teva or equivalent or flip flops )
Moneybelt/neck pouch for money, passport etc. (photocopy of passport/tickets elsewhere in luggage - and a copy left with someone at home)
Day sack - something like an Onyaback
Silk sleeping bag liner - takes up very little space/ weight but you can use it in less than clean rooms or when sleeping on coaches/ trains
Solid shampoo / toothbrush etc - small bottles/ bars - not large ones
Small bottle of clothes washing liquid for handwashing clothes
Freeloader to charge it and MP4 player - for those very long bus journeys through Mexico/train trips across Australia
Digital camera - use photo shops to download to CDs and send the pictures home, or upload to a website
Diary/notebook and a pen
Insulating tape or equivalent - repairs things
Torch - really small head torch like the Zipka
Book of poetry or something similar
YHA international membership
Some spare money in US dollars - small change for stop overs. Are you breaking the journey in Schipol on the way out so you need some money for drinks etc. in the airport ? Small denomination money for arrival in your first country for taxi fares
Penknife - remember to put it in luggage for the hold and not in your hand luggage
List of friends' addresses
Hotmail address if you don't already have one
Think about :
The climatic extremes - some parts of Mexico's very cold, will you need something warmer. We had silk tops and long johns and very thin balaclavas. We were travelling and camping around glaciers and at significant elevations though, so you may think you don't need them. And things like gloves/hat bought at the side of the road up to the copper canyon will make a good souvenir.
Reading up well ahead. We got in wrong in Australia- it was stormy season and none of the trips we booked onto for scuba diving off barrier reef managed to go. If we had paid attention we would have planned to go on the western side where it is apparently better. Some things like flights in Argentina or discounted rail across australia are cheaper if you buy out of the country.
Vaccinations e.g. rabies, yellow fever, hepatitis, tetanus. Are you going to malaria areas in Mexico?
Booking the first night's accommodation in advance especially if you are arriving late.
And you can definitely get all that in a 50-litre rucksack. The most important things weighs nothing and takes no space: a sense of adventure.
I travelled in North America several years ago and and had the same problem as you - how big a rucksack? The best advice I was given was - the bigger the rucksack, the more junk you'll put in it. Keep it a reasonable size - remember you'll need to actually carry the thing around. Some of the people I travelled with could barely lift their packs and it caused real problems. Many things like toiletries and clothes can be purchased en route - cheap t shirts should be considered disposable.
I'm sure there will be many tips for what to pack but my personal choice would always include duct tape (ideal for on-the-go repairs to anything) and a loo roll. Good luck.Stuart
Stick with the little bag! Within a week, your friends will be jealous.
I spent six months cycling round Europe this year, and most of my bags were taken up with camping stuff and bike related things. Clothes wise you only need two of each of the following: t-shirts, undies (OK, maybe 3 of these!), pairs of socks.. Add a pair of shorts, a pair of long trousers (or a skirt) a fleece for when it's cold, a rain jacket and a swimsuit. They'll be lightweight clothes and they dry fast. If you want to squish a wee, crease free dress in there, go ahead. One pair of sandals, one pair of trainers/ boots (depending on your plans), some toiletries, a first aid kit, a book and a map. Done!
Seriously, it's so easy to overpack. There's a joy in having no choice what to wear, just pick the clean ones! And then the delight when you get home and have a choice again...Gilian
50 litres is more than enough for a six month trip. I assume that you will be staying in hostels and not camping, so none of the heavy weight stuff is needed. Lay all your stuff out on the floor and decide on what you really need. Then divide into two, then repeat. Honestly, I've travelled for two years and have stuff that I still have never used, but it might come in handy. Take a minimum amount of clothes, pick them up and dispose of them (recycle to locals) on the way as climates change. My must pack items are a compass, torch and Marmite. There is nothing that you can not buy on the road that you can only get at home, and mostly it is cheaper overseas. I never bothered with security locks, it just makes it look like you have something worth stealing in there. Surprisingly, most thefts I came across were committed by other travellers, despite travelling in some of the poorest countries in the world.
Above all, good luck and safe travels.Chris Lamont
This is what I always do. Pack your 50 litre rucksack and then walk with it for four to five miles. I guarantee you will be looking for ways to reduce your pack weight. I take 45 litres for myself and my five year old whenever we backpack and it's always enough (and I'm guessing all your side pockets won't have to be filled with toys and pens) In fact, 2009's challenge is to get it down to 25 litres! I'm quite amazed that you think you need this amount. Take the walk challenge.Sam
A 50L Bergen should be fine. The key is pack sensibly. As you'll be in the tropics, you could possibly get by with only a sleeping bag liner. If you do want to go for the extra warmth /comfort of a sleeping bag, get a small, compact 1-2 season one. Limit yourself to two pairs of everything except underwear, take some travel wash, and buy replacements on the road where they're dirt cheap. Keep toiletries to a minimum, especially make-up (in my experience, girlfriends have always taken loads and never used it!). Roll mats should be carried externally anyway, although you'll almost certainly not need one.
It's actually a sensible move taking a 50l Bergen - people ALWAYS fill whatever size pack they have, which means you often start to throw in items that you might need to fill it up, rather than items you know you'll need.Oliver
50 litres is easily enough, but maybe a day bag would be a useful addition. I've just completed a ten month trip with 65 litre backpack, but then a good quarter of that space was taken up with a medium format camera kit and tripod. Plus, I'm a bloke and was happy getting by with just one change of clothes.
This website was indispensable in helping me with my packing list, but even then I've ended up not using many of the things it said where essential:onebag.com
My overland trip; route, words and pictures: uberlandt.comAnthony
You'll use up whatever sized rucksack you'll take, so 50 litre means you'll have less stuff to luggage around then if you've got an 80 litre bag. To reduce space you can mail back to the UK stuff that you're done with such as guidebooks, photos and gifts. As for clothing, the less the better because it's all more stuff to carry and if some of your clothings gets trashed then you'll be able to buy new stuff easily enough. Enjoy.Adam
Rubbish! I did six weeks around South America in the winter with a 30 litre sack. 50 is more than plenty. Any bigger is just going to make it very heavy. A smaller sack will just force you to wash your clothes more often and throw away your grubby t-shirts too. Nothing wrong with that either!Matthew
I went travelling for four months with an 80 litre backpack but found it far too big and I ended up posting half my gear home. The smaller the better in my book - it's far easier for buses, trains etc. - and especially comforting if it's small enough to take onboard the bus/train with you so you can keep an eye on it. It's also very freeing if you can get off a bus/train and walk around to find accommodation rather than have to succumb to one of the taxi drivers that throw themselves at you at bus and train stations. As for what to pack my best item was a long-sleeved merino wool or similar bottom layer that you can put under things for warmth or wear by itself - and wool doesn't tend to smell as much polypropylene. A silk sleeping bag liner was also brilliant, either using by itself in warm countries or in your sleeping bag to keep it clean. Try not to carry too many things you're going to worry about losing, especially if you can't carry them on your person (rather than in your backpack).Jane Moseley
Get a bike. Backpacking is so incredibly boring. Cycle around the world if you want an adventure. If you just want to join the Banana pancake trail, then just go to Camden! Flying is killing the planet.
As for 50L - it's a stupid question. You can buy or wash everything you need, you are travelling, not going out in Kensington, you don't need to dress up you know. You can wear the same clothes for three weeks and the 'real' people who you won't meet because you will only meet other travellers, wouldn't notice.
Oh go on then, kill the planet with your pointless boring travel. Take your rubbish with you and enjoy Goa. (might as well be in Glastonbury of course).Rory
Bet you don't publish this!
I think 50 litres is more than enough unless you are
planning to camp or be extremely off the beaten track.
I backpacked through Africa, India, Asia, Australia and various other
places for three years with a 45 litre pack. In a few days I am going
away again to Asia with my 6 year old son for two months with the same
pack but now also loaded with his clothes etc.
Obviously there will have to be be some compromises made ;-)
Lay everything out that you think you will need and then imagine
trying to haul yourself up a slippery, muddy, vertiginous river bank
in 38+ degrees with hordes of interested bystanders watching your
progress (there are many other worse situations believe me) but anyway
then look at the stack of stuff you think you need and be ruthless. Take out anything unnecessary.
Camping supply stores have loads of wonderful items that you think you
must really need - otherwise why would they sell them (I think money
comes into the equation here) - and I admit it is fun buying them but
they all add another few grams of useless weight. In the main you
don't need them.
A friend of mine travelled with a hairdryer, bottles of mousse to ease
out the frizz and god knows what else. Her pack was HUGE. She was
strong but still it puts you of doing things if you know that to do it
you will be a veritable beast of burden.
Also a big pack attracts a lot of the wrong kind of attention. Who
knows what goodies you have in there. Plus it makes it very hard to
get on buses and bemos and camels.
It is a wonderful feeling to just let go and travel light. If you
really need anything more you can always buy it. That's fun too.
Have a great trip,Sarah
A 50 lite backpack is the perfect size, especially if coupled with a 20 or 25 litre day pack. This way you can keep all the stuff you need to have easy access to in your smaller bag, which you can wear on your front. It also means if you're having to do lots of walking you're well balanced. I once met two guys who had travelled overland from Finland, through eastern Europe into Egypt with nothing more than a 25 litre bag each - and they managed fine. It just takes a little bit more planning, so you have enough warm/cool clothes depending where you are going. You probably won't need proper hiking books, an old pair of trainers will generally do the trick.
As for packing, the best thing is to lay out on your bed everything you want to take, and then dump half. Always take one big towel and one small one, only one pair of shoes and one lightweight waterproof. The best thing I have every taken with me is a sleeping bag liner - most hostels will provide some sheets - but its best to take your own. Also in the far east it'll be warm enough at night not to need a proper sleeping bag.
Having such a small bag means you'll be much quicker at packing in the morning and able to make a connecting flight with a monster hangover.Wil
Back in 1999 I did a years backpacking. I can still remember how when I first left the UK for Malaysia and Singaporean route to Australia, I carried the largest backpack I could find filled to the brim, plus the largest carry on backpack too.
When checking in at Heathrow, the backpack to be checked was over the allowed weight. The problem was overcome by removing the required weight and filling my pockets with water bottles, travel towels, etc. You get the idea.
Nine months later, ready to leave Oz for 3 months in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, the packs were half the weight and a year after that, the single carry on backpack was enough for a month in Morocco.
My advice, you won't use half the stuff you have packed. It will simply weigh you down, like the girl in the photo on the Guardian webpage for this question. Forget all the useless stuff the outdoors outfitters tell you to take. The travel pillow, travel towel etc, they are all useless and you will wish you hadn't bought them.
Flashlight, hiking boots, sandals, hat, sunglasses and pack able rain jacket are the must have items. Minimum amount of clothes, you make do with what you have and will invariably buy what you need where you go.Andrew
I went travelling for a year with my 50 litre pack to India, south-east Asia, Austrailasia and South America, and I can confirm it is the perfect size. If it gets a bit too full, just give some things away or mail them home.
I was given some good advice as well before I left which said that if you can't lift the pack above your head when fully loaded then its too heavy. Good advice I found for getting it stowed on trains and buses etc. I met some crazy people while away who had 100 litre packs and were keeping all the books they had accumulated whilst travelling! They could barely lift their bags off the floor!
With regards to what to pack; one pair shorts and one pair of trousers will get you off to a good start and not too much else. There are always plenty of clothes to buy once your in country and I found it makes you stick out less by dressing more like local people do.Ewan Crispin
I've backpacked in over 60 countries, with three round-the world trips (between 9-12 months) under my belt.
The best advice I can give you is not to listen to your friends! On my first RTW back in 1998, I took a 60 litre rucksack that weighed around 20kgs. I then had the pain of lugging it around (I am 5' 4 and 9 stone) for a year, and worrying about whether it would arrive on the carousel.
On all subsequent trips I've only ever used hand luggage (15 litres daypack/approx 6 kilos). Best travel decision I ever made, and was the object of envy of a lot of fellow travellers who where sweltering away under their jumbo-sized bags, and spending hours packing and repacking lots of stuff they hardly used. And it makes both the escape from the airport and internal train and bus travel (you can always tuck it under your seat) a lot easier.
Your itinerary only involves trips to countries which are warm, so in terms of a basic packing list, would suggest:
Bikini underwear - easy to wash in the sink, dries quickly and resilient.
Clothes - 5-6 cheap vests/t-shirts (dark colours, as whites are hard to clean); knee-length shorts; running shorts; pair baggy cotton pants, one skirt (for dressing up). Primark should be able to kit you out with all of the above for about forty quid.
Footwear - one pair flip-flops, one pair old trainers (good for rafting/rocky beaches - less likely to slip off than sports sandals).
Light cloth bag for carrying bottled water/food/a book.
Travel towel (the kind that folds up small and can dangle off your bag).
Sleeping sheet or large sarong.
Toiletries/make-up (try to be ruthless, but glittery stuff can instantly glam up a grungy backpacker).
Alarm clock or mobile and charger (pack a multi-country adaptor if you take a mobile).
Travel wallet with your passport, documents and credit cards.
Most importantly - don't pack anything that you aren't prepared to lose/have ruined (except your passport). Also bear in mind India and Thailand will be great for picking up clothes on the way, and hostels and guest houses do your laundry cheaply.
Leave the giant medical kit at home (but do take out good travel insurance) in favour of a pack of Imodium, contraceptives, aspirin, a pack of non-applicator tampons, and high factor sunscreen.
*Don't* bother packing guide books for everywhere you're going to go (a schoolgirl error) - just pack the India one to read on the plane, and you'll be able to pick up used copies for elsewhere in second hand bookshops or hostels along the way.
If you follow the above advice, you should still even have space for buying knick-knacks and - most importantly - a sense of freedom that's hard to achieve with a giant bag strapped to your back!
Best of luck with your travels.Sarah
It depends entirely on what sort of travelling you are intending to do.
If you want to combine overnight trekking in remote areas with attending
soirees at the Sydney Opera House then you'll definitely need more than
50 litres, but if you're not going to need smart clothes then 50 litres,
presuming you're also carrying a day sack, will be plenty enough. I did
a 9 months trip (US, Australasia, SE Asia and India) with a large laptop
and accessories, a large camera, trekking equipment and smart clothes
and shoes with a 60litre bag and a daysack.
I find it useful to apply a sine qua non principle to packing - there
are some things that you just won't be able to do if you haven't got the
right stuff. So ask yourself what sort of activities you want to get
involved in, and then see if there are any items you'll definitely need
for those. For example, without a torch you just won't be able to
explore random caves that you find, but if you don't take an extra spare
t-shirt you'll still be able to explore the caves, even if you stink a
bit while doing so. Also bear in mind that there are some things that
you'll be able to pick up anywhere in the world (clothes and toiletries
for example), but some things that you'll have to lug round the whole
way round (water purification tablets, a small elastic clothes line). In
some cases this isn't so easy to predict - it's pretty difficult finding
tampons in some countries for instance.Francis
In a word - yes (as long as you are not doing any high-altitude trekking and can resist the desire to shop your way through your trip). I travelled with a 50L pack for 7 months overland from Singapore to India, with an added side bag containing trekking boots and cold weather gear for Tibet and Nepal. I ditched the side bag for the last 3 months in India and Bangladesh and I wasfine. If you keep to relatively warm countries - which it seems you are - 50L is more than enough. On hot days running for a bus or wandering around town looking for a room you will be glad you don't have a 70L monster pack weighing you down - and if you're lucky you willbeable to keep it in sight under yourfeet orresting on your lap on the bus.
In terms of what to pack - consider whether you need a sleeping bag at all.In most places they won't let you use it and you'd be better off with a sleeping sheet (essential). A sarong is also pretty handy. If you must have a sleeping bag then you can't go better than a (synthetic) Snugpak.Michaela
My advice is born out ofexperience, so feel free to learn from my mistakes, and hopefully I can save you some trouble. It took me quite a while to get it right, and then my travelling was over. So here it is. In short you are veryvulnerable, and will stick out like a sore thumb with a large new heavy rucksack. I found that the less you carry the less you have to worry about, the less you are likely to have stolen, and the less you will have to struggle with in blistering heat through crowded streets, up flights of stairs and onto packed buses, trains, tuk tuks, rickshaws, bemo's, boats, ferries etc.
If you are going to go to developing countries, you should be able to buy suitable affordable clothing as you go along and as you need it. If you are going trekking at altitude you should be able to hire the kit rather than carrying your own through countries where you wont need it. What else do you need? Guide books and novels can be swapped as you go along. Socks and pants don't take up much room. Buy yourself some good quality, light, fast wicking, outdoor basics (Rohan is a good place to start to look for this), and then pick up any thing else you need along the way.
As a test, pack your backpack with every thing you intend to take, then spend a day travelling round London, using public transport, seeing the sights before you go and return having walked several miles, then decide whether you want to take more or less.
If you want to spread your wings, free yourself of responsibility and lose yourself in a wonderful world of new experiences, then why tie yourself down withpossessionsyou don't need.
Finally remember, if there is anything you need along the way, it will be cheaper to buy outside of the UK anyway.
The very best of luck and I hope you enjoy yourself.Christopher Reading
I think a 50 litre size backpack is fine for the countries you are planning to visit. They're all warm countries so you won't need to bring big and bulky clothing. Some tips - for a jumper buy a micro fleece because they're warm and roll up really small.I'd recommend buying a travel towel because they take up a lot less room inyour backpack and they dry out very quicklywhich would be handy for the humid countries you will bevisiting. When packing, roll all of yourclothes rather than folding them. You should have enough room with a 50 litre bag as long as long as you pack sensibly (no hairdryer or straighteners!)Lani F
I went round world with 45 litre rucksack. It wasn't full when I left, but I managed to fill in the gaps whilst travelling. I think if you take a rucksack that's any bigger it'll just be a pain to lug around. You'll end up filling it with stuff you don't really need. Pack lightly andonly take essentials. Don't bother with too many clothes- these you can buy on the way usually very cheaply. You'll be surprised how little you really need. I guess most important for me was a good pair of shoes and a pair of flipflops.J.H.
50 litres is fine! Believe me, it's actually alot to be lugging around when you're feeling hot and tired. Iwouldn't take bigger than 30 any more.
Having travelled to three out of your six places (Australia, Thailand and Mexico) I would advise on light clothes you can layer up (khaki trousers, cardigans etc) I wouldn't worry about taking anything especially warm - you can get really good thermals that take up very little space and can be put on underneath thin garments if the weather does get a bit cooler.
Less is really more. If I was starting out I'd give myself this advice - don't bother with your nice clothes! Just take two of everything and 7 pairs of pants, and get used to hand washing. Also, clothes are so cheap where you will be going, it's easy to pick things up as you go that will also be nice souvenirs (not that I ever wear my llama jumper...) I wouldn't worry about a bulky first aid kit either - just disinfectant wipes andsome plasters. There is nothing in a first aid kit that you won't be able to buy wherever you are, and they waste space. Small shoes are better - a pair of ballet pumps and some hiking flip flops are all I took last time.
Also, post things home as you go. It doesn't cost much by snail mail and its lovely to come back to (and better for your back than carrying it all for six months!)Sarah
Travelling with a 50 litre rucksack can be done! Pack 3 of the bare essentials (pants, socks, tee-shirts) so you have one on, one dirty and one clean! You'll need a good pair of boots but things like flip-flops and extra clothes and be purchased and disposed of quite cheaply in the locations you are visiting. Bottles take up the same space whether full or empty so invest in a 'bladder' system for drinking water and always look out for items that can serve more than one purpose so trousers that zip off into shorts, or detergent that doubles up as shampoo and shower gel.
Good luck!Katie Tredinnick
A fifty litre ruck sack is fine. Most people pack way too much and not using half their stuff. Unless you want and need to carry a lot of specialist equipment, or are travelling to zones with a lot of weather, you do not need to carry much. Pack a couple of changes of clothing in lightweight man-made fibres that you can launder daily because they dry overnight: carrying around lots of dirty cotton clothing in your oversized rucksack is totally pointless. Camping and outdoor shops do good ranges of this sort of stuff. Don't be tempted to carry every gadget under the sun, it's not worth it. Pack toiletries in small sample bottles rather than normal sizes you get from the super market and you will find you will save not only on space but weight also (not worth carrying around a couple of kilos of shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, sun cream, after sun etc?). Take one luxury item. Don't pack all the guidebooks for every country you are going to: plan ahead, extract or copy the bits you need, and/or buy guidebooks from other travellers. Again you could save yourself kilos of weight here if you're going to multiple countries. Be prepared to spend more on your travels to make up for travelling light; rooms with towels and toiletries and not just hostels, buying toiletries locally, buying equipment and then sending it home if needs be. Be disciplined and you will find the whole experience much more liberating than the obvious first-timers with bags bigger than they are.
I took a 45l backpack on my round the world trip to Fiji, NZ, Oz and SE Asia. It was one of the best things about my trip. Light enough to carry around, small enough to push under seats, sit on, sleep on, etc etc. plus lots of admiring glances by other travellers with huge bags struggling to get them on their backs!
I took a very small sleeping bag with me - the MacPac Escape 150, plus a silk liner stuffed in the same bag it's about the size of a water bottle. I found this was more than adequate for warmth, even on air conditioned Thai trains. I took a few Pack-It cubes (from Rohan) to organise my clothes in (underwear and swimwear in one, clothes in another). I found you really and truly don't need many clothes. Washing by hand is easy and things dry overnight - quick dry stuff is good from Rohan (don't even think about taking jeans!). Buy tops with built in bras (M&S is good here) and also take wireless bras - they take up less space and dry much quicker.
I also took the usual travel towel you can buy from Blacks, I found the extra large one best for covering modesty as some of the 'large' ones look like hand towels. Another space saving tip is only take two pairs of shoes - walking boots/stout shoes and sandals. You wear your boots on the plane and pack your small sandals.
I took a small folding hair brush and took a shampoo/conditioner combo. Take small makeup that will make a difference when you put it on (which won't be often anyway) - eyeliner and mascara and tinted moisturiser was all I took.
Hopefully this helpsCharlotte Newton
I bought a 50litre bag for a trek across Morocco, whilst everyone else had a 65litre bag, and was absolutely fine. Admittedly, you're going for a lot longer but my personal experience is that the more space you have in your bag, the more you're going to needlessly put in it. Depending on how much you'll be trekking and generally getting about places without a bus/taxi/boat etc, the weight of your bag is important and a fully-packed 65litre bag will be bone-jarringly painful after a short while (so on that front 50l is an advantage). If you think you may get into difficulties, buy a small, good-quality 'school-sized' rucksack and you can wear that on your front. This will help balance the weight out.
What-to-pack wise, this again depends on your backpacking style. If you've already agreed with friends that you'll stay in reasonably nice hotels, then a sleeping bag is unnecessary. If you're going for the hostel approach, then a sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner are a must. What's more, if you've limited space in your bag, then a sleeping bag should be relatively easy to attach to the outside of the bag (if you've got a trekking rucksack then you've probably got one with lots of hooks, loops, etc off which to hang things).
I've also found a thermo-rest very helpful when I've been sleeping on slightly less comfy terrain. These are quite expensive (got mine a while back at £80 I think) but infinitely more comfortable than a roll-up sponge-mat - and the genius is that they roll-up very small, so can fit quite neatly away.
All the other essentials I think are pretty straight forward:
Clothes - from the sounds of things, you'll be pretty much in permanent sun (Thailand's rainy season kicks in July/August/September, whilst Australia's winter begins roughly June, so I think you'll manage to avoid wet/cold weather) so t-shirts, loose long-sleeved shirts, shorts etc are all fine. Some places will ask that you be respectful in your dress (e.g. Thailand) so you should bring something that covers you up (pashmina, linen trousers) as well. But I think it's important not to over-pack on the clothes front because over the course of your trip you'll probably be buying and discarding clothes as you go! Definitely don't pack anything you'll miss too much if it gets ruined.
Toiletries - all the essentials, plus a few first aid things would be helpful if you're going somewhere remote (like the jungle/outback) but generally plasters, insect bite remedy etc can be picked up whilst you're over there. I found the pharmacists in Thailand actually knew more about mosquito sting-relief than most chemists over here!
Appropriate shoes - flip-flops, trekking shoes and maybe some ballet pumps (you can buy ones that actually roll-up so minimise space usage) if you think you might go anywhere smart - in Thailand, the temples request that you don't where casual shoes (so flip-flops are a no-no), so this is something to bear in mind.
Money belt - to keep your camera, passport, money, keys. I generally like to keep all my stuff together but a lot of people will tell you to spread your important things over your bags so that's it's never in one space and easily pinchable.
On the 'how to pack' side of things - definitely make the most of the tassels, loops and pockets on the outside of your trekking bag - these are great for sleeping bags, water bottles etc. out of desperation I once hung all my drying laundry off my bag, so there you go!
I hope that's been some help - your trip sounds amazing, have a lovely time.Antonia
Your friends are both right and wrong. Essentially, the size of the backpack you take depends on:
- How long you are going for;
- What you intend to do whilst you are there;
- Whether you intend to collect souvenirs;
- What time of year you will be going to all of these countries.
I once travelled for three months through Asia with a 15L backpack, having left my main pack in a hostel in Bangkok. If your goal is to travel light, I would recommend you take an empty bag with you, literally.
Obviously, some items are essential: camera, wash bag, small towel and underwear, oh, and bathing costume. Once you arrive in India, if you are like most travellers, you will want to adopt the traveller look by investing in fisherman trousers, light tops and so on. As the cost of clothing is so low in India, Asia, etc why not just buy everything you need whilst you are out there?
I once met a Chinese guy in Asia, who was travelling with a plastic carrier bag. I think he had a toothbrush in it and one change of clothes.
All this is very well if you intend to follow the sun for your entire trip, as you will never be cold if you plan your trip well. However, as soon as you start going up to altitude, going hiking, camping and so on, you will need more bulky equipment which will seriously cut down on your bag space.
I would strongly recommend buying a pair of 'Teva' walking sandals, as they are tough enough for some reasonable mountaineering (I went up to 4000m in mine) and they will be perfect for both hot and cold environments. There is no need to take any other shoes, but buy some flip-flops once you get there
If you intend to take a sleeping bag or serious walking boots with you, then I would say that 50L might be a bit short but, as I say, if you are going to be in hot parts of the world for your whole trip, there is no need for sleeping bags or thick clothes. Having said that, should you discover that you are in need of these items when you get there, you can buy them there, as they will probably be less expensive than in the UK.
Another item I would recommend is a SCUBA mask, or at the very least a pair of goggles, these will be invaluable for swimming and snorkelling, or just splashing about in a lake.
If you are travelling for a long time and want to collect souvenirs for friends, you may prefer to post them home, especially as travelling with a light bag is much more comfortable that a large and heavy one.
One last thing, having a daypack is almost indispensable, so I would recommend buying one of those really lightweight and small that you can screw up an put in your main pack should you want to. Ah, and don't forget to respect local customs in terms of decency, you may find that you need to have the odd bit of clothing that will cover you all over, this will also help to keep mozzies away and you will probably want something vaguely warm for the plane.
Hope this helps.Simon
Travelling with a small backpack is a great idea. It makes a life of travel so much easier. You can hop on and off buses and trains with little difficulty. You can always find a place/rack for your backpack once on a crowded bus/train without annoying everyone else. You can amble down a road or around a town/city without getting tired or having your shoulders hurt after two minutes. You have less concern about things being stolen, as you have less for people to steal in the first place and you can take your backpack with you if you don't want to leave it somewhere. You can pack a small bag much more quickly that a larger bag, so you don't have to worry about leaving time to re-pack and you can spend more time sightseeing! The advantages are endless... Not least that you quickly realise how few material possessions we really need to be happy in this life!
One challenge of a small back pack is travelling in colder countries as it is harder to travel light when you need warm and bulky clothes. Judging from your planned destinations though, the weather should mostly be fine during the months you will be there. June/July in Mexico and Cuba may be the rainy season but it'll still be fairly warm. (Of course, this all depends on where you go in these countries as some areas can be much colder. However, if you are not planning to spend weeks in mountains - the Himalayas or Ladak, for example -then you should be fine.) Anyway, tips for turning the hot weather to your advantage include:
- Packing light clothes which fold up and can be squeezed into small spaces. You only need to take one or two heavier jumpers and warm socks for cooler evenings.
- Taking fewer clothes and washing them by hand in the evening as they will be dry the next day. I once travelled for two months in India and Sri Lanka with only two pairs of knickers and the daily ritual of undies washing!
Other tips, not dependent on hot weather,include:
- Buying clothes as you go along. If you are going to be in one place for a few weeks, you can just buy a couple of items of clothing while you are there, wear them and then leave them behind. Clothes are cheap in the countries you are going to so this won't break the bank.
- Making sure you have a sarong. By packing this single piece of material you have at your ready a skirt, a bed sheet, a shawl, a head scarf -many of which will come in handy while travelling!
- Not overdoing the cosmetics - Don't take huge bottles of shampoo, creams etc. All these thing scan be bought in small packets and can be restocked as you travel around. and DON'T bother with a hairdryer. it's better for your hair anyway.
- Buying a travel towel that dries quickly and doesn't take up half your bag.
- Not bothering with a big camera. It is a theft risk, makes you look conspicuous and the little ones take great pics nowadays anyway. A lap top is a no no. There are cheap internet cafes for all things 'computer'.
- Sharing or tearing books - These are a must for long journeys, but why not just take one or two with you at a time and then swap with fellow travellers when you have finished? Some hostels have places where you can do this too. Another book tip (that I know may horrify book lovers) is to tear out the useful pages of info from travel books and leave the rest behind...
-Shoes - You really don't need too many pairs! You can pick up cheap flip-flops/sandals as you go and buy new ones when they wear out. The main footwear to make sure you take is a good pair of walking shoes- especially if you are planning some hikes - however, tying walking boots to the front of the backpack to save space and to stops mud going on all the clothes inside.
- Souvenirs - The main problem I used to face was wanting to take lovely souvenirs home, but not having space to carry them around with me for ages. One thing I found helpful was posting souvenirs home as soon as I had bought them (if they are not too too huge).One other tip is limiting yourself to one small souvenir from each country - it saves space AND money and really makes you think about what you will appreciate the most when you get back.
- Sharing the weight with friends. As you are travelling with friends, you can carry things for each other and divide up who carries what. You don't ALL need a camera, i-pod, tube of toothpaste, didgeridoo, mosquito repellent each...
If you go to India, stick to Kerala as it's women friendly. One of the best guide books you can get on India is Lonely Planet'. In their pages you will find firm but friendly advice on the hazards for women travelling alone in India. My 5th edition makes it plain that vis-ˆ-vis most countries in Europe India is virtually lawless and not unusually women travelling alone are considered by men as fair game. Otherwise known as rape. And I don't think you need me to draw pictures for you on that score. Especially: don't hitch. Although I should add that I know several women who say they have negotiated the sub-continent unscathed. But it could end up being one of the most memorable trips of your life - for all the wrong reasons. Generally speaking wide open spaces should be approached with some measure of caution whether in India, Australia, Mexico or Cuba. But, especially the IAM.
One other thing: back packing travelers humping rucksacks from place to placeare not infrequently viewed with some considerable disdain in India. It is a cultural thing. Better that you invest in one of those back packs that convert into a suitcase thus erring on the side of discretion.Lowe, Berghaus and Karrimor all do them.Also, fifty litres is plenty. Go by weight. As a rule of thumb if the back pack fully loaded weighsmore than 20 percent of your entire body weight then it's too heavy. I have seen girls with huge sixty plus back packs who a couple of days into India were literally giving the stuff away in an effort to lighten the load. Let one item do the job of at least three. Face it, you can't come equipped with everything but the kitchen sink unless you intend hiring a string of native bearers.RS
I'd suggest that a 50l backpack is no problem for sustained travel. We've been on the road for 33 months now and mine is probably smaller and in some cases I get away with it as hand luggage. NB:although I am a guy and we do need less, apparently. What I pack:
Laptop. Essential for keeping our Blog going, using Skype to call family and friends, listen to music, watch films.
Camera. No other way to retain memories.
Five T-shirts, two x shorts, swimming trunks, plus what you wear. InAsia it is hot and so no need for socks, pullovers, jackets. If you do need something fora one off, buy it.
one x book. Plenty of hotels/hostels offer book exchanges. Use them.
Toiletries. For a bloke, it's a bar of soap, toothbrush and paste, razor. Buy the rest if need be.
Baseball hat to keep the sun off. Keep it neutral; no need to show which team you follow if you're in the wrong part of town, eh?
Take a wife with you; she can pack the over flow.
I reckon that's it. Pack your cards, cash, tickets and passport in a separate, sound bag to keep on your person and enjoy your travels.
One thing I don't pack as I keep meaning to buy, is a watch...
(currently touring Malaysia)
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