Backpack Hacks: 5 Things You Absolutely Can’t Travel Without
Also, a few tips on what not to pack.
Denver and Kirsty from Whiskey & Peanuts know a thing or two about life on the road. The two vagabond couple explore the world together together, blogging about their adventures with food, drink and travel. Backpacking is their method of choice, and here they share some lessons about exactly how – and what – to pack.
How many times have you unzipped your lightweight Osprey in the middle of a backpacking stint in South America and felt a flush of shame at the high heels staring back out at you? What were you thinking – heels, really? Or maybe that’s just me?
Either way, we’ve all been guilty of making poor packing decisions for a stint away, but those days are a thing of the past, friends. Stick with this guide of essentials and you’ll be on your merry way. Oh, and don’t forget your passport…
#1 Toilet Paper! And Sanitiser…
Look, admittedly I feel a little princess-y to list sanitiser here. But on the contrary, if not feeling weird about touching food, my face and almost anything again after using a highly-trafficked public toilet is the result, then bring me my crown. And speaking of toilets, allow me to introduce the importance of having a constant supply of toilet paper on hand. We’ve all been caught out before, and maybe it becomes more necessary dependent on your travel location, but the value that’ll be added to your life by carrying toilet paper around at all times is worth it’s wait in…well, good ol’ 2 ply, ‘cos gold ain’t coming to the rescue inside those bathrooms.
#2 About 50% Less Than You Actually Have In Your Backpack
I’m about to make an embarrassing admission here: I once took a pair of heels backpacking in South America, which – unsurprisingly – I left behind in an Ecuadorian hostel in around week two. Rookie error, right? Wrong! This was not my first rodeo, nor my first backpacking experience for that matter. I convinced myself that because I was spending a couple of weeks in New York City en route to Peru, I’d need heels for all those nights I’d spend living it up like an extra on Sex And The City.
Turns out, skint backpackers aren’t dining in Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurants with a cocktail in hand and Manolos (which mine obviously weren’t, anyway) on their feet. The point I’m trying to make is this: be realistic about what you need, even things that aren’t as obviously cringe-worthy as a pair of heels (seriously, I can’t even deal). Get a sensible friend to look over the planned contents of your backpack and make you justify why you need two pairs of jeans. You’ll thank them silently as you trudge the streets of a new city, sniffing around for the best hostel deal at the expense of your lower back.
#3 Loose Fitting Clothing
Weight gain is one of the enduring (and completely privileged, mind you) injustices of travel. Ugh. But seriously, and especially if you’re travelling for an extended period, this will likely just be a fact of life. I discovered this the hard way, in the middle of a Bolivian marketplace with a new friend. We actually paid a local for the privilege of being able to weigh ourselves on the spot, thus gaining personal intel we planned to do precisely nothing with. Don’t worry, all the nights spent drinking local beers beneath starry foreign skies with your new friends and days spent surviving on a purely carbohydrate-based, often deep-fried diet will be worth it. I’m just sayin’, do it in the comfort of your elastic-waited pants, not your skinny jeans.
#4 Ear Plugs, Duh!
Such a no-brainer, but it’s something I forget almost 100 per cent of the time. Remembering that I forgot them usually coincides with the exact moment I realise that it’s just me and a big group of motorbike-riding Brazilians in a ten-bed shared dorm for the next few nights. How quickly fond feelings towards new friends turn to simmering resentment, then all-out, full-blown bubbling hatred as you lay awake – yet again – listening to a cacophony of burly men snoring. Ear plugs are unlikely to drown that out entirely, but they might be the difference in you pondering whether or not screaming with a pillow over your head is a justifiable course of action for snoring. The verdict’s still out on that one.
#5 Hard-Copy Books
I get it. In this day and age, hardcover books that take up valuable real estate in your backpack are something of an unnecessary nuisance. Why not just download things to your iPad? Because my friends, unlike an actual book, it’s highly unlikely you’d be willing to leave your iPad behind in a hostel amiright? And I’d like to argue that, like dog to man, a book is a traveller’s best friend.
Think of all those times you’ll be waiting for an overnight bus that’s been delayed by two hours. Or perhaps consider the days you’ll while away with a local brew or a beer in a café with a side of people watching. This is where the increasingly lost magic of a book comes in handy. The tangible feel, the smell of the pages, the graphics on the cover… but above all, being able to finish one book then move seamlessly onto the next via a hostel book swap is a treat that shouldn’t be underestimated.
(Lead image: rawpixel / Unsplash)