One of the most annoying things when you’re travelling is packing your stuff. Even if you’re only leaving for a couple of days it might take a long time to figure out what you’ll carry with you and what you won’t. Now imagine how complicated it is if you’re about to travel for months, in different countries, facing different weather, with a backpack that shouldn’t exceed the weight limit fixed for your flight…
I’m not going to tell you how many shirts or pairs of socks you should pack, but with this article I’ll give you some advice about things that will definitely be really helpful during your trip. It’s not an exhaustive list so feel free to give your own recommendations in the comments! Ready to fill up your backpack yet?
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1. A universal adapter
That’s probably the first thing you should pack (well, after your clothes obviously!). The shapes of electric plugs are different from one country to another, so you’ll need to have a different adapter for each of them. But if you don’t want to always buy a new one that you’ll never use again once you leave the country, the solution is easy: get a universal adapter. They are usually quite massive and relatively expensive, but it will be so much more convenient and definitely worth the price you’ll pay for it.
2. A laptop and an external hard drive
What’s the worst that could happen while travelling? Losing your wallet, having health issues… or accidentally deleting all the pictures you took. To avoid this nightmare, always have your pictures stored in two separate places: on your laptop and on an external hard drive (and/or on a cloud). It would be a shame not being able to share your memories with your family and friends!
3. A multi-socket adapter
We have so many electronic devices that need to be charged nowadays: laptop, camera, phone, etc… But when you’re travelling it’s not always easy to find plugs. To make your life easier and charge the batteries of all your devices at the same time, use a multi-socket adapter. Other advantage: you’ll need only one universal adapter for all your equipment…
4. A cigarette lighter USB adapter
Recent cars usually have a USB socket but it’s not always the case so this cheap and tiny adapter should definitely make it into your backpack. Don’t let your battery die, charge your phone while driving, especially if you use it as a GPS.
5. An external battery
Because sometimes you can’t find plugs at all, if you go camping for example; keep your phone alive longer, pack an external battery. It’s small and light so it won’t take much space in your backpack.
6. A first aid kit
This might literally be a life saver. Every traveller should carry a first aid kit with at least plasters, disinfectant and aspirin. Depending on where you’re travelling, your general health and if you’re a boy or a girl you might have to add things to this list, like anti-diarrheic pills for example. A good sunscreen and an insect repellent should also be part of this kit but these are the kind of things you could easily buy in the country you’re visiting.
7. A headlight
It might not be useful for every kind of travellers; if you’re only staying in hotels or hostels, you’ll probably never need it, but if you go camping that’s one of the first things you should take with you. For the photographers, a headlight will also be very convenient if you try to take pictures of the night sky like the one below or if you’re hiking before sunrise/after sunset.
8. A padlock
All the electronic devices listed before are quite valuable, and if you add your money, your passport or your credit card, there are a lot of things that you really should keep an eye on while you’re travelling. Locking your luggage or your storage space with a padlock will not make you 100% safe, but at least it will provide a good protection against theft.
If you’re travelling to the USA, Canada, Japan or a few other countries, make sure to lock your luggage with a TSA lock. If a custom officer of these countries wants to check your suitcase, he can open it with a pass and lock it again after inspection, instead of breaking other types of padlocks.
9. A Swiss army knife
Ok, you don’t necessarily need the most expensive one with dozens of features including 6 different types of screwdrivers, but a simple knife with a corkscrew and a bottle opener will always be useful. Definitely a bottle opener!
Is there anything worse after a long day exploring than sleeping in a dorm next to somebody snoring really loud, or in a room where you can hear everything happening around you including your neighbours? If you don’t want to feel exhausted the next morning, always have a pair of earplugs with you.
11. A fast-drying towel
I lost track of how many towels I lost because I let them dry somewhere and forgot to pack them. That would never have happened if I had carried a fast-drying towel from the beginning. Another advantage, they’re usually thinner and lighter than regular towels so they will take less space in your backpack, and weight can be a big issue for backpackers!
Once again, not everyone will have the use of them, but if you’re a nature enthusiast or even more if you like to observe wildlife, you definitely need to have a pair of binoculars with you when you go hiking.
For the long drives in remote places where you can’t find any radio station or for the evenings in a campsite, make sure to have some music with you. MP3 files stored on an iPod, a Spotify account with a Bluetooth speaker connected to your smartphone or a few CDs if you’re old-fashioned like me, there are dozens of ways to listen to music. And if you don’t know what to listen to, have a look at my road trip playlist suggestion!
There’s a great way to become quickly popular when you’re travelling: playing an instrument. But since it’s quite difficult to carry a guitar in a suitcase, here’s another way to make new friends: having a deck of cards. Who never played card games in a hostel or around a campfire? And I’m not even talking about drinking games…
It’s always good to have something to read, on a rainy day, lying on a beach or before going to bed. I personally prefer books to e-readers (once again, I’m a bit old-fashioned!) but it would save you a lot of space and weight to carry a single device rather than many books in your backpack.
16. A map
In the 21st century, maps seem to be objects from the past. Who does really use them to find their way when we have GPS in our cars and applications like Google Maps or maps.me on our phones? But there’s something really cool you can do with a map if you’re doing a long road trip somewhere: draw your itinerary. I’ve done it during my trip around Australia and I really enjoy the result, as you can see below! I coloured in black all the roads I drove during the 14 months I spent in the country.
17. A nice travel notebook
Memories fade away so quickly… I believe that it’s a great thing to have a notebook with you to write down your emotions, what you did and how you felt, names of the people you met… It will be an object that you’ll cherish for a long time and you’ll love reading it in the future, when your current travel will belong to the past. And why not share your thoughts with the world and start your own blog?
And you, what’s the essential thing that you’ll pack first in your backpack? Write your suggestions in the comments!
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