What to pack and what I wish I’d left behind

Tag: Packing, Planning your travel   
February 25, 2011   5 Comments

Pack light and don’t forget the essentials. That’s what I intended to do but typically a few extra items got thrown in. I wish they hadn’t.

Packing for a typical back packers trip could look something like the following list. Of course, depending on how long and where you are going you will need to tweak it. The following packing list is what I’m taking on my round the world trip for 8 months, predominantly through hot climates. I’ve divided it into 3 sections:

Clothes – your day to day clothing
Gadgets / misc – the stuff that will make you more comfortable on the road
Vital / medical – these are key items that may be impossible to replace if you forget them

Clothes (includes what you’re wearing):
T-Shirt x1
Long sleeved t-Shirt x1
Short sleeved shirt x3
Long sleeved shirt x2
Thin jumper x1
Underpants and socks x5
Combat trousers x1
Jogging bottoms x1
Sports shorts x1
Sun hat x1
Swimming shorts x1
Shorts x2
Walking shoes x1
Trainers x1
Flip flops x1

Camera and charger, PC lead
Head torch
Plug adapters
Guide books
Sun glasses
Pen knife
Pen and paper
Sleeping bag liner
MP3 player
Sudoku book
Book to read
Money belt
Laptop & charger
Snorkel and mask

Back pack (60 litres) – My Berghaus Jalan comes recommended & easily holds all of this.
Day sack
Cards and cash
1st aid kit
Docs: emergency numbers, insurance, passport, flights, vaccination certificates
Contact lenses
Deet / citronella
Wash kit
Malaria tablets

What I wished I’d left behind
After over a month on the road, I could quite happily live without:

Trainers x1
Jogging bottoms x1
Sports shorts x1
Sun hat x1
Shorts x1
Underpants and socks x3
Long sleeved shirt x1
Short sleeved shirt x1
Sudoku book

Goodness knows why I’m carrying all this stuff around….it gets in the way of the stuff I need and weighs me down. There are laundry services virtually everywhere in Thailand, costing about £1 for a small bag (6 or 7 items) – and it’s ready about 24 hrs later. Also, using detergent to wash items in sinks is proving to work well. So multiple items of the same type prove largely unneeded. Btw: every other item on the list above has been needed and regularly used!

Some key things to bear in mind when packing:

  • Unless you’re going to the most remote countries for prolonged periods, you can buy things as you go, for a lot less than it costs at home. Plus the things you buy on the road are probably cooler than the stuff you get in a shopping mall back home – the Khao San road in Bangkok had so many things we loved but we had to leave behind.
  • Big heavy bags will weigh you down and tire you out as you cross a hot city, may cost more on transport, and will cause more worry as you fret about all your worldly possessions getting lost or stolen. We had to leave our bags for 3 days as we headed off on a boat trip, stuffing our carry-on bags full of our valuables – fortunately the bags left behind were still there when we returned.
  • The type of travel you do can be enhanced if you don’t have a big backpack – when going from A to C you become liberated to visit B en-route if you just have a small lightweight pack…whereas when heaving around a large bag this becomes more difficult or impossible. We had this going through Phuket to the ferry – we had time to check out the old town where the bus dumped us but couldn’t be bothered as we were so laden down so headed straight to the harbour.
  • Traveling requires a new lifestyle – washing clothes overnight and wearing the same clothes every day becomes the norm rather than changing outfits each day
  • Traveling is liberating and about getting away from the daily grind…so don’t bring it all with you on the road – be resourceful when on the road

Further reading
There are masses of websites about packing for travel; I found this what to pack guide particularly comprehensive and also read more on the essentials when packing.

Your views on What to pack and what I wish I’d left behind? Please add your tips, recommendations or general thoughts about What to pack and what I wish I’d left behind to help other round the world travelers:

5 Responses to “What to pack and what I wish I’d left behind”

Dave Keller
March 1st, 2011 @ 9:55 pm

I took the exact same Jalan bag with me when I went travelling, a great piece of kit and I still use the day bag all the time. Having said that, when I invariably ended up squeezing half of my girlfriend’s stuff into my bag aswell as my own, I remember wishing I had gone for the next model up, which had wheels.

I should have left my solar phone/ipod charger at home – even though it’s a great gadget, turned out to be too bulky and everywhere I stayed had power anyway. Also wished I had left my camera as it got nicked a couple of weeks into the trip 🙁

Why on earth would you take a laptop with you! Stop blogging and go and talk to people!!!

March 2nd, 2011 @ 2:07 am

Cheers Dave — I agree on the Jalan, although the detachable day sack capability proves irrelevant, it’s a quality backpack.

The laptop *is used for talking* to people back home (and on the road when meeting people we know) and most usefully to research accommodation and places and things to do! 🙂 Wifi is everywhere in Thailand (usually free) so for us it’s a must have piece of kit but I think it depends on where you travel.

March 4th, 2011 @ 5:12 am

Nice one Ben..I just bought a 55 litre pack in Chiang mai, im already downsizing. I really still want to know your thought process for bring some jogging bottoms to a tropical country 😉

For real fitness freaks…bring a skipping rope instead of the trainers….can used as a washing line too

March 4th, 2011 @ 10:44 am

Jogging bottoms – I don’t think there was a thought process, that’s the problem 🙂

July 27th, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

Nice article, it’s difficult to decide what to pack isn’t it?!

We’re currently updating our packing list with our experiences! We wondered if you had any comments you could send our way?


Thanks for sharing and any comments!

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