It’s always a big thing when you are taking a gap year. You are about to head off on the biggest adventure of your life there is a big juggling act that needs to take place. You want to pack everything you will possibly need for your trip, but you only have that one backpack to cram everything into. How do you decide what to take? After almost thirteen months on the road, here are the things that I had in my backpack that I consider essential items for long term travel.
Okay, this one will be a little controversial, because these travel safes are not light. They also take up a decent amount of space in your backpack. But we’ve all heard horror stories of belongings, even passports, going missing from accommodation. So if you are travelling with a laptop or other items you do not want to carry around each day and planning to stay in hostel accommodation or AirBnbs, then you will want one of these. You can put all your valuables inside, tether it to something immovable, and it gives you piece of mind that while you are out and about, your belongings are as secure as you can make them.
Solid Shampoo & Conditioner
These were just fantastic. No more worrying about lids popping open and shampoo all through my backpack. They are smaller and lighter than regular shampoo and conditioner bottles and one bar can last for months. Just lather the bar up, and use it like regular shampoo or conditioner. There are lots of different brands and types available, so it’s a good idea to try some different ones and find out which are best for you. Look out for eco-friendly brands too.
Imagine you are down to your last set of clothes and there’s not a laundry in sight. You decide to wash some clothes in the bathroom sink to get you through. A quick look at the sink and you discover there is no plug! This small, cheap piece of rubber came in handy many times in exactly this scenario throughout our trip. It’s small and light and is made to block any size plug hole.
After hand washing those clothes in the bathroom sink, you will need somewhere to hang them. Most bathrooms just do not have anything to do the job. Occasionally there will be a pull out clothes line in the shower, but we discovered these are not as common as we thought they would be. We picked up an elasticised clothes line that twisted around itself. The clothes were tucked between the twists to hold them up, and hooks on the ends were used to loop around whatever was available. This was also useful for wet swimwear after being in the pool.
OMG, what did I do before I discovered packing cubes! This was the first trip I used packing cubes and they were truely a godsend. They can be great to help compress clothing and therefore fit more in, but what I liked best was the organisation. It meant I only had about eight items to actually put into my backpack as everything was packed away into some kind of packing cube (or toiletry/shoe bag). If I needed something in particular, I could go straight to that packing cube without having to search through everything else for it. I had four packing cubes, one for tops, one for bottoms, one for underwear and a small one for cords, chargers and other bits and pieces.
I have a favourite sarong I have been travelling with for years now. It lives in my carry on bag and has so many uses. I can use it as a blanket or pillow on the plane, a towel on the beach, and to cover my hair, shoulders or legs when required at religious sites. It becomes a picnic blanket at times too. It can even be used as a, well, sarong over swimwear! My sarong is probably the most versatile item in my backpack.
Buying bottled water no every day not only becomes expensive, we all know that all that plastic is not great for the environment. It’s therefore no surprise that a refillable water bottle has to be part of your travel kit. Buy an insulated bottle and you can keep drinks nice and cold, or perhaps on a cold day it can be filled with coffee to keep you warm.
If you are travelling long term, it is likely you will come across many different types of power outlets. We’ve occasionally come across different outlets in the same country! Rather than buying a new adapter for each type of plug, buy a universal adapter and you know you will always have the correct connector. Grab one with USB points too and you will be all set to charge multiple devices at once.
So many times we grabbed something to eat from the supermarket and then needed something to eat it with. These cutlery sets are perfect for travel, packed up easily and could even go in our carry-on bags without causing security issues.
I know this list is all about what I packed into my backpack, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to rave about the backpack itself. I just loved my Osprey Farpoint 55L pack. It was put through so much over the year, and still looks almost brand new. It was the perfect size for me to carry all that I needed, and while technically it’s a little too big to use as carry on, if it’s not packed full, many airlines will not question it.
So there you have it, the ten items I absolutely had to have during my travels. They all made my life just that little bit easier and they will all be with me again next time I take a trip.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.