Packing is one of the hardest parts of preparing to go travelling. In your mind you dream of gallivanting on a beach with your slender, tanned frame draped in gorgeous, floaty fabrics looking like something out of an advert for Free People. The reality is, there's just not much space for outfits like that in a 65 litre backpack! Suddenly your dreams are shattered when you realise how little space you have to pack up your whole life and carry it around with you for the next year. There's a reason I never wrote a packing list until now, and it's because I really do think it is difficult to provide a general one for all as each person values different items at different amounts, plus if you're travelling to different places it makes it difficult to pack for all weathers. I had an easy job at first because I was packing for South East Asia where I knew I would be needing just very light clothing, swimwear and sandals. I packed extremely lightly and decided to buy stuff along the way if I needed more clothing, and most of the items I took with me were ones I already had instead of buying new when I knew it would be cheaper in Asia. But when it came to arriving in Australia I was totally unprepared - I had no clothes for city life just hippy tie-dye dresses and flip-flips. I had to buy jumpers and even a coat just so that I could stay warm in the Sydney winter. But I didn't mind this too much because it just meant that I hadn't needed to carry the items around Asia for five months with me.
I've definitely noticed over time that there are some items that I packed way back when I first set out in January that have stayed with me ever since and remain as useful as ever, while a lot of other things I brought with me have since found their way to the bin or charity shop. These are the things I want to talk about because some of these things are the ones you might not think of when packing your bag, but they might turn out to be the things you need most. Check out my list below:
- One pair of leggings, jeans and tights. These have been a saviour and are still used all the time - the jeans were my saviour when I arrived in Sydney and it was freezing, while the leggings are the comfiest thing ever to travel in on long bus rides or flights when the air con gets a bit much. Tights are just great - they can go under any dress, playsuit or shorts and help to make them look a bit smarter or just keep you warm but take up no room at all in your bag.
- Sportswear and a good pair of trainers. You might not be the sportiest person in the world, but when you're walking everywhere, you're trekking through jungles or up mountains, or you're walking on uneven ground, trainers are a godsend. They do take up a big of space in your bag, but if you get super cute and comfy ones you'll end up wearing them most of the time when you're travelling, or just tie them on to the bag. Sports shorts, yoga pants and sports bras are great because they not only look really good, they're comfy for travelling in and for doing all kinds of activities. (M and M Direct)
- A scarf or pashmina. Pick up one in Bangkok's markets, they're gorgeous. This is such a fantastic item to have in your hand luggage or handbag at all times - throughout Asia I never left the hostel without it. It's so good to have one on a flight or bus when the air con gets too cold, or just to have it to sling around your shoulders as a mark of respect if you stumble across a temple or shrine you just have to explore. With so many religious sites in Asia, it's always good to be prepared.
- Padlocks. I say plural because it's always a good idea to have one larger one and a few smaller ones - it was so important to have a larger one to lock up your valuables in Asia because there were thieves around and your money/passport/iPad is worth a lot more there. But it's also good to have some smaller padlocks for your bag when travelling on buses or trains. It gives you peace of mind more than anything.
- Memory cards. Always pack a few of different sizes just in case one is unreliable or decides to let you down when you're in the middle of nowhere and see something incredible. You don't want to be stuck without enough storage when you're travelling - there's just too much to capture.
- If you're travelling in Asia, you might not arrive with it but you should definitely pick up some coconut oil. It's amazing stuff and I swear by it - you can use it for anything, your skin, face, hair, nails, lips... And it all comes in one bottle. Trust me, when backpacking the less bottles you have weighing you down the better, plus it's cheap over there.
- More than one adapter - luckily I packed three because when I arrived in Asia, I found that one of them would only work in certain plug sockets while the other would work in all of them, and my other one was specifically for Australia. Now remember you can buy them along the way so don't carry them unnecessarily, but it's always good to have a spare.
- When I first went travelling I packed make-up remover wipes, now I swear by baby wipes. They're cheaper, come in bigger packs, better for your skin and you can use them for anything. They're so great for when you're travelling long-haul on a flight, bus or train and just want to feel clean again.
- Tiger balm or bite cream - just accept it, when you go travelling everything will be trying to eat you alive. Mosquitoes, midges, sandflies, bed bugs and all the rest - you'll get to a point where you've been bitten so much your legs are a mess and you wonder what it was like to not feel itchy. It's unpredictable and annoying but always best to be prepared - depending on where you are, you will use different products but carrying them with you is a must.
- Medical kit - now I'm not talking swabs and gauze, but plasters, Imodium, painkillers and antiseptic wipes can be such a saviour if you fall off a motorbike or are in a car accident and have to clean yourself up, if you become ill or get food poisoning. Just having basic supplies with you can mean the difference between infections and smaller scars, it can mean avoiding an uncomfortable night spent squatting over a train toilet.
When it comes down to it, these are definitely the items that have been used the most out of my backpack and interestingly only two of these items are actually clothes - the most practical. Bear that in mind if you're packing for a long trip, I know it feels like the most important thing is to look the part but you can buy clothes all over the world and not many people actually care what you look like when you're travelling - they're more interested in the smile on your face and the stories you have to tell. I know girls who rocked up to Australia with their hairdryer, straighteners, curlers, a shedload of makeup and a whole wardrobe of going out outfits - I'll be honest and say you don't need it. It's nice to have some of that stuff so you can actually make an effort sometimes, but you don't need a suitcase full of the stuff, why not save the space and make your bag lighter for travelling further? Plus when you're moving between places so often, nobody ever realises you've been wearing the same outfit on the last 10 nights out. When you're camping in the outback and haven't showered for a week, it really doesn't matter what label you're wearing. Get back to basics and enjoy it. My best advice, if you plan to travel to Asia, just pack as light as possible and buy everything there - you'll save a fortune and you'll only end up buying all the clothes anyway!
What are your most useful items? What do you wish you had packed on your last trip? What do you never leave home without?