You never backpacked before but you contemplate the idea? Whether you are 18, 39 or 75 years old, it is possible to go discover the world on your own. Here are 12 items that I judge most important to buy if you are starting from scratch.
Note: Each traveler travels differently. I invite you to read articles from other blogs on the same topic! Their opinion is precious and will provide other ideas.
As one of the fundamental components, the backpack raises questions for many: What brand to choose? How many liters? What’s more practical? Join one of my workshops on the topic! You can find dates under the Travel Coaching section of this site.
Are you hesitating between luggage on wheels and a bag? As a traveler who enjoys treks and least-visited villages (with less paved roads), I highly recommend a backpack. However, if you are staying in a city and you don’t mind carrying your luggage up the stairs (sometimes up many floors), rest assured that one of my best friends (and a great traveler) prefers luggage on wheels to avoid back pain!
Getting good walking/hiking shoes is extremely important to support your feet and ankles. You might not carry your bag for a long time, but trust me when I say that you will walk a lot! To visit alleys, museums, nature reserves, volcanos, treks, etc. It’s no wonder shoes rank second on my list: as you would do for your bag, choose what is best for you and your specific needs.
An everyday backpack is essential, because you will leave your large bag where you are sleeping. You choose to leave for the day and you want to bring snacks? The sky is grey and you wish to bring a rain jacket with you? You spend a day visiting ruins and it is obvious that you will need to apply more sunscreen throughout the day (therefore carry it with you)? Or maybe you are doing a four-day on foot expedition to Machu Picchu. Not only will you want to carry a lighter bag, you also learn that you can only enter the destination with a small bag. There you go…you got all the reasons why the everyday bag is crucial for the backpacker!
Antitheft bags exist if you are scared of robbery. Consult this link for examples.
You are traveling between cities where there is electricity? Carrying the right adaptor for the country you are visiting is important at all times! If you want to charge your phone (also an essential!), camera or computer, plug your hair dryer or straightener (that are secondary items), you will only need the power adaptor and NOT the converter. Today, most devices have double voltage and do not require a converter!
Where can you get them? Walmart, CAA, Momo Sport, Atmosphere… I recommend you be cautious with those sold online. They are sometimes sold cheaply and their quality is mediocre.
Today, most bags come with a rain cover, so it might not be worth mentioning, however when I purchased mine they were sold separately! In case your bag does not come with a rain cover, trust me, it’s NECESSARY to get one and to carry it with you. You never know when you will need it.
Are you staying at a hostel or in a shared room? The headlamp is useful there. From its many lighting functionalities, when I am traveling I use the red light primarily: when everyone in my room is sleeping, its red colour is more suitable for my eyes and my roommates eyes. My headlamp was also useful when I was looking for my way to the external latrines of a trek in the jungle, as I was climbing a volcano. Far from its only functionalities, my headlamp has been useful on many other occasions!
Another item that you might need when you share rooms with others, as some of them might snore. You’re thinking that you can ignore this, because earplugs are not comfortable? Trust me, after a few sleepless nights caused by your noisy roommates (snoring for sure, also some return around 3-4am and speak loudly as if it was 9pm) you might want to try them and probably will embrace them.
Because I come from a region (Quebec) where Mother Nature is unpredictable, I always carry a rain jacket. You might say that a bit of rain won’t hurt anyone, but remember that access to dryers is often limited (or nonexistent in some cultures!) Nothing is as unpleasant as having to wear damped clothes!
Flip flops are essential to protect your feet from warts and other potential infections in showers. Whether you are staying at a hostel or you are couchsurfing, it is reassuring to know that you won’t need to put on your boots to protect your feet when you go to the washroom at night!
Sunglasses might not be essential for everyone, but since my eyes are sensitive, it is important that I carry them, especially polarized ones. Why polarized? Regardless of the sunlights’ intensity, the polarization helps distinguish shapes, requiring less effort from your eyes.
To be honest, I never wear hats (except during winter to keep my head warm). It is why I tend to forget to pack a hat. However, it only takes a day experiencing a Sun ritual in Cuzco, walking in the heart of the desert, or spending a few hours navigating the streets of a city in the South, without a hat, to understand why it is an essential item. A hat can protect you from heat strokes, sunburns, and severe dehydration.
Why fins?, you will ask. Whether you use them to swim with turtles, take a bath or simply for a unique way to walk in the city, fins are great for costumes and can attract new friends.
Of course, I am kidding! So why are they on my list? Because I was not satisfied with 11 items on my list. Of course, you probably understand fins are not essential, but I hope I made you smile a little!
This list is not applicable to all types of travels. It is mainly relevant for trips on well-traveled paths (Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Thailand, Europe in general, etc.) You are going to Compostela? Click here for a more adequate list. Are you more interested in remote locations and minimalist trips? I refer you to my friend Francis and his African experience.
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