Travel Tips

The Traveler’s Backpack: What To Bring

Harlem, U.S.A.
April 2017
Age: 26

What Not To Bring

You are about to embark on an awesome adventure on the other side of the world. We need to make sure you do it right because this isn’t the I need to take a cab from the airport upon arrival to help with my three 50lb suitcases containing 23 pairs of shoes sort of trip. This is the low budget-no budget always on the go trip you’ve been waiting for. Before we begin planning on what to pack lets go over the key basics on what not to bring. It’s very simple. Ready? Absolutely NO fanny packs and NO suitcases. The NO fanny pack rule includes anything that makes you stand out like a typical tourist. You know what I’m talking about. Please don’t make yourself a target. Blend in the best you can.

The most important rule of the two is NO suitcases. You might have an awesome suitcase that rolls in every direction or that you can apparently sit on at the airport and ride it to your gate. That’s great. I get it. But remember, a suitcase is reserved for when you are going home from college or going only from point A to point B. It is very important as a world travel to not only have your hands free but to be able to carry everything you travel with on your back and not drag anything. Why? Because broken wheels, friction and cobble stone streets can be a real pain. Your poor brother is going to end up having to carry that wonderful suitcase when the terrain gets rough. Please do him a favor from having to carry any extra weight in the Brazilian heat! Thanks Sis!


Travel Essentials

One list of everything you need to bring on a trip doesn’t exist. What you bring on a motorcycle trip will be different than a hiking one and so on. The season of where you’re going will also affect what you bring. However, there is a list of what I believe is good for a 2-4 week trip to multiple cities and a good base foundation for any trip. Apart from brining comfortable shoes and regular clothes, let’s go over the necessary items for your adventure and why you should bring them.

1. Hiking Backpack – You don’t need to go HAM and buy a super expensive backpack but get yourself a good one. My poor backpack has survived the toughest terrains and it only cost me a little over $100.
2. Regular Backpack – Good for when you are sightseeing and bringing only what you need for the day. You can roll it up and put it in your hiking backpacking to make it easier to carry.
3. Hoodie – Important for a chilly evening or when the bus’ air conditioner is on ice blast, bus driver says it can’t be turned off and the little lever for the AirCon above your head is broken/gone.
4. Shapka (Beanie) – This is the most important item for any trip and the best way to protect your head from that damn AirCon. Stay warm, stay sane. 


5. A Nice Outfit – Always bring at least one nice outfit, you never know when you’ll end up at someone’s wedding.
6. Duct Tape – Or as the Finish girls I met in Italy called it: Jesus Tape. According to them it fixes everything and I couldn’t agree more. Especially useful for fixing up your friend’s backpack like that one time in Quito, Ecuador when a thief silently slashed the back of her backpack on a packed tram ride. Don’t worry, it was a failed attempt. We duct taped that slit front and back real quick.
7. Thin Rope – Useful for many situations. Notice how in the picture below my backpack has some white, thin rope hanging out. I somehow managed to lose the original strap to tighten my backpack shut but was ready with a replacement. Been there ever since.
8. Plastic Bags – For your shoes and for when you have dirty/wet clothes and need to keep them separated from all that is clean. Fold them up into football triangles to minimize the space they use and easy access.
9. Umbrella or Poncho – Choose your style but be sure to protect yourself from the rain.
10. Lock & Key – Most hostels have free lockers where you can keep your stuff but the lock and key they offer isn’t free. Bring your own to avoid payment.
11. Safety Pins – Many uses. Good for any rip or tear. Still have some on my hiking backpack.
12. A Book – For those long distance trips while you sit on the plane, train or bus, or when you want to just relax, enjoy the day, and read.


13. Passport With Necessary Visas – Can’t travel abroad without it. Always check in advance which countries require a visa. Not all countries are visa-free or have visas available upon arrival. Many countries require you to apply and receive a visa prior to arriving. 
14. Folder With All Purchased Flight/Train Printouts – I know we live in the 21st century but just print them out. Some airports (e.g. Many airports in India) won’t allow you even in the airport without proof of ticket confirmation. Screen shots work too but a simple printout avoids the risk of a dead phone battery and hassle of entering those airports.
15. Shades – Suns out, guns out. Protect your eyes.
16. Cigarettes & A Lighter – Many, many reasons, even if you’re not a smoker. I once traveled east across Mexico. The combi (mini bus) from Chichen Itza to Cancun didn’t leave me at the coast of Cancun where the resorts and hotels are. Instead, it dropped me off on some random street in the hood part of Cancun at 11PM on a dark night that wasn’t even on my map. You better believe my hood was up, death glare on and cigarette lit. Smoking increases your bad ass perception by 37%. It’s science. I made sure people thought I was the threat in those streets instead of the other way around until I found a hostel. Smoking kills so only use when necessary.
17. Wallet – Take all the coffee reward cards and everything else you don’t need from your wallet out and leave them behind. Essentials only. 
18. Cash – Bring at least $300. Five 20s and two 100s. Nowadays you can throw everything on your credit card but for the times you need to hustle in the street market, cash is handy. Also good in case your credit/debit card doesn’t work upon arrival.
19. Credit/Debit Card – Don’t forget to call in advance and let them know you are traveling.
20. Priority Pass – Free drinks, free coffee, free food, free wifi, free couches, free showers. You know the drill.
21. Old School Watch – No need to attract thieves. Keep it simple with the Casio F-91W. This water resistant watch with an alarm chronograph and barely working dim, green light that only illuminates half the watch (left side) somehow manages to get the job done at $9.33 on Amazon.
22. Small Notebook – Always good to keep a journal of your trip and any time you want to jot down thoughts.
23. Pens – For the notebook and for filling out the declaration paper upon arrival to your destination.


Toiletries & First Aid…

Uh…  about that first aid kit… I’ll be honest with you, I’ve actually never traveled with one. Maybe because bandaids are annoying. Fortunately for me, I’ve never gotten sick or injured on any of my trips as reckless as I may have been on some of them. * knocks on wood* Maybe you should bring one though.

Let’s continue, shall we?

24. Toiletries Bag – Keep everything organized and all together to avoid losing anything.
25. Toothbrush & Toothpaste – Please brush.
26. Deodorant – Not really necessary if traveling in the winter but do everyone a favor and have some on at all time. Be respectful to those around you and kindly don’t contaminant everyone’s oxygen. 
27. Razor – Eh, I don’t really shave when I travel but good to have in case I do.
28. Soap & Shampoo – Please shower. 
29. Comb/Brush – I use my fingers but necessary for those with luscious locks. 
30. Qtips – I feel like we always forget these bad boys when we travel so be sure to bring some.
31. Flip Flops – Necessary for the hostel communal showers.
32. Small Towel – The size pictured below is enough (17” x 38” [43cm x 97cm]). You’ll need the backpack space for more important essentials.
33. Toilet Paper – Take out the cardboard cylinder in the middle and carry a little bit with you at all time. You might end up on a bus or bathroom with either no toilet paper or the option to purchase a couple sheets of sand paper outside of the pay-per-entry bathroom. Also good to have around for blowing your noise.
34. Tide To Go – This little invention actually works. It’s small and compact so why not?
35. Menthol – Pretty much my first aid kit. Rub some on your chest, neck and behind the ears. Cures everything.
36. Nail Clipper – Long nails get in the way when you make a fist.
37. Chapstick – Chapped lips are the worst. Stay juicy.
38. Triple Antibiotic Cream – I heard you shouldn’t put menthol on an open wound so be sure to apply this ointment instead.


Electronic Essentials

39. Small Tablet – Laptops keep getting lighter and tablets are handy to have around. You may not even need your tablet with everything a phone can do. I don’t recommend bringing your large laptop though. Too bulky.
40. Small Pouch – Best to stay organized and keep your electronics all in one spot.
41. Phone – It’s probably glued to your hand, but be sure to disconnect yourself from your world to experience the world. You won’t be disappointed. 
42. Flashlight – For when you have to go to the bathroom at the hostel or to search for something you dropped on the night bus. Almost everyone has one on their phone nowadays which works just as well.
43. Voltage Converter – Most chargers are 100-240 voltage compatible so unless you’re brining a hair dryer/hair straightener you don’t really need one. Remember, this is different than an outlet adapter which only changes the prongs of your charger to fit in the local outlet.
44. Outlet Adapter – Not all outlets are created equal.
45. Phone Charger – Always good to have a backup. 
46. Regular Headphones – Leave your Boss Quiet Comfort 35 wireless headphones at home. They take up too much room and makes you a target. Bring your own regular headphones so you don’t get stuck with the crappy airport ones. Better yet, bring two just in case.
47. Little Fan – Your sister will be grateful when she takes it from you on that scorching, summer train in India. Especially since it has a button to spray water. It’s okay though, the wind from the window ain’t so bad. Keep an extra AA battery for the fan in your bag.


Actually Packing

Some people fold their clothes and others roll their clothes. There’s no science to it other than do your best to remove as much air as possible. Be sure to put everything light at the bottom and everything heavy at the top. It’s a little trick to make the backpack easier to carry.

Remember, it’s okay to wear the same shirt multiple times before washing it. Clothes diversification of the same type of garment will only waste your limited space in your backpack. Most importantly, be sure to travel with your backpack at most 75% full when you leave your country. You’ll most likely buy souvenirs along the way so you’ll definitely need the extra room.

Keep in mind the list is from a gent’s point of view. I’m not versed at all in the art of all that is makeup related given that I go for the all naturál look. Also, the ladies already know what feminine products they need so I’ll leave that up to them.

Protect your well packed gear and have a safe trip!!


© 2017, Traveling is my Religion, All Rights Reserved

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