Backpacking Essentials

If you are shopping around for things that you need to take on your gap year you will no doubt have been amazed at how much is available – more than you could ever hope to carry! So now is the time to be selective and spend wisely.

Your BackpackThis is an item which you really should try before you buy as even subtle differences in design will affect your comfort. If you are only five feet tall and petite you will need a different bag from a strapping six-footer. A good shop should let you try it on and load it up. Keep it on your back for 20 minutes and if it is the right bag and adjusted correctly you should feel comfortable and not achy. Try bending over and turning round in it – if you fall over or knock things off the shop shelves it is probably not the one for you! You will also need a small day bag – try carrying both at the same time or choose one small enough to go in your main backpack when empty.

Sleeping BagHired linen can be dubious on non-existent in some places so take your own sleeping bag. Many of them can be compacted to a very small size, especially if you don’t need one that can cope with below-freezing temperatures.

Travel Towels
You can buy some superb little towels that are about the size of a postage stamp and dry out in half an hour. If you are tight on space, these are brilliant. However it is worth saving room in your luggage for a nice big towel to lie on at the beach, as a blanket or pillow while in transit, to preserve your modesty or, well, to use for drying yourself.

Flip Flops
Can be purchased for a couple of pounds from Primark – and are a real must-have in your luggage. You will encounter lots of things that you do not want your feet to make contact with like scummy showers and sea urchins.

Water Purification Tablets, Mosquito Net, Emergency Blanket etc…Before shelling out for these consider where you are going and what you are doing. If you are backpacking in a developed nation and staying in hostels you can probably do without these.

Plug Adaptors
If you are bringing something electrical, that is. Many mobile phones and MP3 players can be charged using the USB port on computers so you can put them on to charge while sending your emails home. Failing that many hostels and fellow travellers have them to borrow so consider if it is worth packing if you will only use it occasionally.

TorchAnother must – but a small plastic one will do the job nicely as this is an item that is likely to go AWOL at some point!

Money CarrierChoose one that can be worn under clothing (to prevent advertising that you are potentially carrying something valuable) and waterproof so you can take it everywhere – swimming and showers are the perfect opportunity for a thief to get their hands on your money.

First Aid KitCheck the contents carefully and consider customising rather than bringing items that you are very unlikely to use. If you are taking prescribed medicine check for any restrictions on taking them through customs, and check that you can obtain replacements at your destination.

Luxury ItemsTake one book with you and once you have finished that swap it for another, then another then another. MP3 players could have been invented for backpackers – gone are the days of a Walkman, a stack of tapes and a packet of batteries for it. And – assuming you like it – a small jar of Marmite makes a tasty snack out of even a stale crust of bread. I certainly couldn’t live without it.

Travel InsuranceEven if you pack none of the above, travel insurance is the one thing you should definitely take with you. 24/7 travel insurance costs from as little as 18p per day* and could save you from a hefty bill after a medical emergency.

* Premium £5.48 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual aged 18-35 travelling in Europe for 1 month purchasing a backpacker ‘standard’ policy.