Essential items for all gap year backpackers

Essential items for all gap year backpackers

If you are planning on travelling on your gap year it is important to make sure that you stay safe during your travels. Depending on how long you are going away for, will determine how much luggage you will need to bring with you; however, there are some definite essentials that you should not be leaving home without.

Before you even think about travelling or packing for your travels, it is essential that you have picked out the right luggage for yourself. Consider where you are going, and for how long, before choosing the luggage that you feel will be best suited to your needs. If you are backpacking, it is recommended that you take a large back pack, over a wheeled suitcase. Backpacks can be evenly packed, preventing injuries and it means you can cover any terrains with free hands, unlike a suitcase. It is useful to line your backpack with a plastic back to keep all of your possessions waterproof, as well as looking that is made from a waterproof material. You need to ensure that your backpack is comfortable and will remain comfortable for the duration of your trip. As a basic requirement, you should be looking for a bag that has wide, padded shoulder straps, a waist strap to ensure that you are properly supported, particularly if you are carrying your bag for long periods of time, a padded back panel for comfort, internal pockets, so you can organise your belongings, made of a lightweight durable material, and finally ensure that there is either room for a sleeping bag either inside the main compartment, or attached to the outside. Size wise, it is unlikely that you will require more than 65 litres. Don’t forget that, along with your main backpack, you will also require a day sack. This is generally a smaller backpack, which you can take day to day on your excursions, so you only have to move everything when you are changing locations. This should generally just contain the items that you will need during the day, and important documents that you do not want to leave with your main bag. It may also be worth keeping an emergency change of clothes in your day sack too should you not be able to get back to your main backpack. For both your backpack and your day sack, it is essential that you look at it like an investment piece and go for quality. Spend a bit more on them (particularly your back pack), as you will soon realise that it is worth it!

A lot of research goes into deciding where you would like to spend your gap year travelling, and whether you have chosen to travel around South America, Europe or Asia you will have an idea of what you need prior to going. It is so important to check the weather forecast to get a general idea of what the weather is like at the time of the year that you will be travelling. Be sure that you check all of the countries that you will be visiting to ensure that you do not pack anything that you definitely will not need. Also, depending on how long you are visiting an area (and we do appreciate that this is not always possible) it is best to have a rough idea of what it is you are planning on doing to ensure that you can pack effectively and will not be carrying too much around with you. One of the biggest items that will take up the most room are shoes, most of which won’t be worn. Three pairs will normally be suffice as you can have a day to day pair, a pair for walking, and a smarter pair for the evenings or work (should you be doing any). Remember to fill shoes before you pack them, as you will be surprised just how much you can fill them with. Check that you have appropriate clothing with you, but be sure that you do not over pack. Remember, anything that you take with you (remembering the items that you will inevitably buy when you are there) you will have to carry around with you. Make sure you take versatile items which can be worn with a number of different outfits. If you need to buy specialist clothing, make sure you actually need them. Think about trousers then can unzip and turn into shorts – this would mean that you could then take out other items of clothing and shirts with useful pockets. With specialist clothing, think about the practical features, not the appearance. Invest in good quality brands that will last you your entire trip,

One of the most important items that you should not be even considering leaving behind is a well-stocked first aid kit. You need to ensure that you have packed enough for you to look after yourself and be able to self-medicate for certain ailments should anything go wrong during your visit. Although you can buy kits that are already made up, depending on what part of the world you are visiting, you may need to add other essential items. Make sure that you have dressings and bandages, plasters, antiseptic wipes, gauze and scissors as a basic base should you buy a ready-made one. You can then add items such as painkillers, oral rehydration sachets, water purification tablets, anti-diarrhoea tablets, insect repellent, bite cream, antihistamines, sanitary products, sun cream and after sun and any medication that is already prescribed to you. If you are visiting more remote areas, it may also be worth investing in some sterile needle kits should you require any emergency medical treatment when you are out there. Although, this only really applies if you are visiting developing countries where medical equipment may be unsanitary or in short supply. When considering your health, it is always better to be prepared then not bring something you later need, and therefore a well-stocked first aid kit, is a must. Obviously, before you set off on your travels, you will receive any jabs that you need to, as well as any anti-malaria pills that you may need to take; however, if you are visiting an area where the malaria risk is high, take precautions and ensure that you have a mosquito net for your bed to protect you overnight.

Any regular traveller or camper will know that a good quality sleeping bag is vital and can drastically improve your quality of sleep. Make sure you know what the climate is like in the area you are travelling to, including the temperature at night. You can different sleeping bags for different seasons, so it is important that you are getting the right thickness for your trip. Also remember that just because somewhere is warm during the day, this does not mean that it will stay warm at night, which is why it is so important to check the average night temperature at the time you will be going. It may also be worth investing in a lightweight sleeping bag that has been specifically designed to not add any unnecessary weight to your bag but will still protect you from the elements, and can also be packed up relatively small, so it does not take up too much room in your bag. Consider sleeping bag liners, which are designed to protect your bag and add warmth, and can be used alone in more tropical climates, should your sleeping bag become too warm.

Now we move on to the smaller essentials that are worth packing, particularly if you are camping for any of your travels. Ensure that you have a torch. Either a hand held one or a head one; your phone charger (with the correct adaptor); batteries; several padlocks with a combination lock; a penknife; a sewing kit so you can make small repairs should you damage any clothing or bags; a small alarm clock; sunhat; a money belt, so you can keep your valuables close to your body at all times and a camera to document your journey. Be careful about what gadgets you take though. Be aware that you will not be staying in the same place for very long and there will be a lot of packing and unpacking. It is inevitable that something will get lost along the way, and do you really want that to be your expensive laptop or smartphone? If you do pack them, make sure they are secure and well protected, keeping them safe during your travels.

You will be travelling with several important documents as well. These need to be kept safe and close to you at all times and should not be stowed away in your luggage. You should either keep them in your day sack that you know will be with you at all times, or on your person and will include your passport; drivers licence (or other form of photographic ID); immunisation certificates; aeroplane tickets (or any tickets that you will require for travelling); accommodation booking information; information about any placements you will be on; embassy addresses and phone numbers; travel/medical insurance cards; traveller’s cheques; credits card; cash and any visas. It is worth making a photocopy of all these documents and then keep one with you, email one to yourself and leave one with a relative back home. If you do stay in a hotel during any point of your travels, if you can, lock your passport away in the safe, and carry around your driving license as ID.

A gap year should be a once in a lifetime experience; however, it is important to remember to stay safe. The above is only a brief guideline as to what you should pack, and are the bare necessities. You will need to check each location and adjust the list accordingly to ensure that you have everything you will require to have an amazing experience as well as staying safe. 

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