that enable you to bring along the other items as effortlessly
as possible. A very important list, I'd say. Put an up-to-date
address label on backpacks, suitcases and day packs. I once
lost a suitcase full of my stuff since it had a very old Hong
Kong address on it.
Stay away from the cheap ones! I don't like the ones with
lots of external pockets since they are easy to steal from.
I also try to use one that seems a bit too small since that
forces me to skip some unnecessary things. Remember that you
are most likely going to have more things when coming home
than when you go. Backpacks with an external metallic frame
are very popular in Sweden. I think you should avoid them,
since the frame can break if thrown up on a truck or so. They
are not easy to push into small boxes at railways stations
and similar places.
To wrap around your backpack if the rain is too heavy.
extra backpack (Knap sack)
I can't be without a small extra backpack, since that
is where I carry things when walking around in cities. It
serves two other purposes as well. First, it gives you a chance
to carry more things along the road since I try to keep the
small backpack more or less empty from the start. Second,
when carrying the big backpack, I have the small one attached
by a carabiner (a climbing D-ring with a spring-loaded latch,
and possibly a safety lock so that it will not disconnect)
to the shoulder strap of the big one. This way I have easy
access to tickets and other important things in the small
backpack. The carabiner makes it impossible for thieves to
just grab the small backpack and run. To be honest, I'm pretty
proud of this idea.
The expandable bag will provide more room for souvenirs
when returning home from a trip.
It's kind of amazing how much you can put into a backpack
if you do a good job. By using rubber-bands, I squeeze clothes
down to a minimal size.
Excellent to put stuff in, but unfortunately not that
I have a set of small sacks (up to 3 litres) made of cloth
with a drawstring, in different colours. I keep different
types of things in different sacks, and with this colour code
I can easily find what I'm looking for in my backpack. Without
these sacks, your backpack will look like a mess in no time.
Bring a few spare ones as well.
Can be a good idea for small things that easily get lost
in the backpack. Such a box is also a good place to put fragile
stuff in, such as a pair of extra glasses.
For trips of a more businesslike character, or if you
really hate to see all your clothes wrinkled up, it might
be worthwhile to bring all clothes in a large suitcase. I
have one of the new plastic types with three clasps, and it
is very good. Some people dislike travellers with backpacks.
A suitcase could make such people treat you better.
steel cable (or chain)
I have a 1.5 metre long plastic coated steel cable of
proper dimensions with loops at both ends. With it and the
padlock, I make damn sure my backpack doesn't disappear on
trains at night. It cannot prevent anyone from opening the
backpack to steal some of its contents, but the cable prevents
the whole backpack from disappearing. It has many times given
me considerably better sleep. Heavy!
Necessary when using the steel cable above, but also works
in cheap hotels where you don't trust the default padlocks
provided by the hotel. Some backpacks are lockable by allowing
you to lock the zippers. Keep an extra key somewhere separate
so that you don't end up with a locked room if you somehow
lose the first one, or, preferrable, buy a combination padlock
and make sure you remember the combination! There are also
locks that doubles as motion alarm.
that might give you a better sleep, or actually give you a
chance to sleep at all.
A black hair-band is said to work as well, when for example
trying to sleep on a intercontinental flight or on a ferry.
Kind of wimpy, but has given me some good nights sleep
Packs very small and can save you (or your fellow traveller)
a night's sleep. My girlfriend claims I snore, but there is
no evidence. Toilet paper is said to work as well.
Takes up a hell of a lot of space in your backpack. Get
one in a sack that makes it possible to compress the sleeping
bag as much as possible.
It is a very good idea to put a pair of woollen socks
inside your sleeping bag. It turns out that your feet are
the part of your body that is most likely to freeze, so a
pair of woollen socks can keep your feet warm enough to give
you a good night's sleep.
If you find out that you don't trust the ones you get
in hotels. A sheet bag is also an option and a requirement
for sleeping in most YHA youth hostels.
A pillow is too large to fit in a backpack, but you can
make one by just stuffing clothes into a pillowcase.
Bulky, but some people need it.
Bulky as hell, but necessary in some places like Africa
due to the Malaria problem, and they can also keep many other
insects away from you. A well tucked-in mosquito net probably
kept a huge spider from entering my bed in Indonesia, and
a poorly tucked-in net made it possible for a big cockroach
to enter my bed in Malaysia. My girlfriend can testify that
it is a BAD experience to wake up with a cockroach crawling
over your body... Also remember that these nets easily get
holes in them, making them pretty useless. You can patch such
holes with masking tape.
Very useful! I use it in its rolled state for sitting
on, and it keeps you from dirty floors and scorpions at night.
I just recently bought one of the new self inflating variants.
I think it was a good idea. These mattresses also comes in
the shape of pillows.
A Swiss army knife is good for many things, but the blade
is usually too short for slicing bread or fruit. Avoid anything
that might look military unless you want problems at some
border crossings. But then again, the customs officer in Zaire
was worried for me when I told him that the Swiss army knife
was the only weapon I brought with me. There are also a few
expensive but handy multi-purpose knifes, like SOG and Leatherman.
One of these things you are bound to need sooner or later.
Unnecessary if you have a good Swiss army knife.
Bring a good Swiss army knife instead.
Bring a good Swiss army knife instead, but make sure the
screw is long enough or the cork may stay in the bottle.
If you go to Africa, Asia, Southern America or even the
Rocky Mountains in Canada, you'll be very sorry if you don't
bring a good watertight bottle. Soda bottles are sometimes
OK, but they don't last very long. Buy one of the metallic
types, e.g. Sigg (they also make fuel bottles) or a sturdy
plastic one (Nalgene). Pour in some dubious water and throw
in some of these purifying tablets; in some minutes you have
some horrible tasting water. I prefer bad tasting water to
Amoebic Dysentery or "Beaver Fever" (Giardia).
Nice for keeping liquid cold in hot climates, as well
as keeping liquid warm in cold climates. A metallic indestructible
thermos can double as a water bottle. Heavy.
OK, I might be prosecuted for this, but I advise you to
steal one from the first cafe along the road! Great souvenirs!
My dad has hundreds of them!
Also possible to steal, but I think a Swiss army knife
works OK. But then again, I don't cook much food on the road.
People going to China are often advised to bring their own
chopsticks, since washing bamboo ones doesn't sanitise them.
There are some indestructible plastic drinking cups. Very
Perhaps the best kind is made of heavy-duty plastic. Sometimes
also works as a Frisbee.
Try to find a small bottle that can hold just as much
as you'll need on your hike. Reports say that shampoo can
double as washing- up liquid. You may not want to try the
other way around.
that just didn't fit into any other list.
I was once lost on a mountain in Sudan. I had a compass
with me, but didn't use it to find my way. Pretty stupid,
I know. Sometimes useful in the city.
On a mountain in Sudan I saw a couple of baboons on the
savannah, and that was just about the only time I used them.
If you decide to bring a pair, stick to very small ones.
You can buy them anywhere, but the quality is often very
bad. Bring a bunch of them. Works as much appreciated gifts
to kids. Bring a few with a very fine point felt top since
they are excellent for writing compact letters. I remember
buying stamps for postcards in Belgium a few years ago and
found out they cost more than a glass of beer!
Nice in your hotel room late at night when the electricity
Can be very handy.
Matches can be bought everywhere but are sometimes of
lousy quality. You should really bring a couple of cheap gas
lighters even if you don't smoke.
Small ones are cool but will leave your eyes pretty unprotected.
I once forgot the keys on a short trip to our summer house.
Very very annoying!
things / repair supplies
In case you do your own laundry.
Bringing along some spare backpack parts can be heaven
sent in case it breaks. Using a broken backpack can be tough
on your shoulders.
If you are like me, blind without glasses, you need some
kind of backup. Carry your prescription as well, and keep
the glasses in a sturdy box so that they will not be crushed
in your backpack.
The sporty type that makes your (sun)glasses stay on your
nose. Bodysurfing can be expensive: I have pairs of glasses
on the bottom of both the Pacific and Indian Ocean.
You are wrong if you think you don't need them.
These are normally the size of a softcover book of matches,
and can be purchased for a reasonable price from most travel
stores, and many airlines even give these out for free. They
usually contain 2 needles, a little bit of different coloured
threads, and a couple of buttons. This can be *VERY* handy
sometimes, and does not take up any space at all.
blades for Shaving equipment
This only applies to us who prefer to avoid electric shavers.
They are heavy, and electrical standards are not standard.
Nick your sister's handbag mirror if it looks sturdy enough.
Glass may not be a good idea for some journeys. Highly polished
stainless steel mirrors are available. Also very reflective
are the undersides of CDs.
One of the few things you can buy all over the world.
Can also be bought almost everywhere.
The ones you find along the road may not smell the way
you are used to, but at least they are available everywhere.
The box where you keep your wet soap.
Liquid soap in little containers is said to be more convenient
to carry than bar soap. A sample size bottle can be refilled
from normal size bottles.
If you are really hard-core, you can use soap, but, well,
I'm kind of wimpy and prefer real shampoo. Not as available
as soap, but it should be no real problem getting it in most
towns all over the world. I remember even getting a super
efficient shampoo against bugs in a pharmacy in Assuan, Egypt,
by sketching a bug with legs on a piece of paper and making
crawling motions with my hand in my hair. Pretty international
problem, I guess. A combination shampoo/ liquid soap is sometimes
very handy. Make sure you bring a small bottle, or
it will be half full when you come home.
NOT available everywhere, but nevertheless kind of indispensable.
In Africa it took me two months to get somewhat used to using
just my hand and water. In a pinch, you can use newspaper.
It's no worse than some of the toilet paper I've seen.
I just used a T-shirt on one trip, but now I think a medium
size towel is a must, unless I know I will be staying at fancy
hotels all the time. Alternatively, there are very absorbent
cloths which act like a sponge to soak up water. They dry
very quickly and are much smaller than towels.
Can be hard and/or very expensive to get in some countries.
Bring some heavy duty stuff! Factor 15 was not enough last
time I was up on a mountain, so I'll go for at least factor
20 next time. And a hat.
It might be a good idea to bring some extra lenses in
case you lose one, for example if a big wave takes you by
surprise on the beach.
Take a small bottle of multi-purpose liquid. You
usually don't need a big bottle.
If the climate is dry or windy, or if the sun is just
optional hygiene items. After taking a sneek look at some
womens makeup "equipment", I realize that this list
could easily grow to rediculous proportions.
You might be pretty unhappy without it. Packs very small.
Bulkier than a comb.
Popular in Norway but by some reason not in Sweden. Packs
very small, and gives you the chance to get clean all the
way into your pores. Can also double as a small hand towel.
Terrence Gyles Foley adds: In a hot climate, a washcloth is
extremely useful. It's not indispensable but it affords a
large measure of comfort in areas potentially without amenities.
Some people rarely use a washcloth for bathing because it's
unnecessary. It may be essential for hygiene in very hot or
infested climates. A washcloth can be used to keep the face
and hands clean of perspiration and after dinner. Few things
on the road can afford such instant pleasure. I usually buy
a dish rag about 10 inches square, made of as heavy a terry
cloth (absorbent) material as possible. Any old rag is preferable
to nothing. Just have a wipe immediately at hand at all times
as you travel.
Can double as a washcloth.
Available almost everywhere, but you can use soap with
If you want to sprinkle on some detergent and scrub your
Pretty usable, actually. I carry with me perhaps 8 of
these magnificent inventions.
Some say this is a must. Some even say "lots of deodorant,
PLEASE!!!" I have been recommended a deo crystal that
might be a good idea for travellers (it is small and has no
container that you need to throw away afterwards). I haven't
tried it myself...
Is said to be perfect as a cheese slicer, and reports
say it is perfect as heavy-duty sewing thread!
The metal tongs women use to pluck hairs from their eyebrows!
which can help preserve health on your trip. Put most of your
things in this category in a special pouch. On long trips
through many remote parts of the tropical world you should
count on becoming ill at some point and make allowances for
the eventuality. Many things can be sorted out given time
and care - be prepared to forget your schedule and stay put
for a week or so.
are sure to be gaps in the information below. Conditions change
almost daily. For the most accurate and up-to-date health
information, be sure to consult with your doctor and your
local health authority.
Can be kind of hard to find in some countries. Don't go
abroad without them! As for birth control pills/devices, these
can cause some raised eyebrows (or worse) at customs checks
in some countries if the woman is travelling alone. Wearing
a wedding ring even if you're single is often recommended.
If you need to protect and/or cover these blisters you
got from cheap shoes. Plasters/bandages work alright for this;
however, there are excellent products available which are
made specially for walking blisters/sores.
Very good to have in Malaria prone countries, as well
as in Canada and Scandinavia during the summer. Note: malaria
prophylaxis is not a sure thing anymore. Taking malaria tablets
cannot guarantee that you will not get malaria in places where
it is endemic. There are now many resistant strains of malaria.
So if you want to avoid getting it, you must avoid being bitten
by mosquitoes. Some insect spray also repels leeches, such
as the ones that can make jungle treks in Malaysia less than
These are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Take a good selection as well as some tape rolls.
I have never had to use one, but I carry one with me,
just in case.
Iodine drops can purify water, and are great on cuts.
If you know you have to purify large amounts of water
for a long time, then this gadget might be an option. Quite
expensive and quality varies. Many water filters have appeared
on the camping market in recent years. It would be wise to
read reviews about them before purchase, or stick with the
old standard (Katadyn). Water filters also vary in what they
will remove. Some are capable of removing virus organisms
and even chemicals. Others filter only larger organisms and
particulates. Determining what your needs are will help simplify
Very nice if you get an infection in your ear from exposure
to sea water. May not be necessary if you wash your ear with
bottled water after each swim in the ocean.
a lot on this list, since there are a lot of diseases you
can catch. Remember that with a backpack full of strange pills,
you can get into border problems. Keep the pills in their
original containers, and stuff them all in a box so that they
don't end up being ground to dust by the pressure in your
Take lots. Perfect gifts in poor villages in Africa. Remember
that they are also necessary in "civilised" places
like the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where there is now a greater
incidence of "Beaver Fever", a form of giardiasis,
reported by wilderness travellers.
Also available are "patches" which attach to
your skin (behind the ear) and slowly release the required
medication. There are devices, wrist bands, which are reported
to provide relief by applying pressure to wrist pressure points.
Paracetamol/acetaminopren is recommended by some (I try
to avoid naming specific brands of tablets).
There are many different brands, so make sure you bring
a type that works for you.
Don't mess around with malaria! I've seen travellers on
the edge of dying, so bring lots of malarial medicine. Many
tropical specialists recommend taking 2 different kinds as
prophylaxis. Also bring the stronger malaria tablets (Fansidar,
others?) which are considered "the cure" in many
places. Bring more than you need - you can always discard
them (safely!) or give them away. Please note: malaria is
endemic in many parts of the tropical world. There is a wide
range of resistance to current malaria drugs, including "the
cure"! Seriously, the only sure way to avoid getting
malaria is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. An alarming
fact is that many doctors in the Western world seem to be
pretty out of touch when it comes to resistant strains of
Malaria. Malaria is one of the most popular topics among travellers!
I think a watch with alarm is perfect, but I sleep hard
like a stone and need an alarm clock that can wake the dead.
Essential if you have a flight very early in the morning.
Remember that you may need a wall socket adapter if you
wish to recharge the batteries in the telephone.
are many choices from Laptop, Notebook, Subnotebook to PDA.
Make sure you really need it, since many of them are heavier
than you first might think! Remember that you may need a wall
socket adapter if you wish to recharge the batteries in the
Next time I'll buy myself a Swatch or something similar.
No big deal if it gets stolen, and they are waterproof and
sturdy. Be sure the battery is fresh! Some watches have a
handy alarm feature and a built-in tiny compass. Another handy
option would be a watch with a built-in calculator, but they
are unfortunately often ugly beyond description and also seldom
I have a Maglite (a thin black slick metallic torch with
an adjustable magnifying glass) that I like to bring with
me. It's nice to carry along at night in strange neighbourhoods
abroad. Kind of expensive. The smallest Maglite is called
"Solitaire" and can hang off your key ring. Some
people bring miner's headlamp style torches. "Great for
camp cooking as you always have your hands free."
The travel (small) size that can be used with 110 and
220 V. "The iron is a must if you don't want to wear
wrinkled clothes straight from the suite cases." You
can also use an iron to dry your clothes in a hurry.
For your camera, flash, torch, watch and Walkman.
Remember that you may need a wall socket adapter to plug
it to the wall socket.
a very bad photographer, so lately I have ended up not bringing
a camera at all. There are two other reasons to leave it at
home: Cameras are very prone to be stolen; I hate to be paranoid
about the risk of being robbed. Cameras can also be very heavy,
and my shoulders are weak. Except for that, a camera is a
Be sure the batteries are fresh, or choose a camera which
needs no batteries at all!
Some video cameras are now so small that they're actually
an option for travellers.
Bring lots of it, and, if you have an old camera that
does not automatically sense the film speed, try to keep the
same ASA/DIN sensitivity on all of them. I have ruined a lot
of film this way, since I forgot to change the settings on
my camera after changing film type. Yeah, I know, I'm stupid.
Anything other than 35mm can be hard to find in many countries,
but if you travel in Europe or the US you can buy film anywhere.
Customs will insist x-rays are harmless to film. I have
rolls of x-ray fogged film which confirm this... if you want
to avoid hassles with over-zealous inspectors, buy a lead-lined
film shield at any camera shop. Store all film in it, as well
as your camera (if there's film in it) for your meetings with
x-ray happy airport authorities.
People have recommended a Konica panoramic one-use camera
with 17mm lens. "Very nice for scenic shooting".
Just like film; always cheaper at home (unless you live
where I travel, then it's more expensive).
Walkman can be heaven and hell. It can be stolen, and it can
also give you some of the best highlights of a trip. I remember
one night walking down the centre of Khartoum with Red Lorry
Yellow Lorry on maximum volume in my earplugs! A truly special
A Walkman with a radio tuner can be very handy. There
are Sony Walkmans with built-in solar panels so that you don't
need to buy so many batteries. Remember that you may need
a wall socket adapter if you wish to recharge the batteries
in the walkman.
If you bring too many, they take up a lot of place in
your backpack. If you bring too few, you get sick and tired
of them in a flash. One option is to leave them all at home
with your Walkman. That way all your music will be like brand
new when you come home.