Things for packing

Items 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.

Backpack rain cover
To wrap around your backpack if the rain is too heavy.

Small 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.

Expandable carry-on
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.

Plastic bags
Excellent to put stuff in, but unfortunately not that durable.

Stuff Sack
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.

Small box
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.

Flexible 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.

Sleeping things

Things that might give you a better sleep, or actually give you a chance to sleep at all.

Sleeping mask
A black hair-band is said to work as well, when for example trying to sleep on a intercontinental flight or on a ferry.

Inflatable neck supporter
Kind of wimpy, but has given me some good nights sleep recently.

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.

Sleeping bag
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.

Woollen socks
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.

Mosquito net
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.

Sleeping mattress
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.

Folding knife
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.

Can opener
One of these things you are bound to need sooner or later. Unnecessary if you have a good Swiss army knife.

Bottle opener
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.

Water 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.

Tea spoon
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!

Eating utensils
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.

Drinking cup
There are some indestructible plastic drinking cups. Very useful.

Perhaps the best kind is made of heavy-duty plastic. Sometimes also works as a Frisbee.

Washing-up liquid
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.

Miscellaneous equipment

Things 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 is gone.

Small plastic hook
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!

Laundry brush
In case you do your own laundry.

Extra things / repair supplies

Backpack spare parts
Bringing along some spare backpack parts can be heaven sent in case it breaks. Using a broken backpack can be tough on your shoulders.

Extra shoe laces

Extra glasses
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.

Straps for glasses
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.

Safety pins
You are wrong if you think you don't need them.

Paper clips

Sewing Kit
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.

Extra buttons

Extra 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.

Soap dish
The box where you keep your wet soap.

Liquid 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.

Toilet paper
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.

Sun protection
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.

Contact lenses
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.

Lens cleaning liquid
Take a small bottle of multi-purpose liquid. You usually don't need a big bottle.

Lip balm
If the climate is dry or windy, or if the sun is just outrageously strong.

Hygiene (optional)

Some 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.

Hair brush
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 satisfying results.

Laundry brush
If you want to sprinkle on some detergent and scrub your clothes clean.

Clothes pegs
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...

Dental floss
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!


Things 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.

There 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.

General health stuff

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.

Sore tape
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.

Insect repellent
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 perfect.

These are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Take a good selection as well as some tape rolls.

First aid kit
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.

Water purifying filter
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 your choice.

Ear drops
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.

Pills and tablets

There's 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 backpack.

Water purifying tablets
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.

Motion sickness tablets
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.

Fever tablets
Paracetamol/acetaminopren is recommended by some (I try to avoid naming specific brands of tablets).

Pain relievers
There are many different brands, so make sure you bring a type that works for you.

Allergy pills (anti-histamines)

Malaria tablets
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!

General electrical stuff

Alarm clock
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.

Cellular Telephone
Remember that you may need a wall socket adapter if you wish to recharge the batteries in the telephone.


There 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 computer.

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 watertight.

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.

Shortwave radio
Remember that you may need a wall socket adapter to plug it to the wall socket.

Photo equipment

I'm 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 must.

Be sure the batteries are fresh, or choose a camera which needs no batteries at all!

Video camera
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.

Film safety shield
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.

Video tapes

One-Use camera
People have recommended a Konica panoramic one-use camera with 17mm lens. "Very nice for scenic shooting".


Camera bag

Extra lenses

Extra battery
Just like film; always cheaper at home (unless you live where I travel, then it's more expensive).

Music stuff

A 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 memory!

Walkman/CD player
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.


Music cassettes/CDs
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

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