Thursday, 15 September 2016

A packing guide for backpacking newbies: hot country edition

Suitcase: Check
Lots of underwear: Check
Lots of socks: Check
Pretty clothes: Check
My entire makeup bag: Check
Full size Shampoo/conditioner and bodywash: Check
Nice shoes, trainers and flip flops: Check
 
WRONG, so wrong. This is an insight to my packing list when I went travelling last year, for the first time. There's more than what I've listed but I'll be here forever, which is the point I am trying to make, I packed way too much, and it was too heavy, inconvenient and I didn't even use half the stuff I packed. I don't want another newbie to make the same silly mistakes as me, which is why I'm going to tell you what I'm packing this time around, and why some of the things I've listed are unncecessary, although some may be pretty obvious, let me explain.


Suitcase: When you plan on staying in hostels, moving around a lot and you're a solo traveller. A suitcase isn't ideal. My suitcase was a limited edition samsonite, which was way too expensive, and a target for thieves. I liked it because it had a pretty floral design on it which would be easy to spot on the conveyer. When I eventually got to my first accomodation, I was greeted with a nice long flight of stairs, luckily the lady at the desk carried my suitcase up for me, but I felt terrible because she was a tiny Thai woman and if you know Thais, then you know they won't let you do it yourself, but girrrrl she had muscle. When I went to open my suitcase, I noticed that, oh, it was open? The airline must've thrown it about and broken the lock system so that it pinged open, so, that was a huge smack in the face. From then on, everywhere I went, there were stairs, rocky paths, and teeny tiny lockers. Not ideal. The whole time, I thought "should've brought a backpack, I really, really should've brought a backpack" that's why this time around, I'll be using a backpack, they don't call it backpacking for nothin'

Depending on the type of activities you're doing, you can use a fairly small rucksack. If you know how to pack, and you pack carefully, you can fit a lot in there, its like a Mary Poppins kinda thing. My bag can hold up to 50L which is more than enough for me.

You can find the bag pictured above here

Pretty clothes: Ok, I said pretty clothes to sum it up. What this means is really nice clothes that you'd wear to an evening meal, or dinner and drinks. Classy, elegant clothes. I'm neither of those things so I don't know why I had that idea. Its good to have a couple of nice tops or a dress, but you probably won't really wear them. I had at least 2 dresses which I never even came close to wearing. In all honesty, you'll probably end up living in the same outfit for a couple of days because going out and exploring is way more important than looking good. Of course, have the odd day where you make an effort so you can take tumblr-esque photographs of you walking along the beach in the sunset if that's your thing, but dont overdo it. Don't waste half an hour choosing an outfit when you could be out, in a foreign land, meeting the locals and having a grand old time. Imagine if you got to the bar where all your new found friends were waiting, and the first thing they say is "ah you missed it.." NOT COOL!

I like the idea of packing, and then taking half out. If you pack 8 t-shirts, really think about why you've packed 8 t-shirts, you don't need 8, lets be honest. Who needs 8 t-shirts? You'll probably end up topless on the beach, or hiking up to a viewpoint, t-shirt shmeeshirt, leave them behind! Pack 4. This applies to socks and underwear too, you really don't need a pair for every day, if you have to, turn them inside out, or wash them in the sink with shampoo, or if you're really adventurous, go commando. You know you want to.

Entire makeup bag, really Hannah? REALLY? I strongly advise that you don't even take makeup if you're confident enough without it. If you're going to a hot country, you probably won't wear it half of the time, and when you do it will just sweat off, make your face a mess and cause breakouts. Not fun. I did wear makeup last year, but this was on evenings when it was cooler, I just filled in my eyebrows, put on eyeshadow,eyeliner & mascara and a little highlight, that's it. I didn't use concealer or foundation because by then it didn't match my skin, and oh lordy wearing foundation that doesn't match your skin is not a good look. I know some of you may not even wear makeup, which is also great, you don't even have to worry about this section!

Full size shampoo/conditioner and bodywash? Why was I even allowed to do this on my own? My reason for doing this, was that using cruelty free and vegan products is important, and I don't want to give my money to a brand that tests on animals, and I thought that might be hard in another country. This time around, I've looked everywhere for vegan friendly and cruelty free products which are travel sized and I found some, it was easy, and they are great products. I recommend that everyone uses cruelty free alternatives of course, they are no more expensive than any other product, easy to find and they're just as good, and, no animals get harmed in the making, which is always amazing. Here's a few of my favourite brands:

Dr Organic - Find travel sized shampoos, conditioners, bodywashes & moisturizers in Holland & Barrett.

Superdrug - All of  their own brand products are labelled as cruelty free and a lot of them are labelled as suitable for vegans, with the leaping bunny logo. They usually have a section in their stores that has travel mini's and a few of them are their own brand.

Lush - All of their products are cruelty free and most are suitable for vegans. They sell nice small bottles and tubs of their products, you can get 100ml sized bottles of shampoo!

 
Too many pairs of shoes, too many. Flip flops, and comfortable walking shoes, that's all you need. Maybe a nice pair of sandals if you like. I'll be volunteering and then going to beaches and islands, do I really need a pair of wedges or heeled sandals? No way! Think these things through, imagine how much room a pair of wedges would take up.

Other important things you should pack:
  • First aid kit/bug repellent (which can sometimes be included)
  • Sunscreen 
  • A reusable water bottle. You'll need to stay hydrated and in places like Thailand you can't drink the tap water, wherever you see a clean, drinking water dispenser, fill up! Try not to buy too many bottles of water as its a huge waste of plastic and harmful to the environment, save where you can.
  • A raincoat or waterproof poncho, if you're going somewhere with torrential rainfall, this will come in very handy! Or even if you visit a waterfall and don't want to get your clothes wet.
  • A laundry bag, this helps keep your dirty clothes seperate from your clean clothes, you can buy ones that fold up nice and small into a pouch to save room in your bag. I got mine here
  • Something that is also nice and handy, is a wash bag. Good for storing all your makeup, shampoos, bodywash, razors etc and you can often hang them up in the shower instead of trying to carry everything in there with your hands, dropping everything and bending over in a towel in front of James from New York whom you just met 10 minutes ago..
  • I feel like the next item is something everyone needs to have, I am so grateful that they exist. A microfibre towel, often hostels won't provide towels, and if they do you have to pay, and bringing your own normal towel takes up so much room and they take at least 5 years to dry, these towels fold up nice and small in a little pouch, dry you instantly, and then they dry super fast.  
  • Speaking of towels, of coure you'll need a bathing suit.
  • At least 2 cameras, one on your phone, and another of your choice, I'm actually taking my GoPro and a disposable. I say 2 because you'll run out of room on one of them if you're anything like me and take pictures of anything and everything. If you're really savvy though, you could always just take an extra memory card for your camera.
  • Last but not least, and totally optional depending on what kind of person you are, condoms. I don't need to explain that one, but yeah, stay safe.

Everything that isn't listed should be pretty obvious, pajamas, weather appropriate clothing, toothbrush etc. This is aimed at people who haven't been backpacking before, I'm not the most experienced backpacker but I learned quite a lot in just a short trip and I've met people along the way who have given me ideas and advice, I thought I'd share my experience, in the hopes that it helps someone else! I'll be setting off on my trip in 2 days and I am sure I will learn so much more. If you think I missed anything important, let me know! And good luck with your trip!
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