Packing Tips For Your Gap Year Backpacking Adventure
One of the biggest regrets of older people is that they didn’t see enough of the world while they were able. Travel is a dream that many of us share, and in today’s world we are lucky enough to have more opportunities than ever to make it happen. Backpacking is one of the most affordable ways to do it, and often gives a more authentic taste of cultures when compared with packaged trips.
If this is something that you hope to do, then I would encourage you to go for it! Of course choosing a destination or itinerary is super exciting, but once you have that sorted, your next thought will likely be….what on earth should I pack?
As a seasoned backpacker myself I would say without doubt, that less is more!
Packing light can make the whole experience so much more enjoyable, but of course, you need to pack smart so that you have everything you need for all eventualities. This post has it covered, so that you will be ready to travel and explore, all while looking your very best.
Choosing A Backpack
This is such an important place to start, and it needs to be considered very carefully, and tailored to your body – just the same as your clothes! The size, straps and hip alignment should be carefully considered, and potential packs should be tried on before any decision is made. Your height and frame are what will ultimately decide on what is right for you. Then of course, you need to think about the size, or volume of the backpack in litres. The last thing you want to do is strain your back.
Things to consider are whether the pack is top loading, where you have access only through the opening at the top, or side loading, which provides sections for everything to be organized. In addition to that, you should also look for a pack that is lockable, strong and lightweight with an internal frame. Finally, my top tip for backpacks is to always use a rain cover. This will ensure that your backpack is kept in top condition, while the contents are always dry. When you only have 15 items of clothing, you want them all to be usable!
What Clothes To Pack
What? 15 items of clothing? It is easier than you might think.
The first thing to consider is what the geographical considerations are for the areas that you are traveling to. Think about the season and what the temperature and weather in general will be like. You should also plan which activities you will be taking part in – you will have different needs for a beach escape compared with hiking for example. Another massive issue to consider is the culture of the countries that you are traveling to. In many places it is respectful to cover your knees, or shoulders. So be sure to do your homework in order to prevent any embarrassment.
Once you have an idea of the kind of outfits you will need, you can start to think about the fabric and other factors of the clothing you will take. This is an important step, not to be missed. This is what you need to consider:
- Quality of the fabric – will it last?
- Thickness and weight – will it keep you cool and/or warm? Merino wool is a great choice.
- Whether it wrinkles – there will be no time for ironing!
- Does it dry quickly? You will probably hand wash a lot of your clothes (especially underwear) so fast drying is essential.
- Does it show stains easily?
- Can it fold up small?
- Is it comfortable to wear – and does it FIT correctly?
- Does it coordinate with everything else?
The final bullet point – does it ‘coordinate with everything’ is essential if you want to look your best with minimal effort. I recommend opting for a neutral palette, perhaps one main color that can be brightened up with accessories.
Once you have this covered, you should aim for around 15 pieces of clothing, as your core wardrobe. This can be broken down depending on your preferences and the country of travel. One suggestion is 6 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 dresses and 2 jackets.
Amongst the tops you can include t shirts, tunics, vests or shirts that can be layered. The bottoms can include long pants, leggings shorts or skirts. The main thing is that each piece should be versatile and be able to be paired with any other of the pieces that you pack. They should also be suitable for day and night wear, using simple embellishments such as lipstick or necklaces to transform the look.
At least one of the jackets should be waterproof, with the other ideally adding a thermal layer of warmth.
On top of that be sure to add a couple of bathing suits if you plan to swim and around 3 bras (ideally nude), a sports bra is also a great idea if you are going to be active. Sleep wear should also be considered, and a top tip here is to use comfortable leisure wear for sleeping, which will double up for other uses too. As they fold up so small, it is not too extravagant to pack 10 pairs of comfortable knickers – which should ensure you are never caught without any.
In addition to this, it makes sense to pack a large scarf which can fulfill many functions. It can be a blanket to lie on, something soft to snuggle up in, a respectful cover for head and shoulders when visiting certain areas where that is custom, and it can also protect from you from the sun.
You can make a compact closet like this work, by washing clothes wherever you can. It is inexpensive to use laundromats in many parts of the world, but it is also useful to carry a small bottle or solid bar of concentrated detergent, a universal basin plug and washing line, so that you are able to deal with any situation.
What Shoes To Take Backpacking
I know that you can never have enough shoes, but when it comes to backpacking, space is valuable, and shoes can take a big chunk of real estate. It is generally recommended that you limit yourself to 3 pairs. Once again these should be versatile, comfortable and able to coordinate with every outfit that you have chosen.
The actual pairs you chose will depend on your trip – once again I will use the example of beach vs hiking. It is sensible to pack a pair of glam flip flops, which take minimal space, can be worn on a night out, at the beach, and even in a questionable shower.
If you will be doing a lot of walking, then chose a strong, supportive waterproof pair that you feel good in. Make sure you break them in properly before you set off – as blisters will not make a happy traveller. If you intend to spend time hiking, then be sure to shop wisely, to minimize the risk of injury and allow you to focus on the scenery rather than your sore feet.
Here fashion should come after functionality – but fortunately there are plenty of fabulous choices out there. In general, heels should be left at home.
How About Accessories?
This is where you can have some fun! Accessories can totally change your look, and transform your outfit with minimal effort. A hat is a great idea, a classic fedora to protect from the sun, or a knitted beanie if you are traveling to cooler climates will funk up your look.
Take along a belt to add to pants or dresses, to add a pop of color or change the shape of your silhouette. Jewelry of course adds another element, be sure to work with the color scheme of the clothes that you have chosen – contrasting will give the biggest impact.
Make sure that your bag works with every outfit, as it will be coming everywhere with you. And don’t forget the sunglasses to add an element of glam and also to hide tired puffy eyes!
Other Backpacking Essentials
Makeup is a personal choice, but it makes sense to minimize your normal routine. Lipstick always makes an impact with little effort, and a slick of mascara can make you look glam on the go.
Take care of nails while you travel with a tiny manicure set, and keep your talons short, neat and buffed. It will make all of the difference to your overall look.
In addition you should save space in your backpack for some of the following:
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Sun cream
- Insect repellent
- Dry shampoo
- Solid cosmetics rather than liquid – look for shampoo, toothpastes and perfumes for example. These are lighter than their liquid counterparts – and they won’t leak on everything
- Ear plugs
- Camera and chargers
- Neck pillow
- Download a phrase book and travel guide to your phone rather than pack the book
These suggestions should be a great start to get you on the right track for backpacking preparation. So all that is left to do is choose your own adventure and get planning!