So it’s about a week or so until the flight is taking off to the other side of the earth and it’s time to start packing. What is in your bag will be the same amount for a trip that’s a month or a year in general terms. This is of course considering that you will be finding a laundry to freshen up the travel garments along the way. Don’t count on it. Save your money since most places will be doing what you would do and that’s washing by hand and in a tub of water with a little soap. As Rick Steves says, “Pack light and pack smart.”
The basic clothing
Best course of action is to lay out what you have to take with you. This will all depend on the climate or types of climates you will be trudging through. The basics first will be undergarments (underwear and socks) and then bottoms, tops, jacket (preferably one multi-functioning, light in weight, and water proof or resistant), shoes (also ideally one pair that is also multi-functioning) and small cosmetics bag (most in the 2 ounce size if possible). Now, put everything out and see if they will fit your minimum standard for comfort. The choices of tops and bottoms (I have had luck with Patagonia gear) ideally will be ones that are also made of fast drying materials and are easily washable. Personally, my laundry has many times been done in the sink or wash basin supplied by my hostel. Don’t expect most things made of cotton to dry overnight unless you are in the middle of the Sahara in the summer.
The bag and it’s peripherals
It’s now time to start packing. I’m assuming you have taken the time to find the best pack. I like the ones that have good zipper with a proper place to attach a small lock on(TSA approved of course), are light in weight, and have a good hip belt for support. Forget the ones with the wheels and the cool colors. They end up being bulky, heavy and who wants to wheel around a suitcase through a dirty street and then pick it up after being covered in filth. Besides, the backpack allows you to have your hands free.
Look for something that’s feels comfortable and the correct size. This is an investment so do your research by reading reviews and find out which type and brand of pack is worth the money. I suggest a company that just specialized in travel gear like my favorite: Eagle Creek. It suits me but like everything, find what works for you. A 30 liter size is an ideal size to start looking at. It will likely be small enough to carry on a plane and be universally acceptable when using public buses and vans. Less like to make the locals annoyed or agree when they will be using the same space to put their own goods into. Also, good to consider one with a built-in cover for when it rains or you need to put it on top of a van or bus. For further help, consult the folks at stores like REI and Patagonia are also experienced travelers.
Next is consider using compression stuff sacks made of sturdy nylon. I usually take two medium-sized ones using one for clean and one for dirty laundry. The clothes and other basics can now be placed in the bag. Let’s see how much room you have left, and is it time to put more or less in? This is a good time to try the pack on and see how comfortable you are with the weight. If you are comfortable with the weight then add more to the pack. Keep in mind that you may want to leave room for stuff you want to pick up along the way and consider if you can live without out it. There is no need for it weighing you down if you end up using the items a couple of times if not at all.
All the rest
The items in your bag and what you decide to take on your journey is up to you. Many travelers debate on what is and what is not acceptable. Each traveler is different and each trip is different. It is just important to take the time and consider what works for you. Things to keep in mind are the following:
Do you need it?
Can I get this along the way and if so, will it be extremely expensive or hard to find or the opposite?
Do I want to carry this much stuff and if not what can I get rid of?
Are my clothing choices practical?
Be aware that the first trip of this sort will be a learning experience and you will have to learn as you go. Be able to just let it go. Do the best you can and hope that you don’t forget anything. Even if you do, you will probably find it along the way and there’s always fed-ex and DHL. This is the beginning of the simple life and hopefully you will discover how little we really need to survive.