I know there’s plenty of advice out there on this particular theme – and it’s subject to individual needs and the purpose and duration of their trip. So, what to take backpacking?

Here’s my beginners travel advice for those wondering what to take on a backpacking trip of several months.

Documents ::

Hidden money-belt holding your passport (that has plenty of pages and a long life as 6 months or less until expiration, will be refused visas by most embassies).

Up-to-date vaccinations – proven on paper: especially Yellow Fever certificate.

Emergency cash in US Dollars hidden away from main money-belt.

Credit card – global ATM access to travel funds. Make sure card it has an ATM pin number. Get two cards, one stashed for emergencies.

WATCH OUT – Traveler’s Checks are largely useless or a real hassle to change in much of the Developing World.

Passport photos.

Insurance can be good for piece of mind. Both medical cover and personal effects. BUT depends on your outlook and budget. I usually don’t take insurance.

Copies of documents on paper, also stored in email or cloud.


That can be zip-locked and left in rooms and in transit. I also use an additional combination-lock and wire to secure my pack to a pole, inside a cupboard, etc.

what to take backpacking

All my travel gear spread over my bed in China. Getting ready for a cold winter climate across Central Asia; hence quite alot of stuff is necessary. This pile represents my “Total Life Kit” as a permanent global nomad, about 12-15 kg of assets depending the trip.


Essential for small trips, hiking, and when taking your valuables on board when your main backpack may be flung onto a bus roof or in a taxi boot.

(My daypack is rugged, 20 liter, that can be attached to my main pack by snap-chain and carried in front of me when on the move.)

Electronics ::

camera – w/ memory cards, batteries, adapter, case, etc

laptop or tablet (w/ back-up external or cloud storage)

phone (= camera, e-book reader, alarm clock, MP3 player, calculator, etc)

Basic travel essentials ::



hat or cap


Swiss Army Knife (for opening beer bottles, tinned food, wine, wilderness survival)

2-liter water pouch + water purification solution


guidebooks + maps, novels (e-formats)

plastic mug + spoon, stainless mug + water heating element (for boiled eggs, tea, coffee, instant noodles or packet soup)

ziplock plastic bags (to waterproof & compartmentalize everything for quick, easy searching and packing of small items)


insect repentant (and mossie net)

sleeping sheet / bag liner or compact sleeping bag

needle + thread (a stitch in time, does save nine)

candle + lighter (for prolonged black-outs)

photo of family to show curious locals

washbasin plug w/ clothes-line string (to wash clothes; plugs are often missing. I usually employ a local).

maker pen with paper (for writing hitchhiking destination signs)

Inflatable neck pillow for sleeping on transport

Clothes ::

 A matter of personal need but I have the following presently in West Africa. You can buy other items when needed.

2 loose, pocketed trousers with zip-off legs

3 t-shirts

2 shirts

4 underwear

small quick-drying towel

rain poncho (also a ground sheet for sleeping rough)

sarong (for relaxing or as a towel, head-cover or scarf)

hiking sandals

AND for cold-snap emergencies: merino underwear top + leggings, merino beanie and a pair of socks.

If travelling to colder regions, I will also carry hiking boots, gloves, more socks, gore-tex + fleece jackets.

Medicines ::

Not an exhaustive list but have at least most of this:


antihistamine (if prone to allergies)

shit pills (Imodium for stopping the flow on a journey. Flagyl for serious bowel problems)

Malarone post-exposure anti-malarial pills (it’s impractical over all these years for me to take daily tablets to prevent Malaria)

flu tablets + throat lozenges

antiseptic, plasters, bandage, tape, safety pin, butterfly stitches



multivitamins (helps a sometimes poor diet)

antibiotics (maybe take a general one but often you’ll find a specialized A/B locally, like I did in Yemen & later Morocco when I got a hellish dental/gum infection)

AND along with this main first-aid kit, I carry a small purse of these items that stays in my daypack for immediate access anywhere. 

NOTE: If you have special needs or prescriptions – bring them with you.

Toiletries ::

Again we have different needs – but watch out this stuff can get weighty, so keep bottles and packets small. Re-supply of this stuff is available worldwide. If you have special needs then bring them from home.

shampoo + soap

toothbrush, paste, floss

nail scissors or clippers



razor, tiny mirror

cotton buds

toilet tissue – have small bundles everywhere, especially in trouser pockets

moisturizer – essential in dry climates

Packing your backpack ::

Have it organized so it flows easy.

Best with side-zipping packs as opposed to top-loading. And as mentioned earlier have everything compartmentalized into plastic transparent bags for easy identification and access, fast packing and extra water-proofing.

Needless to say have stuff that you may need accessible or at the top or stashed in a side pocket – like a poncho for a sudden downpour. Or a guidebook ready to locate yourself when arriving in a city or finding a flashlight in black-outs.

Obviously wrap clothing around fragile stuff and make sure bottles like mosquito repellent are in their own plastic bag to avoid contamination.

ENJOY  your trip !!!

Join the journey !


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