“Packing enough that you have all the comforts that you would at home without overdoing it, it’s not easy, and it takes some experience to get the perfect backpack ready”
Sofia is a sustainable travel writer currently exploring Indonesia. She loves finding local gems and uncharted spots.
Planning the backpacking trip of your life through 6 different countries is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Among flights, currency exchange, and hostels to organize, there is the decision of what to take with you. Because how are you going to sleep in hostel beds without your dear stuffed animal that kept you company for 20 years? I went through that, it’s heartbreaking.
However, I am sure there is at least one waterfall or one hike that you have planned to do, so traveling light will be the key to making it up there with both of your lungs. Here are a few tips I can offer, and the mistakes I made, to travel with only 8kg on your shoulders.
Have you ever seen one of those backpackers carrying a 60L bags on their shoulder, shoes hanging outside of it, and an extra day pack at the front sweating their faces out? You don’t want to be one of those. Admittedly, they often look way prettier than me in photos afterward, but they must have gone through hell carrying those two bags of makeup and maxi dresses with them all the way up to Mount Bromo. The reality is that while Instagram influencers make it seem very easy to look like a supermodel after a hike, normal people don’t. And that is okay. So, pack the items you feel comfortable in, and don’t worry too much about the fashionability of them.
No baggage fees: One of the favorite perks of my bag weighing 8kg is that to this day I have never paid luggage fees on a flight. While this may sound unimportant if your budget is tight and you are planning on traveling for 6 months, paying $40 each time you fly will quickly add up. Also having one backpack means that all your valuables will be in it, so it is safer to have it with you at all times. It is not uncommon to have your bag boarding the wrong flight and being shipped to the other side of the world by mistake.
Photo: Akimov konstantin/Shutterstock
Fits everywhere: I have never been in so many overcrowded buses, trains, and halls as in Southeast Asia, so my bag usually sits under my feet or my head, if I am using it as a pillow. Don’t forget that often seats and turnstiles are designed for the smaller Asian figure, so you will not have much space by definition. Having a compact bag will help you make it through the 8-hour night bus ride.
Quick packing: we are constantly on the road, and often changing hostel every two nights, so the ability to pack our bags quickly is essential. I mastered this art after a couple of weeks and I can now have my backpack ready in less than 5 minutes. Don’t underestimate this, it means you can explore longer before a flight or sleep until 10.30 and still make the 11 o’clock check out.
Photo: Billion Photos/Shutterstock
All your packing choices begin with the backpack. It will be your best friend during your trips so it is incredibly important that it fits your needs and taste. My backpack is actually a 32L camera bag from the Millican Maverick Collection. I’m not sure if it was specifically designed for around the world trip rather than a photography day out, however, it works for me. The two access points (top and front) makes it extremely easy to reach into, and it’s small enough that I can’t really lose anything. I affectionately named it Phileas, but we haven’t made it around the world in 80 days yet.
There are hundreds of options out there, and for a first-time backpacker, it can be quite an intimidating universe to peek into. However, I considered only a few factors when I bought mine and it has worked out well so far. I believe it is important to take into consideration the feeling you have for a bag, as it will literally hold your life for the next few months.
Photo: Jordan Opel/Unsplash
The Internet is full of lists of what to pack, but I believe it depends on your personal needs, destination, and length of your journey. So, this is a list of the things that you should not pack, based on the mistakes I made.
Photo: Brester Irina/Shutterstock
Use packing squares. They are cheap and come in different sizes. The mesh fabric on the side will also help you to keep the clothes dry. I tend to use only the smaller ones and over-pack them, so they compress their content down. They are perfect to hold a personalized first aid kit or laundry.
Use carabiners: Unlike my boyfriend, I love having the pieces of gear I use the most outside of my backpack. The refillable water bottle, a collapsible day pack, and my Matador quick-dry towel are buckled up on the side and top of my bag.
Use RFID pouches for documents: they usually come with hooks to attach it internally on your bag and they protect against data theft. I had my card cloned previously and trying and replace it while being abroad is extremely difficult!
Leaving all of your belongings behind can be terrifying, especially if you have parked all of your possessions at your parents’ house and quit your job for this trip. It can feel like you don’t have a home anymore. However, the first thing I learned when I started backpacking was that actually I don’t need much to live comfortably, and many of the things I own are superfluous.
Packing enough that you have all the comforts that you would at home without overdoing it, it’s not easy, and it takes some experience to get the perfect backpack ready. It took me a lot of trial and error: I had to give away over half of the clothes I had originally taken with me, and absolutely hate my travel pillow, but that is also part of the game. Also, like many others, I too get very homesick sometimes. My trick is to always bring a piece of home with me on my travels.
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