Bee & Nick Say: This post is by far and away our most popular blog entry. We’ll leave it as we wrote it, but will constantly add some updates on what we found the most useful as the trip went on, fix broken links etc. Enjoy, and please add anything you can’t live without below!
Bee Says: Before we left, I meant to do a packing list blog, as I found reading other people’s so useful when preparing for six months away. However, I didn’t think mine would be that unusual until we got here and realised that every other person we have met has a bag double our size… and usually for less time! Then I posted a photograph of me loaded up with my 35 litre beaut and my friend Eleanor Jane asked if I could post some details about how on earth I have enough clothes for 6 months. I should also add that the clothes have taken me from 40 degree tropical heat to -5 freezing flats out on the Salar de Uyuni, which is surely proof that no one needs to struggle beneath a backpackzilla unecessarily. Here is my total kit, and bag on the top right.
- American Apparel Hoodie
- Craghoppers Shirt – This comes into it’s own during Amazon and Jungle trips as it is made of durable breathable material that stops both sun burn and mozzie munching.
- Karrimor Combat Trousers (that zip off into long shorts)
- Denim Cut Offs
- 3 x Cotton Tee Shirts
- H&M TShirt Dress
- Long sleeved Uniqlo Heattech Thermal Top
- Uniqlo Heattech Thermal Leggings (that work as normal leggings with my dress)
- 7 x Knickers
- 2 x Bras
- 2 x Bikinis
- 3 x Hiking Socks
- Woollen Hat & Mittens (bought in Bolivia)
- Headscarf, Kirby Grips and Hairbands
- Flip Flops
- Small Festival Style Poncho
- Montane Lite Speed Jacket – My biggest splurge and prized possession, this jacket squeezes down to the size of an APPLE. Its windproof, waterproof (tested in many stormy downpours) and is the perfect outer shell over my hoody and thermal in cold weather, keeping all the warmth in and the chill out. I got mine for 60quid on an outdoor retail website so shop around!
- Sun Hat – You can spend silly money on these in outdoor shops, so if you have a small head like me opt for a kids one. Mine cost 3quid as apposed to the almost identical adult ones for 25!
- Karrimor Walking Boots (I wear these when travelling so they don’t strictly fit in my bag but can be tied to handles and dangle off Where’s Wally style)
- 7 Litre Healthy Back Bag Day Pack – I use this day to day and leave my backpack in the hostel, but when travelling it folds down and fits in my big bag.
- Beach Towel
- Wash Bag with Aveda Miniature Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel, Curl Cream and Moisurisor which when diluted down with water has lasted me neart two months so far.
- Make Up Wipes (I BADLY wish I had bought about 5 packs of these, but I only packed 1. I used to use them every night back home to take off make off, but I am not wearing make up on this trip so instead I use them to – gross – clean off dust, dirt and travel grime. Because I have so few, using one has become a total luxury that I really look forward to… Sad! They also double up as a way of “showering” when there is not water at your hostel or you are on a boat etc.)
- Tampons (no ones needs a photo of these but there is a box in there too, as you cant buy brands you may… prefer… over here, although there are sanitary products available so its your womanly preference with this stuff)
- Mini hairbrush
- Dry shampoo
- Razor and 2 Blades
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Silk sleeping bag liner – This silk sleeping bag liner is a travel MUST have. You dont need to cart around a full sleeping bag, even the cheapest hostels in cold locations have piles of blankets and you can hire a sleeping bag if you camp on treks or tours. All you need is a silk sheet – it keeps you warm, it stops bed bugs and mozzies biting, it gives you something clean to sleep on when sheets look questionable and it is also a handy caccoon on cold night buses.
- Travelproof Mosquito Net – We thought that hostels in Malaria regions would all provide mozzie nets… and we were SO wrong. I bought a double sized net and am so relieved I did, as it’s stopped me being bug food on many a night and especially whe sleeping on a boat or outdoor in a hammock. Don’t risk heading to South America without one.
- Ear Plugs
- Emergency Foil Blanket (present from Nicks dad, which hopefully by having means we will never need to use!)
- Eaglecreek Silk Money Belt – Comfortable, safe and I basically wear it constantly, it has all my money, cards, passport, important info and memory cards in. The silk makes it non bulky underclothes and… pretty sweat resistant for those big trek days.
- Coin Purse
- iPod Shuffle & Headphones (not the end of the world if you lose it!)
- Plug Adaptor
- Head Torch
- Pen Knife
- Blow Up Pillow
- Document Holder – For Insurance Info, Yellow Fever Certificate, Innoculation Booklet, Itinerary etc.
- Kindle – When I went backpacking to Canada, books took up half of my bag space. My paperwhite is the best thing, I never run out of entertainment and whenever there is Wifi I can download new reading material. I have a bashed up, old book looking case which helps security wise and hopefully itll last the duration of the trip!
- Lonely Planet – Im carrying around Central America, Nick has South.
- Digital Camera – About 5 years old and Im not too attatched to it but for the sake of snapping photos I hope it lasts the trip.
- Chargers for all of these electric things.
- Homemade Spanish Phrase Book
- Playing Cards – Mine are special Taytos branded, a present from my Irish friend Chloe, and have already seen aLOT of heated hostel games of Shithead.
- Overlanders Medical Kit – This honestly takes up a fifth of my backpack! But as we are visiting remote regions with no real medical care, we would be crazy not to bring a decent kit. Obviously the hope is that we don’t need it, but so far we have delved into it to stitch Nick up post window smashing on him and I ploughed through the rehydration sachets in week one. There is enough space for extra bits, so we also have it stuffed with plasters, travel sickness pills, anti diorrhea tablets etc.
- A4 Ziplock of Tablets – Another big space chomper is the zip lock full of anti-malerias, which we have to take for the full 6months. I also have contraceptive pill, valerian root to help sleep AND spare asthma inhalers, so am basically a walking pharmacy, but the nice thing is that everytime I take a pill I know there is that tiny bit more extra room coming my way…
- Flight Socks
- 4 x Deep Heat Patches – Are you a girl? Do you have periods? Dont travel anywhere, or live your life generally, without these. The ultimate banisher of period pain.
- Insect Repellent – Just pack one, you can buy DEET out here
- Sun Cream – Same, you can buy all factors out here
- Tiger Balm – The BEST miracle cure for bites, grazes and anything sore.
- Rescue Remedy
- Anti Bac Hand Gel
- Spanx – Not to help my figure, but these are amazing the day after a big hike or trek when you have sore back and legs. It takes all the pressure off and helps you limp around a little easier.
And that’s it! My life in a bag, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nicks Says: Well Bee has basically covered everything in brilliant detail, so I won’t bore with going over too much of the same stuff. But the good news for the guys is that you can get away with even less stuff.
As you can see from the photo above, I’ve also managed to cram in a lot of stuff into a small space. My bag is a 37L Lowe Alpine beauty, bought from the fine folks at the Outdoor Emporium in Camden who are super friendly and knowledgeable about pretty much everything outdoorsy and travel equipment related. For those who want the 35L but are concerned they may need a bit more space every now and again, a very similar Lowe Alpine bag is available and highly recommended.
I’ll try not to repeat anything that me & Bee have duplicates of, but I will give a quick run-down of important clothing items in my bag.
- 1 pair of combats. I actually bought these from Next after finding nothing suitable in the outdoor shops, and they’re great. They include a zip pocket which is invaluable for storing passport and wallet.
- 1 pair of boardies. Great as your swimming gear, plus double as a pair of shorts.
- A 3/4 length pair of shorts. I usually take a pair of shorts this length on my trips, but slightly regretted it on this one. They were too bulky for the small pack, and also didn’t add anything extra that a normal pair of combat shorts would have done, with less space. So don’t follow my lead here.
- 4 T-Shirts. These include my beloved Melburn shirt my friend got me as a memento of my time spent living in the fine city of Melbourne. 1 tee has already been binned as a health hazard, and been replaced by a Peruvian supermecardo special.
- 1 Hoodie. Don’t leave home without it.
- 1 krama. This is my favourite ever piece of travel clothing. It’s a Cambodian scarf, and the best 25p I’ve ever spent. It doubles as a warming scarf, sun hat, dust mask, and bandana. You can also get big versions which you can wear as a manly skirt.
- Wooly hat/beanie – I picked mine up for about £2/$3 in a Bolivian market, and can’t recommend getting one more – travelling isn’t all fun in the sun. Especially in South America you’ll be hitting altitude, and the hat will come in very handy!
I’ve also got just about enough underwear to keep it fresh and Bee happy, but every now and again I join the ULF (the underwear liberation front). When travelling to a new place, we make sure to wear all our bulky items and save on space. This is especially important for my trail shoes which can fit in my pack, but make it a bit of a squeeze… I chose the Benefaction II shoes from Berghaus, which were brilliant in every condition and stood up to some pretty tough punishment. Sadly they no longer seem to be on sale anywhere, so here’s a link to my new choice of shoes from new company Ridgemont Outfitters, combining rugged versatility with street style.
The most important and versatile item I took though was definitely my Montane Lite-Speed jacket. It kept me warm on top of the Andes in very cold and windy conditions, yet didn’t overheat me in the tropics, was waterproof enough to keep the rain off while running for shelter during a tropical storm, and best of all packed down to the size of an apple – meaning that I barely noticed it in my backpack, and could easily take it in my daypack. It’s so good that I now regularly wear it on all adventures, and in daily life!
I also made sure to pack a bottle of all-purpose soap, vital for when you have to wash clothes in the sink. I remember not really using much of it in 9 months when I travelled with just boys, but with Bee’s totalitarian cleaning regime , it’s almost all gone! (You mean it spilt in your bag!! – Bee) A loo roll is also VERY IMPORTANT, as they don’t like to supply you with much over here. Finally, one of my must pack items is a Swiss army knife. My current one was a present from my big brother Joe, and although I’ve not had to to take out any stitches with it (a former use of mine in Bangkok), it’s been super handy. Added to that I chucked in a few travel sized shower gels and shampoos, plus a beach towel. I found that those travel towels are generally a waste of money and feel horrible. A beach towel packs away almost as small, dries quickly, and looks better when you’re sunning yourself on golden sands.
If there’s one item I regret not bringing, it’s an E-Reader. Books take up loads of room, plus I’ve been stuck with old ones and no book exchange. Which meant I’ve read the guidebook cover to cover. I’m not even going to Argentina, but I can tell you all about it’s wine growing regions… Probably should have used the time to read the phrasebook instead.
Bee & Nick Say: There are obviously pros and cons to travelling light…
- Our bags are small enough to put in hand luggage on flights, and in the rack above us on coaches and buses. Some bags get tampered with or stolen from the hold, and since we spend half our life on buses, we were keen to never have them out of sight.
- They are light enough to trek with if we want to, like we did on Isla Del Sol. Most people we see are literally struggling to even get their huge backpacks on their backs, then cowering beheath the weight even walking to the bus. It does not look fun.
- Packing takes us about 5 minutes, usually less. Sleeping through the alarm doesn’t mean PANIC!
- You boil everything down to the basics. One of the main reasons to travel is to gain perspective on your life – and in this case a uncluttered bag means an uncluttered mind.
- This is no fashion show. We have to wear the SAME things day in, day out, and we start to refer to our “uniform”. I dont care most of the time, but there has been the odd occasion where I have felt really dowdy and underdresses such as the Manaus opera house where I was surrounded by women in beautiful gowns and I was wearing… Combats and walking boots.
- No room for luxuries! Dont even think about hair dryers, GHDs, make up etc. Packing light is definitely for happy scruff bags like me. I figure that I spend alot of time on my appearence in “normal life”, so 6 months off is allowed. When you are wearing a hat and sunglasses most of the time, it doesnt really matter what your hair and face look like underneath.
- You pong a bit… Laundry is an expensive treat, so day to day washing has to be done in the sink with soap. This obviously means after a week or so, everything is on varying levels of gross and slightly-less-gross. Fresh washed clothes is the BEST day when we do get a proper wash done!
- No space for presents! You cant really stock up on any gifts or souveniers bigger than fridge magnets. We did a big shop in La Paz for friends and family and then posted it home, which we felt is probably more secure than carting it all around for another 4 months… but there is a cost attached
Have we convinced you to travel a tad lighter? What size is your backpack?