6 Lesser Known Backpacking Essentials

Whether you’re backpacking for the first time, or the twentieth time, knowing what to take along with you is one of the first steps. Now, everybody realises the basics that need to be met…indeed, part of the fun is deciding how few clothes to take with you! “Is it really hot there? Maybe I will manage with 2 tops etc”. However, there are a few items that, over the years, have proved indispensable to me – items that don’t make it onto many packing lists.

essentials collage

Cutlery, airtight containers and proper meds are super handy.

However, there are a couple of bits I take with me on every trip now…and It’s not due to divine intuition, it’s because I have learnt from my own previous mistakes. So, by all means, learn from my haphazard early years, and consider the following stuff when you are making your pre-trip shopping list. You may end up feeling very thankful lugging these lesser-known essentials around!

1) A multi-hole extension cable

So, everybody knows to take along an adaptor or two to switch from your home-country style plug to the local one. However, this essentially means that depending on where you are, one can only charge one device at a time. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, however, when you are travelling as a couple who both work on their laptops and have smart phones and also electric shavers, it doesn’t take long before you encounter that dreaded ‘low battery’ sign.

I am from the UK so will use that as an example. I carry a 4-point extension lead with me at all times and one multi adaptor. This way, I plug my extension into the wall using the local adaptor (of which, there may only be one) then I am able to charge 4 devices simultaneously! Sorted. 

2) A water-tight plastic tupperware

Ok, people may argue with this one as, it’s not very flexible and CAN add extra wait to your backpack. However, the small down-side is totally out-weighed by the massive comfort blanket of having somewhere to store documents totally dry, safe out of harms reach.

In general, these tupperwares and have shown themselves to be very useful when in really wet conditions. There have been occasions when we have had to load all our possessions onto a leaky boat on some exotic river, and then spent hours speeding along through waves and pelting rain. The comfort has come from the fact that EVEN if our bags are soaked straight through, our totally watertight tubs have kept our wallets, phones, digital SLR and passports bone dry. This knowledge has made SO many dodgy boat rides significantly more relaxed.

However, there are a couple of bits I take with me on every trip now…and It’s not due to divine intuition, it’s because I have learnt from my own previous mistakes. So, by all means, learn from my haphazard early years, and consider the following stuff when you are making your pre-trip shopping list. You may end up feeling very thankful lugging these lesser-known essentials around!

UPDATE: 

I've just found these new containers and they are amazing. They are a little bit more expensive but they mack down when not being used and they are super strong. Plus, you can put them in them in the Mircowave which is an extra bonus. If you buy any please use my link as I could do with the couple of pence I'll get from you doing so :)

3) This might just save your life

We worked out that on one of our extended trips my husband and I stayed in over one hundred different accommodations. This includes hotels, guest houses, Airbnb and hostels. 

 

Some of these were super dodgy and given that stories that are coming out all the time about carbon monoxide poisoning I'm starting to think that taking a CO detector with me is a sensible idea. I know this isn't a fun and exciting thing to talk about, and for that I'm not going to dwell. 

 

I was lucky enough to be sent a couple by CO-Gas Safety which is an independent r4egistered charity which works to try to reduce accidents from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning and other gas dangers.

 

Please do a good deed today and follow @cogassafety on Twitter - thanks.

 

Buy one, they are cheap enough and it might just save your life - enough said :)

 

CO monitor

 

 

4) The right selection of medications for YOU

One of the most common things to find in a backpacker’s luggage is a mini first-aid/medical kit. These can vary from a great selection of bandages/burn creams etc, right down to three waterproof plasters and a tube of Savlon.

My advice would be to ensure you have not only the basics, but also, a few medicines that when abroad, can be expensive or even impossible to get hold of. For example, Paracetamol is widely available all over the world, but a travel-sickness pill that works ok for you can be tricky. You do not want to be getting random, un-tested pills from a pharmacy you can’t speak the language of.

The same goes for a few sachets of re-hydration powders. One of the most common illnesses abroad is diarreah, and when it strikes in somewhere remote, it’s the de-hydration and loss of essential bodily salts that makes you feel even worse.

Of course, it all depends on what kind of constitution you have, but certainly try to think outside the box when packing that little baggie of pills.

5) Basic Cutlery

So you may not be planning to eat in much, but in many situations (like long treks, camping, and staying in hotels rather than hostels), may mean that occasionally, all you want to do is eat tuna from a can. If like me, you get sick of fried food and just want an entire day of eating cereal in an air-conditioned hotel room, then a spoon, knife and fork will go an awfully long way.

Of course, one can always ask at a hostel or hotel, and of course, an entire dinner set is a touch overkill. However, when the time comes to eat a tub of ice cream in your dorm watching madmen on your tablet, or if all you need is a knife to cut open a pesky orange juice bottle, trust me, you will be grateful.

6) A daily spending diary

I know, I know. It’s no fun to have to 

diary

keeping track of our spending in my little diary has meant we have stuck to budget much more consistently.

record EVERY little purchase you make, but in all fairness, this is truly the only reliable way to keep on top of what you spend.

There is so much guess-work involved in backpacking on a budget, and without keeping track, spending can creep up and up and up. Before you know it, your 12 month trip around South East Asia and Australia has ended with a flight back to Stanstead with a loaded credit card after a mere 9 months.

It does not have to be a killjoy experience. I carry my little lightweight jotter in my backpack and whenever I have a brief moment to stop, I jot down any purchases/spend I have made that day. Mine is from Paperchase. This way, every few days I can see where I am with my costs and, if needs be, lay low, eat super cheap and spend less to make my spreadsheet balance.

So many travellers have no idea what they spend on a daily basis and insist that they spend less than $5 a day on basic set meals. But what about those beers? And the two fruit-shakes? And the toothpaste you bought? By keeping a little jotter, you have an accurate way of recording where your money has gone in order to keep the fun lasting even longer. Check out our how to budget for long term travel blog.

(This was written by Alex Harker rather than Dante Harker – you can tell this because there is no mention of death or kittens.)

 There you have it, it’s not rocket science. Is there anything you wildly disagree with? Any items that are TOTALLY indispensable to you? Why not get in touch with me on Twitter or Facebook and we can swap tips?


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