I first went backpacking two years ago, laden with a 35 litre rucksack, multiple water bottles hanging by my side and a large selection of noodle packets. Last year I set off again, with a lot less in tow. I’ve learnt what the necessities are – the actual necessities – and my back and stress levels are extremely grateful.
My kit for Morocco and Spain in May 2016 managed to fit in a small day rucksack which I found on eBay. It’s not waterproof, doesn’t have zips and apart from a few small pockets on the outside there’s only one main compartment. But it was brilliant; it stood up to the weather, carried my gear with no problem and put up with endless Sharpie doodles, sew-on patches and badges. While I would probably splash out on something more weatherproof if headed somewhere more extreme, they were perfect for this trip, and I still use it now as a day bag – it’s not shoved under the bed waiting for the next trip!
I managed to pack pretty lightly with clothing. My first trip was a disaster in this area, as I had both winter and summer clothes due to travelling over such different climates. This time I stuck to one – hot and dry – though misjudged it slightly when we got to the Pyrenees and only narrowly avoided hyperthermia.
It can be tempting to bring strappy tops, but I just stick to a loose shirt, maxi skirt, thin trousers and a scarf. It all keeps the sun off, and saved me from being sandpapered in the windy Sahara. It also saves space on suncream too. Hooray!
Toiletries also took up less space than before. A lot of it’s necessary, but I’ve worked out a few ways to cut down, making my bag lighter, and saving time getting through customs (although it would be great if Naomi didn’t leave a litre bottle of water in her bag every time).
While studying in Spain our course leader gave us each a tiny pot of olive oil and lemon eucalyptus to keep the insects at bay. It was only about 25ml, but it was strong enough to need just a tiny dab at a time. It lasted weeks, and I still have some left to take next time. Plus it’s completely natural, so didn’t leave a trail of chemicals behind me.
Trying to pack only natural products also means I can use them wherever I am; although my tooth powder tastes like chalk I can brush my teeth in a forest without a worry, and jump into a river to wash my hair with natural shampoo. I’ve met people using apple cider vinegar as shampoo and various coconut oil and bicarbonate of soda mixtures for toothpaste, which they swore by. Some of the store bought products can be expensive, so next time I’m hoping to make my own, with a little Pinterest research. Knowing me they’ll end up even worse and kill all the wildlife, but I have to have some faith in my crafting skills.
In terms of reading and writing Kindles are my best friends, and I alternate between writing in notebooks and typing thoughts up on the laptop. On our Morocco trip Naomi’s biggest weakness was her pretty hefty camera, but we took turns carrying it around our necks or over a shoulder so it didn’t technically take up any room. It wasn’t stolen so we must have been doing something right (top tip: when anybody comes near you clutch it really tight and glare at them, or alternatively use it as a weapon).
So… exactly what is in my bag?
- Light clothing that covers the skin
- Natural toiletries, picked up from Lush or small organic shops, or make your own (let us know how it goes)
- A 1 litre collapsible water bottle – when empty they’re paper thin and weigh next to nothing
- A small hand towel that dries quickly, and a swimming costume
- Sturdy sandals, and/or walking boots
- Laptop and its G-Form Extreme Sleeve case
- Phone, Kindle, camera and chargers – and don’t forget an adaptor (guilty)
- Notebook and pen
- A pack of cards
And I’m set for my next adventure…