We first went backpacking two years ago, laden with 35 litre rucksacks, multiple water bottles hanging by our sides and a large selection of noodle packets. Last year we set off again, with a lot less in tow. We’ve learnt what our necessities are – the actual necessities – and our backs and stress levels are extremely grateful.
Our kit for Morocco and Spain last May managed to fit in small day rucksacks which we bought on eBay. They’re not waterproof, don’t have zips and apart from a few small pockets on the outside there’s only one main compartment. But they were brilliant; they stood up to the weather, carried all our gear with no problem and put up with endless Sharpie doodles, sew-on patches and badges. While we’d probably splash out on something a bit more weatherproof if we were headed somewhere more extreme, they were perfect for our trip, and we still use them now as day bags – they’re not shoved under the bed waiting for the next trip!
We managed to pack pretty lightly with clothing. Our first trip was a disaster in this area, as we had both winter and summer clothes due to travelling over such different climates. This time we 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 we just stick to a loose shirt, maxi skirt, thin trousers and a scarf. It all keeps the sun off, and saved us 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 we’ve worked out a few ways to cut down, making our bags 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 we still have some left to take with us next time. Plus it’s completely natural, so we didn’t leave a trail of chemicals behind us.
Trying to pack only natural products also means we can use them wherever we are; although our tooth powder tastes like chalk we can brush our teeth in a forest without a worry, and jump into a river to wash our hair with our natural shampoo. We’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 we’re hoping to make our own, with a little Pinterest research. Knowing us they’ll end up even worse and kill all the wildlife, but we have to have some faith in our crafting skills.
In terms of reading and writing Kindles are our best friends, and we alternate between writing in notebooks and typing our thoughts up on the laptop. Our biggest weakness is the pretty hefty camera, but we carry it around our necks or over a shoulder so it doesn’t technically take up any room. It hasn’t been stolen yet so we must be 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
- Notebook and pen
- A pack of cards
And we’re set for our next adventure…