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Clothing and equipment (packing & kit list)

The kit list that follows is designed to be pretty comprehensive and to cover all eventualities and destinations. It is up to you to select the items you really need. Every traveller will tell you to "pack light" or "take only half of what you think you need as you can buy most things en route and cheaper too". They're right. Listen to them and don't give in to your natural instincts.

There are plenty of place you can buy kit from and you may be eligible for discounts with NUS cards or similar e.g. Cotswold Outdoor, Go Outdoors and Millets and Blacks. Some people have also done the hard work for you such as Pro Packer and put together some of the most useful items in one pack.


a. Two main options:

Travel pack Ė a backpack with a zip that runs all the way round the edge. Easy to pack. Most come with a detachable day pack.

Top Loader - a traditional backpack. More watertight and better for trekking and expeditions because they balance well. They also have useful outside pockets for water, additional clothing etc. No matter how carefully you pack, the next item you want will always be at the bottom!

b. Fitting your backpack:

Try it on with weight inside. A good equipment supplier will be willing to supply the weights while offering invaluable advice, invariably from personal experience.

65 litres is big enough. They come in various sizes. Don't be tempted to buy the largest, you'll only fill it up and then collapse under the weight.

Buy your backpack/travel pack and day pack well in advance and use them at every opportunity so that they are well worn in before you travel.

c. Option 3 - The Wheelie Bag.

If you are going to be static for most of the time then a wheelie bag, i.e. a suitcase with wheels and a retractable handle, may be an option. But trying to wheel a big holdall up and down stairs or along a dirt track is neither fast nor convenient!

d. The Day Pack or Shoulder Bag.

Important when you are stationary for a few days or have a base. Travel packs usually come with a day pack otherwise you will need to buy one. If you like walking is your thing then buy one thatís padded and comfortable, otherwise a lightweight foldaway will do. Either way this is likely to be the piece you carry-on to your flights. A shoulder bag is an alternative and can be more accessible.


Waterproof poncho: A versatile item that can be used to protect you, your pack or act as a groundsheet.

Something smart: You never know what or who may turn up.


Style: Youíll need lightweight loose-fitting clothes.

Material: Cotton will absorb sweat and help keep you cool. Synthetic clothing doesnít crease and dries quickly but is less comfortable.

Tops: You will need a couple of long sleeved tops to protect you from the sun and insects; they're also useful when visiting religious sites.

Bottoms: Trousers and shorts or convertibles.

Hat: A hat that protects the back of you neck from the sun is essential.


Style: You will need several layers topped by a good quality jacket.

Tops: Thermal underwear such as base-layer T shirts.
Next layer a fleece or pile-jacket which are lighter and less bulky than a jumper.
A lightweight breathable waterproof jacket. If headed for extreme cold then consider a more expensive Gore-Tex mountain jacket.

Bottoms: Synthetic or merino long johns under your normal travel trousers.


Boots/shoes. Again three options but what really matters is whatís most comfortable for you. Also remember to make sure your footwear is properly worn in before you depart.

High boots: Only necessary if you are doing lots of trekking.

Mid-boot: Most versatile and gives you some ankle protection.

Normal shoes or trainers: Always popular but will they survive the course!

Waterproof sandals: Popular day to day wear in hot climates, even if you're doing a lot of walking. Also helpful in showers and the sea. A more expensive pair will last forever.


Credit card(s)

Emergency numbers

Immunisation record

Insurance details




(Photocopy all of these. Leave a copy with your parents/guardian, take two copies with you and e-mail a copy to yourself).


Money belt: A vital item. You can now buy ones that are waterproof but breathe. The next best is cotton with your valuables wrapped in a sealed waterproof bag. Check the fastener for durability. Keep your ready cash elsewhere, regularly diving into your money belt is a dead giveaway.

Padlock and chain: The padlock can be used to lock a hostel door as well as your backpack. The chain can secure your pack to your bed or roof rack in a railway carriage or bus.

Personal security: Lots of products are available such as alarms and internal door guards plus meshes for your backpack. Take advice on the need.


Alarm clock: If you don't take your mobile you'll need one of these. You'll be surprised how often you will need to catch that early bus or train.

Mosquito net: Essential if travelling to a mosquito infested area. Must be free from holes and impregnated with permethrin.

Pillow: Several options on the market. If you decide to go without then pinch a pillowcase from home.

Sleeping bag/liner: If a lightweight sleeping bag is a must, a sleeping bag liner is essential. You'll use it as a sheet in hostels and hotels and to keep your sleeping bag clean.

Torch: Another essential for areas where there is no electricity, finding your way to the outside loo or just finding your way in a cave. Maglites are popular but LED head torch such as those made by Petzl leave your hands free and have longer life batteries and bulbs.

Cup & spoon: Very useful to have your own and reduces the chance of catching and spreading disease.

Water bottle: You can buy water bottles with built in purifiers or you can rely on reusing a plastic bottle. But for many the best bet is to have a 1L lightweight metal bottle (Sigg) backed up by a 2 L collapsible bladder style bottle that fits easily into your day pack or backback.

Water purification: Iodine to purify and something to take away its taste are the traditional methods but new products hit the market each year so seek advice on whatís available and read how to apply your chosen method correctly. Mistakes can cause you to suffer a few days of real and avoidable discomfort!

Bath plug: Surprising how they walk, so take your own and never lend it out!

Contraception: Condoms are usually available but not always reliable: better to have your own supply from home. If you are on the pill take a supply to last you for the whole trip.

Medical Kit: see the page on Health.

Tampons or pads: Do your research as they are often hard to find and you should take your own supply.

Toilet paper: Put it in a plastic bag and squash the roll or take handi-packs. But best to learn to use your hand and water because the systems in many countries canít cope with toilet paper.

Toiletries: These can usually be obtained as you travel. Concentrated travel soaps decanted into small bottles are multipurpose Ė hair, body and clothes. Check that itís biodegradable.

Towel: Forget your towel from home. For comfort buy a microfibre travel towel. For efficiency buy a chamois travel towel.

Washing line: A length of nylon line will serve and be useful on other occasions. But you can buy special travel lines with hooks or suckers on each end

Wet wipes & no-water washes: Handy when clean water is in short supply.

Address book, travel journal & pens: To keep in touch and write up your travel diary, an essential reference for years to come.

Batteries: The more electronic gizmos you take, the more batteries you'll need. Make sure your batteries are new on departure and take on spare set for each device

Calculator: Nothing complicated, solar powered and used for currency calculations etc. The one on your mobile will be more than adequate.

Compass: A simple compass (Silva, Recter or Suunto) will be useful providing you know how to use it!

Earplugs: They take up no room and can make all the difference when sleep beckons.

Glasses and contact lenses. Take your glasses in a hard case. Take a copy of your prescription. Take contact lenses, spares and solution as well as daily use ones.

Sunglasses: Provide comfort and protection.

Swimming googles: For watching fish and stopping chlorine or salt getting in your eye

Gaffer tape: Can save your life and embarrassment with no end of uses!

Glue stick: Gum does not lend itself to hot climates but a glue stick can come to the rescue. Useful for sticking souvenir tickets, cards etc into you journal.

Guidebooks, maps and phrasebooks. Essential for reading up on your destination and helping you to get the most from it when you are there.

Lighter/matches: A multitude of uses. Zippo lighters are no good as the fuel evaporates in the heat. Matches are best but need to be kept in a watertight container.

Pocketknife: Go for a Swiss army knife and make sure it has the tools youíll need Ė scissors, bottle opener, can opener and straight blade. Remember not to pack it in your carry on luggage as it will be confiscated.

Sewing kit: Needle, thread, a few buttons and safety pins for those emergency repairs.

Binoculars: For spotting wildlife and studying the detail when sightseeing.

Books: Leave with a couple of good sized books and swap them as you travel.

Camera: Phone, compact digital or single lens reflex (SLR). All three have their advantages and disadvantages so do some research and take advice from those with experience.

Games: Cards and backgammon are played worldwide.

Gifts: Useful if you are going to stay with a family.

Smart phone: Once again there are pros & cons. You can keep in touch with family and friends especially in an emergency. Even if you confine yourself to texting and buy a local SIM card, they can be expensive. They also need charging regularly and that means having the adapter and a plug adapter. The consensus seems to be to take an old model but one that can be used worldwide and to use it sparingly when there is no free wifi available. (see blog on mobile roaming)

Ipod or similar: Use sparingly. Donít let them prevent you from fully engaging with the local culture.


Don't pack anything that you can't afford to lose, such as jewellery, expensive watch, latest expensive gizmo. Aim to buy things when you reach your destination, e.g. T shirts and clothing are far cheaper in the Far East. Youíll probably need three attempts at packing. After the first attempt, try and reduce the amount by half, then cut down again so that after the third attempt there is still some slack in your backpack.