Packing for your trip can be a daunting task, particularly if you are going to urban and non-urban environments; expecting hot, cold, wet and dry conditions; and needing to include gear for a range of different activities. Even worse if you are going for a longer period of time and need the whole thing to be light enough that you can carry it on your back if you need to.
What Bags Do I Need?
If you are going back-packing, then clearly you will need a back-pack. I use a combination bag from Kathmandu that has proved to be very useful: it is a suitcase on wheels with a handle that pulls up; but while it has a solid back and base, the sides and top are soft and flexible; and it has back-pack straps that zip away unless they are required. This has been a very versatile combination that most of the time I use as a regular suitcase and pull it along on the wheels. It has also satisfied the requirements for a soft-sided bag when going on boats and needing to be pushed under beds and seats. And for the times that I need to carry my bag up lots of stairs for example or around railway stations, the back-pack straps are perfect.
A daypack or equivalent is essential for carrying your water, camera etc on daytrips. I use this as my cabin bag for flights as well. Find the combination of size, number of compartments, outside pockets and attachments that will meet as many of the needs for your various activities as possible. Take plastic bags to put everything in inside the daypack if you are going on boats or expecting rain, or take a waterproof pack cover. If you are expecting to be carrying your main bag very often, then it can be useful to either have your daypack zip onto the main bag or to have some clips to attach the daypack to the backpack straps of your bag so that it can be attached to your front leaving your hands free.
My main bag is bright lime green to make it easy to spot when it comes off the luggage carousels at the airport – if you don’t have a distinctive bag, then securely tie something bright coloured around the handle. Also have padlocks for all the main compartments including your daypack so that you can lock everything if you need to leave your bags unattended such as in hotel storage or even on some buses and trains. Combination locks are easiest. If you need a key then make sure all your locks use the same key and have multiple keys kept in different places.
What is the Best Way to Pack my Bag?
I have to admit to being a bit of a ‘neat freak’: I like to have things organised and be able to find them easily when I want them. When you go on a long trip, everything starts off neat and tidy but unless you have some sort of a system it turns into total chaos pretty quickly and you can’t find anything.
Best tip: Packing cells are worth their weight in gold. A good selection of different sized packing cells makes travelling so much easier. Group your different items together and have a different packing cell for each e.g. shorts/trousers and skirt/dress, shirts and T-shirts, warm and wet weather gear, swimming and sun protection, underwear and socks. Roll your clothes before you put them in the cells: they crease much less and they take up a lot less room so you can fit more in (but watch the weight!). A separate bag for putting shoes in (waterproof) helps keeps everything else clean.
Smaller cells in different shapes and sizes can be useful for all the various bits and pieces that otherwise get lost in the depths of the bag:
- electrical gear (e.g. travel adaptors, chargers, cables, spare batteries)
- personal gear (e.g. nail kit, sewing kit, swiss army knife, alarm clock, ear plugs)
- miscellaneous (e.g. binoculars, spare glasses/cleaner/repair, head torch)
- first aid kit
- toiletries (there are specialist version of these ‘cells’ available – some with a hook to hang it up in the bathroom and even a little mirror)
Drawstring bags in different colours can also be useful for things like your laundry gear (and one for the dirty laundry too). These can be useful to have to put together items in your daypack such as beach gear or warm weather gear.
I have got most of my packing cells from Kathmandu. They make managing your bag while travelling such a breeze. And when you unpack in your room, the resulting ‘bag explosion’ is much more contained and even orderly.
Intrepid Travel (a range of different travel styles – see my post on travel styles)
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
Note: After people telling me they had booked an Intrepid Tour on my recommendation, I now have affiliate links with the Intrepid Travel group of companies and may receive a commission if you book a tour online within a couple of months after clicking through to these sites. So if you are enjoying my tips and stories and finding them useful in choosing your own travel, please click on these links and help me to bring you more ☺.