Wednesday, 22 August 2012

How to: Go backpacking with style - the gear edition

So you've done it, you've chosen a small, versatile capsule wardrobe well suited to your climate and activities (and if you haven't, get over here and fix that), but clothing yourself is only half the travelling light battle.  It's all the little extras that seem to take my bag from fine to crippling in a deeply insidious way, like the wafer thin mints of packing.

Again, what you need will depend on where you are going and what you will be doing.  This is, for example, heavily skewed towards sightseeing and writing with little in the way of heavy duty off roading.

Because I'm super anally retentive, I like to make a list of all the products I use as I get ready to go out one day, then keep it around for the week and add any non-daily extras (e.g. tweezers, nail scissors).  You can then add any travel specifics, like insect repellent, and lastly figure out how to make everything smaller.  I'm aiming to avoid checking in my luggage, which means really small and less than 100ml per bottle.

So this is my list of everything that isn't clothing.  All packed and ready to go it weighed in at 11kg.  I expect this to be the heaviest it will get as I have some extra papers with me for an article I'm writing and every bottle of gel etc is full.  Still, it's pretty manageable even for a short-arse girl such as myself and it can (providing no airport nazi weighs it) be taken on board as hand luggage. Mission accomplished!

Google Nexus 7 

Upon which I am currently writing.  I am not in the anti-tech camp.  I wanted to be able to update this blog, watch shows on flights and surf for hostels without having to find an internet cafe or bug my hosts.  This is perfect, because it's half the price of an ipad and virtually half the size, but does everything I need it to do while being significantly less attractive to thieves.

Mini watercolour palette, ink pens and moleskines

I am determined to get better at sketching and painting on this trip.  I know I'll go crazy if I don't have a challenge of sorts to give me a sense of accomplishment for a whole 6 months.  Obviously this is totally optional, but you could replace this idea with anything - language podcasts, writing notebook, a travel guitar.

Nike+ band, resistance band and iphone armband

I like to track my runs on the band.  Not much to say.  Each bit is very small and light, but mean I can get a basic, yet good workout in no matter where I am.

Silk sleep sack

To guard against any minging hostel sheets.  I eschewed the super expensive ones in Blacks for a thai company on ebay on the basis I'm not climbing Kilamajaro, I just need to stay clean.

Travel towel

Yes they suck, but they do eventually get you dry and fold up to the size of a flannel.


Like Facebook before this, I swore I would never get one, but unlike Facebook, I now love it.  Four hundred books, including all my guidebooks, and it's not even full.  Given that novels made half the weight of all my bags before I got one, it's impossible to argue with how excellent this is for travelling.

(I'm also more chuffed than anything that I have matching red leather cases for my Nexus, Kindle and iPhone.  Swank.)


This is a more personal affair since everyone has different needs and  loves.  As far as taking my bag as carry on, mine was to get as many things as possible in solid form.  This meant a trip to Lush for solid shampoo, conditioner, soap and perfume.  Otherwise hit up Boots for their minis - they often have 3 for 2 deals running.

Travel hair straighteners

A complete luxury item.  If I were better at planning I'd have grown out my fringe and thus not needed these, but I did not and therefore do.  They are only 20cm long, however, so I'm not going to feel too bad about them.

Make Up

Again, it depends.  I know some girls will go au naturel, but I like a little help!  Benefit do a great 'Big 10' selection of tiny versions of their best products.  With a concealer, blush and lip tint, plus a bit of shine to combat jetlag face, it's perfect.  I added black eyeliner, a travel face powder and mascara for a city-suitable kit.  I use Maybelline's classic mascara, because it's cheap, brilliant and a fairly small tube.


What can I say that hasn't been said?  The camera's more than adequate for my amateur photography, plenty of space for podcasts, audiobooks and music and a million apps that make life easier.  No idea how I managed without it for so long.

And that's it, everything I have in my bag.  Seems like even less written down!

How about you?  What are your tips for a tiny bag?    

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