It’s now less than 24 hours to go until Mr Beet and I get on a plane to Tokyo to start our round-the-world trip, so I’m getting packed. Here’s my packing list. Although I did plenty of research I have still made the classic first-timer mistake of taking too much. Here’s my list:
The most important thing when choosing a backpack is the size. Try to go as small as possible. Some travellers manager with a 25L day bag, but that’s pretty hardcore and 45L – 65L seems sensible. I’m quite small so I need to be at the lighter end and have gone for a 45L pack. If you’re a 6’2″ rugby player you could probably manage 65L no problem, but having researched other people’s packing lists, it always seems to be the women who have 80 or 90L packs. Small is good, because it stops you overpacking. I’ve overpacked – I think it’s almost inevitable as a first timer – but I can only overpack to the the tune of 45l so the damage is limited. Ideally you’d want a bit of space left over, as you aren’t always going to pack as neatly as you did at the start of the trip, plus you’ll pick up souvenirs along the way. I haven’t got much room left, but I’ve got some stuff that can be jettisoned at an early stage, which will then free up some room.
Once you decide approximately what size you need, then try on as many backpacks as you can find. The overall fit and comfort is more important than any specific feature. Mine has a women-specific fit, which means it’s designed to fit on a smaller torso with hips, and the straps go around my boobs instead of crushing them. There’s relatively few women-specific backpacks, so it limits your choice. Don’t assume that you’ll need one – try a whole range to see what suits you best.
The most important thing is the fit, but some features that you might want to look out for include hip pockets, a side opening for easier access and a design that allows for some ventilation between your back and the pack. If your pack doesn’t come with a rain cover, then get one, or get a poncho that can go over both you and the pack when hiking.
My full pack weighs 14 kg.
Daypack – my running backpack
My day pack is my running backpack. I’ve got a few backpacks that could have done as my day pack, but I chose the smallest so I will be less tempted to cram it with overflow from the main bag. It’s too small really for multi-day hikes like the Inca Trail, but for every day use I think it’s better to keep it small and I’ll figure something out on the occasions when I will need more capacity. I’ve got a little waterproof cover for this as well.
- Swimming costume
- Pants (x5)
- Sports bra
- Socks (x4)
Some people say that you should only take 3 pairs of pants, but a pair of pants hardly takes up much room so I’m taking a couple of extra pairs so I don’t need to do a clothes wash every day. I’ve got a pair of decent walking socks for Mt Fuji, the Inca Trail etc (5A), a pair of running socks (5B), which is my only exception to general backpacker rule of taking nothing white, and a couple of pairs of mosquito repellant socks (5C). I’m not sure how effective the insect repellant will be, but the most important thing is that they are long enough to tuck the bottom of my trousers into them, which should keep away insects and leaches.
- Shirts (x3)
- Tshirts (x5)
I’m taking 5 t-shirts including a running t-shirt which has got “Run London” on it so is a little reminder of home (2B), and a long-sleeved merino t-shirt (2A). Merino is a very light wool that behaves like a technical fabric so wicks sweat away from you and is supposedly naturally stink resistant. I tested this claim by wearing it for 5 days straight at Glastonbury and it held up pretty well. It’s good to have some long-sleeved options as it can be useful to cover up if it’s cooler, or to keep the sun off, or if you’re somewhere where modesty demands covered arms.
Shirts are quite a good option for travelling – you can look a bit smarter if necessary and they are a bit looser fitting so can be a cooler option. I’ve got one long-sleeved insect repellant one (1A) and even if you don’t get one with insect repellant built in, just having the long sleeves and cuffs can protect you from insects and leaches.
I know 5 t-shirts and 3 shirts is too many – once I get going I will need room in my pack for other things and some of the above will probably get ditched.
I don’t usually wear dresses but they make sense for travelling as they are a whole outfit by themselves and pack up really small. Plus they will do for evenings out, they’re not particularly glamorous but are a better option than shorts or zip-off trousers. Again, three is too many – whichever one I end up wearing least will probably quickly get ditched.
- 3/4 length trousers
- Running shorts
My trousers (3) are adjustable so can be zipped off into shorts, but it’s important to have at least one pair of full-length trousers. Sometimes you need to cover up for cultural reasons, sometimes to keep the mozis off, and sometimes it’ll just be plain cold. However, the golden rule of round-the-world packing is no jeans, certainly not for hot coutnries. They are too hot, too heavy and take too long to wash and dry.
The leggings (6) can be worn under dresses, but really earned their place in my bag as long-johns to be worn as an extra layer under trousers in very cold weather (e.g. the top of Mt Fuji).
I bought the hoodie (2) as a present for Mr Beet thinking it was unisex. Turns out it was a women’s top so I’m taking it instead. It’s a very thin, light extra layer. The fleece (3) is obviously for cold weather and is also plush enough to double up as a pillow. The waterproof (1) is essential for hiking – if you’re not going to be hiking then it might be better just to stick to an umbrella in tropical countries where a waterproof will be too sticky. Obviously in very cold conditions I will be wearing all three of the above, plus as many t-shirts underneath as I need to keep warm.
- Fake wedding ring (and chain for when I don’t want to wear it).
My friend Lucy got me the sarong (3) as a multi-purpose scarf / beach cover-up / head cover etc etc. The belt (2) is also a present from my friend Liz. The buff (1) was from the London Rat Race and has got pics of London buses etc on it so another little memento of home. The buff will be handy as hat, scarf, balaclava, sweatband.
When researching what to pack I read time and time again that a dummy wedding ring (6) is a very useful item to have. I thought this seemed a bit silly and over-cautious but by the time I had read the suggestion in about ten different places I thought there must be something in it. It apparently can help to reduce harassment (for when I’m out and about by myself, I presume Mr Beet’s actual presence will be more effective in this respect than any piece of jewellery) and in some places they might not like an unmarried couple sharing a room.
- Flip flops
I need footwear that I can use for walking around all day sightseeing, plus running, plus trekking up mountains. So I’ve got these trail running shoes (1) which are designed for running cross country. I’ve tested them on various runs and climbed Ben Vorlich in them. When it’s too hot for trainers, I’ve got a pair of the stereotypical backpacker sturdy sandals (2). Both trainers and sandals are pretty utilitarian so to have an option of something that I could wear out for an evening I’m taking these ancient ballet pumps (3), which are already a bit worse for wear so I can squash them into the tiniest space in my bag without worrying about them. A lot of travel sites recommend a pair of flip flops (4) to wear in manky hostel showers when it looks too minging to go barefoot.
- Warm Jacket
- Woolly hat
Since I am travelling mainly to warm climates, I wouldn’t ordinarily take a big jacket. Instead I’d just layer up as necessary and maybe buy something if I needed it for a particular activity. However, I am climbing Mt Fuji in the very first week of my travels and it will be freezing at the top, plus I am climbing through the night to reach the summit for the sunrise. So I’m taking this old jacket (1), which is very much past its best, for one last hurrah on Mt Fuji, after which it will be jettisoned or donated to anyone heading up the mountain who looks cold. For the same reason I’m taking gloves (3) and a hat (2) – the gloves are bulky so will also probably be jettisoned, but the hat is nice and small so I’m sure that I can find space in my bag to keep that until I will need it again which will be probably climbing Mt Kinabulu in Borneo.
- Face cleanser
- Moisturiser bar
- Shampoo and conditioner bars (x3)
- Moisturiser (with SPF)
- Hair bands
- Lip balm
- Nail clippers
- Sun cream
- Antibacterial hand gel
- Clothes wash
- Clothes line
- Sanitary towels
- Wet wipes
- Loo roll
Obviously, you can’t possibly pack enough toiletries for a year so I’m just taking a little of everything and will replenish en route. The only exception is the shampoo and conditioner bars (7). Each bar lasts about 50 washes, and they are such a good space saver that I can take 3 bars in less space than a single bottle of shampoo. So I’m taking enough to last until I get to Australia – where they have Lush shops so I can stock up for the rest of the trip.
My washing kit (17, 18 and 19) will allow me to wash my smalls in hostel bathrooms when there’s no laundry facilities, or when I run low on cash.
First Aid and Medication
- Microgynon – contraceptive pills (1 year’s supply)
- Doxycycline – antimalarials (6 months’ supply)
- Other prescription medication
- Paracetamol – anti-pyretic and painkiller
- Ibuprofen – anti-inflammatory and painkiller
- Piriton – antihistamine
- Cold and flu tablets
- Imodium tablets and rehydration powders
- Travel sickness tablets
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antiseptic cream
- Insect repellant
- Insect bite treatment
- Insect bite “clicker”
- Zovirax – for cold sores
- Strapping tape
- Micropore tape
- Wound dressings
- Water purifying tablets
- Water neutralising tablets
- Tiger balm
- Ear plugs
- Mini first aid kit containing selection of above to go in my day bag
Even if you aren’t planning on needing any contraceptives, I would advise female travellers to take the pill (1) if it suits you – it lets you control when you have your periods. My GP has a stupid policy where they will only give out 6 months’ supply at a time, but I just went to the family planning clinic and they gave me as many as I could carry.
The best anti-malarials for the Asian part of my trip are Doxycycline (2). We’ll need to pick up some Malarone before we get to South America. I had conflicting advice from my GP and the family planning clinic about the interaction of Doxycycline with my contraceptive pill. I did some research online and satisfied myself that it was fine (but obviously I didn’t come to this conclusion after just read some random person’s blog, so google the advice from the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians for yourself and don’t come complaining to me if you get pregnant).
One possible side-effect of the Doxycycline is thrush, hence the Canesten (4). I’ve never suffered from it before, but I didn’t fancy having to mime the symptoms in some Cambodian pharmacy so I thought I’d take some with me to be on the safe side.
I’m taking so many tablets and things in my first aid kit that it will be too big for me to carry round with me. So I’ve made up a little first aid kit out of an old moisturiser pot (25) which will live in my day bag and contains a small selection of my first aid bits and pieces to be on hand when required.
- Mobile phone and charger
- Kindle and charger
- Ipod shuffle, headphones and charger
- Head torch
The phone (1) is a quad band, which means I should be able to use it in most countries and I’ve got a travel talk sim card which seemed to have the best deal for international call charges.
Mr Beet got me the Kindle (2) for my birthday and my secretary got me some ebooks vouchers for a leaving present so I’ve loaded it up with lots of guidebooks and free classic novels. Unfortunately, I’ve still got three novels to take as well (see below).
I wasn’t going to take the iPod (3) as I usually only listen to it when I run by myself, but it’s so tiny I thought I might as well and I will probably be glad of it on long bus journeys.
The head torch (4) is pretty essential since I am doing a few night treks, but even if you aren’t then still handy for when there’s a power cut at your hostel or you’re trying to read a book on a night bus.
- Duct tape
- Safety pins
- Needles and thread
- Elastic bands
- Little pot to keep it all in
The main thing is the duct tape, I read again and again that you can use this to mend just about anything – backpack, trainers, mosquito net etc. The roll is probably too chunky to make it into my day pack so I’ve wrapped a few lengths of tape round my water bottle, which should be on me most of the time, so I’ll have some as and when I might need it.
- Passport – containing visas for Vietnam, China and India
- Cash -Yen, yuan and US dollars
- Debit cards, credit card, card reader
- Driving licence
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate
- PADI scuba diving logbook
- Various documents including; extra passport photos, instructions for my kindle / mobile , ESTA confirmation print outs for Australia and the US, travel insurance documents, certified copies of my passport etc.
My driving licence (4) is expired as I don’t drive any more and I’m taking it purely as extra i.d. Mr Beet has organised himself an international driving licence.
I got tonnes of vaccinations, but Yellow Fever is the one where you need a certificate (5), otherwise you might be refused entry to some countries. Without it, we might have a problem getting into the USA from South America.
- Money belt
- Water filter bottle and spare filter
- Guide book
- Money belt
- “Point it”
- Travel towel
- Sleeping bag liner
- Pens, pencils, sharpener, rubber, prit stick
- Cereal bars
- Jaffa cakes (for a ex-pat friend in China with a serious jaffa habit)
- Postcards of London – to show people where we are from
I’m reading my way through a list of a hundred books and have got four to go. Unfortunately, only one of the four is available as an ebook, so even though I’ve got a kindle I’m still taking these three chunky paperbacks (1). Obviously, taking 1,500-page novels is not recommended when one is trying to pack light. At least I’ll be motivated to read them quickly so I can ditch them.
I haven’t forgotten (Mr Beet is taking)…
- Camera and accessories
- Travel adaptor