Shed your load and hit the road. Forget the laptops, party frocks and vast first aid kits - go back to basics and your experience will be liberating. Here's how...
1. There are already people living in the country you are going to
There are shops there where you can buy stuff if you need it. You do not need to carry with you everything you may need for every imaginable scenario.
2. An important aspect of backpacking is to leave your normal life behind
A little simplicity and basic living is no bad thing.
I once spent three months travelling around the Philippines. I travelled with hand luggage only. I had one pair of trousers, one pair of shorts, one shirt, one raincoat, one pair of socks, two pairs of underwear, a pair of shoes and my flip-flops.
I had to wash my clothes in the sink at night. I look identical in every single photograph from the trip. But the experience was so liberating. Towards the end I began giving away the items I no longer needed.
I landed at Heathrow with only the clothes I was wearing: shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops and a conical straw hat that I had swapped for my shirt. By the time my train home arrived in Yorkshire I was very cold and looked massively out of place. But those days of travelling light are still some of my fondest travel memories.
Here is my alternative kit list for a backpacking adventure. It matters not whether you are going for a week or year: you still need just the same amount of stuff. For argument's sake, let’s assume you are going to a warm part of the world and are not planning to do anything you'll need specialist kit for.
This is all you need to take. It’s cheap and it’s simple. Sexy, it ain’t! And remember: you’re going on an adventure, not planning a military invasion and siege.
1 long-sleeved shirt
Roll the sleeves up and unbutton the front when you are hot. Do the reverse when cold.
1 rain coat
Also acts as an extra layer if you are cold
1 set of underwear
1 swim suit
Can also double as underwear in a pinch
1 pair of socks
Flip flops or sandals
1 pair of trousers
That convert into shorts, or 1 dress
30 litre backpack
Silk sleeping bag
Packs down tiny, keeps bed bugs away, very warm for its size
Don't forget suncream and mosquito repellent
Diary and pen
One reading book
Swap it when you’re done
If you must
Map of the country
Sunhat and sunglasses
Though if you plan to fly with only hand luggage, you'll have to leave this behind
Mug and spoon
Great for eating breakfast cereal from too
Water bottle and water purifying tablets
Passport, credit card, cash etc.
Back your files up online before you fly
Recover from recoiling in horror at my omission of laptops, special outfits for partying and vast first aid kits. Internet cafes can be found worldwide, and party frocks will almost definitely be out of place.
And think about what citizens of the country you are in do should they suddenly get hemorrhoids, a bee sting, or a sore throat: they go to a chemist and buy a medicine. Don’t feel the need to carry with you a treatment for everything you might never catch.
Of course, this is a 'bare bones' list. Although I anticipate that you will probably carry more than this on your next trip (and so would I), I hope that it has provoked you to question what you really do need, and what you can live without for a few weeks or months.
Am I a stinking hobo, or do I have a point? Please let me know in the comments section below...