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Date: 29/02/2012

Packing for a Backpacking Trip

Whilst there will always be those who break out into a cold sweat at the mere thought of 'roughing it', for many people there is nothing better than picking up their backpack and heading out into the world. Rather than be sheltered by the safe cocoon of glitzy hotels where it is all to easy to forget which country you are in, backpacking offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of each given country, learning much more about it that you ever would by opting for the 'sun, sea and sand' approach common to so many tourist resorts across the globe.

Although once you are on the road backpacking offers the freedom to go wherever the inclination may take you, it is of vital importance that you take time to carefully pack your backpack before you leave. Remember, if you are going to stay in a hotel for a week or two then the chances are that if you forget something it will not be too much of a disaster, as you will be able to either replace or live without this forgotten item fairly easily. When packing for a backpacking trip, however, being organised is absolutely imperative, as in this case packing is all about practicality and forgetting something important could be hugely inconvenient, not to mention expensive. Getting ready for a backpacking trip certainly is not the time to be throwing a random collection of your possessions into a bag and heading to the airport, but rather a chance to channel your inner Boy Scout and plan for every possible eventuality.

Packing for a backpacking trip is completely different to packing for a regular holiday, as clothing becomes rather minimal with backpacks being taken up with all manner of odds and ends.

One essential item to pack is a well stocked first aid kit. Not only will you need to prepare for minor illnesses and injuries (e.g. headaches, blisters, cuts and scrapes), you will also need to research the places you are going to and pack your first aid kit accordingly. If going somewhere you likely to experience an upset tummy at some point, for example Asia or South America, then be sure to pack sachets of re-hydration salts. Although not very palatable these are diluted in (bottled!) water and essential in providing your body with vital sugars, salts and minerals lost through sickness and diarrhoea. With this in mind packing some Imodium can prove to be important on long journeys. You will also need to prepare for the creepy crawlies, which may mean taking a supply of malaria tablets (which you will probably need to start taking before you leave), as well as insect repellent and an antiseptic salve for soothing insect bites. High factor sun screen is also, of course, vital.

Another essential item is backpacker travel insurance. For a backpacker, cheap travel insurance is particularly important as there tend to be more risks associated with this type of travel, meaning that it is crucial that you ensure you are covered should the worst happen. Many backpackers find themselves visiting doctors at some point and backpacker travel insurance will cover medical costs and ensure you don't blow your entire budget on one brief illness. Moving frequently from place to place also means that many backpackers lose important or expensive items such as their digital camera or even passport and backpacker travel insurance can really help in these situations, as well as unfortunate scenarios including muggings or property theft. Lastly, backpacker travel insurance can also prove to be invaluable when flights are cancelled.

Other essentials include items such as penknives, travel documents including visas if required, travel guides, mosquito nets and of course the all important sleeping bag. It is possible to buy very lightweight sleeping bags that can be compressed into a tiny size for ease of packing, however these are only really suitable for use in warmer climates, so it is important to research what kind of sleeping bag you will actually require. An inflatable travel pillow can also prove to be a wise investment as when deflated these will take up next to no room in your backpack, but will certainly make a difference when trying to get a good night's sleep. The same can also be said for a lightweight, quick-drying travel towel.

When packing clothes and shoes for a backpacking trip, the key really is to be practical - backpacking is not an opportunity to display your fashion credentials, so think along the lines of comfort and durability. Take clothes you can layer in cold weather and peel off in the heat and avoid denim as it is bulky, heavy and takes a long time to dry. Shoes should be comfortable even if worn for hours on end and suitable for extensive walking.

Heading out into the world with a backpack is a fantastic opportunity to embrace new experiences and to learn more about our planet. It is, however, important to pack carefully, so make sure you have all the essentials such as a first aid kit, backpackers insurance and a sleeping bag before you say your goodbyes and head to the airport.