For first-time backpackers, it can be a challenge to squeeze all your must-have items into a backpack that’s compact and lightweight enough to carry. Here are our top ten packing tips to send you on your way…
1. Buy a suitable pack
First off, you need to find the right backpack for your trip. Buy an appropriately-sized pack depending on the length of your trip and the type of destination and amount of kit you need to take. A travel pack design is more accessible, offering a larger side opening rather than top opening, but this may not be the best choice if you’re planning to hike a long way, in which case a top-loading trekking pack offers greater stability.
2. Make a list
It’s vital to make a list of everything you need to take. You can find some great ready-made packing lists online and then adapt them to fit your own travel plans and needs. This is a really important stage so take it seriously, and tick everything off as you pack it so there’s no danger of forgetting anything vital.
3. Organise your gear into categories
Once you have the right pack, gather together everything you want to take and put aside anything that’s not absolutely essential. You can pack the luxuries only if you end up having enough room. Put items into categories such as ‘underwear’, ‘shorts’, wash stuff, etc and consider investing in some packing cases, which help you keep gear in categories and make it easier to grab items quickly.
4. Pack the heavy stuff in the middle
A classic packing tip that shouldn’t be ignored if you want to save your back is packing heavy gear near the middle, and close to your back.
5. Plan your clothing carefully
Clothes usually take up most space, so think carefully about what you need and remember you can use a laundry along the way! Avoid packing thick cotton items because they don’t dry well, easily grow mould, and will be heavier to carry than thin cotton or synthetic materials. Avoid wearing or carrying heavy footwear unless you really need it, because at some point you will end up having to carry it.
6. Consider investing in space and weight-saving gadgets
If you’re an avid reader, you could save much-needed space and weight by investing in a Kindle or similar e-reader rather than lugging big books around with you. If you want to have a GPS and guide books, you could invest in a smartphone which allows you to download relevant apps as well as make calls, combining several functions in one small device. There are lots of great gadgets out there for travellers to lighten your load. Another great space saving accessory to consider would be a microfibre travel towel, these are lightweight and quick drying as well as compact, some even come with anti-bacterial protection to prevent unpleasant odours and the growth of mould.
7. Don’t overpack
Your packed bag should not be full to capacity. Security will have a tough time closing it again if it’s chosen for a search, which could result in lost articles — and it’ll be no easier for you to pack and unpack along the way, either.
8. Remember liquid restrictions
Remember to consider airport restrictions on liquids (including gels, creams and pastes) being carried in hand luggage. Make sure they are in containers of no more than 100ml, and placed inside a transparent, re-sealable plastic bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm. You can decant into a special Flight Friendly Bottle Set to be sure you’re within the limits.
9. Keep your pack safe
Airlines mislay millions of suitcases and luggage every year, so never pack anything you would hate to be without in your checked luggage. Help keep your pack safe by including an extra luggage label inside, containing flight and contact details, just in case the external luggage label gets ripped off. Avoid checking in late, which creates a greater chance of your luggage not making it onto the flight. And, finally, lock your checked bags!
10. Know your baggage weight limits
Make sure you know how many bags you can check in, and their maximum combined weight. You could buy hand-held digital weighing scales to check you’re within the limit and avoid any excess baggage charges.