what to put in your backpack

Packing for every holiday is a challenge. Chuck in diverse climates, seasons and terrains and it can be a nightmare. 

Although we were mightily impressed that some other long-term travellers managed to fit their entire lives in one piece of carry-on, that wasn't for us. We decided to adopt the anti-minimalist philosophy - the 'stuff as much as you can in your rucksack until you fall over" philosophy, if you will. 

This approach has its upsides and its downsides of course:

Downside: you may have to frantically unload said rucksack and wear two pairs of shorts over your jeans -which are already stuffed with most of your pants and a spare camera lens - a t-shirt, two jumpers, a hoody and your rain-jacket, your hiking boots and a guide book shoved down your pants in order to make the 20 kg luggage allowance set by your budget airline; with 15 minutes to go before the check-in closes. This may also result in leaving a shoe behind in Gatwick airport which you only realise on your second day in Mexico. 

Upside: we had a lot of stuff in London, and it was stuff that would probably be useful on the road at some distant point in time. Not Emily's vast array of animal-themed onesies or Andrew's favourite leather jacket but things like t-shirts and pants. We felt that if we had it anyway, it was easier to bring it with us and wear the life out of it, allowing natural wastage to take its course, rather than take too little and have to buy things (and use up our budget) on the road.

30 kgs each, the equivalent of carrying these two on your back. 

30 kgs each, the equivalent of carrying these two on your back. 

Downside: we sweat a lot. Everywhere. On a travel day, each of us carries around 30kgs, which is the equivalent of the guy who played Mini Me from Austin Powers holding a bulldog. 

Upside: Doing laundry sucks. If you've only got three outfits with you, you are either going to be that smelly guy/girl in the hostel, or spend a lot of your time doing laundry. 

Downside: It's sometimes a struggle to walk through doors. Or up hills. Or to sit down. And especially to stand up. 

Downside/Upside: One of us always has to carry the majority of the 'shared' items due to the other person opting to take too many clothes. 

Upside: Between the two of us, we've got pretty much every scenario, weather, fiesta, illness and occasion covered. And our thighs are going to be super-ripped after two years. 

So, here's our guide to show you what we brought with us and the rationale underlying it. Hopefully it can give you some ideas on what to take and what to leave behind for your own adventure. 


These will store our lives for the next two years. A big bag to hold everything, a bag for daytrips and to always keep by you on transport, canvas bags for shopping and beach use and a specialist waterproof bag for days spent scuba-diving or on the ocean blue. 

1 Lowe Alpine 65L backpack

1 Lowe Alpine 25L daypack

1 canvas bag (with a pug on it)

1 Overboard 20L water-proof bag 

1 North Face 65L backpack

1 North Face 20L daypack

1 canvas bag (without a pug)


As we're developing this website, trying to improve our photography and one of us can't go 5 minutes without checking the latest football news, we took quite a lot of tech with us. 

1 Macbook Pro

1 Google Nexus 7

1 Hard-drive 1TB

Cables and chargers

1 Canon 550D SLR

1 50mm lens

1 18-135mm lens

1 Canon G15 Powershot

Cables and chargers

1 iPhone 4S

1 Samsung Galaxy SII

1 old Nokia phone (unlocked)

Cables and chargers

admin and travel documents

2 passports

6 photocopies of passports

4 passport photos

1 ICE plc overseas cash card

Multiple credit and debit cards

Emergency funds (USD)

Vaccination certificates

Medical qualifications certificate

Proof of prescriptions

hot-weather gear

2 shirts

9 t-shirts

5 vests

5 pairs of shorts

1 pair of sunglasses

1 dress

9 t-shirts

11 vests

5 pairs of shorts

1 pair of sunglasses

cold-weather gear

1 jumper

1 hoodie

1 long-sleeve t-shirt

1 beanie hat


3 jumpers

1 hoodie

2 long-sleeve t-shirts

1 beanie hat

beach gear

2 swim shorts

1 pair of flip-flops

1 snorkel and mask

2 bikinis

1 pair of flip-flops

1 sarong

sports gear


1 hi-wicking vest

1 hi-wicking t-shirt

1 pair of running shorts

1 pair of running shoes

1 set of sweatbands (I sweat)


2 hi-wicking vests

1 pair of running shorts

2 sports bras

1 pair of running shoes


climbing a hill gear


1 Gore-tex rain jacket

1 set of base layers 

1 pair of lightweight hiking trousers

1 pair of hiking socks

1 pair of hiking shoes

1 Gore-tex rain jacket

1 set of base layers 

1 pair of lightweight hiking trousers

2 pairs of hiking socks

1 pair of hiking shoes

city-slicker gear (or when we want to look fancy!)

There are times when you reach the lights of the big city and you simply have to scrub up. We weren't too keen on being in our trekking shoes and trousers in a hip salsa bar in Buenos Aires, so have a few outfits which will also double up for any more formal events.

4 shirts

3 pairs of jeans/trousers

1 pair of Converse

3 shirts

4 pairs of jeans/leggings

3 jumpsuits

3 dresses

1 pair of shorts

1 pair of Converse

1 pair ankle boots

sleeping and underwear

1 set of pyjamas

9 pants

6 pairs of trainer socks

2 pairs of regular socks



2 sets of pyjamas

9 pants

4 pairs of trainer socks

1 pair of regular socks

7 bras


1 Muji wash-bag

3 refillable 150ml travel bottles - shampoo, conditioner, body wash

1 roll-on deodorant

1 toothpaste and toothbrush

1 face-wash

1 face moisturiser

1 floss pack

1 suncream (factor 30)


1 Muji wash-bag

3 refillable 150ml travel bottles - shampoo, conditioner, body wash

1 roll-on deodorant

1 toothpaste and toothbrush

1 face-wash

2 moisturisers (face and eye)

1 hair serum

1 make-up bag containing lipstick, blusher, tinted moisturiser, concealer, mascara, nail polish. 

medical stuff

A more in-depth post on how to prepare for common medical complaints whilst you travel is in the pipeline, so for now we will provide only a basic overview of essentials.

1 small medical kit (day pack)

5 plasters

6 paracetamol tablets

2 anti-diarrhoea tablets and 1 rehydration sachet

2 anti-septic wipes

1 large dressing

1 bandage

1 mini-torch and lighter

2 Deet wet-wipes

1 small roll of tape

1 pair sterile gloves

1 large medical kit (large backpack)

Multiple antibiotics

2 years supply of anti-malarials

Sterile needles, syringes, cannulas and gloves

Variety of pain-killers

Rehydration sachets

Safety pins

Dressings, plasters and bandages

Burns kit

Personal prescriptions

Wrist splints (will explain later)

random useful stuff

2 vacuum travel bags

4 Muji compartment bags (various sizes)

2 head torches

1 Swiss-army knife

4 padlocks (including one cable-tie)

1  skipping rope

2 collapsable 'sippy cups' 

1 mini sewing kit

4 Lonely Planets

400 multivitamins

2 sets of prescription glasses

2 sleeping bag liners

1 mosquito net

1 Tupperware container

2 Overboard waterproof wallets

1 pack ziplock freezer bags

1 roll duct-tape

2 headphones

1 headphone splitter

6 earplugs

1 mini umbrella

1 glasses repair kit

So there is it. Yes, yes we know we took far too much stuff but, four months into our adventure, we've actually worn and used everything (except the medical emergency items) and nothing has felt like an unnecessary item. The vests have sweat, sand and dirt engrained in them and almost every t-shirt has some form of stain, but everything will tell a story and invoke a memory of our life on the road. 

We'll give an update after 12 months to show things added and whittle down to the 'must-bring' items.

Planning your next adventure? Check out some of these must read posts!