Remember that saying you used to be told before sleeping as a child – “Night, night…don’t let the bedbugs bite!”
Or was that just me? Anyway, bedbugs are a real thing and if you’re travelling for long enough, chances are you’ll come across them (and not just at dodgy hostels either!). So here is a list of the items which I have found necessary or useful during my time backpacking!
P.S. Sorry in advance for the lack of pictures in this article!
Number 1: A sleeping sack
I found out the hard way about bedbugs. How? After a night in a London hotel, I woke up with two clinging two my pyjamas (which I freaked out over and washed down the sink) and later found tiny bites over my body in tiny little lines. Luckily, I didn’t get the huge welts which some people get from bed bugs, but I immediately invested in a cotton sleeping sack/sleeping bag liner.
Obviously, silk is the preferable option however it was going to cost me 28 Euros more, and I felt that cotton would be the best option for the time being considering I probably wouldn’t use it that much. The silk sleeping sack obviously packs away to barely anything, however even the cotton one folds up tiny and came with a case.
Fun/not-so-fun fact: Bed bugs can be really hard to get rid of because they can apparently go a year without blood. I literally put every single item of clothing in the dryer (high temperatures kill them) to make sure they weren’t there anymore.
Number 2: Solid shampoo/conditioner bars
These are AMAZING! Not only are they a huge space saver and last forever, but they also work remarkably well. I bought mine from Lush and cut them in half. So far I have been using them for over a month each and they’ve barely decreased in size, with Lush boasting that they last up to 80 washes each! I keep them in a tin and dry them on a flat surface after each wash and they’re brilliant. They make lots of different types as well and save you carrying around huge bottles of the stuff
Number 3: Ziplock bags in multiple sizes and spare plastic bags
These should be self-explanatory. Wet clothes, keeping your phone safe from water, separating items, carrying things, 100mL restrictions bag on planes. Take zip locks. Take lots of zip locks!
I also save plastic bags every time I go shopping when I’m on trips for dirty clothes or extra padding.
Number 4: Ear plugs and an eye mask
Noisy hostels are the worst, as are places that don’t have good curtains. You will be thankful of these when you wake up in the morning and have actually had a good night’s sleep in a hostel room.
Number 5: Travel Money Card
My bank back home has awesome deals with their travel money cards and I can use it in any shop without incurring charges overseas. Taking money out of an ATM costs a set amount each time. I like it because it makes me feel safe as I don’t have to carry huge amounts of money around with me, which sometimes you will have to do for the hostels that don’t accept cards.
Number 6: Spare Locks
These are good for everything. Locking your backpack. Locking your locker in your hostel room. Locking your bag when you’re at the beach. I guess you could lock your food up in the fridge at the hostel if you were really that protective. I have two locks with me (my backpack has two pouches) and I really wish I’d brought a third for my smaller second backpack. Combination locks that are TSA approved are my personal favourite because you can also use them for larger luggage items which you check in on planes.
Number 7: Microfibre Towel
Once again, it makes perfect sense. These towels fold small and dry quickly. Mine is “large” sized and is slightly smaller than a regular beach towel but it does the job. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it attracts grass and tiny twigs which are really hard to pull off. But otherwise, perfect for a backpacker and you can always chuck it in the washing machine to fix that issue!
Finally, and this is entirely personal preference but I’ll explain why it’s good…
Number 7: 40L backpack
Why 40L, you ask? Well, you can usually use it as carry-on baggage on internal European flights. I bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 and it prides itself on being compatible with the carryon requirements of the majority of airlines in the EU. It has three pouches and two are lockable. It has straps inside to compress your packing and straps on the outside to compress it even more. If you want to check it in as baggage, the backpack straps zip away into a pouch at the back and it comes with an extra, detachable strap so that you can use it as a shoulder bag.
I literally love this backpack. Here’s a packing list of what fits inside it. Bear in mind that I’ve got my electronic gear in another 22L backpack however the Osprey Farpoint does have a laptop compartment. However, you can only really use if your backpack is fairly empty as otherwise it could cause your laptop to flex because of where the pocket is situated.
Basically, try to buy the smallest bag you can fit your stuff into. Pack and repack. Remove unnecessary items (I’m still improving that bit). At the end of the day, you have to carry it on your back so you want to pack as light as possible! My next article will be what I packed so that you can see how much I managed to fit into my pack!