Packing

"Gosh, you're travelling light! Is that all you've got?"  was something we heard a lot.

 

We travelled light because we had to carry everything around with us. Although we tried to minimise the distances that we needed to walk with all of our gear, we wanted to visit some remote places, often travelling on local transport, so we needed to be as mobile and comfortable as possible. We couldn't always afford to catch taxis, so despite our best intentions, there were times when we had to walk for a kilometre or more carrying all of our stuff.

 

Obviously, travelling light isn't as important if you have your own vehicle, but it's a good discipline to follow, regardless of how you plan to travel.

Luggage

The simple truth is, you don't actually need that much stuff. As a guide, for our six-month (mostly) overland trip from the UK to Australia, we took:

 

  • A backpack each: adult size for us (roughly 55 litres) and adult-sized day packs for the children (roughly 25 litres), as well as a daypack each for the adults;

  • Mosquito nets (which we only ended up using a couple of times);

  • A first aid kit and malaria tablets;

  • A few changes of clothes, including swimming costume and sarong/pashmina;

  • Three Kindles, an iPad, an iPod, an iPhone, two MP3 players, a head torch, charging cords, a power board with four power sockets and two USB sockets, and a universal adaptor;

  • Two pairs of shoes each: a pair of flip-flops and a pair of trainers;

  • Basic toiletries (soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste);

  • Pens and notepads, and a pack of cards;

  • One stuffed toy per child;

  • One SLR camera (with a Tamron 16-300mm lens) and one compact camera;

  • A penknife, mugs and a set cutlery each (for long-distance train travel);

  • Passports, extra passport photos and a stash of US dollars for visas;

  • Two cloth shopping bags to use for food when we needed to take snacks on board the train or bus. When you aren't using them they fold down to nothing but they are easier than trying to fit drinks and snacks into backpacks.    

 

This added up to a total of about 35kg between four of us: roughly 14kg each for the adults and 3-4kg per child. As a general rule, your child should be carrying less than ten per cent of their body weight in his or her pack.

 

Keep clothing to a minimum. You only need a couple of outfits as you can hand wash clothes along the way and buy new items as they wear out.

 

We gave away our winter coats, gloves and mittens to families in Mongolia as we were about to enter China, where the weather was much warmer.  

 

Remember, you can buy almost everything you'll need along the way, so don't carry items with you to cover every possible scenario (chances are, anything that you discover that you need will be cheaper wherever you're going). For example, if you're travelling through a hot country, buy some sunscreen and then leave it behind when you move on to somewhere colder. The same goes for sarongs, sundresses and so on.

 

During the preparation stages of your trip, get everyone to put their stuff into a pile and then go through it item by item, deciding what's vital and what isn't, then pack each person's bag and make sure that they're comfortable carrying it. At this point, it's important to adjust each pack so that it sits comfortably.

 

Packing cubes and ziplock bags are very useful for compartmentalising your stuff, making it easier to find things without having to tear apart the whole pack and streamlining the re-packing process.

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