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Top Tips for Packing Your Backpack

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 16 / 12 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

Your Backpack: Your Home Away From Home

So make sure you’re kitted out with the right stuff.

One of the most important things to remember when packing is that you don’t bring; you buy. This might seem quite painful to all those who are planning on saving as much money as possible on their well-earnt boozy nights. But trust us here, you know what you need once you’re out there so you can be sure you’re lugging around the right stuff at the right time.

Also, it’s often a lot cheaper buying things overseas and of course, the first time traveller needs to practice their haggling at some point. Remember, washing machines do exist abroad, so a weekly wash is not hard to come by.

The winning formula:

So with backpack in hand, all you really need to use when packing is this genius formula:

Functionality + Practicality

If it’s both then great, pack it. If it’s one or the other, it’s a no-no.

Little essentials you may not have thought of:

A pen

From writing down bus times to logging the contacts of your new hippie friends, a pen can be hard to come by whilst on your travels.

A needle and thread

Boys, don’t be afraid to bring out your feminine side here, you never know when you may need to fix a hole in your tent or your favourite board shorts.

An LED torch

For all those treacherous walks back to the hostel in the dark, as well as when delving into the deepest darkest depths of your backpack.

Alarm clock

God forbid you miss your bus let alone a flight… that’s possibly the quickest way to turn your fabulous gap year into a head achy nightmare.

Padlock + cable locks

Even if your backpack is on your back, you can feel it, but you can’t see it, especially the back facing pockets that can be dangerously accessible to wandering hands in crowded areas.


Always a useful one to keep your essentials on you and no one else. Even when you’re in bed, you can sleep with a peaceful mind knowing where your money, phone and passport is.

Flip flops

May seem very obvious for those planning to hit the beach on their travels, but you don’t know what kind of hostels you may find yourself in. Grubby floors and bare feet are not a pleasant mix.

Single duvet cover

How could we not mention our favourite of all… The ultimate clever little travelling necessity. Use it as a sleeping bag as you know where your duvet cover has been but you don’t know what’s been in your hostel bed before you. I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.

But of course, don't forget the real essentials:

Passport – You won’t get into the country without it.

Visas – You won’t get into the country without it.

Insurance – You don’t want to be more in debt than you already will be.

Tickets – You won’t be going anywhere without them.

Cash in the local currency – It’s always helpful when you first touch down in the country to have a little spare local cash for a taxi or bus ride to your hostel.

Adapter – you won’t have a working phone without it.

Electrical equipment - cameras, phone chargers – how would you be able to take all your awesome travelling pictures without it?

Sun cream AND AFTER SUN – We’ve all been there... The naïve traveller who thinks their body will acclimatise after 5 minutes in the sun. Just think: even if you can’t see the red, it’s still red. Protection against the sun is essential.

Over to you:

So forget the fancy shoes and the clothes that you think will be perfect for your sunset evenings on the beach… these are the things that ought to not go amiss when packing (as well as a few pairs of underwear).

If you have any genius travel items that you can’t leave the country without, we’d love to hear from you – just post in the comments below.

From tips on how to pack your back pack to arranging the complete itinerary for you gap year travels or overseas volunteering - The Leap, the UK's best gap year travel company.

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