When you first start backpacking, chances are you are not familiar with all the do’s and don’ts that come with it. For example, you might stuff your backpack with clothes just to find out that once you are there (this applies to India, South East Asia and other hot climate backpacker favorites) it’s actually very easy and cheap (often just $2 or $3) to buy comfortable clothes in the country.

But the real essentials are not clothes. The following 5 items have proved themselves to me as valuable travel companions which I would never leave behind when planning a backpacking trip somewhere.

1. Ziploc bags – I began to fall in love with them in 2002 when I backpacked through India. Someone gave me a spare ziploc bag for my washing powder which I carried around all the time since in India you’re often relying on having to wash your own clothes. I soon realised that not just washing powder would stay in its place but also shampoo, soap and wet bathing suits find an excellent exile from the rest of your stuff, making your life just a tiny bit easier.


2. Jelly shoes – how I love them. A pretty random discovery in Thailand where I bought a pair on a market in Bangkok for a mere 50 baht (1 euro). They’re made of rubber so they’re perfect for traveling through countries during the Monsoon. They’re quite airy, so contrary to popular opinion your feet do not sweat in them more than they would in other types of sandals. I’ve found these all over the world, so if you keep your eyes open for them, you can probably find them wherever you are traveling to.


jelly shoes

3. An MP3-player – you might think, “duh, obvioulsy I’m bringing that”, but for those who are unsure about bringing electronical equipment of any sort – it’s great having some music for on the road because the longer you’re traveling the more you will miss hearing music you like. On the road, most people read a lot, but every now and then, for example on a bumpy 3-hour ride with 70 people on a bus with 40 seats in say, Cambodia, it’s priceless to be able to zone out to some familiar tunes from your favorite band. That said, consider not bringing anything worth any real money, as the chances it gets wet in the rain, you lose it or someone stealing it are omnipresent. Nowadays you can find a decent MP3-player for €30 or even less.


4. Earplugs – these can feel like a life-saver, or at least a sleep-saver, when confined to a hostel room with 5 snoring boys which does happen on a regular basis when you’re relying on hostels while traveling. They’re also great for sleeping on trains and buses or reading when people around you are chatting.


5. A Sarong – Probably the most handy thing to have out of the bunch. The versatility of these guys is endless. Use it as a skirt or dress, a beach blanket, a bed sheet in questionable hotel rooms, a blanket in chilly nights, a pillow on train-rides, s scarf and an emergency towel. Something that should’nt be missing from any girl’s backpack.

Beach Sarong