5 Essentials You Probably Haven’t Packed

Are you thinking of backpacking for the first time? Before you start packing (and repacking) make sure you get your hands on my top 5 essentials, necessary for all short or long term trips.

The standard backpacker’s luggage normally fluctuates between 10-15kgs, therefore space and weight are crucial, which is why this is a must-have to keep a lightweight case. You can pick up a  Microfibre Towel from most camping stores or online for roughly £25 and trust me, they are worth every penny.  Microfibre towels dry in minutes, as opposed to a beach or bath towel, and even fold away into a tiny compact bag. You will never carry a damp, heavy or inconvenient towel again!

Other space consuming and non-essential items include hairdryers and styling equipment, these are large and difficult to pack due to their awkward shapes, not to mention, they are weighty. Remember that all backpackers are in the same position, and are unlikely to be carrying these either. If you are still clinging to it, have peace of mind knowing that most Australian and Kiwi hostels provide these for free if you leave a deposit. Another alternative is a travel version, although personally I find these to be unreliable having started my adventure with a tiny pair of straighteners packed tightly into my case (now removed.)

A laundry bag should be on everyone’s list, I must confess it wasn’t on my shopping list prior to travelling, however my best friend had bought one for me as part of a leaving present. I obviously use this everyday to separate my clean and dirty clothes, then I wash the bag too when I do my laundry, this is advantageous compared to a bin bag as it is not only always clean, but it doesn’t need to be replaced and it is also drawstring which I normally tie to my bed for accessibility. You can get your hands on one of these for approximately £5, take a look here for some inspiration.

I can speak on behalf of every traveller, in the history of backpacking, and say that our sole worst nightmare is losing our passports. One simple and easy way to manage this is to buy a passport case, preferably hardback, to minimise any risk of damage or loss.

Note that I am referring to a case and not a passport holder, which are equally as easy to lose, but admittedly do look great! No matter the situation, you will always have your passport easily accessible, once used, immediately replace your passport, and any other important travel documents you are carrying such as a boarding pass or travel insurance documents and shut your case. Try to routinely keep this in the same place in your backpack too for extra convenience.

Many travellers recommend taking along masking tape for a ‘fixer’ of ‘anything that breaks’ however I feel this is too vague to warrant carrying a huge, heavy, solid roll of tape and instead I have always opted for a tiny tube of super glue. Costing just £3, this has been a quick fix for me many times surrounding bag straps, flip flops and loose buttons and i addition it’s much easier to transport.

Last on my list of essentials is replacing your spray deodorant with a roll on, try to stay away from the glass bottles for obvious reasons; not to mention the weight. Not only does roll on maximise your limited space, it also lasts twice as long for half the price, meaning you’ve probably saved extra money too.

Hopefully you have found my suggestions useful, if you have any of your own you’d like to pass on, leave a comment.


First Sleeper Bus – Laos

Long term travel is not all that you see on Instagram. It does not solely consist of relaxing on a white sandy beach, massages and a cocktail in hand… what you are thinking of is a holiday. Long term travel can be some of the above, however I feel the ‘off-instagram’ lifestyle of real travel should be shared.

Last night I took my first sleeper bus, a 10hr journey from Pakse to Vientiene, Laos. My expectations of this experience started low remembering what I had read online combined with the stories I had heard from fellow travel companions. However, after recently seeking out some motivational reading for a whole different purpose, I had already decided that if anything, it would be an experience that I would be able to look back on and (hopefully) laugh at, regardless of the outcome.

I travelled with ‘King of Bus’, opting for a VIP ride, already dubious of some particular companies I had heard of. It cost 170,000 kip for the privilege of a mid-range ‘VIP’ bus. On arrival at the station, I was expecting to find a double decker sleeper bus, however was extremely stunned to find a one storey vehicle, with ladders to the bunk beds above; a Nomads/Base hostel on wheels for anyone familiar with backpacking around Australia or New Zealand.

Even more shocking for me, was to realise that if you were travelling solo you would be paired with someone similar and be expected to cuddle up in the double bed, I think it is a fair observation to say these beds are more king single size. Luckily enough for me, I happen to be travelling with my boyfriend so this wasn’t an issue and although the cabins are small, we both had just enough space. If you are a young lady travelling solo, you may be tempted to book two seats to avoid an awkward encounter with a stranger, although beware this would incur double the cost.
The double beds are all equipped with two surprisingly comfortable pillows, blankets and water for convenience, as well as plug sockets and AC;  it even had a flushing toilet that consisted of more than merely a hole in the floor, a luxury in itself by South East Asian standards!

The roads in Laos should not be confused with those in England, Laos is a third world country and this is shown on numerous occasions throughout, from the littered, poverty-stricken villages to the road safety. I don’t think I have to point out that there are no seat belts for the horizontal berths in the bus but I will anyway. If you want to travel through Laos on a night bus, take into account the journey will be bumpy and the sound of the beeping horn will be frequent and noisy.
This was the first sleeper bus I have experienced and I am sure it won’t be the last; although our journey was sleep deprived and fairly cold, in comparison to a day bus, it was considerably comfortable. Although the aforementioned description paints Laos in a negative light, the culture and scenery has the power to captivate and enthral on an equal footing to it’s more popular South East Asian counterparts.