The Hit List!
We think good boots are crucial. We were told by some that trainers are adequate, but we found otherwise. I bust my ankle when wearing flip flops and failed to use my boots on one ocassion. Do not make the same mistake. Trekking in the Jungle and even just on muddy roads in the wet season, while carrying a heavy bag can be tretcherous. One slip while carrying a heavy bag and you can seriously damage your ankle, or worse. This risk increases dramatically when you are trekking or taking part in activities while in more remote areas and the consequences in these situations are also far greater. Help is a lot further away. So, why risk cushioned thin soles that are slippery when you can opt for ankle supporting boots that have far greater tred? It makes sense right? Buy ankle supporting boots with cushioned soles and ensure you do them up tightly when trekking to minimise risk of damage.
The drawback of this though is that boots take up a fair amount of space and are relatively heavy. To reduce space pack your socks and other items into your boots to minimise space.
One may assume that visas are, or are not covered in your flight ticket. If you are travelling on a gap year or for an extended period of time then ensure you are aware before you fly about the current Visa laws. It is an extremely boring job, but will save you cash and hassle. We met a guy who made this mistake, lost his trans-siberian train journey ticket as Russia did not let him enter the country. He spent several hundreds of pounds travelling a different direction and missed his dream journey. We didn’t think anything about Australia as we thought we were covered. Unfortunately we were stung with paying £100 for a last minute visa instead of £30 before hand. On a budget this makes a huge difference.
An important thing to have and use, as it protects you from getting attacked in your sleep from many bugs as well as mosquitoes. This is also crucial and the number 1 method of preventing malaria. Ensure you buy one that is soaked in permethrin, which is an insecticide to kill anything that is waiting for you to emerge from our bed. Note that the bag and indeed holes in the mosquito net are fixed with Duct tape!
50% tropical strength is useful in most places as it lasts longer. Consult the bottle however as there are some that last longer than others by default. Make sure you avoid plastics when using high strngth DEET as it melts plastics and use it on your “pulse points” as a priority. By thi we mean your ankles and anywhere your veins are close to the surface of te skin, a this is where mosquitoes aim for first! Note that the rubbish flip cap is held down with Duct tape! Try and buy a screw cap for everything.
Duct Tape/ Gaffer tape:
This stuff is genius and helped us fix and achieve so much! As you may gather we love it. To be specific we used grey, Scotch Duct tape. Where there is no where to fix your mosquito net, use tape, socks have holes in? Tape it. We were in a small village in India that had a hole in their water line, reducing pressure to the whole village. Fixed easily with Duct tape. This stuff has so many uses and replaces many items. Sure tape on your socks is not ideal, but as it is made from fabric makes a great substitution at the time and that is all that matters.
2 x Padlocks:
Not just one, but two. They do not need to be expensive either. We bought ours for £2.99 each, but they looked chunky and that was the main thing.
You need one for you room, so you do not rely on the hotel owners padlock. This is because most theft from rooms is either other travellers if you are in a domitory and also cleaners who have access to your room via a key to their own padlock. The second should be used on a zip that locks a bag containing all your important things together. Theft is mostly opportunistic. Make it difficult and you will not have a problem. The only time I have something stolen was from a money belt that was in my main bag and not locked up in our black bag. Both bags were next to each other, but one was not locked.
We found a genius way to keep your bag safe on a bus or if you are leaving it for some time behind a desk, in a safe room (a lot of which are very unsafe). Make a small slit in your rucksack and feed a bike lock through your bag in front of the padding that rests on your back but behind the contents of your back. With one of the locks (from above) , you can easily lock your bag to a fixed chair leg, desk, wall hanging or anything that makes it impossible to remove without being noticed. Again this eliminates the opportunitic theives and will keep your stuff safe, giving you peace of mind. As we were a couple we would also lock them together. Just try and watch someone trying to steal 2 20 kg bags at the same time- it will not happen!
Great for mosquito bites surprisingly, but also aches, strains and pains when you have been marching to catch a bus or trekking in the jungle. We used a whole pot and yet I had never used the stuff before!
Not a whole roll, but useful in hanging mosquito net, tying things to your bag, can be used as a washing line (far cheaper than a bungee chord that are sold as washing lines for £10!), We wove it into a chord strong enough to hang our new hammock. It is its many uses, low price and the small space it takes up that puts string in the Hit List.
The Miss List:
From what to take travelling, to what to avoid. As you glance down you will probably be surprised at what we have come up with, but hear us out there are very good reasons as to why these are not necessary in most instances (unless you are completely out on a limb and exploring new parts of the undiscovered world).
Fist Aid Kit:
We took a first aid kit, but found that most of things in there could be improvised upon. A triangular bandage to support your arm can be made from a T-shirt (and in that situation you would be more than happy to cut up a T-shirt as you can imagine). Bite relief can be found in natural herbs and tiger balm (above). The small amount of plasters are never enough for what you will need for the small wounds that occur, neither is the gauze dressing.
We reccommend making your own kit. Ibuprofen. Material (not plastic) plaster that is in a whole roll and needs cutting to size. Pick up gauze when you arrive, as it is very expensive in the UK, but do buy some as it you’ll probably need it. A saftey pin. Iodine.
In 99% of cases everything else can be bought when you need it. The only time you may need something you don’t have is if you are staying in a hill tribe, 2 days away from the nearest hospital and you break your leg. These exceptional circumstances need considering if you are going to extremely remote places.
Like most people we are not a fan of insurance! They require receipts of anything you have lost and claim for. Yet how many receipts do you keep really? Exactly, very few, which means that if something is lost or stolen you can only claim for a small proportion of what you have lost. Most insurance policies also have an excess, which means you have to pay for every claim you make and considering the paperwork involved makes it not worthwhile. So unless you are carryng around expensive equiptment and have the receipts for them do not worry about insuring them, worry about looking after them (see above for padlocks and bike locks).
Our excess was £50 for lost and stolen items and £75 for medical claims. When you travel in Asia, Afria and South America it is generally very cheap to buy medication you need and to see a doctor. For example I thought I had broken my foot after landing heavily on it aftr jumping off a wall. In Thailand that cost me just £20, including 2 x-rays and seeing a specialist doctor. On a few ocassions in Argentina regarding a stomach infection this cost just £30 and in Vietnam 7 stiches, anasthetic and antibiotics cost just £60. Claiming was useless as it would have cost us more money to have done so! So, unless you have a serious problem we do not believe that insuring against this kind of scenario is worth it. Our travel insurance cost £320. Had we saved that money we could have paid for any kind of medical problem we had.
The trouble with this however is that if you get yourself into a serious medical situation (forge losing all your belongings, which can be replaced) you are not covered. We suggest that a low cost “serious medical emergencies” policy is looked into, rather one that covers you for loss or theft, delay etc. When you are travelling you need to be responsible and look after yourself and your things. Most long term travellers we meet do not have insurance, but set the money aside they saved and use that as a pot of cash that they would use if they did get themselves into a pickle.
Our advice: insure against situations that are not possible to get yourself out of only. Forget about valuables and clothes etc, you will not get the right price back for them and that is if you claim goes through anyway.
We, like most people brought too many and subsequently dumped a lot on the road. You can buy more local clothing far cheaper than in the west. These will also be more atuned to local custom so you will fit in better, which means you are not a tourist beacon. Take a change of clothes on top of what you wear on the plane and then top this up with things you need in each climate and environment you visit. When I went to Antarctica I had just a poncho I bought in Bolivia. I picked up £100 worth of waterproofs, jumpers and high specification sunglasses at a fraction of the cost of the UK and it meant I didn’t carry it around for 4 months before I headed there.
To minimise space further, take 2 pairs of underwear. Wash one pair as you take a shower, change into your spair underwear and when you shower again your washed ones will be dry! Easy.
Quick drying towel:
This seemed like a good idea at the time, but really in humid conditions dries slowly anyway. Towels also cause mould and damp in your rucksack. This is not a good situation. Simply replace a towel with a thin sarong, which can be used for lying on at the beach and wearing around pool. Think multi-purpose and you realise a towel is a useless thing to bring. After all generally you will be in a hot climate, where drying out under a fan is heaven!
At the end of the day…
We took more items but decided to leave them out as they turned out to be “nice to have”. You just need to remember the rules:
You can buy most stuff out there, but ensure you buy it from a reputable dealer.
- Take far less than you think
- Consider what activities and how “off the beaten track” you are going and whether this may need extra things.
- Clothes are the hardest thing to reduce, but leave them for when you get home and buy what you need and when on the road.
- Take things that have many uses rather specialist products.
- Take Duct tape!