Your Travel Backpack: What to Take

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What to take

Traveling with very few items allows for a freedom not possible with several bags of luggage. You don't need to worry so much about items getting lost or stolen, and you can enjoy your trip without baby- sitting your things. Many times I meet a traveler hauling around a huge backpack on his back, a smaller one stradling his chest, a fanny sack around his waist, cameras dangling from his neck, and smaller bags in his hands. These people become so preocupied about their things that they forget why they are traveling.

There are very few things necessary to take with you on your trip, and as Metallica says in their song "Wherever I may Roam": "the less I have, the more I gain." I have found that this statement is correct, and travel only with a small backpack.

So if you want to travel freely and unencumbered like some philisophical monk, here are the things that you will need:

1) Backpack or Shoulder Bag: Keep it small and simple, you don't need anything fancy or expensive.

2) Money Belt: A money belt is a pouch that straps around your waist underneath your pants. It provides a measure of security from theft, and this is where your most important items go. The things to keep in your money belt are:


*ATM/Credit Cards

*Cash/Traveler's Checks


*Notepad and Pen (for addresses, phone numbers, etc.)

3) Cloths: Pack a change of cloths; underwear, a pair of socks, pants, and a shirt. If it gets a bit cold where you're going bring one or two long-sleeved shirts and wear them in layers for those chilly days.

4) Personal Items: Take your contacts and solution or eyeglasses. Also pack a comb and maybe sunscreen, toothpaste and a toothbrush, tampoons, a razor -- whatever you will be using. Soap and towels aren't necessary as they are provided in hotels.

5) Guidebook: To keep from getting lost it's a good idea to have a current guidebook. If you find it to be too bulky, cut out or photocopy the pages that you will need. You can borrow guidebooks from your local library, or make photocopies. To find guidebooks online conduct a search at

Here are a few other things that you may want to bring with you:

* Journal or Notebook and Extra Pens

* Another Change of Clothes

* Camera and Film

* Watch

* Hat

* Jacket

That's it. As you travel you can buy the things that you need, and discard the items that are no longer of any use to you. Stay in hostels or hotels, take public transportation, and eat at restaurants. In many countries these things can be very inexpensive. A good idea is to keep street addresses and phone numbers of friends and VIPs under addresses of your email account. This way you can save more room in your pack, and you won't lose those important numbers if you are ever in need of assistance.

If you want to travel really light take only your money belt and the cloths on your back. You can get in and out of countries with your passport, and pay for hotels, food, transportation, and recreational activities with your card. When your cloths get dirty wash them in the hotel bathroom and let them dry overnight (your cloths should be ones that dry quickly). Very few people travel this way, but they all swear that it's the way to go.

I enjoy traveling light. It gives me a freedom impossible to enjoy while hauling around 10 pieces of 50 lbs bags, sweating like a pig. However, traveling light almost never fails to get me stopped by a customs official who glances at my small backpack with a puzzled look on his face and says "You were traveling for three months and that's all you have? What did you wear?"

A grin on my face.