Here’s a link to a snapshot of my packing list. I pretty much brought identical items to Europe, except with less bathing suits and more city-appropriate wear (less elephant pants). I’ve annotated each column with no-filter notes post trip on whether I thought the item was necessary and other things.
To break it down, the essentials are:
- sufficient underwear & socks (the amount you bring will dictate how long you can go without doing laundry)
- day wear: depending on which area of the world you’re going to and what season it is, this will differ wildly. However, I’ve found that a few tshirts, a pair of running shorts, and a pair of jeans are pretty versatile for every occasion.
- at least one pair of athletic shoes for those days you’ll be walking a lot.
- if you’re a girl: pads/tampons (at least some emergency supplies)-- I once had to get my guy friend to go out and seek pads for me on the streets of Marrakech, and he failed miserably-- I had to go out, seek a shop owner, and point and gesture wildly to demonstrate what I was talking about. Have a few in your backpack to tide you over in case of surprises ;)
- one waterproof pair of shower shoes (so no rainbows, ha)-- hostels have some of the grossest showers known to mankind. protect your feet from whatever is lurking in those flooding waters with a nice pair of shower shoes/flip flops! (I got mine from Marshalls and they lasted me the entire 6 months, and also doubled as beach flip flops).
- a solid combination lock (or two)-- if you’re traveling in budget hostels or even cheap hotels, I’d err on the side of caution and always lock your belongings. More on my stolen cash in Laos later-- but make sure you prevent thieves from seeing your bag as a treasure trove.
- daypack-- this is an essential when you go out sightseeing! If you have a laptop on you and plan on working in cafes abroad, I’d make sure this pack can accommodate a laptop and is sturdy.
- packing cubes-- these are absolutely a lifesaver in keeping you organized while traveling! I usually carried three: two large ones for my tops and bottoms, and one smaller cube for my underwear. It’s super helpful when you need to dig through your bag and you know exactly where everything is and can pull it out in cubes. I also got these from Marshalls (thanks, travel section!) for a mere $10, but if you want something a little bit more durable my coworker recently gifted me a set of eagle creek packing cubes and they seem to be holding up rather well.
- earplugs--not a necessity, but definitely helpful for blocking out that snoring bunkmate.
- eyemask and neckpillow (I slept like a baby on flights with these.)
- a good travel backpacking bag (<=40L should really be enough)--I bought the cotopaxi 35L before they really skyrocketed in popularity, and it served me well on the trip (I quite liked how it opened down the middle and kept everything neat-- I’m kind of an organization freak). However, looking back, what matters most is hip support & organization is an added bonus.