I just got back from a week in Hong Kong and two weeks in Vietnam. This was my first time backpacking anywhere and it was quite daunting for me. I looked on blogs and you tube a lot and found a lot of tips which were very useful. Here is a mixture of those tips and some of my tips.
The most important things you need to remember if this is your first time travelling in a backpacker style is that nobody cares what you look like really, at the end of the day. I am generally a long weekender or a week long package holiday-er. On those type of holidays you tend to dress up for dinner, and have nice matching new holiday outfits. At first I hated being makeup and hair extension free, but nobody else gave a monkeys. I figured I don’t look to bad, in the pic below I am not even wearing my own top as mine were all filthy!
I’m not saying I stopped caring entirely but I just became a swift avoid-er of mirrors and tried not to think about it. You can’t wear makeup in in 34 degree heat and humidity whilst trekking for 20k up a mountain and if you did you would look like a complete idiot anyway.
You have to try and get into the mindset of it not being important. Once you’ve got through that, the minimal amount of clothes, lack of makeup and accessories etc. are not important, it’s not about looks it’s about experience. You will likely meet many people who can’t afford to feed their baby, let alone tart themselves up like we do on a daily basis. I found it hard as my hair and makeup are my armour that I put on every day that help me feel like me and ready to face the world. It’s very humbling.
Here’s what I suggest taking, some things I have not included that I did take, just because I found I didn’t use them.
- 1 x 55 litre back pack – remember you are the one carrying this stuff, so the lighter the better) Osprey Farpoint 55 which I will review separately with pictures.This is designed for women and is great. This does actually qualify as being a carry on bag, but I had liquids and big aerosols of Deet so had to check the bag, I used the day pack as my carry on.
- 1 x day pack (moderately sized day pack for daily essentials….passport, purse, phone, camera, deet spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, water) mine came with the backpack and can be attached with a zip so it’s all one bag.
- 1 x very small over-the-shoulder handbag (for bike rides or going to the market when you don’t want to take a backpack that can easily be accessed by thieves, small enough to easily fit into my day back pack). I bought a cheap one from Next. Must have a zip.
- Muji clothing dividers, packing cubes I went for 1 Medium for bottoms and dresses and 2 Small, one for underwear and bikini and the other for tops. These are a lifesaver for backpackers as everything is so easy to find.
- Toiletry Bag – I just used a clear makeup bag
- Re-seal-able plastic lunch bag for airport carry on and then to be used for any medicines
- Fold up Longchamp handbag, for when I had just had enough of using a backpack and looking like a traveller! Folds down to a very small square – you can buy fake ones in Hoi An for a few US dollars.
- 1 x comfortable walking trainers (Mine were just my regular Nike trainers)
- 1 x flip flops (go for a dark or bright colour as they will get dirty otherwise)
- 2 x 3/4 length yoga pants or shorts (good for long journeys, trekking and appropriate for visiting temples). I hate shorts, when you are a tall woman with long legs, shorts look like hotpants, nobody needs to see my bum, so I took 3/4 length yoga pants from Victoria Secret Pink range, very comfy.
- 2 x loose trousers (I bought 2 pairs of loose cotton harem pants in the market in Vietnam for US$5) half MC Hammer and half Aladdin, but to be honest after a few days backpacking you succumb to the fact you wear things for comfort rather than style and everyone else backpacking seemed to be wearing them too so perhaps they were backpacker trendy!
- 1 x kaftan (over the swimsuit type dress)
- 1 x evening dress (I took a maxi dress from AX Paris)
- 4 x t-shirts or vests or a mixture (go for looser ones and nothing grey that shows up sweat!)
- 1 x long-sleeved casual denim shirt (cover up in the evening, in temples, from mosquito’s or to protect from sun burn)
- 1 x black cardigan (goes with everything)
- 1 x light hoodie or soft jumper (to keep warm on the plane)
- 1 x waterproof jacket/ pac-a-mac (with hood) in the UK you can get non-ugly ones from Matalan that aren’t expensive.
- 10 x knickers (I recommend small light ones that can be easily washed if necessary)
- 4 x pairs of socks (mixture of trainer ones and slightly thicker walking ones)
- 3 bras (I only took sports bras – it was too hot and we were trekking and walking everywhere)
- 1 x PJ or nightie
- 1 x large scarf or pashmina
- 1 x microfiber travel towel (very handy)
- 1 x sunglasses (nothing too flashy that anyone would want to steal)
- 1 x sunhat (don’t pack it, buy one there for super cheap)
- Wet wipes, I brought 2 packs and used them all
- Shower pouff (I forgot mine and missed it terribly)
- Padlock for your backpack when travelling
- Swiss army knife (has scissors so you can cut your nails too)
- Nail file
- Umbrella (for the blazing heat or the random full on rain showers)
- Spare toilet roll (half the toilets had no loo paper – plus you make friends at rest stops when you are the girl with the loo roll, everyone is your bestie)
- Travel insurance details (print them off)
- Tickets/booking confirmations
- Bring a few passport photos if you are getting any visas-on-arrival (I arranged mine in the UK)
Toiletries and Medicine
- 1 x Insect repellent (with 50+ deet)
- Shampoo, conditioner
- Body wash, cleanser, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor
- Deodorant, travel wash, sunscreen, moisturiser (that can be used as after sun too)
- 1 x small make up bag – SPF 50 BB cream or similar, mascara, lip gloss, concealer (I spent a lot of days makeup free but it was nice to look a bit better in the evenings)
- 1 x anti-bacterial hand liquid (lots of bathrooms don’t have any hand soap)
- Malaria tablets (I had to stop taking mine as they made me cry all day and hallucinate all night. But these are very important, try your best to take them.
- Diarrhoea and constipation medicine (It’s always one or the other)!
- Antihistamine tablets and cream in case you have an allergy or get any bites
- Have all of your vaccinations before you go obviously
- Plasters and blister plasters
- Any contraceptives
- Re hydration sachets (you can get these in Boots, these are a must for hot countries)
- Camera if you have one
- 1 x kindle or iPad (I used mine for watching films on flights and train journeys)
- 2 x plug converters
How to Pack Light
- Stick to taking clothes in the same colour palette, white tshirts will reflect sun and not show up sweat so are a good idea
- Buy mini makeup items like mascara on ebay or get samples from counters
- If you are travelling with anyone you can save so much space and weight by sharing items like shampoo, toothpaste etc.
- ‘Liberate’ mini shampoo and conditioners from hotels whenever you can and save them
- Take a shower ‘pouff’ as it makes your shower gel last longer as you only need a tiny bit to create lots of lather
- Buy a lightweight backpack and get as small a one as you think you can deal with
- You can buy tshirts, sarongs, hats, shirts etc. etc. there, for super cheap so don’t worry about under packing
- You can, at a lot of hostels and hotels in Vietnam, have your clothes washed overnight for a couple of US$ per KG, we had 7 KG and it was the best money we spent all holiday to have lovely clean clothes again!
- You don’t need a belt, or any jewellery more than some simple studs, you don’t need a watch as there’s a good chance it would get stolen, I would even think about only leaving on a plain wedding band and keeping any diamonds or precious stone engagement rings at home
- You don’t need ‘going out’ shoes if you’re backpacking, nobody else has any on
- You need space for buying stuff and bringing it home!
I hope this is helpful, it’s definitely more of a packing guide for women. I loved travelling around Hong Kong and Vietnam and if you get the chance, you should definitely do it!