A Packing Primer: What and What Not to Bring
You can buy it there, so no need to lug your whole wardrobe, and other advice
Here is some good advice for packing, no matter how long you're going to be traveling for. There is also some advice about medical kits you might need.
There are also the hygienic concerns, of course. Toothbrush and paste, razor, deodorant, soap and shampoo fill my dop kit, while bandaids, antiseptics, anti-diarrhea, anti-foot fungus, anti-insect, anti-malarial and anti-biotics fill an emergency kit.
Immodium MUST be a part of this kit. More than one traveler has sworn by this potion. This is no trip to Disney World. I am on the road to find out. It is more than I even keep at home, and I gaze in wonder and what is assembled before me, like some space traveler checking his government issue.
Then there is the pack itself. If you are traveling through several countries, the worst thing you could do is check luggage. Forget the big pack or two-wheeled luggage bag. Find something you can fit on the plane, then add a shoulder pack. I'm a pretty trusting type of person, but even I know that a bag that has to make several stops before its final journey may end up somewhere where I am not. In America, an agent for the airlines may bring it to my door 24 hours later. In a place like Guinea Bissau, a government clerk may inform me I have no luggage.
I found a decent pack capable of satisfying the overhead luggage compartment size, from Eastern Mountain Sports. It comes with a zip-on rucksack, but it is too small and lacks the webbed water holder on the side. No problem, as I bought a better carry on bag. This luggage will hold everything I need for multiple months on the road without ever having to entrust my clothing to some underpaid or government baggage handler.
Pack for ten days, max, no matter how long your journey. Better yet, pack for seven days, and for three reasons. First, anything you normally wear for seven days at home, you can wear for fourteen days on the road; this includes underwear. Second there is always a place to wash clothes, either by yourself or through a laundry service for an incredibly cheap price. People throughout the world know how to wash clothes and they charge less than you normally spend on electricity and detergent using your Maytag.
Buy it There
Third, shopping. No matter, where you are, there will always be some article of clothing you will want. For me, it's a t-shirt. I always pack knowing I will be buying at least one t-shirt from some favorite dive shop, wilderness march, or, more likely, pub. Always pack with one less t-shirt than you think you need.
Finally, scope out your destinations. There are great books by Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, as well as the wealth of information on GoNOMAD, which will explain all you need to bring. Aside from what I've already mentioned, the following list is illustrative, but what you pack will, of course depend on your destination. This list assumes a warm or moderate climate:
3 pairs of slacks, preferably lightweight cotton.
2 pair of short pants (better yet, pack only one or no pairs of short pants and make one of your long pants the type with zip off legs)
3 short sleeved shirts
1 pullover or flannel shirt
1 light fleece
3 pairs of underwear (these are easy to clean in the sink so there is no need for more no matter what your mother tells you)
3 pairs of socks (same as underwear)
1 pair of comfortable water resistant hiking shoes or boots
1 pair of sandals
1 baseball cap or safari cap
1 light waterproof jacket or poncho
If you are going somewhere where the temperature may dip below the 50's, add one pair of long underwear (pants), gloves, a thicker fleece or down jacket, and gloves.
Medical Kit for Traveling in more Dodgy Locales
Besides the toiletries you use every day, you will have no idea what else to bring without researching your country. Here is a sample list which assumes a trek to your typical subtropical third world country:
Aspirin or acetaminophen
Antihistamine (for allergies or insect bites)
Cold and flu tablets and throat lozenges
Multi-vitamins (depending on where you are your diet may be seriously lacking in fresh vegetables)
Antibiotics (Explain to your doctor your destination and ask for a prescription. Keep the pills in their original container so customs agents will see the medication was prescribed to you)
Loperamide or other anti-diarrha agents (this could be your most important item in many countries).
Prochlorperazine for nausea or vomiting
Immodium. Stops the churning in your stomach if you get a bad ice cube.
Insect repellent (use one that includes DEET if traveling to country where malaria, yellow or dengue fever are present).
Sunscreen and lip balm
Aloe vera, calamine lotion or other sting relief cream or spray
Antiseptic cream or wash
Water purification tablets
Scissors, tweezers, or a multi-purpose swiss army knife (you may have to buy this at your destination, due to flight regulations)
Sterile hypodermic needles (again, you'll need a prescription, but in case you have to give yourself an injection you will want a sterile needle. Barring this, bring a small vial of bleach to wash any needle a local doctor may need to use).
The best advice is to research your destination. While it is often fun just to dive in and be surprised by what awaits you, your pack should not be as unprepared. Do your research, and your journey will leave you with more time for discovery of the local culture and less time searching for the nearest pharmacy or clothing store.
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