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5 essentials for your backpack  

Packing your life into a backpack for a few months can be an extremely difficult process. Depending on what type of trip you’re venturing on will vary on the ‘equipment’ you take. What to take, what not to take are the questions we aim to answer. Here are the 5 essential items we believe you need to carry in your backpack.

Image courtesy of the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail project.  


You never know what situation you may come across or where your travels may lead you. Take some sort of torch with you just in case you need it. One tip, when you’re not using the torch take the batteries out and put them back in, but the wrong way round. This way if the torch gets turned on when it’s in the bag the batteries won’t die.

Microfiber towel

Microfiber travel towels can be incredibly useful. They fold up really small and are very thin, but due to the special fabric they are made out, they absorb water efficiently. They are light and take up next to no room in your backpack. 

- Travel wallet

Travel wallets are the size of a big purse; they hold your passport, change, plane tickets, and boarding passes. Anything of importance can be placed into the travel wallet to ensure all of your valuable information is in one place, including the all important travel itinerary, if you need one. Travel wallets are for those who easily loose or misplace important items, there is nothing worse than losing your passport or hostel reservation confirmation forms, get a travel wallet and you will be sorted for the whole trip...as long as you don’t lose the wallet of course. However, do not use it as a place to store cash, credit cards, ID etc you will want to spread those throughout the backpack in case of a robbery.   

Image courtesy of Steve Bernaki

 - Jungle Spray

Jungle/bug spray is an essential if you know you’re going to be off the beaten track. Insects can be extremely irritating especially if you’re outside, round the bonfire, or camping somewhere. Mosquitoes, for example, can cause annoying irritations to the skin when they bite...you don’t want insects to ruin your trip: get jungle spray.


An obvious choice you may think, but you have to carefully consider what clothes to take. Over-packing can critically weigh your backpack down, and depending on what type of trip you’re going on will depend on how long you and your bag will be an item. A tip for packing: roll up every single piece of clothing instead of folding. You will be able to fit around double the amount of clothes than if you had folded.  

Having the right items in your backpack is essential when you're volunteering. Sometimes you will spend days with it travelling between camps, some days you will only see it when you're searching for the sun cream. You don't want to find yourself carrying out beach surveys in Madagascar under the African sun, with only trousers for comfort. Or trekking through the Peruvian Amazon rainforest with no jungle spray to hand. When volunteering, be aware of what you will be doing in the field, and make sure your bag reflects this.  

By Ed Hawes 

For more advice on packing your backpack have a look at these articles:'How to avoid packing nightmares', 'Packing tips from field staff', and 'What to pack - Ben - OMM'.

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